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When Should I Update My Hearing Aids?

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When Should I Update My Hearing Aids?

When Should I Update My Hearing Aids?

The question of when to replace a set of hearing aids isn’t always easy to answer. Ultimately, it’s about what you want to get out of a set of hearing aids and how your current hearing aids are working for you. Hearing aids are a considerable expense, and any quality set of hearing aids is built to last, yet they still have to live in or around our ears for most of the day. Unlike a cell phone or tablet, you can’t put them in a protective case, and they’re exposed to the elements just as much as we are!

Different For Everybody

Some people seem to have it easy with hearing aids. Their body chemistry is such that their hearing aids don’t really accumulate too much skin oil or earwax, and their lifestyle keeps them from getting too sweaty, which helps keep their hearing aids moisture-free. These are the chosen, lucky few!

Others may live in a less-hospitable climate, or may produce more earwax, or sweat more profusely. Some people are more physically active than others, or may be less fastidious in maintaining their hearing aids. Keeping moisture out of hearing aids is an uphill battle: about 60% of out-of-warranty repairs are made due to moisture-related damage.

Each night when we remove our hearing aids, it is important to wipe them down with a clean, dry cloth. If they use disposable batteries, leave the battery compartments open overnight to let some moisture evaporate. These practices alone can considerably extend the life of a set of hearing aids. Regular professional cleanings can also help, in addition to the occasional repair. Sometimes, after a professional cleaning, it can seem like a “veil has been lifted” from the sound of our hearing aids. Because the buildup occurs so slowly, we might not even realize that our hearing aids are functioning suboptimally until they’ve been cleaned up!

After a while, your hearing aids will likely show signs of wear that indicate it is time to replace them. They may start to funciton erratically, or provide inadequate sound. Sometimes repairs can help with this, but eventually the hearing aids’ misbehavior will become frequent enough that it’s time to replace them.

All of that being said, the lifespan you can expect from a set of hearing aids is around 3–7 years. That’s a wide range, due to all the considerations above, but that’s the long and short of it!

Changes in Prescription

While some models of hearing aid can provide assistance for all degrees of hearing loss, some may be appropriate for only mild or mild-to-moderate hearing loss. These can be a great option, especially for new wearers.

But hearing loss is a process. Usually, hearing loss progresses for a while and then plateaus at a certain point. We can’t be certain where anyone’s hearing will plateau until it happens, so it may be that after wearing your hearing aids for some time, you’ll need to switch to a model that provides more power.

Meeting Your Needs

After wearing hearing aids for a while, we get a sense of where they’re working well and where they leave something to be desired. You might have a basic software package that works well at home, but you have trouble hearing in some public places. It could be that a more sophisticated software package could be right for you.

It’s also the case that hearing aid manufacturers release new models regularly. Much the same as the latest generation of smartphones is more powerful and capable than the previous, so it is with hearing aids. It may be that a newer hearing aid can solve a specific problem you’ve been experiencing with your current aids.

New Technology

This is a similar consideration to the last, but sometimes new technology is valuable on its own terms. Maybe you haven’t thought about video-conferencing directly through your hearing aids, but once you experience the high quality of direct sound through wireless Bluetooth connectivity, you might appreciate being able to hear your friends and loved ones more clearly on the phone and through your computer.

Most manufacturers now have Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to control a lot of the programming of your hearing aids from your smartphone. We can even adjust the deeper programming via telehealth, right through your phone, without an office visit!

If you’re thinking of upgrading your hearing aids, or thinking of getting your first set, make an appointment for a hearing test and find out what’s on the market today!

Going Digital With Your Hearing Aids

Going Digital With Your Hearing Aids

So you’ve decided to get a set of hearing aids… Good for you! Hearing aids are the best way to keep ourselves healthy, happy and wise once hearing loss comes into the picture. If you’ve looked around at hearing aids at all, you probably have a lot of questions. There are a lot of options on the market in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and feature sets. While there are many resources to help you navigate your options—not to mention the guidance of helpful hearing care professionals!—let’s talk today about digital technology, what it does for hearing aids, and how it can help you stay connected better than ever before.

All Hearing Aids Are Digital

Well, just about all. With very few exceptions, hearing aids today rely on digital technology because of how it allows us to change the sound. While this is an ever-more-complicated process, maybe we can help you get a little insight into it today, and see how these complicated changes make using your hearing aids a lot easier!

