Dr. Wright's Blog

6 ways hearing loss may be affecting your everyday life

What is hearing loss?

 

The sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, convert signals from sound into electrical impulses that the auditory nerve sends to the brain. Hearing loss occurs when the cells are damaged, or stop working, which impacts our ability to hear speech and other sounds.

Hearing loss is common

Nearly 1 in 4 adult Canadians report having hearing loss. Although hearing loss can occur suddenly, most often it develops slowly over time. This delay makes changes in hearing hard to detect, especially for the person experiencing hearing loss (often family and friends will notice first). On average, it takes 7 years before hearing loss makes communication difficult enough to do something about it.

What causes hearing loss?

  • Aging
  • Exposure to noise
  • Certain kinds of medication
  • Serious infection
  • Head injury or accidents
  • Other health conditions

With hearing, you need to “use it or lose it." If a person stops hearing certain sounds—for any reason—the auditory nerve and parts of the brain that process sound get out of practice. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss will allow an Audiologist to bring more of those lost sounds back into hearing range.

Audiologist checking for hearing loss with an otoscope

How can hearing loss affect daily life?

1. In background noise: difficulty hearing in background noise e.g. in a restaurant, at a gathering, with a radio playing.

2. Media: listening to the television or radio at a louder volume than others. (Often friends or family members will comment that the TV is too loud.)

3. Direction of sound: not hearing sounds from behind or when being spoken to from another room.

4. Voices: difficulty hearing whispering, children and women’s voices, or understanding accents.

5. In conversation: having to ask others to repeat several times or explain what has been said.

6. On the phone: being unable to hear the other person speaking on a phone.

For many people, hearing may not be difficult in all situations. For example, a one-on-one conversation in a quiet room may be fine. But there will be other situations where it's difficult hearing such as when more than one person speaks at the same time, when background noise is present, or hearing when you're not in close proximity to the person who's speaking.

Common ways of coping:

It is very common for people to develop ways of coping with hearing loss that don’t solve the problem. 

Withdrawal: “I don’t go out to noisy restaurants anymore because I know I won’t be able to hear the conversation.”

Blaming others: “You mumble. You speak too fast. You don’t speak clearly.”

Pretending: “I nod like I’m hearing as I’m trying to figure out what the person just said.”

Visual cues: “If I watch the speaker’s lips or face it’s easier to understand what I’m hearing.”

The thing is, hearing loss is tiring. It takes so much extra effort to work around hearing loss. Many of our patients with treated loss comment on how much extra energy they have. And it makes them wish they didn't wait so long to address their hearing loss.

Do any of the challenging hearing situations or coping routines sound familiar?

If so, check your hearing with our 2-minute Online Hearing Check.

Online hearing check

 

3 valuable lessons that will help you find lost hearing aids

Broadmead Hearing Masks And Misplaced Hearing Aids

A cautionary tale of a hearing aid lost and found during Covid 19

By Jim Johnston, Oak Bay Hearing Clinic client

Face masks are highly recommended and vital in these pandemic times but as most of you will have found out, donning and removing them poses special hazards for your hearing aids and possibly your wallet. 

I have just gone through the experience of losing one in, or adjacent to, a Capital Iron and going through conniptions.  Luckily, I found my hearing aid after a two-hour search, all thanks to great advice from Dr. Erin Wright and Tracy at the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic, my hearing aid’s smartphone app and three Capital Iron staff who gave me lots of help, advice and encouragement. So I thought you might appreciate the lessons I have learned and some tips. 

"Being prepared to lose your hearing aids

will lessen your panic if this ever occurs."

Be careful putting on your mask

I’m generally careful donning and removing my mask, but it’s easy to slip up. My first mistake that morning was putting it on as I walked to the store across the car park, road and sidewalk. My second mistake was my failure to stop inside the entrance to the store and check that both of my hearing aids were firmly in place, were working and that my jacket collar was turned down. If I had dislodged my hearing aid in my 30-metre approach to the store, it would have been almost impossible to find it amongst the leaves and mud.  

Lesson 1: put on your mask in a controlled location

Put your mask on in a location where:

  • You can check that your hearing aids are still in place.
  • You can easily find and pick up the hearing aids if they have been dislodged.

My left hearing aid must have fallen from my ear as I put the mask on, fiddled with the straps and then got caught up in my collar from where it fell some 5 to 10 minutes after I entered the store and talked with an attendant. (Since he was on my right I didn’t notice the loss of my left aid while talking with him.)  

