One Hearing Aid or Two

“Do I need two hearing aids, or can I get by with just one?” 

This question is one I hear quite frequently from patients with hearing loss in both ears. Personally, I understand their point of view: why invest in two hearing aids if one will suffice? 

However, as an audiologist, I know the benefits of wearing hearing aids in both ears, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with you. The following are several benefits of wearing hearing aids in both ears. 

Sound Localization

Our brains rely on information from both of our ears to determine where sounds are coming from. Timing, intensity, and location are items that can be difficult to judge when relying on the reception of only one ear and can lead to confusion or dizziness. These issues are easily resolved when hearing aids are used in both ears. 

Improved Understanding in Background Noise

Many individuals with hearing loss have difficulty hearing in noisy environments. A study by Kim et al. (2014) demonstrates that individuals who wear two hearing aids are better able to follow conversations with background noise than those who wear only one hearing aid. Essentially, hearing aids work better as a pair, enhancing speech understanding in background noise.

Preservation of Speech Understanding

Over time, untreated hearing loss can lead to a decline in speech understanding. If both ears are experiencing hearing loss, the entire auditory system is affected and requires treatment. 

Wearing only one hearing aid is like wearing only one prescription lens in your glasses. To maintain speech understanding equally, wear hearing aids in both ears.

Our Experience

Sometimes, our patients do not follow our recommendations, and we respect their decisions. However, at Harbor Hearing we are always upfront about proper expectations. Most patients who need two hearing aids but only invest in one will report problems about misunderstandings in noisy environments, poor localization, and decreased word understanding in the unaided ear.

We are blessed to have two ears. If we can use them, we should. 

Byrne, D. & Noble, W. (1998) Optimizing Sound Localization with Hearing Aids. Trends in Hearing 3(2). doi: 10.1177/108471389800300202

Kim, J., Lee, J.H., & Lee, H. (2014) Advantages of Binaural Amplification to Acceptable Noise Level of Directional Hearing Aid Users. Clinical and Experimental Otohinolaryngology. 7(2) doi: 10.3342/ceo.2014.7.2.94

Top 4 Reasons Your Hearing Aids Whistle!

“Give a little whistle!”

If you’ve ever watched Disney’s Pinnochio, you are likely familiar with the song that Jiminy Cricket sings, titled, “Give a Little Whistle.” In the movie, this whistle is a cry for help. If you wear hearing aids, chances are you have heard them whistle at some point or another. This sound is called feedback, and while it can be normal, it can also be your hearing aids’ “call for help.”  

Feedback is simply the result of a sound being picked up by the microphone and amplified, causing the noise to “loop,” or repeat. This is the same effect that is heard when a microphone on stage gets too close to a loudspeaker. However, since the hearing aids’ speaker is quite small, the effect is not nearly as loud.

Feedback is normal for many patients with hearing aids. In fact, many patients check whether their hearing aids are working correctly by holding a hand near their ear. This position causes the sounds from the microphone to reflect off the hand and begin that feedback loop. If feedback only happens when a hand is placed near the ear, there is generally nothing to be concerned about.

However, sometimes feedback can occur for other reasons. Your ears may have accumulated too much wax, the hearing aid may no longer fit properly, or the hearing aid may be malfunctioning. 

Earwax  

A large amount of earwax (cerumen) can cause sound to reflect back into the hearing aid’s microphone. When you notice new or unexplained feedback from your hearing aids, you can often fix the problem by removing excess earwax.

Poor Fit

Patients also experience feedback when a hearing aid is poorly fit. Sometimes, simply pressing the hearing aid further into the ear will reduce or eliminate the issue. Other patients experience poor retention, meaning that their hearing aids wiggle or even fall out while eating or speaking. This loose fit will cause sound to leak out, resulting in feedback. Another possible reason for hearing aid feedback is a change in ear canal shape. Aging, weight loss, and weight gain can all affect a hearing aid’s fit.

Strong Amplification

If you have severe hearing loss and require strong amplification, you are more likely to experience feedback. Although hearing aid technology reduces the chance of feedback, it cannot always eliminate it completely. In cases of severe hearing loss, a little feedback may always exist, especially when objects come near the ear (scratching, hugging, sitting near walls).

Broken Hearing Aids

The last reason a hearing aid will produce feedback is that it is broken. Broken hearing aids can cause issues with the microphone, speaker, or even the internal circuitry. In these cases, an audiologist will not be able to resolve the issue in the office, and the hearing aids must be sent to the manufacturer for repair.  

