Dementia’s Effect on Communication

Communication is one of our strongest links to our social environment. Therefore when one loses some of that ability it can have a devastating effect on both our well-being and quality of life. Frustration mounts for both the person suffering from dementia as well as friends and family members. Some of this frustration stems from misunderstanding of the cause, sometimes manifesting into anger in the friends and family and social withdrawal from the sufferer as the illness progresses. As with many illnesses that are frequently misunderstood, demystifying and explaining dementia and how it affects communication can take some of the stress out of the situation by facilitating both awareness and understanding. We are often afraid of what we do not know.

Dementia manifests in a variety of ways. Here are some signals to look for:
 *Word retrieval, or word finding, difficulties
 *Deterioration of reading and/or writing skills
 *Difficulty understanding conversation
 *Trouble with pragmatics of social conversation (interrupting speakers, not responding appropriately or at all, standing too close to someone who is
speaking)
 *Difficulty expressing emotions appropriately

If there is a concern, talking with your primary care physician is a good start. Also, ruling out the impact of visual loss and hearing loss. When there are deficits in one of these senses treatment may significantly benefit the individual. Make sure glasses or hearing aids are cleaning and functioning appropriately to give the individual the best chance at successful communication. If necessary, contact your optometrist or audiologist for assistance.

In the words of a woman diagnosed with dementia, here are some other communication tips:
 *Give us time to speak, wait for us to search around that untidy heap on the floor of the brain for the word we want to use.
*Try not to finish our sentences. Just listen, and don’t let us feel embarrassed if we lose the thread of what we say
 *Don’t rush us into something because we can’t think or speak fast enough to let you know whether we agree.
Try to give us time to respond – to let you know whether we really want to do it
 *When you want to talk to us, think of some way to do this without questions that can alarm us or make us feel uncomfortable.
*If we have forgotten something special that happened recently, don’t assume it wasn’t special for us too.
Just give us a gentle prompt – we may just be momentarily blank
 *Don’t try too hard though to help us remember something that just happened. If it never registered we are never going to be able to recall it
 *Avoid background noise if you can. If the TV is on, mute it first
 *If children are underfoot remember we will get tired very easily and find it very hard to concentrate on talking and listening as well.
Maybe one child at a time and without background noise would be best

Pay Attention to these Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has various forms – it may develop gradually (for example, due to aging) or suddenly (as the result of an accident or trauma). Hearing loss may range from mild instances of not being able to hear conversations correctly to severe periods of being unable to hear at all, and can be either temporary or permanent. A single ear may be affected by hearing loss, or both ears.

There are a number of symptoms linked to hearing loss, one of the more common of which is a growing inability to hear or understand conversations. You may perceive other people’s speaking voices as if they were speaking too softly or are too distant to be heard correctly, or their voices may seem to be muffled and indistinct. Alternatively, you might be able to hear folks speaking but discover that you’re having difficulty differentiating individual words; this may become more pronounced when multiple people are speaking simultaneously, or when you are in noisy locations.

Various other usual symptoms of hearing loss include having to increase the volume on your television or radio, having more difficulty hearing women’s voices than men’s, and not being able to differentiate sounds like ‘th’ and ‘s’ from one another. If you experience pain, tenderness, or itching in your ears, have periods of vertigo or dizziness, or hear a persistent ringing sound, these symptoms can also be indicators of hearing loss.

One of the challenges with hearing loss is that it may arise so gradually that people are themselves not aware of it. This can occasionally lead to habits or behaviors designed to hide their hearing loss from others. Examples of these types of symptoms include having to ask people to repeat themselves frequently, avoiding discussions and social situations, pretending to have heard stuff that you really didn’t, and emotions of isolation or depression.

If you have experienced any of these signs or symptoms, make an appointment with one of our specialists. They can give you a hearing test to determine whether you have experienced hearing loss, and if so, can help you find a solution.

Home Safety Advice for Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

One topic which is seldom discussed when it comes to hearing loss is how to keep those who have it safe in their homes. For instance, suppose that a fire breaks out in your home; if you are like most people you have smoke alarms to sound an alert so that you and your family can evacuate the home before a fire becomes widespread, and thus deadly. But this time imagine further, and ponder what might happen if your smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night after you’ve gone to sleep, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.

The smoke detectors standard in most houses and those mandated by city or state governments produce a loud warning tone at a frequency between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz. This approach is fine for most people, but unfortunately these frequencies are among those most vulnerable to age-related hearing loss, so older adults or those who have suffered other types of hearing impairment cannot hear them. So even if you had been awake, if you’re one of the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there is a chance that you wouldn’t hear the alarm.

