Have Loop, Will Travel

By Stephen O. Frazier

I'm 80 years old with a hearing loss. What I've learned through my travels is that I need more than just my hearing aids.

In New York City not long ago, I expected to have a problem when I approached the fare booth to buy a subway pass. I knew the roar of trains constantly passing through makes it difficult for someone with typical hearing to communicate, let alone someone like me with a severe hearing loss.

National Association of the Deaf via hearingloop.org

National Association of the Deaf via hearingloop.org

But when I noticed a sign for hearing loops, a blue symbol with an ear and a “T,” I turned off my hearing aids’ mics and turned on their telecoils. To my surprise and delight, I heard quite clearly the attendant’s voice, just as a train was passing through underneath.   

Telecoils, or T-coils, are tiny coils of wire in my hearing aids that receive sound from the electromagnetic signal from a hearing loop. A hearing loop, in turn, is a wire that surrounds a defined area and is connected to a sound source such as a public address system. It emits a signal that carries the sound from its electronic source to the T-coils in my hearing aids, which are already optimized for my hearing ability. It’s as simple as flipping a switch to gain access to sound in any looped setting.

Beyond New York City, hearing loops are available around the country in auditoriums, train stations, airports, places of worship, theaters, and more. For a full and growing list, see time2loopamerica.com and aldlocator.com.

The technology also works with devices called neck loops—personal loops that replace the headsets used in assistive listening situations (such as a museum audio guide, in-flight entertainment, or a live theater production) and send sound to the telecoils of hearing aids.

Travelers with hearing loss should look for the international hearing loop symbol, which is usually blue in the U.S. but may be maroon or green or some other color abroad. If you aren’t sure whether your hearing aid has T-coils, talk to your hearing healthcare provider. Keep in mind the smallest-size hearing aids sometimes do not come with telecoils.

Passport.jpg

Here are some of my other travel tips, as a lifelong travel enthusiast:

  • If you have a Pocket Talker or some other personal sound amplifier, take it along with a neck loop to hear over cabin noise in flight.  

  • Download a speech-to-text app like Live Caption or InnoCaption to your cell phone to let you read what's said to you by others.

  • Download a captioned phone app such as the one from Hamilton CapTel so you will have captioned phone access during your trip, for both placing and receiving calls.

  • Pack extra hearing aid batteries and, if you have one, an extra hearing aid for the trip.  

  • If your hearing aids are rechargeable, be sure to take the charger and put it in your carry-on in case your checked luggage doesn't arrive with you.

  • Take a pen and notepad with you to communicate with ticket/gate agents in case you can't hear them over the noise in the airport.

  • Download the SoundPrint app for its Quiet List that identifies restaurants and bars in several U.S. cities, including popular destination New York City, that are less noisy than others and more conducive to conversation.

  • Print your ticket and boarding pass at home, or send it to your phone.

  • If available, take a seat near the information counter at the gate and alert the attendant to your hearing loss. Request that you be notified of any emergency or other announcements. Often the agent will add you to the group allowed to preboard.

  • As you board the aircraft, alert the flight attendant(s) to your hearing loss so they will know to pay attention to your communication needs, and read the safety instructions in the pocket in front of you—you will probably have difficulty understanding the oral version offered by the flight crew.

  • Once you reach your destination, if staying in a hotel, alert the desk clerk to your hearing difficulty so staff can be instructed to personally inform you of any emergency, e.g., fire alarms. If you feel you need it, ask for an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) deaf/hard-of-hearing kit from the hotel; they are required to have them available.  These kits include such items as a door knock sensor, telephone handset amplifier, telephone ringer signaler, visual/audio smoke detector, and a special alarm clock. Not all hotels are in compliance with the ADA so check ahead on the availability of a kit.

  • And most of all, relax and enjoy your travels!

stephen frazier.jpg

Stephen O. Frazier is a hearing loss support specialist, the former Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) chapter coordinator for New Mexico, and director of Loop New Mexico. He serves on the national HLAA Hearing Loop Steering Committee and on the New Mexico Speech-Language Pathology, Audiology, and Hearing Aid Dispensing Practices Board. To learn more about loops, see hearingloop.org.