At Harbor Hearing, we are equipped to deal with every possible scenario when it comes to feedback issues.

  • Earwax? We can safely remove it for you!
  • Poor fit? We can easily recommend a different fit.
  • Strong amplification? We are trained to educate you on best options to eliminate feedback.
  • Broken hearing aids? We can repair them for you!

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Many other reasons can cause hearing aid feedback. If your hearing aids have begun to “give a little whistle,” be sure to answer their “call for help” by visiting us. We will evaluate the cause and work toward reducing or eliminating the problem. 

Features of Assistive Listening Devices

May signifies an exciting time of the year for audiologists around the world. Flowers are blooming, the air is growing warmer, and Better Speech & Hearing Month has just begun. 

I thought long and hard about what topic I would cover during this important month. Many people know that hearing aids improve communication and promote cognitive health by allowing the brain access to important sounds, but did you know that patients also benefit from using Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)? ALDs can make a world of difference for individuals with hearing loss because of the following valuable features. 

Induction Loops or Telecoils

Telecoils, also known as induction loops, are small copper wires that interact with loops installed in the ceilings of venues such as theaters, meeting halls, and churches. These loop systems connect the building’s sound systems or microphones to one’s hearing aids, ensuring good sound quality by reducing background noise. Many hearing aids have telecoils built into them.

If you have questions about telecoils or whether your hearing aids have this feature, give us a call. We are happy to answer your questions!

Television Headsets

Do you remember TV Ears? Although they are not as popular anymore since hearing aids can stream wirelessly to most televisions, I still sometimes recommend Infra-red TV headsets. TV headsets stream sound from one’s television to a headset and give patients who are not candidates for hearing aids the ability to understand their televisions.   

Bluetooth Connectivity

Most new hearing aids have the ability to connect via Bluetooth to cell phones and other devices such as microphones or televisions. These convenient listening devices allow patients to stream phone calls and television programs right to their hearing aids. 

Using a microphone clip, friends and family can attach these devices to their shirts, and the device will stream their voices directly to one’s hearing aids. For those individuals with a moderate to severe deficit in background noise, a microphone will make it easier to hear loved ones in a crowded area such as at a restaurant. 

Amplified Devices for Medical Professionals

Amplified stethoscopes are useful for medical professionals who suffer from hearing loss. I have fit several physicians, nurses, and medical assistants with hearing aids; however, when wearing hearing aids, one cannot wear a standard stethoscope piece at the same time. Amplified stethoscopes allow medical professionals to keep their hearing instruments in their ears while performing auscultation. 

Captioned Telephones

Amplified and/or captioned phones can help those with hearing loss better understand phone conversations. These phones have built-in screens that display captions for everything the other person says while on the call. 

In [state], those with hearing loss qualify for a free amplified or captioned phone. Contact us if you are interested in obtaining one of those telephones. 

Alerting Devices

Patients with severe hearing loss would often miss their morning alarms if not for the help of an alerting device. One type of alerting device is a specialized alarm clock that uses flashing lights and/or vibrating pillow inserts to wake those who might not respond to sounds. Other alerting devices include special doorbells, fire alarms, carbon monoxide monitors, and baby monitors.

Give us a call at Harbor Hearing to find out more information about assistive listening devices and discover one for you! 

Often, when people wear hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices for the first time, they wish they had tried them sooner. Reach out yourself or encourage a loved one to take the first step toward life-altering treatment. Give us a call at 727-771-8770!

Hearing Aids of the Future

Researchers are constantly improving hearing aid performance and appeal. One of their goals is to reduce background noise to make focused listening easier.

To accomplish this task, researchers have undertaken a new study investigating the use of brainwaves in improving speech understanding in noisy environments (Geirnaert et al., 2020). Hearing aids with this technology might be able to identify and amplify the primary speaker while dulling unnecessary voices and background noise. This function will drastically and amazingly improve hearing aid efficiency. 

Though hearing aids do not currently possess this brainwave technology, they are fit with some other sophisticated features, including the following. 

Rechargeable Batteries 

Most new hearing aids can be recharged. Rechargeable hearing aids are convenient and easy to use. They also provide a great solution for individuals with low vision or difficulty handling batteries. Simply recharge your hearing aids every night, and you’ll no longer have to worry about them quitting in the middle of an important phone call or meeting. 

Bluetooth Connectivity 

Most hearing devices connect wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet to effortlessly stream music and phone calls directly into the ears. This feature allows users to control hearing aid programs directly from their mobile devices. 

