In the Audiologist’s Corner:
Olympic Heroes with Hearing Loss
Each athlete who has the honor of participating in the Olympics has their own unique story, but we’re focusing on the Olympic competitors who have overcome hearing loss! You may be surprised at who they are!
David Smith (USA, Volleyball)
At 6-foot-7, this middle blocker has proven he can stand tall against not only the spike, but also having a hearing loss. A member of the 2012 Olympic team, he helped the U.S. men win the 2015 FIVB Men’s World Cup and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Smith was born with mild-to-severe hearing loss and wears hearing aids to assist him on and off the court. He also finds hand signals and reading lips incredibly helpful to keeping him on his A game.
“To his credit, there hasn’t been a lot of adjustment,” says USA head volleyball coach Alan Knipe to SignalSCVSports.com. “He’s very much overcome his hearing loss, and he very much wants to be another guy on the team.”
Tamika Catchings (USA, Basketball)
The 24-year-old WNBA star was born with a hearing loss and incredible athleticism. She has completed 15 seasons in the WNBA, and she has earned WBNA Finals MVP honors as well as the Reynolds Society Achievement Award. The world-famous Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston gives this award annually to an individual who has overcome hearing, vision, or voice loss and who has distinguished themselves and provided inspiration to others.
Catchings writes on ESPN.go.com:
“In the basketball world, it’s well-known that I was born with a hearing impairment that affects both ears. As a young child, I remember being teased for the way I looked with my big, clunky hearing aids and the speech problems that accompanied the hearing impairment. Every day was a challenge for me. There were plenty of days that I wished I was normal. That’s how sports first came into my life. In the classroom, kids could make fun of me for being different. On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple. Eventually, I was better than them.” Catchings intends to continue to prove that this summer by joining an exclusive club with Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie, who are currently the only American basketball players, male or female, to earn four Olympic gold medals.
Enjoy watching these incredible athletes as they pursue their dreams!"
(Paraphrased for The Hearing Rehab Center Blog, August 1, 2016)
Frustrated With Constantly Asking People to Repeat?
Communication breakdowns are frustrating – for both the speaker and the listener. Here are some simple tips for persons with hearing loss to aid in effective communication:
• Wear appropriately fit hearing aids. Remember, a hearing aid is less conspicuous than a hearing loss.
• Indicate when you can’t understand – ask the speaker to repeat or rephrase. Do not just nod your head in agreement if you did not really understand what was said.
• Maintain eye contact and use visual cues (i.e., watch the person’s mouth when they are speaking). Your brain uses the visual information derived from watching the person's face and lip movements to help you interpret what you hear. Research indicates that these visual cues can increase word understanding by 10-60%.
• Verify information by repeating back what you think was said.
• Ask Yes / No questions that allow a headshake response.
• Only one person should speak at a time if possible. This applies when watching television as well. Turn the volume down or mute the television when you want to hear other persons in the room.
• Use written notes and information to assist with communication.
• Modify your listening environment to decrease background noise and reverberation:
- Background noise will block speech sounds, such as th, s, sh, and ch, making speech unclear. The effects of the background noise are aggravated by the acoustics of the room, or how much reverberation exists. Reverberation is cause by hard surfaces, such as hardwood or tile floors, windows, and large room sizes. Decrease reverberation in your home by adding curtains, rugs, or carpet to hard surfaces. These will help absorb sound and decrease echo or reverberation in your home.
- When choosing a restaurant, consider going to a smaller restaurant with less people (versus a restaurant with many people in one large room). Poor acoustics in large restaurants often results in higher noise levels and reverberation. You may also ask to be seated in a quieter area of the restaurant away from televisions or distracting music.
• Use an assistive listening device:
- ▪ Many hearing aids can be paired with a wireless mini microphone that is designed to help in difficult listening situations by streaming the voice of the person wearing the microphone directly to the hearing aids.
- If you have difficulty hearing on your cell phone, wireless phone streamers can be paired to your cell phone and hearing aids. These phone streamers enable you to use your cell phone and be “hands-free” while amplified sound is transmitted wirelessly to both ears through the hearing aids. Some hearing aids even allow direct streaming from iPhones to the hearing aids, without the need for an additional phone streamer.
- If you have difficulty hearing on your home phone, amplified phones and captioned phones are available.
- Audiologists are here to help you hear your best. For more information on the benefit of hearing aids and assistive listening devices (i.e., amplified phones, captioned phones, wireless mini microphones, phone streamers, TV streamers), ask your audiologist!
Frustrated With Constantly Repeating Yourself?
Communication breakdowns are frustrating – for both the speaker and the listener. They can also be dangerous in an emergency or crisis. Here are some tips on how to communicate with people who have hearing loss.
- Make sure you have the listener’s attention before starting to talk. The individual with a hearing loss must stop, look, and listen in order to understand speech.