Print Friendly and PDF

HHF Co-Sponsors Hearing Health Care Economics Presentation on Capitol Hill

Capitol_Hill_Washington.jpg

By Lauren McGrath

Our aging population’s lack of access to hearing loss treatment is a public health crisis. More than half of Americans 60 and older live with hearing loss. When left untreated, hearing loss can increase the risk of cognitive decline, social isolation, falls, and dementia. Unaddressed hearing loss is also connected to higher rates of unemployment, longer hospital stays, and premature mortality.

On May 29, 2019, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) and 11 other Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (FCHHC) member organizations co-sponsored a briefing luncheon on the economics of hearing health care for Congressional staff and other Federal employees at the Rayburn Office House Building on Capitol Hill.

As both a leader in hearing loss research and a founding member of the FCHHC, the coalition that supports the policy interests of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (CHHC), HHF is committed to increasing adoption of hearing loss treatment. The CHHC, a U.S. House of Representatives caucus* co-chaired by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), aims to raise awareness of issues that affect Americans with hearing loss, and has previously been influential in the passage and preservation of universal newborn hearing screening legislation. Each year, the FCHHC organizes a briefing for Congressional staffers on an important topic in hearing health.

Event Flyer (Click to Enlarge)

Event Flyer (Click to Enlarge)

The year’s meeting, entitled “Understanding the Cost of Not Treating Hearing Loss in Adults,” featured two expert speakers, Richard K. Gurgel, M.D., clinician and Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at University of Utah School of Medicine, and Ian Windmill, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Division of Audiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Gurgel and Windmill spoke about the prevalence of hearing loss and its impact, noting that by 2060, this sensory deficit — the most common among seniors — will impact more than 73 million adults, with the overwhelming majority financially unable to pursue treatment. According to the NIDCD, about 70% of adults ages 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids have used the devices.

Cost is the largest barrier to purchasing hearing aids, the primary treatment for hearing loss, among adults in the U.S. A 2017 Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) and Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) survey found that the cost of hearing aids exceed the next most commonly cited limitation — uncertainty about where to get hearing tested — by 575 percent.

Both Gurgel and Windmill cited the implications of paper entitled “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Hearing Care Services: What Is It Worth to Medicare?”, published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in April 2019. The paper’s authors determined that the average annual spending of Medicare beneficiaries who use hearing care services is $8,196, which the spending of those who do not use hearing care services is $10,709, an annual difference of $2,513 per recipient. This difference amounts to a cost savings of more than $7 billion to Medicare annually.

Windmill also cited a report showing that worker’s compensation costs related to hearing loss for a single year in Kentucky averaged $14,500 per person and amounted to a total of $14.5 million statewide. From this report, we can estimate at least $725 million in worker’s compensation payments related to hearing loss are made each year.

While the Congressional luncheon attendees were enthusiastic, and the economic case for Medicare coverage of hearing aids is compelling, more advocacy work is needed to maximize the number of older adults treating hearing loss. HHF encourages you to take action by inviting your local representatives to join the CHHC and to garner support for relevant existing bills: Medical Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2019 (H.R. 1518), Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act of 2019 (S. 1423 / H.R. 1393), and the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R. 576).

You can learn more about the FCHHC and review the presenters’ slides via the American Cochlear Implant Alliance.

*Current members of the CHHC, as of June 2019:

Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Andre Carson (D-IN)
Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Peter King (R-NY)
Dave Loebsack (D-IA)
Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Richard Neal (D-MA)
Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
David Roe (R-TN)
Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Adam Smith (D-WA)

Print Friendly and PDF

The Man Who Chased Sound Wore Hearing Aids

By Sue Baker

The inventor who changed music and the guitar player who had a room full of music awards wore hearing aids. Legendary musician Les Paul spent his whole life looking for the perfect sound. Ironically, for a good portion of his life he had to pursue his passion for sound while wearing hearing aids.

Before Les Paul performs at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, Marty Garcia adjusts his hearing enhancers. Credit: Christopher Lentz.