Artificial Intelligence 

Newer hearing aids act as smart devices. I often describe them as tiny computers that rest on the tops of the ears. Some devices use artificial intelligence to identify different sounds in the environment. Others can be used as “Healthables” to track activity levels, alert a loved ones of falls, and show the number of daily social interactions.

While all hearing aids improve hearing, they are slowly transitioning into multi-functional devices. These examples share only a few of the many improvements being made in hearing technology. Call now to see for yourself how these improvements will benefit your hearing! 

Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty understanding speech while in noisy environments, we usually recommend a trial with new amplification. This method is the most beneficial!

Harbor Hearing, P.A. 
33917 US Highway 19 North 
Palm Harbor, FL 34684

(727) 771-8770

Sources:

Geirnaert, S., Francart, T., & Bertrand, A. (2020). Fast EEG-based decoding of the directional focus of auditory attention using common spatial patterns. Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineer. DOI: 10.1109/TBME.2020.3033446

Leuven, K. (2020). Which speaker are you listening to? Hearing aid of the future uses brainwaves to find out. Science Daily, <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201124092144.htm>.

What You Don’t Know About Pets and Hearing Aids

The majority of people in the United States have had a pet at some point. Some didn’t have pets until they were older, and others have had pets throughout their lives and cannot imagine living without an animal companion. Dogs keep us active by requiring exercise and care. Cats comfort us when we’re lonely – even their purring has been known to have healing effects. Pets can greatly benefit our health and emotions, and their benefits often become clearer as we age. Yes, pets are wonderful! They truly bless us.

But then the day comes when you can’t find your hearing aid. You search everywhere–in the laundry, under the sofa, even in the trash can. Nothing. You glance at your dog who is laying there in the living room looking up at you with innocent eyes. You notice your hearing aid lying beside him. Shock shoots through your body as you desperately hope that the device is lying there unscathed. But as you approach (and your dog’s tail wags), the truth becomes dreadfully clear– your hearing aid has been chewed up! Do you still love your dog? Of course! But, in that moment, you discover that having a pet can be very costly. The average cost of a hearing aid can run from $1,000-3,000!

Why do pets damage hearing aids?

At Harbor Hearing, damage caused by pets is the top reason that people file loss and damage claims for their hearing aids. As audiologists, we have heard many patients argue that their dog (or cat) would never chew up their aids only to come in years (or sometimes just months) later with a chewed up hearing aid.  

Why cats and dogs commonly chew up hearing aids isn’t exactly known. In my experience, I have noticed that cats will play with and hide hearing aids. Dogs, on the other hand, will often chew the device beyond repair and sometimes even swallow it.

Two theories for why pets like hearing aids are the aids’ sound and taste. As many know, animals can hear certain frequencies that we cannot. Therefore, when a dog or cat hears a high pitched sound that we cannot, they might view the device as a fun toy. Secondly, hearing aids smell like your ear wax, and most pets identify that smell as a salty and tasty treat.

How can you prevent this costly accident?

If you have pets, keep your hearing aids on your ears or in their case or charger. Never set your aids on a nightstand, end table, or anywhere else your pet may access. For bigger animals, you may even want to hide your case in a drawer.

What happens if it is chewed up?

Should the worst happen and your pet chews up your aid, remember that you likely have a 3-year warranty for most aids. This warranty includes one-time “Loss and Damage” coverage. So, if Fido chews up your hearing aid, you can get the device replaced for a small deductible (a few hundred dollars). Hopefully, if this happens to you, you will correct the error of your ways because Loss and Damage coverage can be used only once. If your pet damages your aids again, you will have to pay thousands of dollars for a replacement.  

Consider this your warning! Enjoy your pets and take good care of your hearing aids. If the worst should happen, give us a call at (727) 771-8770 so we can help you get back to hearing again.

Could your hip implant be causing your hearing loss?

Over the years, metal hip replacements have been found to cause hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues. Though issues may not occur shortly after the replacement, after some wear or corrosion of the chrome or cobalt individuals may experience damage in the auditory system.[i] Even though the metal is localized in the hip, over time, small metal ions can travel into the blood stream and cause problems in other parts of the body, such as, the cardiovascular system, visual system, motor-sensory system, and the auditory system.[ii] In addition to these issues some patients also have issues with their psychological function and immune system.

At Harbor Hearing, P.A. we take your overall health into account when you come in for a hearing evaluation. When you visit us you will notice we take the time necessary to get a thorough health history before the hearing evaluation is completed. Did you know that hearing loss isn’t only caused by aging? Hearing loss has also been associated with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and ototoxic medications.

