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Ask the Audiologist

Frequently Asked Questions

Water and electronics don’t mix. However, there are new coatings and technology that allow hearing aids to be very water resistant. There is even one completely waterproof aid on the market and with the correct earmold you can even swim with it! However, with the waterproof aid there are some strict cleaning and maintenance requirements to retain the warranty. So the answer is: Yes! With all the new advances we are no longer worried about a little bit of rain if we get caught outside, or perspiration on those hot days or with exercise.
Yes. Hearing aids come in a variety of styles and sizes. It used to be that the greater the hearing loss the larger the hearing aid, but now we are even finding some super-powered hearing aids that are small and discreet. “Open technology” is a style that fits various degrees of hearing loss. The device hides behind the ear and a thin wire follows the contour of the ear. A small piece is inserted into the ear to direct the sound. Depending on hair and the size of your ear many of these devices are completely hidden.
Often the answer is YES. Once a medical cause for your tinnitus is ruled out, a hearing aid may be the next step to relief. One theory of the cause of tinnitus is that the hair cells that activate the hearing nerve died in the “on” position, thus causing your hearing loss and tinnitus. A hearing aid can improve the way you hear and understand people while at the same time mask or minimize the tinnitus. This sound masking helps your brain learn to “tune it out.” Some users report a reprieve from their tinnitus for hours after taking the devices off.
Buyer Beware! There are many products being advertised claiming a “cure” for tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Research has shown no more effectiveness than a placebo. Just because a product may claim that it is “all natural”, does not mean it’s safe or effective. Be aware that herbal products can be expensive and claims about these products are not regulated. Demand a list of ingredients before you buy. Ask your physician or pharmacist if any of these ingredients will interact with your current medications or are known to have negative side effects – such as tinnitus!
It’s always good to check your hearing at this stage in your life. Studies show up to 50% of baby boomers suffer from hearing loss and they are losing their hearing faster than past generations. Because of apprehension or denial, only 1 in 3 has had their hearing tested. Hearing difficulty creates obstacles in a person’s life at home, at work and in social situations. There is no need for either boomers or loved ones to suffer in silence. Help is more discreet and effective than ever.
Yes. Many of the newer technologies are designed to be fully automatic. Your job is to just ensure the devices are clean, have a fresh battery and that it is placed in your ear properly. The device “listens” to the environment around you and adjusts the amount of amplification to allow for the best speech understanding or comfort for the environment you are in. As technology improves we are seeing some degree of automation in all levels of technology from the more basic to the most advanced.
It is proven that hearing aids can benefit you beyond just improving hearing. Hearing loss affects your social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being. We communicate to build relationships. When hearing loss is left untreated it causes isolation, the perception of not being “with it”, or having emotional instability. If you are able to be involved in the conversation you have an increased sense of control over your life. Hearing aids will benefit you beyond just improving your hearing. Try a demonstration of amplification and hear what you have been missing. Get back into life!
95% of all hearing loss can only be treated with hearing aids and the vast majority of those are what physicians call “nerve deafness” – only 5% are medically treatable. Older technology was not as successful because it often made people feel “plugged-up” or it couldn’t amplify in the areas people needed the most help. The newer, “open fit” technology eliminates the “plugged-up” feeling, has a wider frequency response allowing us to help more people and is very comfortable and nearly invisible. If you’re having problems, be re-evaluated and have a demonstration. Listen for yourself and make your own decision.
People with hearing loss often delay a decision to obtain help because they are unaware that receiving early treatment for hearing loss can potentially transform their lives. Research has shown that hearing aids are associated with improvements in the social, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of people with hearing loss of all types and degrees. Hearing aid usage is positively related to earning power, communication in personal and professional relationships, ease in communication, emotional stability, sense of control over life events, perception of mental functioning, group social participation, and overall physical health. And, if you start earlier it’s an easier transition.
Ear candling is a procedure that involves placing a cone-shaped device in the ear canal that reportedly creates a vacuum to extract earwax and other debris using a burning candle. Not only has it been shown that ear candles do NOT produce a vacuum, the pressure needed to pull the sticky wax from the canal would have to be so great it would rupture the eardrum. Many websites claim benefits that are anatomically impossible and the procedure poses several dangers, including the risk of burns to the ear canal and eardrum and blockage of the ear canal with candle wax.
According to recent research, secondhand smoke is associated with increased risk of ear infections and permanent hearing loss in adolescents. The study included over 1500 adolescents 12 to 19 years of age who were interviewed about their health status and family medical history, exposure to secondhand smoke and self-recognition of hearing impairment. They also underwent physical examinations, including blood tests for cotinine (a byproduct of nicotine exposure) and hearing tests. Teens exposed to secondhand smoke exhibited higher rates of hearing loss, and more than 80% of participants with hearing loss did not realize they had impairment.