Before Les Paul performs at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, Marty Garcia adjusts his hearing enhancers. Credit: Christopher Lentz.

Les’s hearing loss started in 1969 when a friend playfully hit him over his right ear, causing his eardrum to break. Surgery to repair the damage had its own complications and Les was left with compromised hearing. A few years later another friend did the same thing to Les’s other ear with the same devastating results.

Les disliked how his initial hearing aids made voices sound “tinny” and higher pitched than normal and began to look for a solution. He explored options with numerous audio and hearing aid companies. In the mid-1990s Les connected with Marty Garcia who over time became his go-to audio friend, helping to improve his hearing aids.

The founder of audio and earphone company Future Sonics, Marty created the customized Ear Monitors brand to help entertainers reduce vocal and hearing fatigue. Les tried Ear Monitors during performances and said the devices’ special transducers took his hearing back 35-plus years.

Each Monday night Les performed two sets at New York City’s Iridium Jazz Club. For two hours before the first performance, he did a sound check, analyzing every component. Les had the settings on all the sound equipment photographed so that each week he could tinker with them and study the effect of his changes.

After the shows, Les wanted to be available to sign autographs and meet his audience. To his frustration, he found that it took him too long to change from his onstage Ear Monitors to his “regular” hearing aids. Many fans left before Les could connect with them. Marty’s response was to create a hearing enhancer that Les could wear while performing as well as for everyday use.

Sue Baker.jpg

Les often joked about his hearing aids. If a battery went out while he was performing, Les would tell his audience not to get their hearing aids at a hardware store. He and Marty also understood that people hear not just with their ears, but with their brains. Together they created a way for the man who chased sound to be able to continue to enjoy and perform it.

les paul foundation NEW 0219.png

Sue Baker is the program director for the Les Paul Foundation, and thanks Marty Garcia, Christopher Lentz, and Arlene Palmer for help with this article. For more, see lespaulfoundation.org. Hearing Health Foundation is grateful to the Les Paul Foundation for its commitment to funding tinnitus research through HHF’s Emerging Research Grants program.

Print Friendly and PDF

Operation Regrow Returns June 17

By Gina Russo

regrow chicken option2.jpg

Which came first—the chicken or the egg? It’s an age-old question, but luckily it does have a scientific answer: the egg.

At Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), researchers are working tirelessly to solve a different, unanswered scientific question: How do we cure human hearing loss?

Hearing is a vital sense and precious gift that so many, due to their genetics, noise exposure, ototoxic medication, age, or injury, have lost. Hearing loss impacts 50 million Americans and more than 460 million people worldwide.

At HHF, it’s not about the chicken or the egg. It’s about hearing. That’s what comes first in our lives and in our work. Hearing enables communication with loved ones and enjoyment of life.

Currently, the most common treatments available are hearing aids and cochlear implants. While miraculous in their impact, they do not recreate typical hearing. They do not undo the damage to the inner ear, or the cochlea, or regrow the sensory cells, or hair cells, which make hearing possible. This is why hair cell regeneration therapy is so urgently needed.

Hearing regeneration is already possible in frogs, fish, and yes, chickens. With your help, the members of HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) can accelerate their studies to identify permanent cures and better the lives of millions.

regrow chick simple blue.jpg

You can be part of the change. Make a donation to the second annual Operation Regrow campaign beginning Tuesday, June 17, at 9:00 AM EDT. Gifts will be accepted online and by mail until June 27.

Your generosity and commitment in this life-changing effort is invaluable to HHF and the scientists in the HRP. Thank you for inspiring us every day to work harder for you and your loved ones living with hearing loss.

Print Friendly and PDF

Developing Better Tests for Discovering “Hidden” Hearing Loss

By Hari Bharadwaj, Ph.D., with Inyong Choi, Ph.D.

Conventionally, hearing loss is thought to be a consequence of damage to delicate sensory hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea). However, over the past decade animal studies have shown that nerve endings in the cochlea are considerably more vulnerable to damage than the sensory hair cells, and that such nerve damage is likely to happen before conventionally recognized forms of hearing loss occur.

Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipients Bharadwaj and Choi, and colleagues, systematically investigated the many sources of variability that obscure cochlear nerve damage (“synaptopathy”) to provide recommendations for how best to measure such nerve damage.

Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipients Bharadwaj and Choi, and colleagues, systematically investigated the many sources of variability that obscure cochlear nerve damage (“synaptopathy”) to provide recommendations for how best to measure such nerve damage.

Unfortunately, damage to cochlear nerve endings cannot be detected by current clinical hearing tests. Yet, this “hidden” damage can hypothetically still affect hearing in everyday noisy environments such as crowded restaurants and busy streets. Therefore, it is important to develop tests to detect such damage in humans, and there is considerable interest among hearing scientists toward this enterprise.

In our paper published in Neuroscience on March 8, 2019, we considered noninvasive tests that can potentially reveal such nerve damage and systematically investigated other extraneous sources of variability that might reduce the sensitivity and specificity of these tests. This helped us come up with recommendations for how we can best apply these tests. Funding from Hearing Health Foundation’s Emerging Research Grants contributed to experiments that helped understand and articulate the role of two key variables: how variations in the anatomy of individuals (e.g., brain shape and size) affected our noninvasive tests; and how certain cognitive factors like attention may affect hearing independently of how well the inner ear is capturing the information in sounds.

Armed with the knowledge about these variables and other factors described in the paper, we anticipate that hearing scientists will be able to design more powerful experiments to understand the effects of damage to cochlear nerve endings, and build more powerful tests to detect such damage in the clinic. This work is crucial in enabling clinical translation of the basic science that has been uncovered over the past decade.

hari_bharadwaj.jpg
inyong choi MTR.jpeg

A 2015 Emerging Research Grants (ERG) scientist, Hari Bharadwaj, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Purdue University in Indiana with a joint appointment in speech, language, and hearing sciences, and biomedical engineering. Inyong Choi, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa. Choi’s 2017 ERG grant was generously funded by the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International.

Print Friendly and PDF

Timothy Higdon Selected to Lead Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) as New CEO

timothy-higdon.jpg

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the largest nonprofit funder of hearing loss research in the U.S., announces the selection of Timothy Higdon as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Mr. Higdon succeeds Interim CEO Margo Amgott and assumes his new position on May 28, 2019.

Mr. Higdon’s appointment to CEO is the result of a thoughtful search process led by a search committee of clinicians, scientists, and other members of the HHF Board of Directors supported by Ms. Amgott. “Timothy’s record of accomplishments and commitment to HHF’s mission position him perfectly to lead this robust organization — which I’m grateful to have come to know over the past six months,” Ms. Amgott said today.

Mr. Higdon comes to HHF with 30 years of organizational leadership and fund development experience. He has led teams ranging in size from two people to 200 at prestigious nonprofit institutions with impressive results.

Most recently, he served as the Senior Director of Strategy and Development at NYU Langone Medical Center. He has held executive positions with Amnesty International, Girl Scouts of the USA, and CSS Fundraising.

Previously, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 18 years, where he attained the rank of Major. Like so many other veterans, Mr. Higdon lives with noise-induced hearing loss.

“I am honored to join an organization dedicated to the prevention and cure of hearing loss through scientific research. It is thrilling to join the HHF team and be a part of the solution for one of the nation’s most pressing public health concerns.”

Indeed, Mr. Higdon today becomes part of the effort to better the lives of 50 million Americans affected by this hidden disability. HHF funded the discoveries that birds, frogs, and fish can restore their own hearing once deafened, and now supports a consortium of scientists studying this process for replication in humans. HHF also funds projects that investigate hearing loss variants, like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, hyperacusis, and auditory processing disorder.

Mr. Higdon earned his master’s degree in public administration from NYU Wagner School of Public Service, and holds a Bachelor’s in Business Finance from Indiana University.

“I have tremendous confidence in Timothy to shape the future of HHF,” says Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., Chair of the Board. “As government funding for hearing research remains inadequate, I am enthusiastic Timothy and the staff will generate the resources and oversee the processes so urgently needed to support our talented scientific grantees. I look forward to working with the HHF team to advance our vision for a world with better hearing loss treatments and cures.”

