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Separating Hearing Aid Fact From Fiction

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Hearing and sight are arguably our two most important senses. Yet, if and when either starts to fail us (and both usually do as we age), we react to each quite differently.

Look around at all the people with glasses, contacts, Lasik surgery or just cheaters, and it’s obvious that we have no problem or hesitation with treating vision issues.

But when it comes to treating hearing loss, we don’t seem to be in nearly such a hurry, if we even bother to treat it at all. If we did, nearly one in six adults you see would be wearing hearing aids — as that’s the number of U.S. adults with hearing loss.

What’s stopping us from treating hearing loss?

Why is there such discrepancy when it comes to “fixing” these two vital senses? Certainly a key factor is the immediate and tangible impact of each impairment. You can’t easily drive, read, watch TV or work at a computer when your vision is compromised. But you can cope with or work around hearing issues — at least temporarily.

It’s important to know, though, that while the immediate impact of compromised hearing may seem negligible, the long-term and overall quality-of-life impact is real and potentially severe.

Is our perception of hearing aids to blame?

Another reason for inaction comes from people’s perception of hearing loss and hearing aids. Unfortunately, some old myths linger. But advancements in science and technology mean many are no longer true. Let’s debunk five common ones now.

1. Fiction: There’s no treatment for hearing loss.

Fact: Hearing loss might be irreversible — but it can definitely be helped. Amplification with hearing aids is by far the most recommended and effective treatment for hearing loss. In fact, 90-95% of people with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Custom programmed by a trained professional, today’s digital hearing aids can help people with even severe hearing loss hear sounds they might not otherwise hear, and be a part of things they might otherwise miss.

2. Fiction: If I needed hearing aids, my doctor would have told me.

Fact: Actually, most busy general practitioners don’t have time to test for hearing loss. In a recent survey, only 23% of adults reported having their hearing screened during a physical exam. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted the issue this past February, reinforcing to physicians the importance of catching hearing loss in the early stages, and reminding primary care providers to “make referrals to hearing specialists” when “patients show or report hearing problems.”

3. Fiction: Hearing aids are hard to use.

Fact: Today’s hearing aids have come a long way from the hearing aids of just a few years ago. Advancements in processing speeds and hearing science enable hearing aids to distinguish speech from noise, detect sound direction, and adjust to environments and specific sounds — all automatically. If fit and programmed by a hearing professional to your unique hearing needs, your hearing aids can be worn all day with little fuss, attention or adjustments required.

4. Fiction: Hearing aids will make me stand out or seem old.

Fact: Several things conflict with this perception, so take your pick.

  • Today’s hearing aids are significantly smaller and more discreet than hearing aids from just a few years ago, and include options that fit deep in your ear canal, “invisible” to others.
  • Wearable communication and health-monitoring devices like FitBits and Bragi — along with the pervasiveness of headphones — have made body-worn accessories commonplace and even trendy.
  • Old is a perception, and adults who hear confidently and engage readily convey “old” much less than those who ask “what” all the time, don’t acknowledge when someone is talking to them, or disengage from the action.

5. Fiction: Hearing aids aren’t worth it.

Fact: It’s one thing for us to tout the impact that hearing your best can have on quality of life, and quite another to hear it from people who’ve treated their hearing loss. Watch this video to see just some of what hearing aid wearers have shared with us via email or our social pages.

Maybe the best thing to do is try hearing aids for yourself. South Suburban Hearing Health Center can help! Contact us to set up a hearing consultation!


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Nobody Likes Tinnitus

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Maybe it’s you. Or your dad. Or your grandmother. Or maybe it’s a friend. But chances are, you know someone who’s dealt with tinnitus. This author had ringing in his ears for over half a year after going to a concert. Then it just went away, mysteriously but thankfully.

I was lucky. For many, tinnitus never goes away — and it has a profound impact on their daily life.