Equalizers

First, let’s note that hearing aids don’t simply make sound louder. They make sound louder – for you. At the very minimum, this requires an equalizer—or EQ—similar to the one on your stereo, but much more precise. The equalizer alters the level (volume) of different frequencies coming into the hearing aid based on the frequencies where you have hearing loss. Frequencies are measured in hertz (Hz), which indicates the cycles per second at which the sound vibrates. Low frequencies sound lower in pitch, and high frequencies sound higher. Humans can hear from about 20 Hz to about 20 kHz (20,000 Hz), though most of us lose the ability to hear as high as 20 kHz by our mid-20s. If you have 40 dBHL (decibels hearing level) of loss at 6 kHz, 30 dBHL at 3 kHz, and no loss at 500 Hz, then we want to amplify 40 dB at 6 kHz, 30 dB at 3 kHz, and not at all at 500 Hz. This not only sounds better—as it provides a sound to your brain that looks more like what it is used to hearing—but is also better for your hearing. By not over-amplifying frequencies where you don’t need amplification, we can prevent further hearing damage due to loud noise. Equalizers exist in the analog domain, where sound is manipulated with electrical devices that are not computers. For decades, this was how hearing aids worked. Sound came into a microphone, was equalized for your hearing loss profile using an analog equalizer, then was amplified and sent out to your eardrum.

The Digital Revolution

As we entered the 21st century, digital technology became more common. Digital equalizers can mimic the way analog equalizers work, or do the job in a different way that can improve the sound. How does this work? Analog signal processing is constrained by time and the world of physics. While this is fine for many and maybe most things, what if you want to reduce the level of not just frequencies but of a specific sound? In other words, what if you want to change not just the level of 3 kHz, but of a sound that moves around between 1 kHz and 4 kHz? Now you need to identify that sound, and change the equalizer from moment to moment to reduce the level of sound at the constantly changing frequency! Not only that, but what if there are multiple sounds in the environment that are all moving at the same time? Now you have hundreds of frequencies that need to be altered from moment to moment as the sound changes! Even if you had a team of a hundred hearing care professionals tweaking the equalizer on your hearing aids at the same time, they could never do it!

Never-Before Imagined Sound Processing

With trainable computers available today, we can use digital equalizers and other digital signal processors (DSP) to effectively split the sound coming into a set of hearing aids into “speech” and “everything else.” Once that has been done, we can also change the dynamics of each independently, so that speech never gets too quiet for you to hear or so loud that it is painful. The level of background noise can even be adjusted independently of the level of speech! In some situations, you might wish to hear more of what’s going on around you, while at other times you may only want to amplify speech. With today’s digital hearing aids, you can do that with the simple adjustment of a setting from your smartphone. Some of today’s digital hearing aids will even automatically recognize when the environment is changing and adjust their programming accordingly. They can even communicate with each other to improve the spatial location of sounds in the environment, which helps you feel more comfortable and balanced while walking. That will allow you to amble effortlessly while you concentrate on a conversation with your walking buddy. It’s really amazing how far hearing aids have come since the year 2000, and even in the last decade! If you or a loved one may be in need of hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test and find out how today’s hearing aids can help you hear better than ever!
Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

According to the AARP, 17% of people aged 65 and older are socially isolated. 46% of women over 75 live alone. Recent research has found that feeling lonely puts us at a 26% increased risk of early death. Another study showed that feeling lonely (even if you see people regularly, but feel that they don’t understand you) is as physically harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.   Untreated hearing loss is strongly correlated with loneliness and social isolation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we can’t hear people, it’s very difficult to feel connected to them. Conversations move slower, people need to speak differently to try to accommodate our hearing loss, and we simply can’t keep up.   In the early stages of hearing loss, we usually experience social fatigue after a much shorter time than usual. Some people mistake this fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as long as I used to.” In fact, the extra mental effort it takes to strain to hear, especially in a busy environment, makes us mentally exhausted much sooner than we’re accustomed to.   From this point, many people recognize that they have a hearing issue. They make an appointment for a hearing test, and may be advised to get a set of hearing aids. This is the right thing to do! Hearing aids keep us in the conversation, help keep our brains sharp, and help us stay connected to those we care about.   Unfortunately, this is not the norm. On average, people tend to wait seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they do something about it. This is likely because they don’t understand the risks of leaving their hearing loss untreated, or don’t understand what is to be gained from a good set of hearing aids.

Being Around People Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Lonely

In order to feel connected, we need to be part of the conversation, not just in the same room. If we have hearing loss, we can be surrounded by family and friends, but still feel left out. Others chat away while we can only hear when someone speaks directly into our ear. With a set of hearing aids, we can be more present with everyone in the room, and be more aware of what’s happening.   Hearing aids have been shown to increase feelings of social connection, as well as confidence and independence. Feeling connected and not being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean we always need to be around people, and hearing aids help give us the independence to choose when we want to see others and when we need some alone time.

