Quality of Life

ReSound HearSay: Be The Voice of Hearing

By Tom Woods

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For many individuals who know—or suspect—they have a hearing loss, the first step in their journey to better hearing can prove difficult.

It took more than two years for Francine Murphy of Peoria, Arizona to take action. She says, “I was in denial and I was concerned that it would not help, especially if the sound quality was poor. Start with acknowledging that there may be an issue and start with your family doctor. The best resource I found was my audiologist.”

ReSound hearing aid user Francine Murphy.

ReSound hearing aid user Francine Murphy.

Francine is clearly not alone. For many, the delay is due to uncertainty, apprehension, and lots of questions. In the U.S. alone, more than 25 million people who could benefit from hearing aids have yet to take that first step. 

We believe that hearing is fundamental to life. When it starts to decline, it’s imperative that everyone understands, and has access to, the best hearing technology.

That’s why we created ReSound HearSay, an online resource that gives people who are successfully managing their hearing loss an opportunity to lend their voice to educate and inspire others to seek care.

We think that peer-to-peer information sharing is critical in this learning process.

“Get your hearing tested now,” urges John Chynoweth from Orlando, Florida. “Determine exactly what your hearing is like now (get a baseline). Work with a hearing specialist to determine the environments where you struggle to hear. Try different types of hearing aids to find the right ones for you.”

I’m reaching out to readers of this blog to share their hearing journey. Just like Francine and John, you can help those who are just starting to realize hearing loss or considering a hearing aid, and may be hesitant or unsure where to start.

Tom Woods ReSound.jpg

Through posts, you’ll encourage others into action by addressing common concerns and questions, giving them practical advice to help navigate the process, from diagnosis to hearing aids. And you’ll help them understand the important role of the hearing care professional.

Be the “Voice of Hearing” and help others on the path to better hearing. Please take time today to visit ReSoundHearSay.com to share your insights and experience.

Tom Woods is President, ReSound North America.

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Don’t Let Swimmer's Ear get in the Way of Your Summer Fun

By Lauren Conte

After a long day spent enjoying the public pool, your youngest child runs towards you clutching one of his ears. You calm him down, and after a few moments he tells you that his ear itches, hurts to the touch, and sounds are muffled.

Unsure of how to treat his pain, you book an appointment with your family's doctor. In the meantime, you try to stop your son from shoving his fingers into his ears as the burning pain worsens.   

At the appointment, the doctor sees the red inflammation in the ear canal and notes the clear, odorless discharge draining from your child's ears. "Yep," the doctor says, "its Swimmer's Ear."

Well, what exactly is Swimmer's Ear, and how does it occur? Swimmer's Ear (also known as acute otitis externa) is an ear infection caused by bacteria, and though instances are rare, sometimes can occur from viruses or fungi.

Long exposure to contaminated water, such as recreational pools or lakes makes individuals susceptible to infections. The water softens the skin inside the ear and allows bacteria to multiply and cause irritation. When people use their fingers, cotton swabs, or other objects to itch their ears, the softened skin is easily broken, spreading the infection further.  

To catch the infection early, some symptoms include:

  • Itchiness in the ear canal

  • Pain when pushing or pulling on the outer ear

  • Clear drainage

  • Swelling and redness of the ear

  • Sensation of fullness in the ear

  • Swollen lymph nodes around the ear, upper neck, and jaw

Treatment options vary, but often your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication to kill the infection. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid to decrease the inflammation, or an acidic solution to restore the normal pH inside the ear. (When applying the drops, have someone else help you. Also, lie down with the affected ear facing upwards in order to fill the ear completely with medication.) To decrease the pain before and during treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers are effective at helping relieve some of the discomfort in the ears.

Okay, so now we know how it happens and how to treat the infection should it occur, but let's try to avoid getting to that point. Spoiler alert: you don't have to give up the pool, lake, or beach time!

While in the water, keep ears dry by using earplugs or a swim cap.

If that isn't your style, dry the outside of your ears with a towel, drop some drying-aid into each ear, and then tilt your head to the side to help the water drain out.