Help is available. Many hearing aids, including our Muse™, Halo™ 2 and SoundLens® Synergy, have tinnitus relief technology built into them. You can try this proven technology for yourself by calling us today to set up a FREE hearing consultation!


Hearing Aids Improve More Than Just Hearing

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Wearing a pair of hearing aids improves more than just your hearing. It’s true. When you buy a set of hearing aids, you can be confident your hearing will improve. And now, according to two recent surveys, you can also expect some non-auditory improvements.

The survey confirms what hearing healthcare providers have known for decades — that correcting hearing loss with hearing aids provides benefits in addition to improved hearing, such as improved quality of life, improved relationships at home and work, feelings of safety and independence, and improved mental health.

The many benefits of wearing hearing aids

Results from the survey show that eight out of 10 hearing aid wearers feel that wearing hearing aids regularly or occasionally improves quality of life.

Respondents reported improvements in relationships at home and work as a result of wearing hearing aids. Improved hearing leads to improved communication, which appears to positively impact interpersonal relationships.

Respondents also reported an increased sense of safety and independence. Hearing aid wearers were also less likely to report increased forgetfulness compared to non-hearing aid wearers. Nine out of 10 hearing aid owners reported that wearing hearing aids were useful on the job.

The science behind the surveys

Historically, researchers have quantified the benefits of wearing hearing aids by focusing solely on objective diagnostic measurements. Tests were usually designed to solely identify improvements in audibility and speech recognition performance (essentially how much better a person could hear).

Measurable post-fitting diagnostic tests were completed by hearing professionals and hearing researchers in a sound booth to verify hearing aid fitting outcomes and demonstrate the auditory benefits of wearing hearing aids.

This consumer survey was different, which is why the results are so exciting.

Combined, over 120,000 people participated in the surveys

The combined studies represent data that was self-reported by more than 120,000 participants in Europe and the U.S., making it the largest worldwide survey focused on identifying the non-auditory benefits of wearing hearing aids.

Get more benefit for your buck

The results of the survey display a better understanding of the benefits that accompany hearing aid use. If you’ve been thinking about investing in better hearing, you might be excited to learn that when you do, you’ll be getting a long list of non-auditory benefits in addition to better hearing. You’ll actually be getting more benefit for your buck!

Wearing hearing aids to correct your hearing can lead to health-related improvements in quality of life by decreasing depression, social isolation and cognitive decline. Wearing hearing aids can also improve quality of life, relationships at home and work, feelings of safety and independence, and mental and physical health.

Ready to enjoy the many benefits of treating your hearing loss? Contact South Suburban Hearing Health Center today!


Tinnitus (a.k.a. Ringing in the Ears) 101

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 50 million Americans experience tinnitus. That’s over 15 percent of the U.S. population.

So what is this audiological and neurological condition that afflicts one in every six of us — and what can people who suffer from it do about it? We cover the basics here.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the medical term for the sensation of hearing sound in your ears when no external sound is present. In most cases, tinnitus is a subjective sound, meaning only the sufferer can hear it. Typically, sufferers describe the sound as “ringing in ears,” though others describe it as hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring and even chirping.

For some, tinnitus is mild and intermittent. For others, it can be severe and last all day. But for everyone, the desire for relief is great — so great, many sufferers will try anything to make their tinnitus less annoying, including resorting to acupuncture, eardrops, herbal remedies, hypnosis and more.

What causes tinnitus?