- Speak slowly and clearly at a normal loudness level. Do not shout. Do not speak rapidly. Slowing down your rate of speech is often more helpful than raising your voice.
- When something is not heard or understood, rephrase, do not repeat exactly. Continually repeating the exact words may not help.
- Help the listener by providing visual clues. The listener has a much better chance of understanding if he/she can see your mouth when you are speaking. Look at the listener and keep your hands away from your mouth. Do not talk while chewing or eating.
- Keep the distance between you and the listener at 3 to 6 feet for best listening and lip-reading.
- Sit or stand so the light is focused on your face, not glaring from behind.
- Reduce/eliminate as much extra background noise as possible for better speech understanding.
- Only one person should speak at a time if possible. This applies when watching TV as well. Turn the volume down or mute the TV when you want to speak to a person with hearing loss.
- Use written notes and information to assist with communication.
- Remember that even with a hearing aid the person with hearing loss may not hear or understand everything you say.
- Be patient and treat the person with dignity and respect: most people can communicate if you give them the opportunity.
Wendy Artho, AuD, CCC-A
Hearing Aids Don’t Work!
At least one patient a day will say, “why should I get hearing aids, my friend Joe has some and they don’t help him any!” There are many reasons why an individual might feel that their “hearing aids don’t work.” Read on to learn about four of the most common reasons.
Time: It takes 4 – 6 weeks of full time hearing aid wear to retrain your brain to listen again. If you have just been fit with your hearing aids, your brain has to learn what sounds are important (speech) and what are unimportant (background noise). There are patients who return their hearing aids claiming there is “too much noise”; when in reality, there isn’t too much noise, it is just that they haven’t learned how to hear again.
Noise: There are certain restaurants and events that someone with normal hearing cannot hear well. Even though current hearing aid technology has the ability to reduce background noise and make it easier to hear in noise; there is no technology that will get rid of the background noise and allow you to hear better than someone with normal hearing. As I tell my patients, “If I cannot hear in the restaurant, then neither can you”.
Distance: Yes, Clark Kent could hear Lois Lane easily from halfway across the United States, but hearing aids are not going to give you Superman’s hearing. To easily hear and understand the person you are talking with, you both need to be in the same room. Admittedly, you will hear a voice from down the hall and in another room better with your hearing aids than without, but you will not understand what that voice is saying until you both are in the same room.
Clarity: When we listen to someone, we need to both hear what that person is saying and we need to understand what they are saying. One of the tests that audiologists perform measures your ability to understand speech when it is loud enough. In other words, how clear is the message that your ears are sending your brain. If a patient does well on this test, they are going to do well with their hearing aids. The aids are going to make normal conversational speech loud enough for them to hear and their ears are going to send a clear speech signal to their brain for them to process and understand what is being said. But, if a patient has a weak “ear to brain” connection they will continue to have difficulty understanding others whether they are wearing their hearing aids or not. These can be the folks who say, “I tried hearing aids but they didn’t help.” Most of the time, the patient may not feel the benefit of the hearing aids, but their family members do. The family no longer needs to yell at their loved one and they will report that the loved one is more connected to the world around them when they are wearing their hearing aids.
Manufacturers are working everyday to improve the way hearing aids work in background noise. Every effort is made to help patients take advantage of the clarity they still have and look for ways to increase it. Technology cannot make you hear perfectly, but it can definitely make your hearing better.
Let us help you get the most out of your hearing and hearing aids. Call for an appointment so that we can help you make your hearing aids “work”.
Hearing Devices with Pizazz
Hearing devices come in many colors and styles, and for children choosing colors they like is important to help them accept the devices and to make them their own. Luckily today parents have options even beyond the color of the device or earmold. You can “bling up” your child’s hearing aids, cochlear implant or bone-anchored implant processor using a variety of removable accessories. Recently one of my pediatric patients, Landyn, came in with her hearing aid all fixed up (as seen in the picture below) with beads, a jewelry charm, and a cool necklace that uses a retention cord to keep the hearing aid from being lost.
There are also “clips” that attach to hearing aid tubing that have characters such as My Little Pony, Thomas the Train, Lego’s characters, or objects like basketballs and baseballs. They can be purchased online at sites such as Etsy, and are very affordable. There are also many options for retention cords, headbands for very young children to keep the hearing aid or cochlear implant in place, and bone-anchored implant softbands that can be found online. I have even had parents use stickers used for fingernail art (purchased at your local pharmacy or beauty supply), and often the manufacturer of your child’s device offers stickers. Don’t be afraid to let your child have fun!
One cautionary note: be sure not to put stickers on the device that will leave a sticky residue, which will rule out many types of stickers. Also be sure not to place stickers over the microphones of the device. If you aren’t sure, ask your Audiologist!
Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own stickers!!
