Hearing Health Magazine

Support HHF This Mother's Day

By Heather Friedman

Laura (second from left) with her sister in-law Liza, her maternal Grandmother and Aunt, with Heather on the far right.

Laura (second from left) with her sister in-law Liza, her maternal Grandmother and Aunt, with Heather on the far right.

For three and a half years my daughter, Laura, attempted to hear and to be understood. As her mother, I struggled to make sense of her difficulties—which I knew in my heart did not stem from developmental or attention deficit disorders.

Prior to her diagnoses at three and a half, Laura had a very difficult time communicating. I took her to specialists and started her on speech therapy, with little result. When Laura was finally diagnosed and fitted with hearing aids, things began to fall into place.

When Laura finally received the correct diagnosis—hearing loss—I was relieved. Parents and children should not have to wait over three years to have this condition detected, struggling all the while with delays hampering social and emotional growth. Parents should not have to go through the pain of knowing something is holding their baby back, when it could be so easily detected.

In 1993, four years after Laura was born, Hearing Health Foundation’s steadfast advocacy work led to the passing of Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Legislation. As a result—today, 97% of American babies are tested for hearing loss at birth. This means newborns with hearing loss can immediately get the help they need through technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, as well as speech and language therapy. This means an easier life, from birth, for children with hearing loss.

Today, I am proud to say that Laura is a happy and successful adult. In fact, she is such a staunch champion for people with hearing loss that when a job became available at Hearing Health Foundation, she jumped at the chance to work there! As Hearing Health Foundation’s Communications and Programs Manager, Laura works hard to advocate for those with hearing loss, to prevent hearing loss, and most importantly to raise funds to research for a cure.

It is my hope that she can one day benefit from her tireless efforts. Your support can make my dream for her, and other people living with hearing loss, a reality. A gift to this amazing organization is a gift to all people with hearing loss, as well as to their families!

This Mother's Day, Hearing Health Foundation would like to shine a light on all Mothers for all they do for their children and families.

Please consider giving a gift in Honor or in Memory of a wonderful Mother you know. Your gift will be used to fund groundbreaking research to prevent and cure Hearing Loss and Tinnitus and to promote hearing health.

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Tell Us Your Tips!

By Yishane Lee

Here, at HHF, we're working on Hearing Health’s Spring issue and our theme is…..drum roll please.….“Living Better With Hearing Loss.” We’d like to include expertise and advice from YOU, our readers, because who's better than you to give your insights and experiences with living with hearing loss?

We truly appreciate your time and help with any of the questions below! Please respond in the comments section, email us at editor@hearinghealthmag.com, or provide your answers via this survey, here.

  • What are your best hearing aid tips? For example, do you have a trick to maximize battery life? Or a foolproof way to make sure you never misplace your devices?
  • Have you ever accidentally gotten your hearing aid wet? What did you do? Did it work?
  • What steps do you take to hear better in a noisy setting? Do you use your hearing aids combined with certain assistive devices?
  • Do you have tinnitus? How do you cope with it? Does your hearing aid have a tinnitus setting, do you use white noise, or something else?
  • What have you learned about yourself or your family after being diagnosed with hearing loss? 
  • Are you the parent of a child with hearing loss? What advice do you have for parents getting a diagnosis of hearing loss for their child?
  • Are you an adult with hearing loss? What is advice you would tell your younger self, or the parents of your younger self? 
  • What is your go-to accessory or assistive listening device? A mini mic? A neck loop? Earplugs?
  • Do you protect your hearing in noisy settings? What steps do you take?
  • Have you ever had a scary situation where you could not hear?
  • Do you tell people about your hearing loss as soon as you meet them, or do you wait till later? Or do you let them figure it out themselves? Tell us why.
  • If you could design the perfect hearing aid, what would it include?

Thank you for sharing your experiences living with
hearing loss and tinnitus with us. 

Please subscribe here to receive a FREE copy Hearing Health magazine! 

Interested in sharing your story ? Email us today!