Scientists and health experts have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of tinnitus. But several sources are known to trigger or worsen ringing in the ears, including:

  • Loud Noises and Hearing Loss — Exposure to loud noises can destroy the non-regenerative cilia (tiny hairs) in the cochlea, causing permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Noise-induced tinnitus is often the result of exposure to loud environmental noises, such as working in a factory setting, with or around heavy machinery, or even a single event like a gunshot or loud concert.
  • Aging — Natural aging, too, gradually destroys the cilia, and is a leading cause of hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common symptom of age-related hearing loss.
  • Ototoxic Medications – Some prescription medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, diuretics and others can be ototoxic, meaning they are harmful to the inner ear as well as the nerve fibers connecting the cochlea to the brain.
  • Hearing Conditions – Conditions such as Ménière’s disease are known to cause tinnitus.
  • Health Conditions – Tinnitus has been associated with a number of health conditions, including: Cardiovascular disease; hypertension (high blood pressure); thyroid problems; fibromyalgia and chronic pain; head or neck trauma; jaw misalignment; auditory, vestibular or facial nerve tumors; and stress and fatigue

 

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

Currently, there is no known tinnitus cure. However, according to the American Tinnitus Association,there are recommended ways to get tinnitus relief, including counseling and sound therapy.

Hearing aids are an effective part of a sound therapy protocol, as specific hearing aids today utilize a customizable and comforting sound stimulus that soothes the annoying noises associated with tinnitus. (See Starkey’s hearing aids with tinnitus relief technology.) Tinnitus usually produces a shrill, high pitched, unpleasant tone, while the hearing aid’s sound stimulus is designed to be soothing — to counterbalance and help take your mind of your tinnitus.

What should you do if you or someone you know has tinnitus?

Since the exact cause of tinnitus is not known, it’s recommended you visit a hearing healthcare professional for a clinical evaluation. This evaluation — including a complete patient medical history — helps the hearing professional determine if tinnitus is present and what may be causing it. Specialized tests are performed to evaluate the auditory system. Some of these tests measure the specific features of the tinnitus itself, and could include:

  • Audiogram
  • Evoked response audiometry
  • Tinnitus pitch match
  • Tinnitus loudness match

Is tinnitus relief possible?

While there is no cure for tinnitus, Starkey’s proprietary Multiflex Tinnitus Technology has been clinically proven to provide relief for ringing in the ears. This patent-pending technology is available in our new Muse™, SoundLens® Synergy® or Halo™ 2 hearing aids. Go here to see how it works.

Click here to contact us about your tinnitus options and more information!


Why Should I Get My Hearing Aids Professionally Cleaned?

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I treat my hearing aids a lot like my car, maybe better actually. Both are routinely treated to cleaning rituals and maintenance tune-ups. And while my car may only get cleaned once a month, I make sure I dry and clean my hearing aids daily, regardless of how long I wear them each day.

But while my day-to-day hearing aid care routine is great, I still make sure that I take my Halo hearing aids into my hearing professional for a full, professional clean at least once a year! Why? Here are my reasons.

1. I don’t have the tools or the knowledge to do a safe, deep clean that removes all the built-up wax, debris and oil without damaging the receivers or microphones.

2. I am always pleased with the improved audio quality a professional cleaning provides. You’d be shocked at how the wax or debris I can’t get at impacts the quality of speech and music.

3. My hearing professional is also able to inspect my hearing aids for any signs of damage and suggest or provide repairs.

4. Professional cleaning helps my hearing aids run better, longer.

If professional hearing aid cleanings are not already part of your annual hearing health program, I highly suggest you add them! I am even going to start doing professional cleanings more often now, especially as sweat and wax buildup accumulate faster during the warm, humid summer months.

Contact us to set up your hearing aid cleaning now!


Joe Loves His Z Series Hearing Aids

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California resident, Joe Riley, sent us this email recently:

I use the Starkey Z-Series hearing aids, and since day one of use I LOVE THEM.

I understand that everyone has a different story and I would like to share mine.

For years, I have been suffering from tinnitus and figured that I would simply have to deal with it. That is, until I told my physician at the V.A. I was experiencing tinnitus. My doctor discovered that I was a Gunners Mate (Missiles) in the U.S. Navy and was entitled to a hearing test and, if needed, hearing aids based on my N.E.C. and the U.S. Navy determining that my rate in the Navy had a high probability of creating hearing loss.

