Dr. Wright's Blog

"I wear them when I need to"

Broadmead Hearing Audiologist asking Do you wear your hearing aids?

 

How often do you wear your hearing aids?

“I wear them when I need to,” is a response that Audiologists hear too often when asking a person how much they have been wearing their hearing aids. Although a person may get hearing aids to help with a specific problem, such as hearing the TV at a volume that is comfortable for their spouse, deciding to wear their hearing aids only when watching TV will significantly limit their hearing rehabilitation. This can possibly lead to long-term issues such as:

  • A decreased ability to understand speech
  • An increased sensitivity to sounds that do not bother the average person

Finding a routine

While most experienced hearing aid users wear their hearing aids as much as possible, new users can struggle to make hearing aids part of their daily routine, often because they are constantly making a decision about “should I wear them right now or not?” When it becomes habit, you eliminate the constant "use them or leave them out?" decision making. Make putting hearing aids on part of your ‘getting dressed’ routine in the morning and taking them out part of your routine of going to bed.

Stimulating your brain

To help your brain habituate to hearing everyday sounds, you need to wear your hearing aids consistently. You should wear them whenever you are not sleeping, showering, swimming, or exposed to loud noises, with few exceptions. For the average person, that means a usage time of at least 10 hours a day. If you only wear your hearing aids when doing certain activities, or for a few hours a day, your brain will not be properly rehabilitated and will never get a chance to get used to hearing everyday sounds.

Remember, hearing aids are used to treat hearing loss by rehabilitating the auditory cortex.  Damage at the level of the ear will reduce the input to that part of the brain which can result in atrophy (if you don’t use it, you lose it).  Using hearing aids can keep the neural tissue in the auditory cortex stimulated thereby improving or maintaining overall auditory processing. Why does this matter? Auditory processing is how well your brain fills in the blanks.  

Filling in the blanks

 “I think i_  mig__t  sn__w  tod_y.” 

Can you read this sentence?  Even though you don’t “see” all of the letters, your visual cortex is filling in the blanks.  Your auditory cortex does the same thing.  It fills in the blanks when your ear doesn’t deliver all the sounds to your brain (because of background noise or distance, for example). People can often hear well in quiet because their brain is filling in the blanks. But in noise, more sound becomes obscured, and the brain has more difficulty piecing it together. Using your hearing aids consistently (even when the environment is seemingly quiet) can optimize the neural tissue in your auditory cortex thereby giving you the best chance at processing when the environment is challenging. 

Audiologists often hear people say, “I don’t need them when I am home alone.”  It’s true that you might not “care” if you hear certain environmental sounds (like your book pages turning, or your fork on a plate) but it doesn’t mean they are not important. These sounds are creating sound pressure waves that travel up the auditory nerve and stimulate the auditory cortex, creating new neural tissue. This is the purpose of amplification. It is rehabilitation.   

If you are struggling to wear your hearing aids regularly, and are motivated to make a change, book an appointment with one of our Audiologists. With extensive training in the diagnosis, treatment, and counselling of hearing loss, our Audiologists can help you find out why you are not wearing your hearing aids and come up with an individualized plan to make them a normal part of your routine.

Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921.

Tips for Communicating With Face Masks & Social Distancing

Tips for communicating with face masks and social distancing
 
Hearing loss affects millions of individuals worldwide every single day, posing communication challenges for many. However, these challenges have increased greatly since the use of face masks and maintaining a safe distance. 
 
It can be difficult hearing and understanding others with untreated and even treated hearing loss:
  • Inability to read lips when the face is covered
  • Trouble hearing from further away when practicing social distancing
  • Sounds can become muffled when someone is speaking behind a mask, face-shields and clear plexiglass dividers
  • Trouble hearing your devices with Increased time at home watching TV, or using the phone and computer to virtually communicate with friends and family
Fortunately, there are some tips and solutions to make this 'new normal' more accessible.

Let others know how they can accommodate you.

Whether it is at work, shopping, or visiting loved ones for a socially distant gathering, let others know you have trouble hearing and what you need to communicate, such as using a messaging system, email or writing a note.
 

Use gestures to show you cannot hear.

If someone is attempting to communicate with you and you cannot hear or understand, gesture to your ear to indicate that you cannot hear what they’re saying. Most are aware of these general gestures and will understand what you’re saying.

Be kind to yourself!

Even those without hearing loss are having these difficulties but it can be even harder for someone with hearing loss or deafness. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s OK not to hear! It’s okay to misunderstand. You’re human.

Have your hearing aids checked or adjusted.

If you're noticing increased difficulty hearing with your current hearing aid settings, let your Audiologist know. There may be adjustments that can be made to help you hear others better as well as your electronics. In addition to an adjustment, we can also suggest various accessories that can enhance the use of your hearing aids.

Have your hearing tested

If you do not wear hearing aids and are experiencing difficulty hearing, give our clinic a call and we would be happy to discuss what you're experiencing and perform a professional Hearing Evaluation.

