Hearing Aids

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

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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)

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The Gap Between Self-Reported Hearing Loss and Treatment Patterns

By Carol Stoll

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the U.S. and has been associated with negative physical, social, cognitive, economic, and emotional consequences. Despite the high prevalence of hearing loss, substantial gaps in the utilization of amplification options, including hearing aids and cochlear implants (CI), have been identified. Harrison Lin, M.D., a 2016 Emerging Research Grants recipient, along with colleagues, recently published a paper in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery that investigates the contemporary prevalence, characteristics, and patterns of specialty referral, evaluation, and treatment of hearing difficulty among adults in the U.S.

Unlike this man who is having his hearing tested, a large number of individuals in the U.S. who experience hearing difficulties are not seeking treatment. Photo source:    Bundesinnung Hörakustiker, Flickr.

Unlike this man who is having his hearing tested, a large number of individuals in the U.S. who experience hearing difficulties are not seeking treatment. Photo source: Bundesinnung Hörakustiker, Flickr.

The researchers did a cross-sectional analysis of responses from a nationwide representative sample of adults who participated in the 2014 National Health Interview Survey and responded to hearing health questions. The data collected included demographic information as well as self-reported hearing status, functional hearing, laterality (hearing ability in each ear), onset, and primary cause (if known) of the hearing loss. In addition, the team analyzed specific data regarding hearing-related clinician visits, hearing tests, referrals to hearing specialist, and utilization of hearing aids and CIs.

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Overall, 36,690 records were included in the analysis, which extrapolated to an estimated 239.6 million adults in the U.S. Nearly 17 percent indicated their hearing was less than “excellent/good,” ranging from “a little trouble hearing” to “deaf.” Approximately 21 percent of respondents had visited a physician for hearing problems in the preceding five years. Of these, 33 percent were referred to an otolaryngologist and 27 percent were referred to an audiologist. Of the adults who indicated their hearing from “a little trouble hearing” to being “deaf,” 32 percent had never seen a clinician for hearing problems and 28 percent had never had their hearing tested.

The study shows that there are considerable gaps between self-reported hearing loss and patients receiving medical evaluation and recommended treatments for hearing loss. Increased awareness among clinicians regarding the burden of hearing loss, the importance of early detection and medically evaluating hearing loss, and available amplification and CI options can contribute to improved care for individuals with hearing difficulty. Future studies are warranted to further investigate the observed trends of this study.

Harrison W. Lin, M.D., is a 2016 Emerging Research Grants recipient. His grant was generously funded by funded by The Barbara Epstein Foundation, Inc.

We need your help supporting innovative hearing and balance science through our Emerging Research Grants program. Please make a contribution today.

 
 
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FCC Improves Phone Accessibility for People with Hearing Loss

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, October 24 approved updates to various Commission rules for hearing aid compatibility and volume control on wireline and wireless telephones.

Under the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act, the Commission is required to establish rules that ensure access by people with hearing loss to telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States. With this action, the Commission continues its efforts to ensure that tens of millions of Americans with hearing loss have access to and can benefit from critical and modern communication technologies and services.

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With the Order, the Commission adopted a revised volume control standard for wireline handsets to provide a more accurate measurement of voice amplification. The Order also implements a provision of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act to apply all the Commission’s hearing aid compatibility requirements to wireline telephones used with advanced communication services, including phones used with Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services. Compliance with these provisions must be achieved within two years.

Recognizing the increased reliance on wireless phones, the Order further requires that, within the next three years, all wireless handsets newly certified as hearing aid compatible must include volume control suitable for consumers with hearing loss. It also reminds manufacturers and service providers of existing outreach obligations to ensure that consumers are informed about the availability of hearing aid compatible phones, such as by posting information about wireless phones on their websites.

More information on existing FCC hearing aid compatibility rules is available online at https://www.fcc.gov/general/hearing-aid-compatibility-and-volume-control.

Action by the Commission October 24, 2017 by Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration (FCC 17-135). Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel approving. Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr approve in part and dissent in part. Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly and Carr issuing separate statements.

CG Docket No. 13-46; WT Docket No. 07-250; WT Docket No. 10-254

This press release was republished with permission from the FCC. For additional information, contact Michael Snyder at (202) 418-0997 or michael.snyder@fcc.gov.