Even though I thought I had no issues with my hearing — as I had not “experienced” any hearing loss — I went to the audiologist for my appointment and he conducted the two-part test (tonal and speech). After the test, my audiologist told me that he wanted me to come back in for my hearing aids.

Hearing aids? At MY age? (I was ONLY 47 years old!)  I went to the second appointment and was told that I had bilateral hearing loss in addition to my tinnitus and was “fitted” with Starkey hearing aids.

My Starkey hearing aids were comfortable and fit my ears nicely. I decided that since I was in a “high touch” business, and was in front of new people all of the time in a professional capacity, I would use them only when I felt it was necessary.

That day it started to rain, and as I stepped out of my vehicle I noticed something I had not noticed before… I could hear rain hitting the leaves over my head!! WOW… I had never noticed that before! I was so excited that I could hear rain hitting the leaves over my head I wondered what else was I “missing” in my normal everyday life? Through the day I noticed more and more things I could hear that I was missing out on: tires on the pavement, birds singing, the sound of wind through the trees!!!  WOW!!!!

I started TELLING people about my Starkey hearing aids and how much they have made my quality of life better. My female customers started demanding that their HUSBANDS check into getting a hearing test once I told them that I could hear my wife talk and did not have to always ask her to repeat herself.

I also discovered that unless I told someone I was wearing the Starkey Z- Series hearing aids, they did not even notice them!! ANOTHER PLUS!!!

I LOVE hearing what I was “missing”… I can hear EVERYTHING now thanks to Starkey! On another note, my tinnitus is not as noticeable now. Thanks again Starkey!!

Joe Riley

We love stories like these! Contact us to find out what your are “missing”!


Where Should I Buy Hearing Aids?

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If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about getting hearing aids. You’re doing what almost everyone does today before they buy a vacuum or TV, or book a vacation or try a new restaurant — you’re doing online research.

You are smart. Consumers today have an abundance of information and reviews at their fingertips. There’s little reason today not to research a product or service before you purchase, particularly if it’s a bigger investment. And there is no getting around the fact that hearing aids and better hearing are an investment. An investment that can significantly better your life.

This article isn’t about the different makes, models or features of hearing aids. For that, start here. Instead, we’re going to talk about where to get hearing aids and the pros and cons of each.

There are two main options; either from a local hearing professional or from an internet retailer. Let’s compare the two.

The pros of buying hearing aids online

Convenience

No doubt, buying products online is easy and convenient, and hearing aids are no exception. Ordering from the comfort of your home or office — and having it delivered to you without needing to go anywhere — is pretty much the benefit that online shopping was founded on.

Of course, returning items can quickly negate that benefit if you need to repackage it and take it to a post office or shipping facility. And certain things just beg to be “tried on” first, increasing the likelihood they’ll need to be returned if you don’t. That’s why 30% of all products ordered online are returned, vs. only 9% of products purchased in a store.1

Hearing aid prices

Cost can also be a benefit of buying online. While it’s not the case with every item (especially if there are shipping fees involved), it is when purchasing hearing aids online. In fact, cost is probably the biggest incentive for buying hearing aids on the internet.

Unfortunately, convenience and cost are where the benefits of buying hearing aids from an online retailer end. And even those two aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Convenience is offset by the fact that — to get a hearing aid programmed for your hearing loss — you’ll want a proper evaluation and will need to send in an audiogram, which you can only get by leaving your house and going to a hearing professional. Then there’s that 30% online return rate discussed above. Meaning there’s at least a 1 in 3 chance you’ll want or need to return it. (Probably more for hearing aids bought online due to the “try on” factor.)

Plus, if you need any adjustments made to your hearing aids to optimize comfort and performance, you first need to repackage and ship them to the retailer. Then, it can take weeks to receive the instruments back from an online service.

As for cost, while you’ll most likely find hearing aid prices are less online, most people conclude that what they get in return is not worth the savings. To explain that, let’s move into the benefits of buying hearing aids from a local hearing professional — also known as “the things you don’t get when you buy online.”