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One Day in 1967

By Michele Ahlman

Growing up, I remember thinking how cool it was that I had a German birth certificate: a hand-typed, raggedy piece of paper identifying, in German, my birth in a U.S. Army hospital in Heidelberg.

In the late ’60s my dad, Richard Uzuanis, was a 23-year old tank commander for the 3rd Battalion 68th Armor stationed in Mannheim. I’ve always known my dad lost a lot of his hearing while serving in the military. But we never talked about it or the impact it had, until recently. Apparently, during a live fire tank gunnery exercise in 1967, one of the tanks misfired. And at the time, hearing protection was not standard-issue equipment.


It was Dad’s responsibility to remove the misfire. “I got into the tank and opened the breach to remove the misfired round,” he says. “But the round was swollen due to overheating. I couldn’t get it out or close the breach. As I moved quickly to evacuate through the tank hatch, the round exploded, sending me 20 feet in the air.”

To read the full article, please visit the Fall 2015 Issue of Hearing Health Magazine.

If you are a veteran, current service member, or have family or friends who have bravely served our country, review these resources about hearing loss and tinnitus.

Show support for our veterans via one of these ways:

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Advances in Brain Training

By Kathi Mestayer

Because the brain is an integral component of the hearing process, it sometimes needs help adjusting to new types of sound. The brain needs to fill in some of the blanks when hearing is impaired or when adjusting to a new hearing aid or cochlear implant. “Aural rehabilitation is so much more than speechreading [lipreading],” says Kathleen Cienkowski, Ph.D., an associate professor and the program director of audiology in the University of Connecticut’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department. “It’s basically retraining the brain.” She adds, “Cochlear implants, hearing aids, and listening systems can do wonders, but no assistive device is as smart as your brain. Our brains know what we want— and don’t want—to hear; integrate the other senses; and interpret body language, tone, pacing, and context.” Getting used to new sounds is a big adjustment. That’s when aural or auditory rehabilitation comes in. Cienkowski, who also coordinates the Aural Rehabilitation Interest Group for the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association (ASHA), defines it as “improving the quality of life and communication for those with hearing loss.”

To read the full article please read Fall issue of Hearing Health Magazine by clicking here

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The Danger From Noise When It Is Actually Music

By Yishane Lee

       Les Paul Ambassador               John Colianni

       Les Paul Ambassador

             John Colianni

Noise-induced hearing loss affects anyone exposed to very loud or chronic noise. It doesn’t matter if the “noise” is actually music. It has been estimated that up to half of classical orchestral musicians have hearing loss because of their work in music, practicing or performing up to eight hours a day. Sound levels onstage, no matter the music genre, can reach up to 110 decibels (dB), although it is not usually continuous. That is equivalent to a jackhammer—even if there’s a melody behind it.

Researchers at  the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in Poland measured the exposure for classical musicians as 81 to 90 dBA (A-weighted decibels, a unit of measure for how humans perceive sound) for 20 to 45 hours a week. In their study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, they estimated that this exposure over the course of a career increases the risk of a hearing loss of 35 dB by 26 percent. At the greatest risk for hearing loss are those in the brass section—horn, trumpet, tuba—as well as those playing percussion, the study found.

Prolonged exposure at 85 dB (the sound of heavy traffic) will permanently damage the delicate hair cells of the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is another potential problem. Roughly 90 percent of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss.

Not surprisingly, rock and jazz musicians are not immune. Indeed, there are a number of well-known rock and pop musicians who have publicly discussed their hearing loss and/or tinnitus, among them Sting, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Phil Collins, and Will.i.am.

But hearing loss due to noise (or music) is completely preventable. A related study by the Polish scientists determined that brass players benefitted the most from the use of custom-molded, silicone earplugs with acoustic filters that reduced sound levels. Woodwind, percussion, and string players also benefited.

In 2013, the Les Paul Foundation and HHF teamed up to launch the Les Paul Ambassadors program. Guitar great Les Paul was determined to find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus, and through his foundation’s support of HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project, an international research consortium of top hearing scientists, we have the opportunity to find a cure. Learn about the program and the first Ambassador, Lou Pallo, as well as our other Ambassadors saxophonist Chris Potter and jazz pianist John Colianni.