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A Guide for Preparing for Emergencies When You Have Hearing Loss

By Laura Friedman

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

With the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Southern Texas, the wildfires in the Midwestern United States and California, and impending Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm predicted to hit the coast of Florida, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) encourages everyone to have an action plan in place for the various emergencies one can face.

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For people with hearing loss, emergencies can bring extra challenges and anxiety. As someone with a hearing loss myself, I'm nervous I'll sleep through my building's fire alarm or miss my subway stop due to not hearing an announcement. The latter may sound trivial, but it means I'm always hyper-aware of my surroundings, which is exhausting and also a little nerve-racking. So, when it comes to natural disasters and situations where my safety may be at stake, a predetermined action plan puts me (and my loved ones) at ease.

Here are some of HHF's tips for navigating one's hearing loss needs during emergencies:

1. Stock Up On the Basics and Know Your Power Sources

Keep extra batteries in your emergency kit for hearing aid and/or your cochlear implants, as well as for visual or sensory alerting systems.

  • For hearing aids, it's recommended to have a month's worth of batteries on hand.

  • For cochlear implants, consider a portable battery charger, especially because batteries generally last at most about eight hours. The chargers themselves need to be charged, so use them sparingly.

Procure a waterproof/sealed container that is large enough to hold hearing aids or cochlear implants to protect them in cases of extreme weather or susceptibility to damage/displacement, e.g., in an earthquake.

Remember your car can be a power source. Depending on the model and whether you have gas, your car may have some power for charging things like a cochlear implant battery pack or a cellphone through its USB port.

2. Emergency Contact List

Have a contact list printout with phone numbers for those to reach out to in case of emergency, as well as local text-9-1-1 services.

  • Keep your audiologist/ENT's number on hand, in addition to the phone number of the hearing aid or cochlear implants company in case the device needs to be repaired or for emergency support.

  • For those who live in urban areas, contact your city's Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) to inquire for emergency services and alerts; services vary greatly by city. For example, in New York City, there's a phone "tapping system" for connecting with local police and fire departments if vocalizing your needs is a challenge.

  • For those in suburban and rural areas, contacting your local Mayor's office may also be useful, as well as introducing yourself to the local police and fire departments. If you belong to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship, your religious leader may have local resources available or know the right people to connect you to.

3. Communication With Authorities and Loved Ones

  • When the power's out, it's important to have access to a regular landline phone (not cordless), battery-powered amplifier, or battery-powered TTY.

  • Buddy systems are not just for toddlers. It's recommended to have two or three friends locally who agree in advance to check up on you in case of an emergency.

  • One contact should be out of state in case the local power and/or telephone lines are down.

  • If your smartphone and laptop have internet access and power, use social media to stay in touch and ask friends for help, as well as mark yourself safe, through Facebook's Safety Check.

  • Reverse 911 is available in some communities; This service will call YOU in an emergency. Check with your local emergency management office to find out if Reverse 911 is available and if they have TTY capabilities.

  • Key Phrases Card: Have a card printed out that has key phrases to help you communicate with local authorities.

4. Emergency Alerts

  • Visual Fire Alarms with Strobe Lights: Many cities and states, such as Houston, offer free visual fire alarms for the D/d/HoH. You can also visit the National Fire Protection Association's website for a list of brands that meet that U.L. standards for smoke alarms.

  • Sign up for weather and other emergency alerts through The Emergency Email & Wireless Network at emergencyemail.org.

  • NOAA Weather Radio: Provides one of the earliest warnings of weather and other emergencies and is programmed to alert you to hazards in your specific area. Some have a warning light, while others have LCD screen for alerts.

  • Notify Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), neighborhood watch, community block associations, and other local groups and authorities about your needs.

For more information, contact:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): fema.gov
Ready (part of Homeland Security): ready.gov
Department of Labor’s Disability Resources: www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability

All of us at HHF—the staff, Board of Directors, consultants, and volunteers—have the victims of recent natural disasters in our thoughts and hope for swift relief for those affected and displaced.   

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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Small Solution, Large Impact: Updating Hearing Aid Technology

By Apoorva Murarka

For many people, the sound quality and battery life of their devices are often no more than a second thought. But for hearing aid users, these are pivotal factors in being able to interact with the world around them.

One possible way to update existing technology – which has gone unchanged for decades – is small in size but monumental in impact. Apoorva Murarka, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at MIT, has developed an award-winning microspeaker to improve the functions of devices that emit sound. Murarka sees hearing aids as one of the most important applications of his new technology.