Pro-Tip: DIY Ear-drying Aid

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol

  • (Or however much solution you desire, but keep equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol)

  • Mix solution together and add drops into both ears.

The alcohol in the solution combines with the water and because alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature, pulls the water out with it. The acidity of the vinegar lowers the pH of the ear so bacteria cannot grow. Use this solution each time you leave the water, to ensure that infection does not occur.

Also, never use cotton swabs or fingers to try to remove water from ears. Your fingernails can cut up the inside of your ears, cotton swabs can puncture eardrums, and scrape the ear canal as well. Similarly, do not try to use cotton swabs to remove earwax, as the natural substance protects against infection and waterproofs your ears.

There you have it, the signs to look out for, and the ways to avoid putting a damper on your summer.

Lauren Conte is a Communications Intern for Eosera, a biotechnology consumer products company.

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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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NEWS UPDATE: Report on Hearing Health Care Released

By Morgan Leppla

Did you know it is estimated that 67 to 86 percent of people who might benefit from hearing aids do not have them? In a much-anticipated National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) report, published on June 2, 2016, NAS addresses the areas of hearing healthcare that currently prevent many of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss from seeking treatment, and provide 12 recommendations for improvement.

The NAS report recognizes that hearing loss detracts from individuals’ participation in family life, school, and work, and can affect anyone, young or old. People deserve the ability to communicate effectively, live healthily, and enjoy a high quality of life.

 

Specifically, the report recommends “key institutional, technological, and regulatory changes that would enable consumers to find and fully use the appropriate, affordable, high-quality services, technologies, and support they need.”

Currently, hearing healthcare is not focused on the consumer. However, through implementing the report’s recommendations, it would improve:

  • The quality and affordability of hearing healthcare

  • Access to accurate information that should be readily available to the public

  • Increasing the number of options for consumers to choose from, in order to best fit individual needs

  • Reducing stigma and bettering education

  • Ending governmental measures that create obstacles to easy access

The NAS report further explains that this is everyone’s responsibility to manage their hearing health: Cross-sector, sustained collaboration is crucial to successful implementation of the report’s blueprint.

"Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) recommends everyone talk to their doctors to identify any hearing loss as well as to find the best hearing loss treatment for them. HHF is dedicated to funding research to cure and treat hearing loss and tinnitus  and is proud to play a role in pushing hearing and balance research forward,” says Nadine Dehgan, HHF CEO.

HHF would like to thank the NAS and its expert committee for their hard work in preparing this report, including the committee’s Judy R. Dubno, Ph.D., a member of HHF’s Board of Directors, and Debara L. Tucci, M.D., a member of HHF’s Council of Scientific Trustees

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IT HAPPENED TO ME: I'm 27 and I Just Got Hearing Aids

By Sarah Klegman

As un-cool as they may be at times, and even though my hearing loss isn’t as bad as most, hearing aids have changed my life.

After an adverse reaction to medication left me with Tinnitus (a constant ringing in your ears, it’s lovely), I was put through a series of hearing tests. I sat in a vault-like room listening for beeps of varying volume. Afterward, they told me that I had high frequency hearing loss, and I’d be a great candidate for hearing aids.

Urm, no, I do not need those.

Big, clunky, ugly pieces of wannabe skin-color machinery, shoved into wax-filled hairy old-man-ears... I don’t need them. It’s just that I have to read lips in loud places and my close friends know to stand on my left side because my right ear is worse than my left and sometimes I miss important things in meetings and on phone calls.

Ooooooh.

I walk into the hearing aid place my insurance company recommended (but doesn’t cover). The audiologist brings me into his office and runs through what feels like his usual spiel. After tapping his fingers on the keyboard for a minute, he hands me a pair of ear buds that are wired to his computer.

“You’ll hear static for a moment before they turn on.”

I put them in, and hear the static like he says. Then the static stops, and suddenly, there are… sounds.

Everywhere. Everything has a sound. It’s like I can see the space around me, but with my ears. I hear the hum of his computer, the sound of his pants on his office chair as he shifts his position to look closer at the screen.