It’s Not Enough to Hear “Some of the Time”

While most people consider their hearing very important to them, the rate of hearing aid adoption does not seem to reflect that. This is partly because many people believe that it’s enough to be able to hear when “necessary.” For example, if your partner says loudly in your ear, “It’s time to go!”   It’s easy for us to think that being able to hear the important things means that we don’t need hearing aids. Unfortunately, the science does not back this up.   Even if we were able to hear everything that was said to us, but we couldn’t hear anything else, we would be in trouble. Our brains take in all kinds of information from the environment through our ears: birds chirping, fridges buzzing, feet shuffling, distant sounds and close sounds of all volume levels. These sounds feed our brains information that keeps our cognitive abilities in good order. When it comes to our brains, it really is true that we have to “use it or lose it.”

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Hearing aids today are technological marvels, housing tiny computers that are powerful enough to distinguish between speech and background sound, reduce reverberation from speech, connect via Bluetooth to smartphones and other devices, and even automatically recognize the characteristics of different environments and switch to the appropriate program. Some hearing aids can even use GPS to automatically return to a program that previously worked in a given space. While hearing aids are more powerful than ever, they also take less effort to use than ever!   If you or a loved one is having hearing issues, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for a hearing test today. Find out what’s going on with your hearing ability and take the right steps to keep yourself in the conversation and stay connected!
Best Rechargeable Hearing Aids

Best Rechargeable Hearing Aids

For generations now, hearing aids have been powered by tiny disposable batteries. This has meant that hearing aid wearers needed to keep a fresh supply of batteries on hand at all times, and manufacturers needed to build in a battery compartment to their hearing aids that could open and close. Battery compartments are an easy spot for moisture to accumulate, so leaving them open to dry out overnight is important to keeping your hearing aids working properly for the long term. But what if you didn’t have to worry about batteries at all? Recent advancements in battery technology have dramatically changed the game in a number of industries, and hearing aids are no exception. Lithium-ion batteries can store a lot of energy in a small amount of space. This makes them able to power everything from power tools to smartphones to laptop computers, and, of course, hearing aids. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries now allow hearing aids to work for a full day (or more), even when utilizing Bluetooth connections. Rechargeable batteries mean you don’t need to keep a stash of fresh batteries around anymore, nor do you need to open the compartment door of your hearing aids. The battery compartment is sealed, which means moisture can’t get in in the first place. Overall, the process of powering and maintaining your hearing aids is significantly simplified with the use of rechargeable batteries. Just about every hearing aid manufacturer offers rechargeable options at this point. Most will even have a rechargeable option or two amongst the variations of each hearing aid in their normal product line. You can usually tell the rechargeable option as it will have a letter “R” at the end of the product name. Let’s take a look at a few of the different manufacturers of hearing aids and talk a bit about their rechargeable options.

Unitron

Unitron is a premium hearing aid brand offering superior sound quality and the innovative FLEX™ system. FLEX allows you to start with one tech level, and upgrade later using the same hearing aids if you decide you need more smart technology. FLEX also tracks your environmental usage, so you and your hearing healthcare professional can look over the data together, see how you’re using your hearing aids, and design the best programs to meet your specific needs and consider upgrading or downgrading your tech level. Unitron offers rechargeable versions of its Moxi Move, Moxi Jump, and Stride models of hearing aids.

Oticon

Oticon hearing aids strive to produce sound that works with your brain, which helps you better make sense of your sonic environment. BrainHearing™ technology can be found in all of Oticon’s devices, which helps your hearing aids communicate better with one another and with you to paint the most vivid picture of the sound around you. Rechargeable options in Oticon’s product line include the More™ miniRITE R, the Opn S™, and Ruby families of hearing aids for adults. For children, Oticon offers the Opn Play™.

Signia

Signia designs hearing aids for the modern world. They start the process of finding you the right hearing aid by asking the question, “What is most important to you?” There’s a model of Signia hearing aid for everyone, whether you prefer to be stylish or discreet. Signia stays ahead of the curve in terms of design, technology, and integration. Signia offers rechargeability in its Active, Styletto, Pure, and Motion hearing aid lines. Signia offers excellent “charge on the go” options, where your hearing aid case actually contains a battery that you charge at an outlet, and then you can charge your hearing aids anywhere by placing them in the case.

Phonak

Phonak wants to ensure that your hearing aids provide the most natural sound available; that’s why they look to nature for inspiration. The Paradise and Marvel lines of hearing aids both are predominantly made up of rechargeable hearing aids, worn behind the ear.