The pros of buying hearing aids from a hearing professional

Yes, a hearing aid is a tangible product that you can ship in a box and, in theory, start using after “some assembly required.” But it’s also a high-tech medical device that works best when matched to an individual’s unique physical and lifestyle characteristics, programmed and fine-tuned to their specific hearing needs, and then followed up with and supported by an expert in hearing care.

Just as you wouldn’t be satisfied buying a suit or wedding dress without measurements, consultation and tailoring, nor would you prescribe yourself and know the right dosage of medication needed to treat your specific arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, or diabetes, getting a one-size-fits-all hearing aid without consultation from an expert is most likely going to disappoint or not work the way you need it to.

When you buy hearing aids from a hearing professional, you get much more than just a product that makes things louder.

You also get the expert consultation, treatment knowledge and experience, and personalized fitting, support and care that a sensory function as important as hearing deserves — before, during and after you buy your hearing aids.

Before: Testing & Consultation

  • Thorough hearing tests — You’ll have an ear examination and clinical tests in a soundproof environment to diagnose and verify what your hearing needs are.
  • Audiological evaluation — Your hearing thresholds will be charted on an audiogram, and you’ll be given specific tests to measure listening comfort and understanding in noise.
  • Intake interview — You and your provider will discuss details about your day-to-day hearing needs (including the type of work you do, how active you are, what activities you enjoy doing, your style preferences, etc.). You’ll also go your unique hearing challenges, to help you understand how to optimize your overall communication, not just your hearing.

During: Products & Fitting

  • Product selection — Based on your test results, interview, and even unique ear-specific characteristics, your provider will show you solution options that fit your needs in the best way possible.
  • Product test drive — While in the office, you may be able to try out and test different styles and technology options so you can hear what impact hearing aids will make.
  • Expert fitting — Once a product and style are selected, your provider will program and fine-tune your hearing aids to your specific needs and sound preferences. Each ear is like a fingerprint; every person is different and requires an exact fit to maximize success.
  • Solution demonstration — Your provider will show you how to use and care for your hearing aids, and answer any questions you have, so you are comfortable with them and can keep them in tip-top shape.
  • Treatment consultation — Your provider will walk you through expectations and next steps, and give you additional resources or tools, so that you feel comfortable as you regain your hearing senses.

After: Follow-Up & Support

  • Trial period and follow-up visits — Wearing hearing aids takes some time getting used to and sometimes requires minor adjustments and fine tuning — all covered under your trial period to maximize comfort and ensure success.
  • After-care needs — Your provider will be a one-stop shop for warranty and payment plans, tune-ups and maintenance, batteries and other accessories or part replacements. This is like having your mechanic close to you. If anything goes wrong, they can fix the problem quickly.
  • Better hearing partner — Your hearing needs change over time, so count on your provider as a go-to resource for all things hearing, including answers to hearing loss questions, personalized treatment plan updates, new technology demos and more.

Hearing your best is proven to positively impact many areas of your life, from your physical health to your social, psychological and mental well-being. It deserves more than just finding a good deal. It deserves the attention, care and custom-fit solution that only a hearing professional is trained and experienced to provide, so please contact us today to set up a FREE hearing consultation!

 


Tired More Than Usual?

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Do you find yourself low on energy, exhausted after a day of busy interactions, whether at a social or work setting? Hearing loss may be to blame! Hearing loss and fatigue may seem unrelated, but in reality, they are much more connected than you realize. Fatigue is defined as “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion.” Mental fatigue results from effortful listening and is often an unfortunate side effect of hearing loss. Let me explain.

Could you read that sentence effortlessly? (It reads, “Can you read this sentence effortlessly?”) Now, multiply that one sentence by everyone you hear all day long. Imagine you had to put that effort into filling in the blanks for every conversation. As you worked to fill in those blanks, you gain an understanding of the listening demands placed on someone with a hearing loss to do the same in conversation!