The Current Problem – Feeling the Heat

Most hearing aids have long used a system of coils and magnets to produce sound within the ear canal. These microspeakers use battery power to operate, and lots of it. Valuable battery life is wasted in the form of heat as an electric current works hard to travel through the coil to eventually help produce sound. The more limited a user’s hearing is, the more the speaker must work to produce sound, and ultimately that much more battery is used up. 

As a result, research has shown that many hearing aid users in the United States use about 80 to 120 batteries a year or have to recharge batteries daily. Aside from the anxiety that can accompany the varying dependability of this old technology, the cost of constantly replacing these batteries can quickly add up. 

But battery life is not the only factor to consider. Because the coil and magnet system has not been updated in decades, the quality of sound produced by hearing aid speakers (without additional signal processing) has been just as limited. Even small upgrades in sound quality could make a world of difference for users.

The Future Solution – Going Smaller and Smarter

Apoorva Murarka has invented an alternative to the old coil and magnet system, removing those components completely from the picture. In their stead, he has developed an electrostatic transducer that relies on electrostatic force instead of magnetic force to vibrate the sound-producing diaphragm. This way of producing sound wastes much less energy, meaning significantly longer battery life in hearing aids. Apoorva was recently awarded the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for this groundbreaking development.

The biggest difference? Size. You would need to look closely to even see this microspeaker’s membrane – its thickness is about 1/1,000 the width of a human hair. 

Additionally, the microspeaker’s ultrathin membrane and micro-structured design enhance the quality of sound reproduced in the ear. Power savings due to the microspeaker’s electrostatic drive can be used to optimize other existing features in hearing aids such as noise filtration, directionality, and wireless streaming. This could pave the way for energy-efficient “smart” hearing aids that improve the quality of life for users significantly. 

This invention is being developed further and Apoorva hopes to work with the hard-of-hearing community, relevant organizations and hearing aid companies to understand the needs of users and explore how his invention can be adapted within hearing aids.

You can read more about Apoorva and his invention here

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Finding a Community of Musicians with Hearing Loss

By Joanna M. Eng

At eight years old, Jennifer Castellano learned that she had perfect pitch—and found out that she needed hearing aids for a mild to moderate hearing loss in the middle frequencies, known as a “cookie-bite” loss. Now as a performing pianist and composer with two original solo albums, she has been featured on classical radio programs and has written music for an orchestra and a music teachers’ association.

Jennifer wrote about her unique experiences as a musician who has hearing loss, as well as a lifelong visual impairment caused by endothelial corneal dystrophy, in Making Music with a Hearing Loss: Strategies and Stories. She also serves as secretary of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL), a nonprofit organization led by Wendy Cheng.

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Leading up to AAMHL’s 2017 conference for musicians with hearing loss (July 13–16 in New Jersey), we talked to Jennifer about her music and how AAMHL has been a part of the journey.

 

How have the challenges differed between having a hearing loss and having a visual impairment?

My vision is much like my hearing.  Even with corrective lenses, my visual acuity is 20/300.  I cannot see things far away, but if I am up close I can see fairly well.  Without my hearing aids I can't hear too much, but if the sounds are really close to my ear, I can make them out.

But I can tell you that I have gotten two completely different reactions.  Since I was small, there were always resources made available to help me overcome my visual impairment. However, I was given no resources to help with my hearing loss. 

I didn't begin to talk until I was three-and-a-half years old. When my parents took me to a speech therapist, she advised that I would begin speaking when ready. My parents thought I was a late bloomer. They didn't consider hearing loss at that point because they were so focused on my vision problem. 

My mother spoke much louder than the average person (she claims it is because she is from the Bronx) so that is probably one reason why I was able to fool people for so long.  When you have a cookie-bite loss, it is easy to fool people because it’s like “oh, but you’re hearing these high and low frequencies fine.”  I never understood too much in the classroom though, especially when classmates spoke.  My teachers thought I was spacing out and not paying attention.

I did not have an FM system in school and did not become aware of what an FM system was until I was a second-year grad student.  When professors would comment on my piano tone sounding too percussive, I had no clue what they were talking about because I couldn't hear and tell the difference between tone qualities.

I currently wear Phonak Certena hearing aids in both ears.  I don't use any other listening devices when playing solo piano, but if I am playing with other instruments, I may have one of the performers wear my FM transmitter.  For example, when  guitarist Charles Mokotoff and I played a duet together, he wore my transmitter around his neck and it picked up the sounds of the guitar quite nicely.