Luckily, there are home safety products that are expressly designed for the needs of the hearing impaired. For people with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hertz square-wave warning sound that they can usually hear. For those who are totally deaf, or who cannot hear at all when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) during the night, there are alarm systems that blend extremely loud noises, flashing lights, and vibrators that shake your mattress to warn you. Many of these methods are intended to be incorporated into more extensive home security systems to warn you of burglars or neighbors pounding furiously on your doors in the case of an emergency.

To hear other sounds that may indicate danger, many hearing-impaired people have set up induction loops in their houses to improve the performance of their hearing aids or CIs. An induction loop is merely a long strand of wire that surrounds your living room, bedroom, or children’s rooms, which activates the telecoils embedded in your devices to raise the volume of sounds, and therefore may help you not to miss any important or emergency notifications.

We shouldn’t forget the common telephone, which is vital during an emergency of any kind. Most modern telephones now can be found in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which permit their easy use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Other models incorporate speakerphone systems with very high volumes that can be used by the hearing impaired, and more notably, can be voice-activated. These devices would allow you to voice-dial for assistance in an emergency situation, or if you needed assistance of any kind. There are additional accessories for cell phones, such as vibrating wristbands that can alert you to an incoming phone call even if you’re asleep.

Naturally, some home safety suggestions for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for those who can hear well, such as trying to keep lists of your doctors, emergency service providers, and hospitals close by. If we can be of assistance to you in making your home safer for the hearing impaired, call us; we’ll be happy to help.

Expectations For Hearing Aid Battery Lifespan

Even though the battery performance for hearing aids might seem a simple question to answer, it actually varies according to a variety of factors. One factor is the manufacturer of the hearing aid. Battery performance varies by manufacturer and also across models from the same manufacturer. The way you use your hearing aid will also influence battery life; the more hours a day yours is turned on, the more often you will use up batteries.

The hearing aid batteries themselves are a major factor. Batteries of the same size from different manufacturers will have distinct lives. And there will be variance within one battery manufacturer if they offer premium or extended-life lines. Hearing aid battery life also depends on battery type; for example some types are only being drained when they are inside a hearing aid that is switched on, and other types (for example, zinc-air batteries) start losing stored energy as soon as you take away the adhesive strip on the bottom of the battery and they are in contact with oxygen, regardless of whether the hearing aid is on or not.

If you are looking for a new hearing aid, you may wish to do some research first to see which have the best ratings for battery life, because that could influence your choice of which type or which model of hearing aid to purchase. The same research recommendation is true if you have an existing hearing aid and are looking for the batteries with the longest life for it; you can find out a great deal from consumer ratings and comparative reports.

To make things somewhat easier for you, hearing aid batteries are available in 4 common sizes, each of which is marked with a distinct color code, which is always the same no matter who the manufacturer is. See the approximated battery life below to get a general idea of how long hearing aid batteries of each size should last:

  • Size 10 – Yellow tag – 80 hours
  • Size 13 – Orange tag – 240 hours
  • Size 312 – Brown tag – 175 hours
  • Size 675 – Blue tag – 300 hours

 

Remember to turn your hearing aid off when you aren’t using it for the longest battery life. To ensure the longest shelf life for batteries you have purchased but have not used yet, store them indoors, at room temperature, and in their original, unopened packaging.

Brief Analog versus Digital Hearing Aids Comparison

A little bit of history and an explanation of how analog devices work vs how digital devices work is necessary to understand the differences between analog and digital hearing aids. Analog hearing aids appeared first, and were the norm in the majority of hearing aids for many years. Then with the introduction of digital signal processing (DSP) technology, digital hearing aids also began to appear. Currently, the majority (90%) of the hearing aids purchased in the US are digital, although analog hearing aids continue to be offered because they’re often lower priced, and also because some people have a preference for them.

Analog hearing aids handle inbound sounds by taking the electrical sound waves as they leave a microphone and amplifying them “as is” before sending the sound waves to the speakers in your ears. Digital hearing aids take the sound waves from the microphone and convert them to digital binary code. Once the sound has been digitized, the micro-chip within the hearing aid can process and manipulate the information in complex ways before converting it back into analog sound and passing it on to your ears.