He picks up a piece of paper and I hear it. I hear a piece of paper. It crinkles and as his fingers move across it, I can hear the texture.

My eyes start uncontrollably watering as I realize how much I have to experience and hear. I shuffle my feet on the floor, taking so much joy in hearing the synthetic threads against my shoes. I kick my purse with my foot and hear everything inside move. It's like a drug, and I am greedy for it.

He tells me that I can take them off… but I stall, asking him questions so I can keep them in a bit longer.

“Where are these manufactured? How long have you been an audiologist? Have you ever been to the restaurant next door?”

We go over pricing (average being $4k+) and I leave his office seeking out a second opinion.

I did some Googling and landed on the website of Dr. Stephen Kirsch, an audiologist just up the street. His website said that he and his wife spend time outfitting children in Africa with hearing aids. Um, yes. I like him already. I call and make an appointment.

He welcomes me into his office and I’m feeling anxious, but trying to play it cool, wondering when I’ll get to put hearing aids in my ears again. We start talking about my hearing loss, and then he asks me if I want to try some out. “YES, YES I DO.”

His aren’t wired to a computer like the other guy’s. They’re just regular hearing aids, and they’re TINY. Like, I could accidentally swallow them in a salad and not notice, tiny.

He helps me put them in, and my eyes widen, searching the room for something new to hear.

“They’re not on yet,” he tells me. “Oh,” I sheepishly respond.

Just like the other guy, he tells me I’ll hear static for a minute while he adjusts things. Then, like before, my ears switch on. I light up, and this time, so does the other person in the room. He taps his fingers on his desk; he picks up a piece of paper and shakes it around, indulging my greediness for sound.

He tells me some things to expect. How I’ll get used to hearing my own voice, it might be overwhelming in loud places, and… I’ll be able to accurately represent myself. I hadn’t thought of that last one, and I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but I would come to.

He lets me take a pair to test drive. I get in my car, smiling like an excited dog following new smells and I turn on some music. A Mumford and Sons song comes on and I have what can only be described as an eargasm. The violin. I can hear the violin! I didn’t even know there was a violin in this song!

I have high frequency hearing loss, so the higher pitch the sound, the less I can hear it. Harmonies became richer. I could hear the strings of the guitar. The fibers. Then some less exciting realizations came to me – like how those whispered conversations probably weren’t that quiet, my laugh really is that loud, and those toots may not have been silent.

Oops.

When I was younger, doctors said that I had premature hearing loss, but that sentence was never finished with, “and hearing aids could make a significant improvement on your life.” 

So, my family and friends continued thinking of me as a “bad listener.” Which, I guess, technically, I was -- but being called a bad listener hit me in the heart. To me, they were calling me self-absorbed and disinterested.

I know I’m not perfect, but most of the time I was trying. However, just straining to hear someone can come off as unwelcoming. Your face scrunches up, your eyebrows furrow, and your neck cranes out -- body language that reads negatively. So, after a while, I stopped asking people to repeat themselves as often.

“What? Oh… you already repeated it twice, and if I ask once more, you’ll scream-repeat it at me angrily? Oh, um, yeah, no, I totally heard you.”

I asked Dr. Kirsch if I could pick his brain for this article and he enthusiastically agreed. While chatting, I told him about being called a bad listener. He paused, looked me in the eye and said, “But you’re a great listener.” My heart swelled. 

He continued, “You are a great listener largely because you and others with hearing loss pay such close attention to body language and facial expressions which tell more than the words on their own.”

He told me about a lawyer he worked with. The lawyer worried that if people noticed his hearing aids in the courtroom, it would be perceived as a sign of weakness and inspire doubt. 

Unfortunately, because of all the stigma, a lot of people who could use hearing aids don’t get them. As few as 1 in 5 people who have hearing loss actually do something about it.

My first week with hearing aids, I wore them to a beach house with some friends. They were all very happy for me, but I kept hearing this static. Something must be wrong with the hearing aids, I thought.