Learn more about NIHL and its risk factors, treatment, and prevention in our new Summer issue of Hearing Health magazine.

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The State of Deaf Education Today

By Yishane Lee

Have advances in technology, changes in attitudes, and decades of research influenced how children with hearing loss learn and are taught?

The answer is a resounding yes on all counts, and the result is a change in what “deaf education” actually means today. In our Spring issue of Hearing Health magazine, three respected, experienced educators in the field of educating children with hearing loss weigh in with what these changes are and what they mean.

Susan Lenihan, Ph.D., is a professor and the director of Deaf Education at Fontbonne University, in St. Louis. She has four decades of experience, instructing teachers, speech-language pathologists, and early interventionists. She describes the educational experiences of children diagnosed with hearing loss as dramatically changed from a few decades ago.

She writes that early identification of hearing loss in newborns, thanks to universal hearing screening (an effort that HHF was instrumental in advocating for), provides children with earlier access to listening devices and intervention services.

“Listening technology (such as digital hearing aids, cochlear implants, and classroom audio systems) provides better access to higher quality sound at younger ages than ever before. Infants and toddlers can be fit with hearing aids during the first weeks of life. Research shows that when children with severe to profound hearing loss begin using cochlear implants between 6 and 18 months of age, listening, language, and speech development improve.

“Many children who learn to listen and use spoken language when they are young will receive educational services at their neighborhood school. Advances in sound field technology (a teacher using a microphone whose sound is transmitted to room speakers) and FM systems (a teacher using a microphone whose sound is transmitted into a receiver worn by a listener) provide needed support for students who benefit from enhanced sound from a distance and in noisy environments.”

As a result, she says, “Increasing numbers of children with hearing loss are receiving elementary and secondary educational services in their neighborhood school rather than in a specialized school for students who are deaf.” In a word, they are mainstreamed.

Patricia M. Chute, Ed.D., the dean of the School of Health Professions at the New York Institute of Technology, and Mary Ellen Nevins, Ed.D., the national director of Professional Preparation in Cochlear Implants, detail how changes affecting education as a whole are touching education efforts for children with hearing loss.

“National efforts to engage and empower families to be their child’s first teachers—regardless of whether that child has a hearing loss—open the door to the possibility that children with hearing loss born today will be kindergarten-ready, and as such, will be primed to learn with typically hearing peers. As children with hearing loss increasingly are mainstreamed, attending their neighborhood school, they are set to benefit from the same changes in education affecting all schoolchildren.”

They concisely summarize the revamped focus in educational goals this way:

“Traditional approaches to public education have focused on the three R’s: reading, writing, and ’rithmetic. But now the three R’s may be considered the three T’s: teaching, technology, and transitions.”

Read more from these educators in our story “The State of Deaf Education Today” in the Spring issue. It includes a profile of a now-college-age student who was fitted with a cochlear implant at age 6 and successfully mainstreamed into her local public school.

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Meet Les Paul Ambassador Saxophonist Chris Potter

By Yishane Lee

Chris Potter is a world-renowned saxophonist and composer who has been living with Ménière’s disease, a hearing and balance disorder, for two decades. We’re thrilled that he is our second Les Paul Ambassador.

The Les Paul Ambassadors were created with the Les Paul Foundation to honor guitar great Les Paul, who had hearing loss and tinnitus. The program promotes awareness of tinnitus and hearing loss and the search for a cure through our groundbreaking Hearing Restoration Project.

We profile Potter in our Spring issue of Hearing Health magazine. Here is an excerpt:

“I got Ménière’s disease in my mid-20s. I’ve lost pretty much all my hearing in my left ear—there’s just ringing. It was absolutely terrifying. I was getting episodes of dizziness, and my hearing would go up and down. In the meantime, I’d have to wake up at 5 a.m. and take three flights to get to a performance that night—when I didn’t even know if I would be able to stand up.