What has been your involvement in AAMHL? How long have you been a member?

In 2007, I found the organization by doing a Google search.  At the time, I was a second-year grad student who was struggling to hear one of my professors in class and was looking for some resources. My hearing loss was now moderate to severe. It had changed in my early 20s, which is when the tinnitus started to kick in.  I wanted to know if there were other living musicians with hearing loss like myself.  I contacted Wendy, and the rest is history. 

It wasn't until 2015 that I began serving on the board as secretary, so I helped in planning the 2015 conference.  We met online at least once a month and discussed how the convention was going to work.  We would talk about the equipment we needed to make the event accessible for people with hearing loss.  I got to witness all of the hard work Wendy puts into this organization.  It is truly amazing what she does.

You played in ensembles with other musicians with hearing loss through AAMHL. What was the experience like?

I played mostly in duos.  I played with guitarist Charles Mokotoff, soprano Dawn Mollenkopf, violist Wendy Cheng, jazz singer Mandy Harvey, and violinist Stephen Shey.  AAMHL brought us all together for the conference in 2015 and the open mic event at HLAA's 2016 conference.  We all live in different areas so there was no way that we would normally play together.  AAMHL provided a common platform from which we all could perform together.

I don't consider these experiences to be different from the experiences I have had playing with musicians with normal hearing.  The experiences vary from person to person.  I have worked with some very fine musicians, some of whom have normal hearing and some who don't.  I would say that my more unfortunate experiences came from working with musicians who had normal hearing.  It seems that when one is faced with an obstacle such as hearing loss, it not only forces him or her to work even harder, but it also humbles them.

Another thing that people need to realize is that the level of musicianship is not determined by how well a person hears but rather how well a person listens.   Just because a person has normal hearing doesn't automatically make them a good listener.  When it comes to listening, one must be able to pay close attention and recognize what is happening around them.  Having a good musical ear means you have a good memory.  I was the strongest student in my ear training classes, not because I had the best hearing but because I have a very good memory.

Lastly, being a good musician requires discipline.  I have worked with six different musicians who have hearing loss and all of them are very disciplined.  They all were prepared and knew what they were doing, and we had only a matter of hours to prepare for a performance because we all were coming from different areas.  We all had to make sure our individual parts were rock solid. 

What were some of the highlights of the first AAMHL conference in 2015? What did you gain from it?

I really enjoyed the 2015 conference because I got to meet so many fine musicians and I got to learn about the available resources for people with hearing loss.

It was nice to finally meet others who had experienced similar things and who understood all too well the preconceived notions associated with hearing loss.  In my past experiences, everyone thought that because I wore hearing aids, my hearing was normal when I had them on.  Not true.  I got to learn how people compensate for their hearing loss and are able to successfully make music.

Probably one of the most memorable experiences, though, was when I met the singer Dawn Mollenkopf, who has a severe to profound hearing loss. And like me, she has synesthesia, a phenomenon in which perception in one sense triggers perception in another. We both perceived music in color and for us, this was a great tool for us in listening to music. Certain colors went with certain musical notes.  In my own personal experience, "seeing colors" in response to hearing sound helps me recognize and understand what I am listening to.  It is my synesthetic experiences that enabled me to develop a good musical ear because colors served as memory aids. This was my first time meeting a person with hearing loss who experienced synesthesia.

How long have you been composing music? What do you love about composing and what do you hope to express in your work?

I began composing music seriously when I was a sophomore in college. I have gone through different periods of writing.  In my early years, my focus was on incorporating visual imagery in my music, thus proving the commonalities between sound and color.  My work was influenced by my synesthesia.  Then shortly after graduating from college, I adopted two small parrots and soon my music took an avian spin.  It was my intention to pay homage to our finest music makers, birds.  As of now, I find myself seeking the divine or perhaps something that cannot be understood by the spoken word.  My music has always been a bit abstract but now I find that my music simply is what it is, a kind of story of a soul, my soul, striving towards happiness, striving toward heaven.

I can't say I enjoy composing music.  Actually the process is quite painful and is a lot like pulling hair.  It doesn't come all that easily but once the music is written and gets a performance, it is well worth the aggravation.  Writing music is a way to leave something behind for the generations after me.

What was the inspiration for your latest album, Images?