“There! Did anyone hear that?!”

Nope.

“That?!”

Nope.

Then my friend Sally goes, “Wait a second. Do you hear it right… now?”

“Yes!”

Another moment passes, “And… now?”

“Yes!!”

“Sarah,” she says, “those are waves. You’re hearing the ocean.”

Later, I had a meeting with this guy. I had my hearing aids turned up so I wouldn’t miss anything, so they were even more susceptible to feedback. I hugged him goodbye, his ear covered mine, and my hearing aid made a high-pitched noise (like when a microphone gets in front of a speaker). The guy pulled back and looked at me weird.

“Oh, could you hear that, too?” I asked.

“Yeah, what was it?”

I said, “I – AM – A – ROBOT,” and did the robot.

I thought it was hilarious.

During our chat, I jokingly ask Dr. Kirsch when I should tell a date that I have hearing aids. He sweetly says that I should tell them around the time we start to really care for each other. That’s great advice. 

More likely, I’ll end up stalling until a moment of natural clumsiness occurs, wherein my hearing aids will either fall out, or start blasting audible feedback. Ta-da! 

As un-cool as they may be at times, and even though my hearing loss isn’t as bad as most, hearing aids have changed my life. I believe that shamelessly showing your vulnerabilities can make you an even more likable person. Living honestly inspires others to live honestly.

That’s what Dr. Kirsch meant about being your authentic self. “You can't fully communicate who you are when you can't hear what people are saying to you. People won't listen if they feel like they aren't being heard.”

You strain to hear someone speak, you miss important words -- and as entertaining your shriek may be at the time -- you’re startled when you didn’t hear a friend walk in the room. You’re always on edge.

I hope this reaches people with hearing loss (I’m looking at you, dear friend in denial) and helps them in getting over the stigma and their hang-ups about looking old or handicapped; getting hearing aids can significantly improve your quality of life and how you communicate with the world. It also makes life a bit easier on your family and friends, too. 

Now, when I forget “my ears,” my friends notice. I’ll ask “What?” and they’ll say with a loving/scolding tone, “Are your ears in?”

Originally published on xoJane and republished here with their permission.

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7 High-Tech Reasons You Should Finally Deal with Your Hearing Loss

By Laura Friedman

Lifting your mood, boosting your energy, protecting your earnings, super-charging your social life — and even keeping your mind sharp. These are just some of the many spoils that come with facing and dealing with a noise-induced hearing loss that has been slowly but persistently creeping up on you.

The quality-of-life and feel-good benefits of treating even just mild hearing loss brought on by years of loud music, power tools, high-volume headphones, motor-sport engines, crowded night clubs and bars, noisy restaurants, and raucous sporting events are plenty. But in this digital age of smart phones and wearable technologies, the draw for many solution-minded consumers may be in the technology itself. Super-smart, super-sleek, super-convenient, and super-sophisticated — today’s hearing aids give you a multitude of reasons to address that hearing loss you’ve been trying so hard to ignore.

Consider these inspiring facts about today’s highly functional, high-powered hearing aids. They just may get you to finally do something about your hearing loss and make your life easier.

  1. They’re cool, sleek, discreet and virtually invisible. The latest hearing aids offer functionality, style and effortless living. The designs are incredibly attractive and they’re much smaller than even conventional Bluetooth earpieces. Many of the latest hearing aids are so tiny; they sit discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal, out of sight. Aesthetically, hearing aids have had a complete makeover.

  2. They cut out background noise so you hear what you want to hear. Hearing aids now scan the listening environment and automatically adapt to it—even in the wind. There are even hearing aids that can actually “geo-tag” a location. So if it’s convenient for you to network at a certain coffee shop, your hearing aids will know when you’re there and adjust themselves accordingly.

  3. New technologies not only help you decipher speech details in music and noise, but they better preserve and clarify the more subtle sounds of language — like the consonants B, S, F, T, and Z — so you can really follow what someone is saying. No faking.