Remember that analog and digital hearing aids serve the same purpose – they take sounds and boost them so you can hear them better. Both analog and digital hearing aids can be programmable, which means that they contain microchips which can be modified to alter sound quality to match the individual user, and to create different settings for different listening environments. The programmable hearing aids can, for instance, have one setting for use in quiet rooms, another for listening in noisy restaurants, and still another setting for listening in large auditoriums.

But beyond programmability, the digital hearing aids often offer more controls to the user, and offer additional features because of their capacity to manipulate the sounds in digital form. For example, digital hearing aids may offer multiple channels and memories, allowing them to store more location-specific profiles. Other capabilities of digital hearing aids include being able to automatically minimize background noise and eliminate feedback or whistling, or the ability to prefer the sound of voices over other sounds.

As far as pricing is concerned, analog hearing aids are in most cases less expensive, although some digital hearing aids are approaching the price of analog devices by removing the more state-of-the-art features. Hearing aid wearers do detect a difference in the sound quality produced by analog versus digital hearing aids, but that is largely a matter of preference, not really a matter of whether analog or digital is “better.”

Marching Band Can Be Detrimental to Your Ears

Some 6 million teens nationwide suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. Besides the use of high-volume MP3 players and mobile phones, authorities say that teenagers’ involvement in marching band is another possible cause of damage to hearing. As almost every urban high school and university has a marching band, participation is a quite common activity among teens.

Dangerous decibel levels for teenagers.Volume, or sound level, is measured in decibels (dB). Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 85 dB. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Increased awareness among teens and band leaders of the importance of reducing instrument sound levels when playing indoors is also key. Parents, teens, and band leaders should work together to increase awareness and to implement strategies for protecting the hearing of marching band members.

Hearing Loss Does Not Mean Giving Up Driving

People depend on their hearing in a number of situations, making it hard to carry out some basic tasks if your hearing is damaged. Many individuals with hearing problems find that driving can become a challenge. However, having hearing problems doesn’t imply you have to throw away your keys. Follow some simple driving tips and you can drive perfectly safely.

Keep up with car maintenance: You know that if your engine is making a strange sound there is probably a problem with it. If you aren’t able to hear when something is wrong with your engine you run the risk of driving an unsafe vehicle. Stay up to date with routine maintenance to make sure your car is in proper condition.

Only drive when you feel comfortable: If your hearing loss makes you feel uncomfortable while driving a car it’s best to avoid it. Take advantage of public transportation or other driving alternatives. Driving while stressed or uncomfortable may make you more likely to make dangerous errors, so don’t get behind the wheel unless you are feeling safe and confident.

Reduce distractions: Your eyesight becomes very important when driving a car with hearing loss. Therefore, you can put yourself (and your passengers) in danger if distractions such as electronic devices or food draw your eyes away from the road. You’ll also find that it becomes more difficult to hear important traffic cues if you have the radio on while driving. By cutting out these distractions while you’re behind the wheel you can make sure you’re taking in all the information you need.

Be mindful of your hearing aid: If your hearing is aided by a hearing aid, be sure to use it any time you get behind the wheel. Be mindful of how your car’s atmosphere can influence your hearing aid’s functionality. Don’t be afraid to switch on the AC rather than driving with the windows open. The draft caused by rushing wind can reduce your hearing aid’s effectiveness, potentially putting you at risk.

Hearing loss doesn’t have to keep you from driving if your doctor approves. Stay safe and enjoy the open road.

Check out These Facts on Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, and Veterans

Missing appendages, post-traumatic stress, and brain trauma: These are what many people think of when they think about post-combat injuries. Hearing loss, though, may not often come to mind. Here are 5 facts you may not know about hearing loss among veterans.

  1. The number one injury soldiers suffer from combat is loss of hearing. – Hearing loss, as the most ubiquitous veteran injury, is followed in numbers by PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Severe hearing loss is commonly caused by bomb detonations and general military and combat noise. The deafening sounds of tank, plane, and ship engines contributes to temporary to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, as do explosive devices and other loud weapons. Veterans of the post-9/11 conflicts are the most affected population in terms of hearing loss. Indeed, the numbers of soldiers who suffered hearing loss or tinnitus after the attacks on the World Trade Center swelled to 414,000.
  2. Veterans have been found to be more susceptible to loss of hearing than those who haven’t served in the military. – Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to suffer hearing loss of the severe kind. Even more concerning is that among those who served from September 2001 to March 2010, veterans were four times more like to suffer hearing loss than nonveterans.
  3. Hearing loss may be more prevalent now than it was for soldiers in the past. – Larger and louder weapons technology very likely contributes to higher numbers of veterans with hearing loss. Field generators, “bunker buster” bombs, and loud transportation such as helicopters can be deafening.
  4. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers who come home with loss of hearing do not seek help. – Experts say that too few returning soldiers who suffer tinnitus or hearing loss go to a hearing specialist or audiologist upon returning home – they often live simply live with the problem. Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years.
  5. Severe tinnitus may be eased, thanks to advances in neuroscience. – While there is no cure for tinnitus, some scientists believe there is a correlation between serotonin depletion (which can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia) and the severity of tinnitus. Fortunately, with the help of tinnitus therapies and antidepressants, some veterans have found relief from severe tinnitus.