Early in 2015, I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with members of my church where we visited various historic and holy places. This wonderful trip was the inspiration behind Images, a collection of seven piano pieces, each inspired by either a specific place, moment, or feeling during my visit.  There are other original piano pieces on the CD, three of which were commissioned by the New Jersey Music Teachers Association.

What's next for you? What are you excited about in the coming year

Well, at the beginning of March I had my first organ lesson.  Yup, I am learning the organ.  I had played piano for a few masses at my church and enjoyed it.  There was no organist available at the time and I didn't know how to play so I played the piano.  This made me curious about the organ and so I decided to learn in hopes that I can be a church organist someday.

This post originally appeared in Grand Piano Passion™.It was repurposed with permission. 

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Telehealth Tools Can Change Your Hearing Care

By Carol Meyers, Au.D.

We continue to benefit from incredible technological advances that assist in the diagnosis and treatment of many health conditions. One rapidly growing technology with the potential to revolutionize hearing care is telehealth, which utilizes telecommunication technologies like smartphone apps to provide virtual healthcare and education services to patients.

Many hearing aid wearers already use apps that serve as remote controls or audio streamers for their hearing aids. As manufacturers develop more ways to leverage smartphone apps, consumers can also expect to change the way they interact with their hearing care professional for the better. Here are some ways telehealth hearing care apps can help you.

Save time and effort.

Nothing will ever completely replace face-to-face interactions with your healthcare providers. However, some issues can be resolved with a brief conversation. Telehealth apps offer text, voice, and even video calls so that you can consult your hearing care professional without making a trip to the office. Furthermore, apps can store useful information, such as care and usage instructions and troubleshooting guides, so you can use them to solve problems at your convenience. This is particularly advantageous if you live in a remote area, cannot take time off work, or have difficulty getting around.

Adjust to wearing new hearing aids.
Getting used to wearing new hearing aids involves actually retraining your brain to process all the sounds that you were missing before amplification. Hearing care apps can assign you simple daily exercises to complete, such as rustle a newspaper or have group conversation during a family meal. These exercises encourage your exposure to a variety of listening situations. As you complete these tasks, you can rate your satisfaction with the experience, which is then transmitted to your hearing care professional.

Let hearing care professional monitor your hearing needs.

Your hearing care professional wants to ensure your satisfaction and success just as much as you want your questions and concerns about your new hearing aids resolved. Your ratings and feedback regarding new listening experiences can be transmitted via the app to your hearing care professional, who can then contact you if necessary.

Have your hearing aids adjusted remotely.

Not only can your hearing care professional interact with you via apps, they can also access your hearing aid settings directly without your needing to visit the office. Based on your feedback (via a text or call) they can adjust your hearing aid settings and send the update through the app to your hearing aids. Once you accept the change, those adjustments take effect so you can try them out immediately.

Finally, telehealth apps are safe. They are secured via end-to-end encryption so that interactions and conversations between you and your hearing care professional remain private. The next time you visit your hearing care professional, ask how a hearing aid telehealth app can help you.

With more than 25 years of clinical practice, Carol Meyers, Au.D., is an educational specialist for Signia responsible for the training and education of staff and hearing care professionals in the U.S. on the company’s products, technology, software, services, and audiology-related topics.

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When Hearing Aids Are Not Enough

By Kathleen Wallace

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of treating one’s hearing loss.

Hearing aids are currently unable to restore damaged or lost hearing due to the complexities of our auditory system. Hearing aids are simply devices that provide access to sound while maintaining comfort; they are a tool to assist one’s hearing ability.  

But what if hearing aids alone aren’t enough? Aural rehabilitation can provide extra training necessary to improve the use of hearing aids, helping a person with hearing loss overcome daily challenges. Just as physical therapy may be needed after an injury to improve function, aural rehabilitation helps a person to adapt to amplification and to develop communication strategies to increase understanding. While aural rehabilitation is a service provided by audiologists, it tends to be underutilized.

Aural rehabilitation typically encompasses counseling on the impact of hearing loss, device orientation, and perceptual training. These programs are tailored to address the needs of a particular individual, as hearing loss can be manifested in countless ways over the course of one person's daily life. It is therefore essential for audiologists to develop a thorough understanding of how hearing loss is impacting a person’s everyday life specifically. This is typically done through the use of self-assessment measures, which also serve as outcome measures to track progress and to identify areas for improvement.