The inner ear is extremely sensitive to blood flow. A healthy cardiovascular system-a person’s heart, arteries, and veins-has a positive effect on hearing. Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss. Studies show that those with heart disease are 54% more likely to have hearing loss than the general population. Individuals who exercised at least once a week saw a 32% reduction in the risk of suffering from hearing loss, when compared to sedentary people. Research is being done to determine if low-frequency hearing loss can be a predictor of cardiovascular disease.
You are right to be concerned. The toy industry has set a 90dB sound limit for toys when held about 10 inches away from the ear. These guidelines are not mandatory, and many toys emit sound at this level – about as loud as a lawnmower. If the same toy is held near the ear, it can increase to 120dB, equivalent to a jet plane possibly causing permanent hearing loss. Listen to the toys you buy this holiday season. If they sound too loud, remove the batteries, cover the speaker with duct tape, or just don’t buy it.
Every parent knows that it is almost impossible to always monitor how loud their child listens to music. You can ensure that your child is listening at safe levels. The Etymotic ETY Kids 5 earphones limit volume output from iPods and other sound sources while offering excellent audio performance. The main reason we turn up the volume when listening to music in earphones or headphones is to block out the noise around us. These headphones block background noise and provide high-definition sound quality. It’s never too early to protect your child’s ears. They’re great for adults too!
Today’s hearing aids are very flexible and they may only need adjusting. However, even if they are programmed appropriately, they are not a cure for hearing loss and cannot restore normal hearing. A damaged ear may distort the sound before it reaches the brain. There is no hearing aid that can correct distortion caused by the ear itself and expectations must be realistic. Hearing aids are your best option and they work very well. For the most success, purchase the best hearing aid you can afford and discuss communication strategies with your audiologist.
There are many things you can do to facilitate communication with a hard-of-hearing person. Get their attention before you speak and face them so they can see you as they will instinctively do some lip reading. Remember to speak clearly, not just loudly, and slow down! Rephrasing is always better than just repeating the same word over and over, and don’t be afraid to manipulate your environment, like moving to a quieter place, or turning off the TV. But, most important, BE PATIENT! Remember that communication can be very frustrating and exhausting for someone with hearing loss.
For most people with hearing loss, two hearing aids are better than one. Your brain works best when it receives sound from both ears. It is easier to understand speech in background noise, localize where sounds are coming from, and hear from both sides. Sound quality and clarity is generally better. Additionally, it is important for both ears to stay active to maintain good speech understanding ability. There are times where one ear may not benefit from amplification, but for most people, two hearing aids are best. Your audiologist can recommend what is best for you.
An Audiologist is the professional who specializes in evaluating and treating children and adults with hearing loss. Audiologists are licensed professionals who have a Master’s or Doctoral Degree. They conduct a wide variety of tests to determine the exact nature of an individual’s hearing problem and present a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment. Audiologists dispense and fit hearing aids, evaluate dizziness, provide hearing protection and hearing rehabilitation training. They refer patients to physicians when the hearing problem needs medical or surgical evaluation.
Earwax, or cerumen, is produced by glands in the ear canal to help keep the ear clean and healthy. It contains mild antibacterial and antifungal properties and gradually migrates outward, taking dirt and dead skin with it. For most people, it only causes problems when cotton swabs are used, pushing the wax further in the ear canal. The best thing to do to clean your ears is to do nothing – just let your ears clean themselves naturally. If you do get a build-up, you can try over-the-counter eardrops or ask your physician to remove it for you.
The answer is “It depends”. What works for one person may not work for another. To answer this question takes a careful hearing evaluation by an audiologist to determine the degree of hearing loss and your individual lifestyle needs. The brand of instrument is secondary; we are concerned with how it works for you and improves your quality of life. If you or someone you know could benefit from a free consultation, call us. At Eastside Audiology & Hearing Services you can try one at home before you buy it!
Hearing aids have output limiters and when programmed appropriately for your hearing loss, they will not cause your hearing to worsen. However, hearing aids are not hearing protection. When around loud noise such as concerts, guns, or power tools, hearing protection should be worn. Some people comment that they feel their hearing loss is greater after taking the aids off. This is because they have gotten used to hearing better! What they are experiencing is a perception of greater hearing loss, not an actual change. In fact, hearing aid use can help maintain speech understanding and memory abilities.