Hansaton

The Swiss brand Hansaton believes in bringing out the best in every individual’s specific hearing intelligence. Because everyone’s hearing experience is different (based on head shape, ear canal shape, and ear shape) Hansaton strives to provide natural sound that our brains can interpret as accurately as the unaided ear. Hansaton offers rechargeability in its lines of behind-the-ear and external receiver systems.

Starkey

Starkey offers hearing loss solutions for the 21st century, and has done a particularly good job of ensuring the best options for use with facemasks during the Covid-19 pandemic. They offer the world’s first wireless custom rechargeable hearing aids in their Livio line of hearing aids.

ReSound

ReSound has been a pioneer in perfecting digital hearing aid technology since the early days of digital signal processing. Utilizing lithium-ion batteries or the even more efficient silver-zinc type, ReSound says its most compelling rechargeable hearing aids are the ReSound ONE, LiNX Quattro, and LiNX 3D.

Adjusting to New Hearing Aids

Adjusting to New Hearing Aids So you’ve decided to get hearing aids. That’s great! Hearing aids are an important part of maintaining your best health and well-being, once hearing loss becomes an issue. While many people, unfortunately, wait too long to get hearing aids (the average is seven years after noticing hearing loss), addressing it now is much better than never. Your hearing aids will help keep you more active, more socially connected, and ultimately happier and healthier. Throughout life, we find that abrupt changes can take some getting used to. You can expect to experience a range of emotions while you’re adjusting to your new hearing aids, but having an idea of what to expect can make the process feel easier while you’re going through it.

It’s Almost Too Much Sound

Remember that once upon a time, you had normal, youthful, healthy hearing. It’s true that we hear just as much with our brains as we do with our ears! Many sounds you encountered on a regular basis simply faded into the background of your mind, as your brain decided they were unimportant. As hearing loss becomes an issue, our brains see less information coming from our ears and get used to processing information differently. When you start wearing hearing aids, you’ll notice things like the rustling of your clothing, the sound of your hair moving, the refrigerator buzzing or speakers hissing. You might notice the sounds of shoes on certain flooring surfaces, or the sounds of other people chewing. It may be annoying, at first, but if you stick with your hearing aids, soon enough you’ll be able to ignore these sounds without even thinking about it, while still being able to hear the sounds that are important to you.

Relearning to Hear Speech

If you’ve been living with hearing loss for some time, you might feel that hearing aids aren’t helping you to understand speech, at first. Though you’ll be able to hear speech clearly, it may be difficult to understand it. This is because our brains actually forget how to comprehend speech! While this can be disheartening at first, remember that the more you wear your hearing aids and encounter speech, the sooner you will regain the ability to understand clearly. Many hearing healthcare providers offer classes to help retrain the brain to understand speech again. Some group classes may happen in the office, but much of the course can be accomplished online. Remember that if you wear your hearing aids every day, you’ll soon become adjusted to them and be able to move confidently through your routines and engagements, knowing you can hear everything you need to hear.

Fitting Is an Ongoing Process

Your initial fitting is based on the results of your hearing test. While this should offer up the most accurate fitting for your specific hearing loss, it may be that you’re not ready for that much amplification, or that slight adjustments are necessary. Hearing aids are composed of tiny, sensitive parts, so it’s impossible for every hearing aid to be exactly like every other. While real ear measurements can help to ensure a more accurate fitting, remember that we hear just as much with our brains as with our ears! Your brain is what is adjusting to your hearing aids, and frequent fitting adjustments may be necessary over the first few weeks you have your hearing aids for you to adjust properly and comfortably. Especially if you experience pain in your ears while wearing your hearing aids, talk to your hearing healthcare provider about a fitting adjustment. Your relationship with your hearing healthcare provider should be ongoing to ensure you’re getting the best care possible with your hearing aids, so don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know that something doesn’t seem right!

Talk To Others Who Have Hearing Aids

You probably have an acquaintance, friend, or relative who wears hearing aids. Talk to them about what the adjustment process was like for them. They may have a good piece of advice, or it may just be nice to talk to someone who has experienced the same thing that you’re going through.

Fitting Will Likely Change Over Time

Make sure to get a hearing test at regular intervals. Hearing loss tends to progress for a while, then plateau, but there’s no way of knowing whether you’ve started wearing your hearing aids in the middle of the progression or at the end. Hearing aid fittings allow for easy adjustment, so if your hearing loss changes, your newly-required settings can be easily applied. Hearing aids are the best thing you can do to keep yourself in the conversation, and live every day to the fullest! Congratulations on your new hearing aids!

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