If you would like to make the necklace seen in Landyn’s picture, her mom Amber has kindly written a tutorial on how she made it using materials purchased here in San Angelo:
1. Paracord to make the necklace that can be bought at Hobby Lobby, Michael's or Walmart and to find out how to make it, you can go to this YouTube video for a tutorial http://youtu.be/4YADHUVHIFM
2. Clasp that can be bought from all the same places
3. Crimping beads for the cord restrain that can be bought from Hobby Lobby and Michael's
4. Beadstring for the restrain cord can be bought at Hobby Lobby and Michael's
5. The grippers off of pens. I get a variety of colors and I get them from the dollar store.
Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection)
OM is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear (the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear). Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections. Ear infections frequently are painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluid in the middle ear.
Some symptoms of OM are:
- Pulling at ears
- Excessive crying
- Fluid draining from ears
- Sleep disturbances
- Problems with hearing
Some risk factors include those who have upper respiratory infections, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, eustachian tube dysfunction, anatomic abnormalities (e.g. cleft palate), bottle fed infants, tobacco smoke exposure and daycare attendance.
If left untreated, OM could cause speech delays, erosion of middle ear bones, mastoiditis (bone infection in the skull) or even permanent hearing loss. So take steps in the prevention of OM, such as: avoid smoking or exposure to second hand smoke and do not expose children to second hand smoke, keeping you and your child up to date with recommended immunizations, also breastfeed your baby for 12 months or more if possible, if not, bottle feed your baby in the upright position.
Kelsi Mangrem, AuD, FAAA, CCC-A
How to Summer-Proof Your Ears & Hearing Aids
Splish-Splash. Fun in the sun! Summertime is often a looked forward to time for all, especially for kids. But also with summer, can come a lot of time in the water and for some can cause problems. We have all heard of swimmers ear. Swimmers ear is medically known as otitis externa. Otitis externa is usually a bacterial infection of the external ear canal skin and often referred to as a fungal infection. It can cause a conductive hearing loss, especially if the ear canal is severely swollen, impeding the transfer of sound, and also drainage and debris may be present. The can be very painful, and extremely painful to the touch. When this does occur, seek medical attention immediately. In most cases, a form of a topical antibiotic is prescribed. To prevent swimmers ear, you might try the following. If the child does not currently have an infection, tubes or perforation of the eardrum, then a solution can be used before and after swimming. Mix an equal ration of 1:1 of alcohol and distilled vinegar. The alcohol helps dry up any moisture and the vinegar helps to restore the natural pH of the ear. Before using this solution, it is best to first consult with your doctor. Swim plugs can also be used. The best forms of these are custom made earplugs that can prevent water from entering the ear canal. Contact our audiology department for more information.
Hearing aids are also prone to moisture problems. The number one cure for this is using a dry aid kit. These can be purchased from our clinic and range in price from $5 to over $100. The basic dryers are silica beads in a jar. Hearing aids can be placed in here every night and the beads will absorb any moisture from the hearing aids and eamolds. The more expensive option is a dryer that plugs in, heats the air around the hearing aids, contains a UV light to disinfect the hearing aids and has a built in timer for a specialized drying process. Don’t let the fun in the sun this summer slow you down! Call our clinic today and ask for more information.
Adrianne Miller, Au.D., FAAA, CCC-A
Have you ever been in the middle of something important and suddenly, “Ding Ding” your hearing aid is telling you your battery is low and you KNOW you just put that battery in yesterday? Are you beyond frustrated trying to determine how long your batteries will last? Read on my friend!
Here’s a little background information: hearing aid batteries are zinc air batteries. This means that they use air as an energy source. That little sticker tab on the battery seals tiny air holes that, when exposed, will “activate” the battery.
For this reason, it is important to leave the sticker tab on until you are ready to use the battery.
Also, when you remove the sticker tab, let the battery sit out for 3-5 minutes to ensure it fully activates.
Here are some other helpful tidbits:
- The more hearing loss you have the more power the hearing aid requires and the faster your battery will drain.
- The more hours per day you wear your aid, the fewer the number of days your battery will last.
- More advanced technology features in your hearing aid, such as noise reduction features or multi-channel processing, can reduce battery life by up to 20%.
- Using wireless, FM, or Bluetooth accessories can greatly reduce battery life.
- High and low humidity can reduce battery life. In the winter, do not store batteries in a dry and store device with your hearing aids.
- Contact with metal objects such as keys or coins can cause batteries to short-circuit, so do not carry them loose with other metal objects.
- As altitude increases, battery life will decrease (due to lower oxygen levels in the air). Consider have you flown lately or visited that cousin in Wyoming?
- Extreme high or low temperatures affect battery life. Ideal temperatures are between 50 and 77 degrees F. Don’t leave them in your car in winter or summer.
The best way to determine the average battery life for you is to track it over time. When you take that sticker tab off, put it on that date on your calendar or mark it as an event on your phone. Do this for one month and you’ll have a better idea and reduce the “battery blues.” Good luck!
Angela Middlebrooks, Au.D., CCC-A