I then spent another 20 minutes looking for other merchandise in several departments before leaving the store, removing my mask twenty metres along the sidewalk, and realizing, Oh hell! I’ve lost my hearing aid. I began retracing my steps, focusing initially on the locations where I had put on my mask and removed it. No sign of it. Then I retraced my steps throughout the store. Still no hearing aid. By this stage, three shop assistants who had helped me initially with my shopping were now diligently searching for my hearing aid in between helping customers. 

Then I remembered that there was some sort of assistance for lost aids; I called the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic.

Lesson 2: don’t panic

  1. If you have lost an aid, DON’T PANIC.  There is hope.
  2. Persevere.

Dr. Erin Wright advised that:

  • My ReSound hearing aid Smart app with the Find My Hearing Aid function might help.  
  • I was covered by insurance with a $300 deductible because my hearing aids were less than three years old.
  • The effectiveness of the Find My Hearing Aid function might depend on whether I had activated the Phone app since turning on my hearing aids that morning.
  • And of course, it would depend on me having Bluetooth® switched on.  

Oh, no, I thought, I haven’t switched on my ReSound Smart app for at least a month.    

Using Find My Hearing Aid, Status, and other smartphone functions

ReSound Smart app

I opened the Smart app, and then selected Find My Hearing Aids under the Features section. The signal strength for the left hearing aid was zero, and its location on the map was blank. It said it had last seen my left hearing aid in February! OH GREAT.  

I was saved by the fact that I had a good idea where I had walked. Once I entered Capital Iron, I started to get a faint (but highly fluctuating) signal for my left hearing aid. This increased in strength as I climbed the stairs to the first department I visited, although it continued to fluctuate wildly and wasn’t easy to infer the average signal strength. 

The Status panel also indicated that both hearing aids were connected. Eventually, I worked out how the “in-store map” (just a blank graph grid) was oriented relative to the indicated flags for each hearing aid and the dot for the phone (by leaving the right hearing aid in another department and moving my phone around). However, the spatial accuracy was poor so I spent 40 minutes searching through every bit of merchandise on a shelf where the map showed the left hearing aid to be—and where I had first made enquiries—only to find the hearing aid in the middle of the aisle 15 feet away. Luckily it was in perfect condition with no apparent damage from passing shoes and boots (including mine which had passed over it at least three times as I retraced my steps). 

One of the shop attendants suggested an additional strategy to pin down its location. Open up a song on the phone, turn up the volume and see if I, or someone with good hearing helping me, could hear the music on the lost hearing aid in the search zone. I wasn’t able to test this approach at the time because I don’t have songs on my phone and I was having trouble getting WIFI reception to open a streaming service (and my phone was getting low on charge). I have since found the external sound from my left hearing aid is very faint even when the phone is at maximum volume. 

Lesson 3: practice finding a lost hearing aid

  • Determine your insurance coverage and deductible so you can make an informed decision about what sort of search time you want to engage in.
  • Familiarize yourself with your phone app and whether it has a Find My Hearing Aid app.  Even if it doesn’t, the Status function on most phones should tell you if the lost hearing aid is in Bluetooth range.
  • Familiarize yourself with how the Find My Hearing Aid function works, including the Map and Signal Strength screens. Simulate a search situation within your home. Try and determine its accuracy.  
  • Get into the habit of turning on the phone app each morning after you put your hearing aids in, even if you then turn it off.
  • Record a sound memo that is loud and piercing from a distance of several feet from your hearing aids when the phone volume is cranked up that you can play just in situations like this. 

Being prepared to lose your hearing aids will lessen your panic if this ever occurs. Be mindful of putting your mask on in a controlled environment. Become familiar with the smartphone apps that can help you locate your hearing aids. Practice – just like a fire drill, preparing for the situation will increase your chances of retrieving the lost hearing aids. And remember that you can call your Audiologist at the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic or Broadmead Hearing Clinic for help.

Jim Johnston

Is it normal for one ear to hear better?

Is it normal for one ear to hear better? Bunny with big ears

Update to original article published 04/05/2017.

Does it seem like you hear better with one ear compared to the other?

Maybe you’re not sure, but you may unconsciously be doing things like: 

  • Turning your head to one side when listening.
  • Cupping your hand around one ear to hear better.
  • Always using the same ear when you’re on the phone.

You may notice tinnitus, a humming in one ear and not the other. (Tinnitus can also be perceived as ringing, buzzing or another sound.) Or you may say, “My hearing is gone in one ear” or “I’ve gone deaf in one ear.” 