Cognitive load may be causing your fatigue

This effort to process and make sense of the auditory bits and pieces you hear is an example of “cognitive load.” With cognitive load, the brain is preoccupied with filling in the blanks, leaving little energy to store and process what has been heard into working memory. The additional effort your brain spends making sense of speech, particularly when background noise is present, puts additional stress and anxiety on the listener. Stress or anxiety often result in a rush of adrenaline and muscle tension which can add to that sensation of being “drained” or physically tired at the end of the day.

These implications are important for anyone with a hearing loss, but particularly for those with hearing loss — in their personal lives or the workforce. It makes sense that if you don’t have to spend so much effort filling in those auditory blanks, there would be more cognitive energy left to listen and understand more effortlessly!

You can reduce cognitive load

It’s a busy, noisy world, and fatigue associated to listening effort can be an unfortunate side effect. Yet hearing loss doesn’t have to get in the way. Here are some ways to limit the impact of hearing loss and the associated mental fatigue that may accompany it.

1. Give yourself a break — When you find yourself straining from listening in a social or work environment, take a short break to relax and let your mind rest from the rigors of listening. Stepping away, tuning out with noise cancelling headphones to reduce overstimulation, and even a short nap are all methods to de-stress and invigorate alertness. Turn your ears off and take a break from the audio action whenever possible.

2. Meditate — Meditation and locating that calm inside can quiet the stress of effortful listening associated with hearing loss. Meditation is becoming a popular tool for mental and physical wellness. It’s free, can be practiced anywhere, and even a short 5-minute meditation has demonstrated benefit.

3. Record and transcribe — For those with hearing loss, listening-intensive endeavors like meetings and course work can cause stress from the fear of missing important details. There are technologies designed to record or stream such interactions, including many smartphone apps. These apps can stream directly to hearing aids, or transcribe dictation via voice recognition technology such as technology found at www.speechtexter.com.

4. Work smarter, not harder — Speaking of hearing aids, they’re a terrific solution. Work with a hearing professional to take advantage of their expertise and find the best hearing aid or assistive technology for your needs and lifestyle. Struggling through the workday and leaving yourself no energy to enjoy life is working harder not smarter. Hearing aid and assistive technology is available to greatly enhance your life and reduce the strain that listening and concentrating brings to the hearing impaired. Much of today’s hearing aid technology uses digital processing designed to recognize and suppress noise in the environment which can lead to less effortful listening.

You’re already working harder than your normal hearing colleagues and friends to pay attention and be the best listener you can be. So give yourself a break! Make it easier on yourself by investing in a solution to reduce listening effort and you will be richly rewarded. Whether it’s hearing aids, assistive listening technology or strategies to take a break and de-stress, the benefits can greatly enhance your life experience. Click here to contact us, so we can chat more about your hearing health today!

 


Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Go Hand in Hand

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Did you know nearly 50 million American adults deal with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears? That’s one out of every five of us — meaning if you don’t have tinnitus yourself, you probably know someone who does.

And while there are many different causes of tinnitus — physical injury, medicines and chronic disease — many people will tell you that their tinnitus started after being exposed to loud noise. Terry’s started after going to a loud concert. Ken’s started after a nail gun blew up on him. Ron thinks his was caused by being around sirens and not wearing hearing protection at the shooting range.

Exposure to loud noise is also one of the leading causes of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss, called noise-induced hearing loss, is so common it has its own acronym, NIHL. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that 90 percent of people with tinnitus also deal with some level of noise-induced hearing loss. Moreover, the two often go hand in hand.

Our new Muse, Halo 2 and SoundLens Synergy hearing aids have our proven tinnitus relief technology built into them, so if you’re dealing with tinnitus or noise-induced hearing loss, or both, you owe it to yourself to call us today and see how hearing aids can help— just like Terry, Ken and Ron did.

Need a little more information? Watch this video about our Muse hearing aids and how they can not only help you battle tinnitus but enjoy music again!