Print Friendly and PDF

HHF Scientists to Speak at New York Academy of Sciences Symposium

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) — the first international research consortium dedicated to investigating hair cell regeneration as a cure for hearing loss — was founded on the premise that collaboration is the key to innovation. “Although there is a romantic picture of a scientist slaving away in isolation, toiling toward ‘eureka’ moments, science works best with communication and sharing ideas,” says David Raible, Ph.D., an HRP consortium member based at University of Washington.

Peter Barr Gillespie, Ph.D., and Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D., of Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project

Peter Barr Gillespie, Ph.D., and Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D., of Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project

The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS)’s Hair Cell Regeneration and Hearing Restoration symposium on Tuesday, October 8, will provide members of the HRP and other world-renowned hearing scientists an opportunity to collaborate as Raible describes. During an all-day event in New York City, auditory experts will convene to review recent advancements in the field, identify knowledge gaps, and outline future directions toward hearing loss cures.

The HRP and other scientists worldwide are dedicated to permanent cures for sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when the sensory cells (hair cells) in the inner ear are damaged. “Current treatments for hearing loss including hearing aids and cochlear implants provide substantial benefits for many patients, but also have significant shortcomings and new options are needed,” explains Marie Samanovic Golden, Ph.D., Program Manager, Life Sciences at NYAS.

The symposium is part of the NYAS’s well-respected Biochemical Pharmacology Discussion Group’s portfolio. To develop a robust agenda for this symposium, which is at the cutting-edge of the latest research and therapeutic developments on hair cell regeneration to restore age-related hearing loss, the Academy assembled a diverse Scientific Organizing Committee of eight experienced experts, including scientific researchers from both Academia and Industry. The Committee collaboratively developed the scientific agenda and learning goals for this conference and identified the best researchers in this field who were subsequently invited to speak at the symposium.

The full-day seminar will feature presentations from two prominent hearing loss researchers funded by HHF through the HRP: Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., and Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D., along with six other subject matter experts. Barr-Gillespie, the keynote speaker, will delve into the molecular basis of hair cell mechanotransduction unique to sensory hair cells and essential for hearing. He was also selected to discuss his current roles with Oregon Health & Science University and the HRP.

nyas-logo.png

Piotrowski was selected to present her latest findings in zebrafish, which — unlike humans — have been shown to have the ability to regenerate lost sensory hair cells. Her basic research on zebrafish is essential to map out how human’s regenerative abilities might be triggered towards a cure for deafness.

NYAS Scientific Organizing Committee member Michael Franti, Ph.D., Director of Regenerative Medicine Research Beyond Borders and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., looks forward to the impact of the symposium. “Hearing loss affects an estimated 360 million people worldwide. The process of repairing hearing is a complex problem and regenerative therapies hold promise in novel treatments for deafness. Identifying the key aspects in hair cell regeneration is necessary to get us closer to a cure for hearing loss,” Franti says.

The Hair Cell Regeneration and Hearing Restoration symposium is open to the public. Constituents of HHF may register for a discounted fee using the promo code “HHF” after selecting “non-member academia.” The event will also be broadcast by webinar, for which details will follow. To learn more about the symposium or register as an attendee, see the event page.

Print Friendly and PDF

Tuning In Montreal

By Neyeah Watson

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health problem affecting people in Canada ages 20-79, and affects 10 percent of the population. Like in the U.S., hearing loss is undertreated in Canada. Fewer than 20 percent and one percent wear hearing aids and cochlear implants (CIs), respectively, for their hearing loss.

canada.jpg

A new policy championed by William Steinberg, mayor of Hampstead, Quebec—a suburb of Montreal—aims to make CIs more accessible to Canadians. In January, Quebec Premier François Legault authorized CI surgeries to expand to Montreal. Though CI surgery has been performed in Canada since 1982, Montreal was deprived a center for financial reasons. Following advocacy from Steinberg and others, government officials were able to make budgetary adjustments to allow for funding.