All of the above may be signs that you’re favouring one ear over the other. It can be an indication of hearing loss in one ear. If this sounds familiar, you should speak with an Audiologist about a hearing evaluation.

What can cause hearing to change in one ear?

Hearing that is worse in one ear can be an indication of a medical condition.

  • Cerumen (wax) in the ear canal
  • Bone growth
  • Growth on the vestibular nerve
  • Head injury
  • Infection

Sudden deafness—which often affects only one ear—should be considered a medical emergency. 

Do we hear the same with both ears?

Not exactly. The way we hear sound begins with our ears and ends with our brain. The sounds we hear with the right ear are interpreted by the left side of the brain and vice versa. 

Because we process information differently on the left side of the brain (analytical) versus the right side (intuitive), our ears recognize the difference between types of sound and send those sounds to the corresponding side of the brain. Researchers say that if you’re a left-brain thinker, you most likely hold a phone up to your right ear. And without you knowing it, your left ear will be taking the lead amplifying sustained sounds like music.

Each side of our brains processes sound differently

Because we process sound differently in each ear, an Audiologist should treat hearing loss in both ears so that we hear sound in a balanced way.

What is otosclerosis?

Otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth around the ossicles, the small bones in the middle ear cavity, is a common reason for unilateral (one-sided) hearing loss. This condition will reduce the mobility of the eardrum and significantly limit the ability of the sound waves to be conducted through these middle ear bones.   

Do you feel pressure in your ear?

An asymmetrical hearing loss could also indicate a vestibular schwannoma, which is a small, slow-growing benign growth on the vestibular nerve. A vestibular schwannoma is often referred to as an acoustic neuroma. It can cause hearing loss in one ear from pressure on the auditory nerve or dizziness from pressure on the adjacent vestibular nerve.  Common symptoms include a feeling of pressure in the ear, as though you have water in your ear, ringing in one ear and hearing loss.

What is sudden deafness in one ear?

Sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), also known as sudden deafness, occurs in one ear in 1/10 people. Often, a person notices SSHL upon waking in the morning, though some may experience a rapid loss of hearing over several days. People with SSHL may become dizzy, experience tinnitus, or hear a “pop” sound before their hearing disappears. Typically, it affects adults in their 40s and 50s. 

SSHL is a medical condition that requires immediate treatment. Often people put off seeing help because they think ear wax, allergies or a sinus infection is causing the hearing loss. Early treatment improves the likelihood of recovering hearing.

An Audiologist can diagnose SSHL by conducting a hearing test and determine the next steps for treatment.

What if I favour one ear?

There are several reasons, including common conditions, that hearing can decrease in one ear. However, hearing better in one ear is not normal and should be evaluated as soon as you notice the difference.  

If you feel you’re favouring one ear, speak with an Audiologist. Call us at the Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2926 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921 or request an appointment online.

New Technology Event: Introducing ReSound ONE

Broadmead Hearing introduces ReSound ONE hearing aids

 

For this year's new technology event we're featuring the new Resound ONE™ which just launched a month ago. Its revolutionary M&RIE (pronounced "marie") technology and 3rd in-ear microphone uses the unique shape of your ear to collect sounds around you naturally. 

You're invited!

Oak Bay: Monday, Nov. 2ND & Wednesday, Nov. 4TH

Broadmead: Tuesday, Nov. 3RD & Thursday, Nov. 5TH

  • Then try the ReSound ONE for 6 weeks for FREE.

LIMITED SPACES. Call today, or request an appointment online, to reserve your spot!

Broadmead Hearing Fall Demo Event Offers

Why the ReSound ONE?

ONE is the first technology to place a 3rd microphone inside your ear. This additional microphone uses your ear’s own acoustic properties for more natural sound quality, reduced wind noise, and improved background noise reduction. ONE works with the unique shape of your ear to collect sounds, just as nature intended.
 
ONE also features:
  • Wireless connection to your smartphone, TV and music
  • ReSound Assist provies access to remote care hearing services
  • The best rechargeable battery life – up to 30 hours
  • Ultra Focus which allows you to minimize background noise to focus on the speech directly in front of you 

30 hours of rechargeable battery life

ONE hearing aids offer the longest rechargeable hearing aid battery life, with up to 30 hours¤ of continuous wear time on a single charge or 25 hours with the ability to stream as much as you want. The charger holds three additional charges, so if you go away for the weekend, or are not near an electrical outlet for a few days, you can still charge your hearing aids.