Utilize & benefit from using Bluetooth®.

You can stream your phone calls, TV, music and more directly to your hearing aids using Bluetooth. It's easy once you get the hang of it - and we can show you how!
 
Speaking and hearing through masks is not a situation any of us could have anticipated, and one we'll be dealing with for the forseeable future. It's important that we all support each other through patience, empathy and acceptance. If you are struggling with communication, please do give us a call so we can help. Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921. 
 
 
 

 

Widex tackles artificial sound

Widex Moment hearing aid in an open hand

 

Overcoming artificial sound

Some new hearing aid users report that their hearing aids have an “artificial” sound. This has become less of an issue as most hearing aid manufacturers have developed sophisticated technology to make hearing aids sound more natural. However, any time acoustic sound waves are converted to a digital signal and then back to an acoustic signal (which is needed to fill in the gaps resulting from hearing loss), we lose some of the “naturalness” of the sound.
 

The culprit behind artificial sound

Some of this lack of natural sound comes from a slight delay between the environmental sound reaching the eardrum naturally versus the sound coming from the hearing aid. This is called the comb-filter effect. Even though this delay is minimal, it creates a slight artificial or tinny sound that many first-time hearing aid users notice if they have a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. 
 
Comb-filter effect showing direct sound and sound at the eardrum

Image by Widex

Reducing sound delay

Widex is reportedly the only hearing aid manufacturer to significantly reduce this delay using its proprietary Widex ZeroDelay™ technology. It’s a new ultrafast signal pathway that lowers the processing delay between the hearing aid microphone and receiver to below 0.5 milliseconds; most other hearing aids have a delay of 3-8 milliseconds. Incredibly, even a delay of 3 milliseconds can result in a comb-filter effect that the hearing aid wearer experiences.
Here is a short video to show how ZeroDelay works. 
 

Mild to moderate loss is affected more often

It is important to point out that the PureSound program is most effective for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss because they are more disturbed by the comb-filter effect. People with more severe hearing loss do not notice the comb-filter effect because most or all of the environmental sound is processed by the hearing aid itself. 
 

Putting the Moment to the test

In a study conducted by Widex, 21 participants (13 with mild-to-moderate hearing loss and 8 with normal hearing) reported their experience using the PureSound program compared with a program with a standard hearing aid delay in 20 different sound environments such as:
 
  • Indoor and outdoor situations
  • Traffic noise
  • Quiet sounds
  • Speech
  • Hearing their own voice
  • Noisy surroundings
  • Specific brief and broadband sounds

Participants found...

85% of the group with hearing loss preferred the PureSound program overall. Widex says the result shows that the PureSoundTM program has superior sound quality for the target group of new and experienced users with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Interestingly, 100% of the participants with normal hearing preferred the PureSound program because it was perceived as a more natural sound. Study participants used descriptions such as “more natural,” “less noise,” and “clearer” when describing the PureSoundTM program compared to the standard delay program. 
 
Widex study of Moment user sound quality preference
Image from Widex study results

The Widex Moment

Styles
The new Widex Moment comes in both behind-the-ear and custom in-the-ear styles. 
 
Rechargeable
It is one of the smallest rechargeable receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids to use a lithium ion battery. 
 
Bluetooth® connection
Some of the models can directly stream to iPhones/iPads and can stream to Android devices using a portable streaming device. 
 
We are currently offering a 6-week free trial of the Widex Moment (ends August 31st!). Call today to book an appointment with an Audiologist at the Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921. 
 

Why are my ears ringing? Tinnitus explained.

Broadmead Hearing What is tinnitus?

 

Tinnitus is often described as a ringing, humming, or buzzing sound. Most people have experienced tinnitus at some point—think of the high-pitched noise that lingers after being at a loud concert or a nightclub. While most people report their tinnitus as “non-bothersome”, for those who are severely affected, it can significantly impact quality of life.

By definition, tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is the perception of sound that cannot be attributed to an external source. When tinnitus is subjective, only the person with the tinnitus can hear the noise. When it is objective, as in the case of a whooshing sound with each heartbeat, a physician may be able to hear the same sound with a stethoscope. 37% of adult Canadians report experiencing tinnitus last year; for 7% it affects their day-to-day activities. 

Tinnitus is a symptom that wears many hats. It may be:
  • Up to 60 different sounds
  • A single sound or multiple noises 
  • Low, medium or high pitched
  • Intermittent or constant
  • Perceived in one or both ears
Because tinnitus doesn’t sound the same for everyone, it’s hard to identify and develop a treatment. This is why treatment and management approaches must be uniquely tailored to an individual’s specific needs. Currently, there are no widely accepted pharmaceutical or surgical interventions for treating tinnitus.
 

What causes tinnitus?

There are a variety of factors that may be associated with tinnitus: 
  • Hearing loss
  • Noise exposure
  • Head injury
  • Thyroid problems
  • Muscle tension in head/neck
  • Specific medications 
  • Other health concerns such as Meniere’s disease

By far, hearing loss is the largest contributing factor with 70-85% of people with hearing loss reporting some tinnitus. 