Steinberg, a bilateral CI recipient, has been at the forefront of the Montreal CI campaign. Steinberg was born with a severe to moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, but was not diagnosed until second grade. “I got a hearing aid built into my glasses at that time,” Steinberg explains. “However, in those days they did not have the sophisticated hearing aids that we have today so it was basically an amplifier.”

Steinberg received CIs in 2004, at which time hearing loss in both ears had diminished to profound. Despite his powerful hearing aids, he could no longer carry out a reasonable conversation on the phone. “Today I can talk for hours and miss not much more than someone with normal hearing,” explains Steinberg, who also serves as president of the Cochlear Implant Recipients Association in Canada.

The Mayor’s personal experience with hearing loss inspired his ambition for  greater CI surgery accessibility by making the procedure available in Montreal. In Canada, the CI locations are limited geographically. Cities such as Toronto, Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Saskatchatoon, Saskatchewan currently have centers for CI surgery. However, the cities are geographically scattered, requiring some residents with hearing loss to travel hundreds of miles for surgery. A center in Montreal will expand access and will hopefully encourage other cities to follow suit.

Infant_with_cochlear_implant.jpg

The new cochlear implant program is expected to be especially helpful to children, who make up about 40 percent of cochlear implant recipients in Canada today. Children who reside in Montreal have to travel for check-ups and configuration, causing great inconvenience to families. Many individuals from Montreal expressed their frustration about the travel and inconvenience online.The approval of the new program in Montreal has lifted a burden.

Hearing loss affects all ages. There is no limit or expiration date on the possibility of restoring access to sound. As Vincent Lin, M.D., of Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in Toronto remarks, "Age is a number, as long as patients are in good health, there's no reason why they can't have this surgery done."

Print Friendly and PDF

8 Tips for the New Hearing Aid User

By Brad Grondahl

I am a second-generation hearing aid specialist, now retired. My father had a hearing loss, caused from noise exposure on the artillery range while serving in the U.S. Army. Initially he wore a body, or pocket-type, hearing aid with an external cord and receiver. Eventually he came to sell hearing aids himself, driving to visit prospective clients in their homes.

After my father passed away, my mother helped push for the eventual passing of licensing laws for hearing aid dispensers in the state. After college, I took over the business, earning licenses and certifications for dispensing hearing aids and also taking audiology coursework.

I share this advice I’ve gleaned after decades of dispensing the instruments:

hearing-aid-adult.jpg

1) Entering the world of improved hearing with amplification is not at all like being fit with new glasses for visual correction. With glasses, you put them on and instantly everything is clear. This is not generally true of hearing devices, which have to be personalized and programmed to your individual hearing ability—a process that can take several visits to your provider.

2) Since hearing loss usually comes on gradually and you compensate and become accustomed to softer sounds, it can be a shock when you first use hearing devices—especially if your hearing loss has been untreated for years. (A 2018 Ear and Hearing study by Hearing Health Foundation board member Judy Dubno, Ph.D., and team found the average time between hearing aid candidacy and adoption is 8.9 years.) Many things may not sound as you feel they should, including your voice. But with time and effort, you can train your brain to recognize the new sounds as normal.

3) There is no such thing as a “one and done” approach with hearing aids. Ongoing care and maintenance will be required, including inspecting your instruments daily when you put them on.

4) Sometimes a simple dead battery is the culprit if an aid doesn't seem to function. Always try at least two batteries to be sure it is not just a dead battery.

5) Earwax can be another challenge. If earwax is blocking the sound outlet—the part of the aid that enters your ear canal—the devices may seem weak or have no amplification. Replace the wax filter or clean the outlet or earmold using a special cleaning tool.

6) Earwax in the ear canal itself will affect sound. But do not use cotton swabs, hairpins, or any other “home remedy” to clean your ear—ask your hearing provider for help. (The news is full of earwax-cleaning mishaps, such as, recently, a British man’s brain infection that ended up resulting from swabs!)

7) All styles of instruments have their own set of maintenance issues, too numerous to review. If the problem is not the battery or earwax, contact your provider to help troubleshoot a problem.