A strong body of research demonstrates the efficacy of aural rehabilitation to reduce hearing handicap and stress as well as improve satisfaction with amplification1, quality of life, and communication function. Furthermore, studies have shown that embarking on aural rehabilitation with a significant other or communication partner is beneficial for both parties; it facilitates better communication and understanding of the difficulties accompanying hearing loss. In fact, the greatest reduction in hearing handicap occurred when the individual with hearing impairment and the significant other completed the program together.

If hearing aids are unable to provide noticeable benefits, even after completing aural rehabilitation programs, individuals with significant hearing loss may want to consider cochlear implantation. These implanted devices can provide audibility beyond the limitations of traditional amplification, as they directly stimulate the cochlea. To find out if you are a candidate, consult your audiologist for a full evaluation.

If you suspect a hearing loss or tinnitus, HHF recommends getting your hearing checked. If you do have a hearing loss or tinnitus, talk with your hearing healthcare professional about available treatments. For more information, visit hhf.org/tinnitus or email us at info@hhf.org.

1Northern, J. L., & Beyer, C. M. (1999). Reducing hearing aid returns through patient education. Audiology Today, 11(2) 315-326.

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You're Losing Hearing Faster Than You Think

“I went to a restaurant and it was 104 decibels,” says Nadine Dehgan of the Hearing Health Foundation, a New York-based organization that helps fund research for medical and technological advances in hearing loss. “It was hours of 104-dB pop music. I told them, ‘This is damaging to the customers,’ and they turned it down.”

 

Hearing aids remain costly, as much as several thousand dollars for one. “Hearing aids are cheaper, but I wouldn’t call them cheap,” says Laura Friedman of the Hearing Health Foundation. “Glasses are covered by insurance companies but those companies don’t cover hearing aids. They consider it cosmetic.”

Hearing Health Foundation's CEO, Nadine Dehgan, and Communications and Programs Manager, Laura Friedman, were quoted in Men's Journal on the dangers of noise and the costs of hearing aids. Read the full article, here

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Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Charities of America Join Forces

By Laura Friedman

Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Charities of America Join Forces

Hearing Charities of America (HCOA) and Hearing Health Foundation are excited to announce a newly formed partnership in an effort to collect hearing aids that will be given to low-income individuals through the HCOA’s national assistance program, The Hearing Aid Project.

One quarter of Americans ages 20 to 65 suffer from hearing loss, which makes it one of the country’s most widespread public health concerns. The Hearing Aid Project was created to provide access to affordable hearing health services, while creating collaborative relationships to support this mission.

Countless hearing aids sit unused in drawers or are discarded once new hearing aids are purchased. Hearing Health Foundation is now a collection center for The Hearing Aid Project to ensure that quality, donated hearing aids can be refurbished and given to those in need.

“Hearing Health Foundation is thrilled to join forces with Hearing Charities of America and do our part in collecting hearing aids to be refurbished and distributed to those who need them,” said Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s CEO. “Minimal health insurance and Medicare coverage, as well as out-of-pocket costs, have been a major hurdle for many who could benefit from using hearing aids. Until quality hearing healthcare is available to all of the 48 million Americans living with hearing loss, HHF is glad to be doing its part to provide hearing aid assistance to those in need,” Dehgan said.

Hearing Charities of America and Hearing Health Foundation believe that healthy hearing should be enjoyed by all. To donate your hearings aids to be refurbished, please contact Hearing Health Foundation at info@hhf.org or 212-257-6140.

THE HEARING HEALTH CHALLENGE

In celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, Hearing Health Foundation is launching the Hearing Health Challenge. Although hearing loss is commonly associated with one’s normal aging process, more than half of those with hearing loss are younger than 65. The top two war wounds for active military personnel and veterans are hearing loss and tinnitus, accounting for 60 percent of this population.

Unfortunately, only 13 to 33 percent of those who need hearing aids use them; financial constraints, the lack of a perceived need, and stigma are leading reasons why hearing loss goes untreated for an average of 7 to 10 years after diagnosis. Hearing Health Foundation is committed to reducing the stigma, educating the public on the dangers of noise, advocating for greater access to hearing health care, and funding the best science to find better treatments and cures for hearing loss and its associated disorders.

CHALLENGE

  • For every hearing aid received within the month of May, a $200 cash donation will be made to HHF by an anonymous donor to support hearing research. 
     

  • For every dollar donated within the month of May, that dollar will be matched up to $33,500 by an anonymous donor to support hearing research.  

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