ONE offers two different charger options that serve as stylish, portable and protective cases. Choose the Premium Charger with an onboard battery for up to three days of quick charging on the go, without the need for a power outlet. Or the ReSound ONE Standard Charger gives you all the at-home charging capabilities you need in a small elegant design.

Broadmead Hearing ReSound ONE premium charger

Lots of connection

ONE works with multiple accessories, including remote microphones, a TV streamer, and remote control with an easy-to-read screen. All are easy to adjust if you’re tech-savvy or prefer simplicity.
 
The ONE product line is compatible with both iPhone and Android devices. Their Smart3D app allows the user to customize the sound around them by filtering out unwanted noise, improving speech clarity, and adjusting bass, mid, and treble amplification. Find out here if your smartphone is compatible with ONE.
 
ReSound ONE is smartphone compatible
 

Interested in trying ONE?

Save your space at the Demo Days Event or schedule an appointment with an Audiologist.
 
 
*With a Demo Days appointment
¤Expected battery life dependent on active features, the use of wireless accessories, hearing loss, device age and sound environment.
 
 

Will a personal sound amplifier help me hear better?

Broadmead Hearing PSAP personal sound amplification product

What is a PSAP?

A personal sound amplification product, commonly referred to as a “PSAP”, is a device that makes sounds louder. PSAPs can look like earbuds, headphones, or a hand-held amplifier with a microphone. Some PSAPs are shaped like hearing aids which is confusing; a PSAP is not a hearing aid. Only a licenced professional can fit hearing aids; they are never sold over-the-counter.
 
PSAPs are sold at drugstores, online, or electronics retailers. They range in price from $10 - $500. 

Who are PSAPs for?

PSAPs are intended to amplify sounds for people without hearing loss. PSAPs can be used to highlight a particular sound in a listening environment, such as a bird’s call. PSAPs are not designed for everyday use, or for varied listening situations.
 
Uses for PSAPs: 
  • Lectures or speakers
  • Bird watching
  • Hunting
  • Listening to distant conversation
  • Watching TV

How are hearing aids different than PSAPs?

Hearing aids are micro-computers that amplify sounds and are programmed to a person’s individual hearing loss. As Audiologists, we recommend that people with hearing aids wear them all day, every day, in situations ranging from quiet conversation at home with a family member, to watching to TV, to going to dinner with friends at a favourite restaurant.
 
PSAPs amplify sound, but can’t be programmed so it’s kind of like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer; the devices can over-amplify high frequency sounds and low-frequency sounds, including background noise, all at the same level. PSAPs can be purchased off-the-shelf and do not require a hearing test

Why the cost difference?

Many consumers know there is a cost difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplification devices, but don’t understand why. 
 
A few major reasons:
 
Research and development cost of the manufacturer
Hearing aid manufacturers spend millions of dollars each year improving their technology. They must publish studies to demonstrate that their hearing aids features work as intended.
 
Technology
Hearing aids have much more advanced signal processors with features that allow for managing the varied environments around the user. In short, better hearing in noise, and more custom fit to an individual’s unique hearing loss.  On top of this are advanced Bluetooth® connection to apps, TV, audio and music, and rechargeable functions.
 
Hearing aids come with Audiological care 
PSAPs do not come with professional services, while hearing aids have the wearer covered! 
 
Hearing aids include:
  • Professional care with an Audiologist 
  • Hearing assessment
  • Hearing aid fitting
  • The cost of servicing the hearing aids
  • Follow-up care
  • Counselling and auditory rehabilitation 
 
The bottom line is that a PSAP is not a hearing aid. A hearing aid will help a person with untreated hearing loss hear better in daily life and keep the brain healthy through exposure to a full range of sounds.

If you have difficulty hearing see an Audiologist

If you want to hear better, it is best to seek the help of a professional Audiologist who will diagnose your hearing loss, and make appropriate recommendations for management. 
 
Studies show that about 1 in 10 people have hearing loss that negatively affects their ability to communicate. However, it is an under-treated health condition, with most people waiting on average 7-10 years from the time they are diagnosed with hearing loss to the time they seek treatment. The concern with using an over-the-counter solution to compensate for not hearing well is that treatment for hearing loss may be further delayed. With your hearing, “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies.
 
If you want to hear better, or learn more about how PSAPs compare to hearing aids, schedule an appointment with an Audiologist at Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250.479.2921.