8) Hearing loss patterns change over time, gradually, and your brain will again adjust to softer sounds. Retest annually and adjust your hearing aids as needed.

A licensed hearing aid dispenser in North Dakota since 1969, Brad Grondahl, BC-HIS, has served as the president of the North Dakota Hearing Aid Society and as a member of the State Examining Board for Hearing Instrument Dispensers and the State Examining Board for Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, both in North Dakota. For references, see hhf.org/spring2019-references.

Brad Grondahl 2.jpg
Print Friendly and PDF

Ready to Take On the World

By Neyeah Watson

Beginning at age 4, I had ear pain that caused recurrent infections. My mother, worried, took me to multiple ear specialists, the fourth of whom warned these infections could result in a conductive hearing loss. At 7, I underwent a successful corrective ear surgery that eliminated my infections almost entirely. Though my hearing has been salvaged, I still endure frequent sinus infections and ear pain that require monitoring.

My personal experience makes me grateful Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) has long been a vocal advocate for early intervention for babies and children with hearing loss. HHF’s primary focus is on advancing hearing loss research to find new treatments, and I look forward to what will one day be medically possible for my aunt and grandmother who live with bilateral moderate sensorineural hearing loss. 

Because affordable direct patient services are needed to put HHF’s research findings into practice, I’m also greatly appreciative of organizations like The Sound Start Babies Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, a New Jersey nonprofit that exists to support families of babies with hearing loss during the most critical years of brain development. Public funding in the state covers only about one third of the costs needed for early intervention, and The Sound Start Babies Foundation goal is for all families to have access to this quality of care, regardless of their ability to pay.

Fun in speech! One of Sound Start’s little learners is excited to see how many jungle animals she can stack, while working on the concepts "above" and "below." Credit: Kim Reis.

Fun in speech! One of Sound Start’s little learners is excited to see how many jungle animals she can stack, while working on the concepts "above" and "below." Credit: Kim Reis.

The Sound Start Babies Foundation was founded as Lake Drive Foundation in 1997 by community volunteers and parents of children with hearing loss in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Inspired by the foundation’s history and mission, I was eager to interview a few representatives from the organization, Jessica Griffin and Kayley Mayer, who make this work possible.

Griffin, who is President, discovered Sound Start Babies™️ when her son, Ian, was born profoundly deaf. Sound Start Babies™️ was Ian’s early intervention provider and greatly helped her family through his hearing loss journey, which included his cochlear implantation at 10 months. In gratitude, Griffin joined the volunteer Board of Trustees in 2014 and was appointed President after two years of service.

Kayley Mayer is a Teacher of the Deaf and Program Coordinator. She began working for the Sound Start Babies™️ program in 2010, the first year the full-day, inclusive nursery program opened up. For her first eight years, she taught in a nursery classroom and provided home-based services for children with hearing loss and their families. Now, she is teaching in the classroom, providing family training to families, and  working on programming development. Although Mayer, unlike Griffin, does not have a personal connection to hearing loss, she finds fulfillment in the progress that families gain in their short time with program.

Griffin attributes members of the Sound Start Babies™️ staff, like Mayer, with her son’s preparedness for mainstream kindergarten this fall at age 6. Her goal as President is to make sure that every child who has a hearing loss has the same wonderful experience as her son. As Mayer notes, each impactful experience is unique. “Every family is at a different point when we meet them, but by the time the child and family graduate from our program, they are truly ready to take on the world,” Mayer says.

Sound Start Babies Foundation.jpg

We are all fortunate for resources like Sound Start Babies™️ that help children who need hearing loss intervention succeed developmentally. Hearing is a precious gift, and I learned at age 7 that your hearing can be stripped from you without notice. I am grateful my doctors and parents acted promptly to ensure my hearing was preserved, making sure I, too, could be ready to take on the world.

HHF marketing and communications intern Neyeah Watson studies communications at Brooklyn College. For more information about Sound Start Babies™️ and The Sound Start Babies Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, see www.soundstartbabies.com.

Print Friendly and PDF