The Facts on Hearing Loss Among Children

Hearing loss can happen at any age. Noise is responsible for hearing loss in nearly 12 percent of kids from age 6 through 19 says the American Academy of Audiology. The birth defect occurring most frequently in our country is hearing loss. Nearly 12,000 children are born each year with some type of hearing loss says the American Speech and Language Association.

Language development is positively impacted by early intervention. – The earlier in life that hearing losses are identified, the more likely the child is to develop fully normal language skills. Children whose hearing loss was identified before 6 months of age showed dramatic gains in language skill development compared to those diagnosed after 6 months of age. This difference was due to early treatment.

Not every type of hearing loss is permanent.
– Hearing loss could be a temporary problem in some children resulting from issues such as ear wax occluding the middle ear, or ear infections. Medical treatment or minor surgery could be the solution to some hearing loss issues, but early intervention is vital. Chronic (long term) ear infections could cause permanent hearing loss so be sure you seek professional help early on if ear infections are suspected.

Some hearing loss can be prevented. – There are types of hearing loss that are preventable, including noise related damage to the hearing. It’s important to learn how to use protective gear such as earplugs and earmuffs to prevent loud noises from causing damage. And, be sure to keep the volume down on electronic devices.

Hearing loss could delay language development. – Language development in the brain of children is at its highest level between age 0 and 3. Listening is the first experience required for normal speech development in young children. Good language skills are very important in order for a young child to learn how to read.

Parents are often times the first to identify early signs of hearing loss in young children.
– In many instances parents are the very first to notice something is not quite right in young kids with hearing loss. Signs to watch for include: response to music and making jabbering sounds. When babies are nine months or older you should notice that they understand and respond to basic requests and mimic sounds and noises made by others. Be sure to ask your hearing specialist or audiologist for a more conclusive list of signs and symptoms to watch for, as well as his/her recommendation on when your child should have a professional hearing screening.

A Look at the Telecoil Feature Available in Many Hearing Aids

If you’re using or considering purchasing a hearing aid with a telecoil feature, you might be wondering about what it does. As the name implies, a telecoil is a small coil of wire. It sounds simplistic, but it significantly improves the functionality of your hearing aid. This short article will explain the essentials of what a telecoil is and how it works to improve your hearing ability.

Telecoils inside hearing aids detect magnetism. In contrast to conventional microphones and amplifiers, which amplify all sounds they encounter, a telecoil will only transmit sounds that are generated magnetically. The telecoil was first introduced to improve listening ability on the telephone. The speakers in older telephone handsets included powerful magnets. The telecoil-enabled hearing aid could therefore provide a clear transmission of only those sounds coming through the phone. Modern telephones no longer use magnets in this way. But, because the telecoil function is so wonderful for hearing aid users, many modern phones contain supplemental electronics to make them telecoil compatible.

The use of telecoils began with the telephone, but now they are used in many ways. They are often used as part of Assistive Listening Systems in movie theaters, stadiums and auditoriums. These venues will commonly supply headsets or receivers that the hearing impaired can use with their own hearing aids to pick-up the signals. In some cases the magnetic sounds you receive will be a higher clarity than what you could experience acoustically.

The capabilities of the telecoil inside a hearing aid will vary with the age, size and type of the instrument. This function is more prevalent in larger hearing aids, including those with a case that fits behind the ear. In older devices, a tiny switch is used to manually change between microphone to telecoil mode. Newer models are often equipped with program modes, allowing the user to switch on their telecoil by pressing a button on the instrument or on a remote control.

Interference may be an issue when using a telecoil, but it is not common. You may experience a buzzing sound that grows louder the closer you get to a CRT computer monitor, old fluorescent light, or another cause of interference.

The possibility of interference is a small price to pay for the many benefits offered by telecoil-equipped hearing aids. Telecoils are generally inexpensive and definitely worth including in any hearing device.