Broadmead Hearing brain that actually hears not our ears 

Where does tinnitus come from?

Well, we don’t actually “hear” with our ears, we “hear” with our brain. This is an important concept when it comes to understanding the cause of tinnitus. Here’s what one study of chronic tinnitus uncovers:
 
> The peripheral auditory system (outer, middle or inner ear) is damaged
> The brain receives fewer sound signals 
> The brain compensates by increasing neuron activity in hearing pathways
> Resulting in a phantom perception of sound

 

This causes the individual to perceive a sound that is not coming from the external environment. Instead, the phantom sound is generated inside the body by hyperactivity of the neurons in the auditory (hearing) pathways.

Are other systems in the body involved?

Experts suspect that non-hearing related pathways are also impacted by tinnitus. 
 
Autonomic nervous system:
The autonomic nervous system controls our unconscious reaction to a stimulus (i.e. our fight or flight response). Tinnitus may trigger the autonomic nervous system, which responds with a stress response. This can lead to increased blood pressure, trouble sleeping or difficulty concentrating.
 
Amygdala:
The amygdala is responsible for our emotions. Tinnitus triggers the amygdala to associate negative emotions such as depression, frustration, anger or sadness with the tinnitus. 
 
For people who are extremely bothered by tinnitus, it’s likely that the autonomic nervous system and amygdala have been engaged.

Who should treat tinnitus?

People with tinnitus are often told, “You just have to learn to ignore it.” Audiologists do not approach tinnitus this way. Audiologists are trained to investigate potential causes of tinnitus, make referrals to medical professionals and provide counselling and treatment when appropriate. 

Our goal is always to investigate the underlying cause and provide management options and treatment for the individual experiencing tinnitus. Treatment starts with a diagnostic audiologic test battery as part of a thorough tinnitus assessment. 

Tinnitus remedies

Tinnitus treatment often focuses on treatment of hearing loss, mindfulness based stress management, relaxation, reframing emotional responses and habituation. Management approaches are uniquely tailored to the individual experiencing the tinnitus.
 
Permanent hearing loss
Treatment with hearing aids improves tinnitus in about 50% of cases and can remove tinnitus in about 20% of cases. Hearing aids today often have the option of a built-in tinnitus masker that will play white noise, ocean waves or fractal (zen) tones to help with tinnitus habituation and sound enrichment.
 
Habituation
This is the process of becoming accustomed to a stimulus without conscious effort. In other words, treatment focuses on the person’s reaction to the tinnitus. Some of the common management approaches are tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), mindfulness-based tinnitus stress reduction, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 
 
If the individual has trouble sleeping, concentrating at work, or if they are dealing with depression and anxiety related to their tinnitus, treatment approaches will be focused on managing these specific concerns. 

Speak to our Audiologists about managing tinnitus

Tinnitus affects everyone differently. Some people are not as bothered by their tinnitus and put up with the sound day-to-day. Others may find their tinnitus extremely distressing, negatively impacting their quality of life. 
 
If you need relief from tinnitus, speak with us about Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. This therapy is the gold standard in treating tinnitus that does not involve any surgery or medication, and has no side effects. We successfully use sound therapy and counselling strategies to help people gain control over their tinnitus. Call us to schedule a tinnitus appointment: Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-470-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921.
 
 

Hear better ALL summer

Broadmead Hearing Widex Moment Summer 6-week Trial
 
Wind in the trees, birdsong, children's voices, trickling water. This is what natural sound is about.
 
Hearing aid manufacturer Widex has introduced an exciting new rechargeable hearing solution called Moment™ that offers natural sound, even in noisy situations. 

Moment doesn't sound like a hearing aid

Widex says that Moment delivers the most pure, natural sound ever. This is because of the way hearing aids typically process sound. 
 
If sound processed in a hearing aid reaches the eardrum later than sound heard directly, when the two signals mix they can be ‘out of sync'. This lag is what can create an artificial sound in hearing aids. The Moment is equipped with ultra-fast processors that remove the delay, resulting in pure and natural sound like you heard before hearing loss.

Widex Moment also features:

  • Audio streaming from all of your devices, including smartphones & your TV
  • A nano coating that resists moisture
  • Light weight, easy-to-use charger
  • mRIC R D - the smallest lithium-ion receiver-in-canal hearing aid 
  • Fingertip control from your smartphone with the Moment app

Broadmead Hearing Widex Moment man sitting at desk

Try Moment for 6 weeks (at no cost) this summer

We're receiving positive feedback on the Moment from clients who are trying it. If you want to hear more about the features of this new hearing aid - and hear the difference for yourself - request an appointment. We'd be happy to show you how Moment can improve your hearing. Offer ends August 31, 2020!
 
Broadmead Hearing Widex Moment 6-week Trial
If you prefer to call to schedule an appointment please do! Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2921. We look forward to hearing from you.