If you did have a metal hip replacement, it is a good idea to get a baseline hearing evaluation. That way, if changes do occur over time, they can be accurately tracked. Also, if you are experiencing any signs of hearing loss, such as, trouble hearing in noisy environments, asking for repetition, or having trouble with the clarity of speech, it is important to get a hearing evaluation. Early detection and intervention for hearing loss is key. If you did have a cobalt-chromium hip implant, be aware of the potential long term issues and speak to your primary care doctor if you have any concerns. If you have any questions about hearing loss or suspect that you may have a hearing loss, do not hesitate to give us a call at 727-771-8770 to schedule an appointment.


[i]J. B. Leikin, H. C. Karydes, P. M. Whiteley, B. K. Wills, K. L. Cumpston & J. J. Jacobs (2013) Outpatient toxicology clinic experience of patients with hip implants, Clinical Toxicology, 51:4, 230-236[ii]Gessner, Bradford D. MD, MPH*; Steck, Thomas BS†; Woelber, Erik MSc†; Tower, Stephen S. MD‡ A Systematic Review of Systemic Cobaltism After Wear or Corrosion of Chrome-Cobalt Hip Implants, Journal of Patient Safety: June 2019 – Volume 15 – Issue 2 – p 97-104

The Benefits of Regular Hearing Aid Use

Every new year is a new chapter in our lives—an opportunity to meet goals and self-improve. One of the ways you can improve this year is by using your hearing aids more regularly. If your hearing aid use is inconsistent, consider the following reasons why you should resolve to wear your hearing aids every day.

To Increase Cognitive Function

When individuals are fit with hearing aids for the first time, they often report that sounds are very loud. Their brains have become so accustomed to their mild hearing loss that normal hearing comes across as sharp and piercing. To adjust to this change, their brains must reorganize the way they process sound (Ferguson et al., 2017).

This reorganization can make the first few days, weeks, and even months of hearing aid use challenging as the brain forms new neural connections and relearns to process the sounds it was previously missing. To avoid this difficult relearning process, patients are encouraged to wear their hearing aids regularly. Regular hearing aid use strengthens the new neural connections, leading to better speech understanding and increased cognitive function (Glick & Sharma 2020).

To Improve Understanding in Background Noise

Consistent hearing aid use can also improve speech understanding in noisy environments, one of the most reported difficulties among individuals with hearing loss (Dawes & Munro 2017). Think of it this way – if Olympic athletes never practiced their sports, they would not perform very well. To be successful, they need to practice every day. The same is true for hearing aids. When individuals wear their hearing aids in quiet situations, their brains will more easily adjust to challenging, noisy situations.

Tips For Loved Ones

Do your family members refuse to wear their hearing aids? Last year, in particular, I heard many of my patients saying, “I’m not socializing with anyone when I’m home alone, so why should I wear them?” Patients who pose this question do not understand the important role hearing aids play in maintaining the brain’s ability to process the sounds around them. Everything we do has sound, and our brain craves that information. Even if your loved ones don’t enjoy wearing their hearing aids, they need to! Here are some tips for speaking to them about it.

  • Tip #1: Explain how sound deprivation affects the brain. Tell them that their brains must reacclimate to hearing every time they wear their hearing aids after not wearing them for a while. The more inconsistent they are, the more their brain will struggle to adjust to the new sensory information.

  • Tip #2: Compare the use of glasses to hearing aid use. A person who is prescribed corrective lenses wears them every day, even if they don’t plan to socialize or “see” anyone that day. The same should be true of those who need hearing correction.

  • Tip #3: Explain that putting aside their hearing aids to take “a break” from them is like taking a break from their job only to find a pile of work waiting for them when they return. Their brain will have to work extra hard to adjust to hearing again once their “break” is over.

Consistent hearing aid use is required for optimal success with hearing aids. As we enter the new year, make a commitment to yourself to wear your hearing aids regularly and see how doing so can improve your life.

References:

Dawes, P. & Munro, K. J. (2017). Auditory Distraction and Acclimatization to Hearing Aids. Ear and Hearing, 38(2). DOI: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000366

Ferguson, M. A., Kitterick, P. T., Chong, L. Y., Edmondson-Jones, M., Barker, F., & Hoare, D. J. (2017), Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, 9. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012023.pub2.

Glick, H. & Sharma, A. (2020). Cortical Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Function in Early-Stave, Mild-Moderate Hearing Loss: Evidence of Neurocognitive Benefit from Hearing Aid Use. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14