“It was very stressful, as was not knowing if it would happen in both ears, but I somehow made it through. It’s something you get used to. But the vertigo alone is life-altering. You don’t feel comfortable making plans.”

Potter tried various treatments with different degrees of success. He shares his story in an effort to show solidarity with other musicians who have hearing issues, and to help HHF find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Read more from Potter’s candid interview about being a musician with hearing loss and Ménière’s disease.

Learn more about the amazing Les Paul, who died in 2009 at age 94, and the industry-altering advances he made in the world of music production and technology. His dear friend Lou Pallo, a guitar hero in his own right, was our first Les Paul Ambassador.

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Let's Get Looped!

By Yishane Lee

We’re talking about hearing loop systems, of course. As writer Elizabeth Stump describes in “Keeping You in the Loop,” in our new Spring issue of Hearing Health magazine, hearing loop systems deliver clear sound—free from background noise, echo, or distortion—directly into hearing aids that are equipped with telecoils (T-coils). About two-thirds of hearing aids have T-coils, and hearing loop systems are available at a growing number of public venues, ranging from churches and other places of worship to New York City taxis to auditorium ticket booths.

But hearing loop system advocates think we can do better. Here is advice from Juliëtte Sterkens, Au.D., the consumer and hearing loop advocate for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and a member of the National HLAA/American Academy of Audiology Hearing Loop Task Force.

What are your recommendations to others on how to advocate successfully for looping systems in their community?

I usually make a phone call or a pay a visit and explain why people with hearing loss (even if they use hearing aids or cochlear implants) have trouble hearing. Most facilities are unaware of the difficulties people with hearing loss experience—it is my experience that they want to help. During the visit I often play parts of sound demos in and out of hearing loops. These sound demos can be eye—or should I say ear—opening?

I have also let some of the responses from hearing loop users help me in the process. Many comments can be found online, such as at LoopWisconsin.com.

Advocating is made easier if I know that a facility will soon be undergoing remodeling because the installation of the loop wire is usually easier and less expensive if completed when the carpeting is going to be replaced anyway.

If cost is going to be of concern, I will offer information as to how other venues have handled this. For example, there are grant monies available for some venues (libraries, some houses of worship), and many communities have a community foundation is interested in knowing what can be done to improve access.  

For example in Oshkosh, Wis., the community foundation was helping to fund a remodel of the Oshkosh Convention Center in the fall of 2008. I made a couple of phone calls and sent a letter with information to the executive director. The result was they helped fund two hearing loops at the convention center about two weeks before the carpeting was to be laid down. 

The executive director believed me when I told her that having a hearing loop at the convention center would convince other venues to do the same. Oshkosh now has more than 40 hearing loops including its 100-plus-year-old Grand Opera House, a funeral home, several retirement communities, a court room, and a new conference center at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

To increase attention to a need, I have found that a letter to the editor of a newspaper can be of tremendous help—and the best part is that this is free!

There is strength in numbers: If you are advocating for improved access ask a friend or family member or a hearing professional to write a short letter of support as well.  

The last resort would be playing the ADA card (Americans with Disability Act). The ADA mandates that facilities offer assistive technology. If a facility is unwilling one could file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

The HLAA has more tips to help you advocate for loops in your community, and we have additional links including looped spaces at hhf.org/loops.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Hearing Aids

By Yishane Lee

This is the focus of the Spring issue of Hearing Health magazine, which we’ve just shipped to the printer and expect to land in mailboxes in the coming weeks. (Already online!)

Virtually every reader of our magazine currently uses a hearing aid, and we crafted the issue with this fact in mind. The first step is often to find the right hearing healthcare provider to fit your needs. Staff writer Kathi Mestayer reviews the differences among hearing professionals—and deciphers what all those letters following a doctors name mean.

We wondered: How can we help you get the most out of your hearing aid? Staff writer and audiologist Barbara Jenkins provides concrete solutions to common hearing scenarios, such as for a child with hearing loss and for an active sports enthusiast. What considerations should be made for a resident of an assisted living facility? What options do you have if finances are a concern?

