Hearing Aid

Constant Companion

By Bill Meehan

I am a rock drummer. As a teen and young adult, we played very loud and for hours at a stretch. I sensed nothing bad happening at the time besides some bothersome post-concert ringing in my ears. I was in my 20s and invincible. 

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In my early 30s I noticed a slight ringing in my ears for the first time—without a loud event as the cause. It was troublesome enough that I went to the doctor. After a thorough examination I heard that word for the first time: “tinnitus.” Okay, great, there is a name for this. “What pill do I take?” I asked the doctor. “There is no treatment currently,” he said with a knowing smile and walked out the door. Seriously, he walked out the door and didn’t even give me a chance to ask another question. I sat there for a moment in the empty examination room and listened to the ringing in my ears for a few minutes in disbelief. Will I never be able to sit in a quiet room again?

I lived with this for years and it was only troubling in very quiet surroundings. A fan blowing or a TV playing in the background was usually enough to drown out the faint, high-pitch ringing.

Then one day it all changed. I was watching TV and noticed a loud sound of crickets. I thought it must be the TV. I turned off the TV and still heard the clear and very loud sound of crickets mixed with a high-pitched tone. I was convinced the TV must be about to explode. I ran over and pulled out the plug. The sound was still there. I covered my ears and was horrified to realize the sound was in my own head. It was well over 100 decibels. I felt sick as the hours passed painfully and slowly. I didn’t sleep.

The next morning I went to the only doctor in all of San Francisco who could see me that day. After the exact same examinations I received years earlier, he told me that same thing, “Sorry, there is nothing I can do.”  

After a couple of weeks I was suicidal. Every day was torture. My only relief was to re-create the sound and pitch on my keyboard and play it at maximum volume. When I stopped playing the loud tone I had 10 seconds of relative peace and then the tinnitus came back. I did this over and over again.

Six weeks had gone by and I noticed a slight reduction in the volume. It was something to hold out onto—a little bit of hope. Could it actually be decreasing even though several doctors told me there was no hope? Little by little, day by day, I found moments of peace and an overall easing of the torment. Finally it was bearable most of the time.

A few years later I had another acute attack, but this time I knew there was hope and light on the other side. I went to an upscale doctor who specialized in tinnitus. He had awards all over his wall. He must be good, right? I told my tale. I told him about the acute attack that lasted for weeks, that it was much worse after waking from a nap, and that the ambient noise level had no impact on severity. He was a much-lauded doctor who specializes in tinnitus and I thought he would understand. “That’s not how it works,” he said, as he walked out of the room.

I now have a hearing aid I wear (I have mild-moderate hearing loss) that gives me some relief during the worst bouts. I wear it in my left ear. I also have an app on my phone that can help soothe me to sleep using white noise. I still play the drums, but they are electronic and I can control the volume. I can live a full and rewarding life, but my tinnitus is always there—my constant companion.

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Are You Wireless Enabled? Part Two

By Paul Harrison, Guest Author

This is the second in a two part series on wireless technology and hearing aids. Check out part one for more.

Wireless technology in hearing aids means that they are able to connect both with each other and with a number of different devices using a signal that is similar to the Bluetooth in mobile phones. When the hearing aids work together it is known as binaural technology. With this feature, they can communicate with each other and work together to improve your hearing. There are some binaural features that will analyze your environment, detect which hearing aid is receiving the clearer signal and then transmit this superior signal to the other side. This ensures that you are always getting the best sound available, whatever your environment may be. Binaural microphone applications work in the same way to ensure you hear sounds from all directions clearly but can give priority to speech over background noises.


Each manufacturer has their own range of accessories which can only be used with their own hearing aids. Some require a device called a streamer to be used in addition to the other accessories. This streamer is used to relay the signal from each device into the hearing aids and is often the point of control as well. Some manufacturers use a different or more powerful signal which can send the sounds directly without the need for this additional device.

Music Player

Obviously, you cannot wear hearing aids and headphones at the same time. With personal music players, unless you are listening at home through speakers, headphones are absolutely necessary. Some people are still unable to hear clearly with just headphones and still require the extra help from their hearing aids. There are now devices that essentially turn your hearing aids into the headphones for your music player. The signal is sent in the same way as the other devices and allows you to listen in comfort and you can easily adjust the volume to suit your needs.

Voices

Yes, technically you don’t connect to someone’s voice, but there are accessories available that help you to hear them more clearly. Remote Microphone devices have been designed to pick up the sound of another person’s voice and send it directly to your hearing aids. In crowded environments, people who wear hearing aids often find having a conversation difficult due to the level of background noise. The microphone accessories actively suppress this unwanted noise and send clear and audible speech straight to you. These devices are worn by the other speaker in a one to one conversation and allow you to hear everything they say clearly without having to be uncomfortably close to them. In a group situation such as a meeting, these devices can be placed on the table and they will pick up the individual voices so you don’t miss out on any of the discussion.

Remote Controls

Most hearing aid manufacturers offer some form of remote control for their hearing aids nowadays. Some are basic devices that simply allow you to adjust volume or programs, others are more advanced and give you control over things like clarity and comfort settings. Some of these devices are simple push button control and others have display screens with more in depth menu options. There are even some that have been designed to be as discreet as possible by looking exactly like other objects such as pens or being small enough to fit on a set of keys. These accessories are especially useful for people who may find that the small buttons on the hearing aids themselves are too fiddly to use.

According to YourHearing Wireless, technology is advancing all the time, making it easier for hearing aid users to enjoy things that they previously found difficult or frustrating. Each manufacturer has a different range of accessories so you would need to check to see what is available for your particular hearing aids. There are so many options available today it is possible for everyone to get themselves and their hearing aids wireless enabled.

Author Bio:  Paul Harrison has been in the Hearing aid industry for 20 years and in that time has worked at both manufacturer and retailer level before managing his own online hearing aid business www.yourhearing.co.uk which is a national network of local hearing aid audiologists who offer the main hearing aid brands at less than the high street but with the same quality aftercare and warranty.

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