Dr. Wright's Blog

Exciting New Options for Hearing on the Phone with Hearing Aids

Last week, Widex launched a new product for hearing on a cell phone.  It is a small device with a headphone plug that plugs into the headphone jack of a cell phone.  Then, the signal from the phone is sent wirelessly to both hearing aids.  The sound quality is improved and it eliminates having to keep the phone pushed right up to the ear.

These devices are called Call-Dex and are extremely simple to operate and connect.  They will ONLY work with Widex hearing aids.

Phonak has a similar device that called an Easy Call.  This device needs to be paired using Bluetooth to the cell phone and sticks onto the back of any hearing aid.

These devices made by Phonak and Widex are available at Broadmead and Oak Bay Hearing Clinic.

"I Struggle To Hear Women's Voices"

Many people with hearing loss report that they have more difficulty hearing women’s voices.  This seems to affect many different people.  A common misconception is that women's voices are higher and many people have high frequency hearing losses, therefore, they must have more trouble with women’s voices.   

In fact, many people with high frequency hearing loss have trouble hearing the consonant sounds.  However, many of these sounds are unvoiced.  Meaning, there is no vocal energy that backs these sounds.  Imagine sounds like /f/, or /th/, or /k/, /t/.  These are sounds made with air and tongue placement in our mouths with no voice.  As a contrast, sounds such as /m/, /d/, /ah/ all have quite a lot of low frequency voicing that provides volume to the sound. 

So, for most people it is the volume of someone’s voice that makes it difficult to hear (soft spoken or not) rather than if they are a man or a woman or even a child.  This is one of the main functions of any hearing aid, to emphasize the soft high frequency sounds that the ear is otherwise missing.

What Does it Mean to be an Independent Hearing Clinic?

Since the sale of Island Hearing to Phonak (Sonova Corporation) a few years ago there has been a lot of change in the service provision of hearing aids.  It used to be many mom and pop operations, until; like many industries, vertical integration took over.  This means the manufacturers have their own retail stores.  

I have had a few people ask what does it mean to be an independent clinic?  How does that benefit the hearing aid user? 

Here is a quick answer.

Being independent means:

  • Being a solely-owned business which is not owned or operated by another Audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. 
  • Not being affiliated with a retail chain of clinics.
  • Does not revenue share with an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor (ENT) in the same office.
  • Is not contractually connected to a hearing aid manufacturer (including being required to purchase a minimum number of hearing aids, regardless of purpose).
  • Competes directly with all other types of hearing clinics such as big box stores, manufacturer owned stores, and retail chains. 

Using the above criteria, it is been estimated that 75% of hearing aid dispensers and Audiologists are NOT independent. 

This is also NOT in the best interest of hearing aid users.  There are inherent biases when you are not independent.  A hearing aid practitioner or Audiologist may be drawn to recommend one hearing aid company over the other.  Or, a clinician may not even have the information or training on all the potential available products in the market.  As an independent Audiologist and clinic, this is the most detrimental to the hearing aid user.  There may be a product that is better suited to that person’s unique need, but if the clinic is NOT independent, they are not as likely to have all of the information on every product available in the marketplace. 

As a user of hearing aids, it is paramount that you are given all of the options.  It is in your best interest to use an independent clinic so that you know that the only consideration being given in the choice on brand is your individual and unique needs; that there are no hidden agendas.

When it is time for you to make the step to improve your hearing, book an appointment with one of our independent Audiologists at Broadmead or Oak Bay Hearing Clinics so you can see all of the options that are available for you.  You are worth it.

Best Features of Hearing Aids

Top 5 Coolest Features in Hearing Aids:

1.  Hearing aid finder - Never lose a hearing aid again.  Connect them to an iPad or iPhone, and using the GPS you can locate your hearing aid wherever it may be. This super slick feature can also be a fun party game!  Available from Resound.

2. Rechargeable batteries - No more disposing batteries, or hearing that low battery warning beep right in the middle of something important.  The charger ensures a full day of power and the rechargeable batteries are good for about 9 months.  Available from Siemens.

3. Direct access telephone - Bring the phone about 10 inches from your ears and incredibly, both hearing aids will pick up the audio from the telephone and stream it to both hearing aids.  The binaural access to the sound as well as not having to press the phone up to your ear makes talking on the phone 100% easier.  Available from Phonak and Widex.

4. Hearing aids for Musicians - Hearing aids have historically been designed to help improve speech intelligibility.  One hearing aid manufacturer has introduced a new microphone system that allows a louder input into the hearing aid before the hearing aid begins to compress the signal.  The result is improved perception of music.  A great hearing aid for those who enjoy opera or play an instrument.  Available from Widex. 

5.  Direct connection to TV - All hearing aids can be connected to the TV, but two manufacturers can do it without the use of a "middle man" device.  Sit down to watch TV, press a button on the hearing aid and voila, that sound is now coming right out of the hearing aids!  That increased sound in your ear canal makes it easier to hear those British accents!  Bring on the next season of Downton Abbey!  Available from Resound and Starkey.

 

Hearing Aid, Tinnitus and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At Broadmead Hearing Clinic, we recently read an article in the Canadian Audiologist journal written by Dr. Marc Fagelson who discussed the impact of PTSD on the auditory system and the benefits of hearing aids for clients with PTSD.  We summarized it below. 

Patients with PTSD are more likely to have an exaggerated startle response to loud sounds, hyperacusis, and tinnitus. Exposure to damaging sound levels is often associated with traumatic events for those who serve or have served in the military (e.g. gunfire, explosive devices). However, similar noise levels may also affect civilians who have been in motor vehicle accidents or other traumatic events. Patients with PTSD often misidentify environmental sounds as threatening sounds. For example, a patient with PTSD may startle or become physically upset in response to an innocuous sound like someone dropping a fork on the ground. This is a form of hyperacusis. Hearing aids help with this startle response by improving the audibility of soft environmental sounds to reduce the signal to noise ratio for sudden impulse sounds.

Patients with PTSD often develop tinnitus in addition to hearing loss during or after the traumatic event. The effects of tinnitus and PTSD may be mutually reinforcing because patients with tinnitus often rate PTSD as more severe than those without tinnitus and vice versa. Hearing aids are beneficial for treating tinnitus and PTSD because the audibility of speech sounds is improved which facilitates ease of communication and alleviates stress. Furthermore, the improved audibility of ambient sounds will help the patient habituate to their tinnitus so that they become less aware of their tinnitus when wearing their hearing aids. Finally, hearing aids can increase the patient’s sense of security as certain sounds can be detected more easily and more accurately in their environment.

Audiologists have much to offer patients dealing with PTSD, hearing loss and tinnitus. We can help you obtain the support you need and provide you with resources to manage your hearing loss, PTSD, and tinnitus.

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Hearing Fact

More than 8 million Canadians have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually they do not realize it is happening.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.