Jenkins (who does have a lot of letters following her name!) offers nuts-and-bolts answers based on her more than 25 years of experience in hospital and clinical settings. Her bottom line? Even if your audiogram is the same as another person’s, your lifestyle, preferences, budget, and hearing requirements combine to make your needs unique. During the hearing aid trial period required by most states, try out a new hearing aid in as many listening environments as you yourself are likely to commonly encounter, be it music concerts, crowded meetings, noisy schoolrooms, or your convertible car.

We also polled staff, board members, friends, and Facebook fans of HHF, for the best hearing aid tips, and compiled a comprehensive body of advice covering first-time usage, purchasing, batteries, settings and programs, and more.

Getting the right hearing aid is just the first step. Accessories—such as for the proper care and storage of your aid, as well as wireless and assistive devices that help boost the clarity in challenging listening situations—are also important. Learn what factors affect how long your hearing aid batteries last, and about the advantages of hearing loop systems.

And as in every issue, catch up on the latest research from our Hearing Restoration Project—a consortium of scientists working toward the promise of a biologic cure for hearing loss and tinnitus in 10 years.

We hope you enjoy the new issue of Hearing Health. If you don’t already subscribe to this FREE quarterly, please sign up here.

And as always, we welcome your ideas and feedback!

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Hybrid Cochlear Implants Blend High and Low Frequencies for a Fuller Sound

By Yishane Lee

“Electro-acoustic stimulation” is a mouthful, which may explain why “hybrid cochlear implant” is becoming shorthand for the latest thing in cochlear implantation.

What is a hybrid CI? It is a cochlear implant that makes use of residual hearing in the cochlea, with the goal of preserving it. Lina Reiss, Ph.D., of the Oregon Health and Science University, is a 2012 and 2013 Emerging Research Grant recipient conducting research in hybrid CIs, and she cowrote a piece in our Winter issue of Hearing Health introducing us to this exciting development.

The hybrid is especially promising because it is ideal for people with age-related hearing loss. As the story says:

“The hybrid CI helps people with high-frequency hearing loss while retaining their natural, residual hearing in the low frequencies. A high-frequency hearing loss, like that common in age-related hearing loss, makes consonants difficult to discern. The hybrid CI provides high-frequency information electrically and restores consonant perception. The residual low-frequency acoustic hearing helps ‘round out’ the artificial hearing provided by the CI, and together this gives the user a fuller hearing experience.”

Dr. Reiss collaborated with Christopher W. Turner, Ph.D., of the University of Iowa. Dr. Turner has been involved from the beginning in the development, assessment, and optimization of the hybrid electrode, with more than 20 publications on the subject since 2003, and he is a former HHF grant recipient as well.

One risk of hybrids is losing the low-frequency hearing entirely after implantation. A slightly longer electrode length—shorter than a traditional CI but longer than the initial hybrids—allows the implant to function like a traditional CI if the acoustic hearing is lost. It is undergoing clinical trials and received preliminary FDA approval last November, which is a very good sign.

I asked Dr. Reiss how she became a researcher, and specifically how she came to study cochlear implants. She says:

“I was always interested in science because my father was a scientist. In high school and college, I had some very stimulating research experiences in biological research. I also have a severe-profound hearing loss, and so have a personal interest in auditory research.

“After my sophomore year, I was lucky to obtain a summer research internship working in Eric Young’s auditory neurophysiology laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, where I studied how auditory nerve fibers encode speech sounds. I ended up doing my Ph.D. in that lab, studying how the dorsal cochlear nucleus encodes sound localization cues.

“However, I wanted to do more translational research, so ended up doing a postdoctoral fellowship with Chris Turner at the University of Iowa, where I got involved with the hybrid CI clinical trials. We got a lot of very interesting data with the hybrid CI study, particularly regarding brain plasticity, and there were many other interesting research directions to go on to from there.”

At HHF, we’re definitely excited to see where Dr. Reiss’s curiosity leads. Learn more about Dr. Reiss’s current research here.

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