  4. You can hear from all directions — even when scoping out what’s in the fridge. Advanced directional microphone technology lets you hear from the back and side — something really important when driving a car. But it also makes it easier to hear voices more clearly in other everyday settings — like when your head is in the fridge and your significant other is talking at your back. Yes, that’s one great feature.

  5. Digital, Bluetooth, and wireless capabilities in hearing aids are the now the norm. Many new technologies let you stream sound directly into your hearing aids — at the perfect volume — from your smartphone, laptop, conference-room speakerphone, home entertainment system, and other Bluetooth devices. Using a wireless mini-microphone — with cool, contoured designs, some even looking like a pen— placed on the restaurant or conference-room table, or near anyone you want to hear, makes it feel like they’re speaking directly and clearly into your ears, no matter how noisy the setting.

  6. State-of-the-art hearing aids can do a lot for the person. They offer no whistling due to advances in digital technology. Most are hypoallergenic with nanotechnology coating to keep them clean and dry. Some are fully waterproof so you can swim or shower with them in, and some have rechargeable batteries.

  7. There are even more disruptive hearing technologies on the horizon. Totally out-of-sight, semi-permanent hearing aids that stay in for two to three months let you shower and sleep in them, no fuss. Hearing aid manufacturers are deep in the trenches working to create future breakthrough technologies that will make it as easy as possible for the brain to decode speech and other sounds. After all, we really do hear with our brains and not with our ears. Some hearing aids with these technologies are already available.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute. For a list of hearing aid models check out the Hearing Health Foundation's New Technology page. 

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Men's Health and Hearing Health are Linked

By Laura Friedman

Hearing health affects so many aspects of a man’s life that routine hearing tests should be part of a healthy lifestyle. Hearing Health Foundation and Better Hearing Institute (BHI) which are encouraging hearing tests during Men’s Health Month in June and Men’s Health Week (June 15-21). Addressing hearing loss can help men safeguard their wellbeing and quality of life. And new research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids enjoy a better overall quality of life and are more likely to be optimistic, have a strong social network, tackle problems actively, and feel engaged in life. At the same time, an increasing number of studies are showing a link between hearing loss and other health conditions.

Men are more likely to suffer from hearing loss than women. But luckily, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, most people who currently wear hearing aids say it not only helps their overall ability to communicate effectively in most situations, but it also has a positive effect on their relationships. Most hearing aid users in the workforce even say it has helped their performance on the job.

Other research shows that addressing hearing loss can help protect your earnings. One study showed that the use of hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss dramatically—by 90-100% for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 -77% for those whose hearing loss was severe to moderate.

What’s more, people with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids get more pleasure in doing things and are even more likely to exercise and meet up with friends to socialize!

Men who want to maintain a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle should know that new technological advances have revolutionized hearing aids in recent years. Today’s hearing aids can automatically adjust to all kinds of sound environments and filter out noise. Many are virtually invisible, sitting discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal. Some are even waterproof, and others are rechargeable. Best of all, many are wireless, so you can stream sound from smartphones, home entertainment systems and other electronics directly into your hearing aid(s) at volumes just right for you.

5 Men’s Health Motivators for Getting a Hearing Test:

  1. Your hearing may say something about your heart. Cardiovascular and hearing health are linked. Some experts say the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it’s possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

  2. Hearing loss is about twice as common in people with diabetes. Studies show that people with diabetes are about twice as likely to have hearing loss. When broken down by age, one study showed that those 60 and younger are at greater risk.

  3. Addressing hearing loss may benefit cognitive function. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading experts to believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.

  4. Hearing loss is tied to sleep apnea. Research shows that sleep apnea is significantly associated with hearing loss at both high and low frequencies. Findings suggest that sleep apnea is a systemic disease and is associated with an increased risk of hearing loss, along with a number of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

  5. Hearing loss is tied to depression. Studies show that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults of all ages, but is most pronounced in 18 to 69 year olds. Research also shows that the use of hearing aids reduces depressive symptoms.

BHI and HHF are encouraging men of all ages to take a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at BetterHearing.org to help determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on June 3, 2015. 

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