Dr. Wright's Blog

Get Found in the Hearing Loss Crowd

Gael Hannan is a writer, actor and public speaker who grew up with a progressive hearing loss that is now severe-to-profound. We were lucky enough to have her speak at our Healthy Hearing Expo earlier this month.

We're happy to share her recent article below, about her visit to our expo:


Last week, I did a presentation at a hearing health fair in Victoria, BC.

The popular event by Broadmead Hearing has been running for nine years. Free of charge, people can talk to manufacturers of hearing aids and assistive technology, as well as organizations that offer other hearing-related services such as counseling, job support, speechreading, etc. Throughout the morning, there were half-hour presentations on issues such as tinnitus, what’s new in technology, the impact of hearing loss on our lives, and my offering, something along the lines of you’re-not-the-only-one-going-through-this-OK?  

There was no free lunch or prizes such as a set of upscale hearing aids a trip for two to Paris, yet hundreds of people came and went through the day.

 What was free was exactly what the participants wanted and needed: information – good, firsthand information from them that knows such hearing professionals and the companies that make the technology we depend on.

Most important, in my opinion, was the opportunity to hobnob and chat with other people who have hearing loss.  As I walked around openly staring at people, it was clear that many of them had brought someone along for moral support. Or maybe a last-ditch, desperate attempt by a spouse to convince his or her partner to please, please, please do something about your hearing. Or I’m leaving you.  

There were also senior lady friends dressed up for tea at the Empress after they took spin around the hearing aid booths. This sort of outing is becoming more common these days, I’m guessing. “Yo, Cynthia, fancy a look at the latest hearing aids and then go for a beer?”

But it was clear that complete strangers were also sharing information. I saw and (partly heard) an interaction between two men talking to a hearing aid representative over a display of the company’s hearing aids. What follows is my best shot at what I heard. OK, I added a bit of stuff and I have also protected the name of the hearing aid in question.

Mr. X (to the manufacturer rep behind the table):  I wear one of those.

Rep:  Do you? That’s great. Which one?

Mr. X: Um, I forget…this one. (He pulls it out of his ear.)

Rep: Oh yes, our PowerEar2 model. Do you like it?

Man: Not really, no.

Rep:  I’m sorry to hear that. What’s the problem?

Man: Well it was expensive, but it just doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to.

Mr. Y (who’s been listening in):  You don’t like it, eh? The woman who lives down the hall has the same one but she’s always grumbling about it, and now you say it doesn’t work very well….

Rep: Let me see it.  (He calls an audiologist over to look.)

Audiologist: Oh hi, Mr. X! Oh…when was the last time you changed the wax guard?

Man: You changed it for me the last time I saw you.

Audiologist:  But Mr. X – I haven’t seen you in months!

Mr. X: I have to change them that often?

Mr. Y: You have to change it often?  Change what? Is it difficult?

Rep produces fresh wax guards and the Audiologist demonstrates to Mr. X and Mr. Y how to change the guard. Mr. X puts the hearing aid back in.

Mr. X: Oh goodness, that’s much better. Like new

Mr. Y (to Rep):  How much dos this cost…….

And there you have it, an almost accurate reconstruction of a positive interaction between consumers and professionals. Hearing health fairs, lectures on hearing loss, speechreading courses, conferences – all of these put people in the company of others who have valuable experience to share. Don’t be lost on your own, get found in a crowd.

Gael Hannan

Widex Zen Therapy for Tinnitus

Today I had a follow up appointment with Melody from Nanaimo, BC.  Melody has been bothered by tinnitus for the last few years. She mentioned it to her doctor, who referred her to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, who then referred her to the Audiology clinic at St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver. 

The Audiologist at St. Paul's referred her to me in Victoria to manage her tinnitus.  Thanks to her persistence with this issue she found me and we went over her issues and decided to manage her tinnitus using Widex Zen Therapy.  Widex is a hearing aid manufacturer that has a way of using what's called a fractal tone to manage tinnitus. 

The problem with tinnitus isn't the sound itself, but it is the autonomic nervous systems reaction to the sound that we try to address.  This "fight or flight" system is keeping the central nervous system on high alert all the time due the "threat" that it perceives the tinnitus to be.  It is a bit like moving into a house near the train tracks.  The first night you wake up thinking the train may crash into your house because it sounds so loud.  The autonomic nervous system wakes you up to this threat,...the first night.  The next night, you body allows you to sleep through the train noise because it has habituated the signal.  Now we have just hit on the key word in this whole process:  HABITUATION.  This is different than getting used to it.  When habituation happens, the autonomic nervous system is no longer telling the brain that there is a threat.  And the tinnitus can "release its grip" so to speak. 

Melody's appointment today was a ray of sunshine and a text book case of habituation success.   

Phonak Launches the new “Made for All” Hearing Aid

On September 11, 2017, Phonak Canada launched a new hearing aid called Audeo Beyond Direct. This hearing aid is a member of the Beyond family of hearing aids that has been out for about a year. What makes it different, is that it is the first hearing aid that is able to stream phone calls to the hearing aid from an Android phone. Made for iphone hearing aids have been around since about 2014, but no one has yet to crack the code on the Android platform until the Beyond Direct.

Some of the features you can expect as a result of Phonak’s new “AirStream” technology:

1. It can stream sound from a phone call in through the hearing aid directly without a streamer/com pilot or any middle man device. Cons: It can only stream to one hearing aid and it cannot stream music off the phone.

2. It is the first truly hands free device on the market. This means, you can leave the phone in your bag, and when it rings, you can answer the phone by pressing a button on the hearing aid. The microphone on the hearing aid picks up your voice, and streams it back to the caller so you never have to touch the phone itself. A wonderful feature if hand’s free is important.

3. You can not have both the streaming feature to the Android AND a rechargeable battery. You have to choose.

4. If you choose this hearing aid, it will not connect to any remote control or other of the Phonak accessories. However, it does come with a TV device, that you can plug into any audio system to stream music or TV to BOTH hearing aids.

This is a welcome addition for people who use their cellphone a lot for receiving phone calls. And an amazing breakthrough that will only spawn more products in the future. If you are interested in trying this product, please let our clinic know and we can set you up with a demo.

Resound launches the new Linx3D

True to its nature, Resound is again, leading the industry in innovation.  Resound is one of the six big hearing aid manufacturers and has historically been first to market with numerous technological innovations, including the first hearing aid to connect to the iPhone.  Resound has recently released their new Linx 3D hearing aid.  This product is similar to their existing Linx2 hearing aid but with updates to the operating system and an improved microphone directionality system which is designed to be able to hear from all directions in more complicated environments.  But the biggest and most exciting development is with the ability to make remote adjustments to the hearing aids.  Audiologists will be able to make an adjustment to the hearing aid without you having to come into the clinic.

This is how it works.

  1. You order and are fitted with the hearing aids by your Audiologist in the clinic.  The Audiologist connects your hearing aid to your iPhone (this feature works only if your hearing aids can be connected to your iPhone/iPad/iPod).  
  1. You take them into your world and notice how you are hearing.  If you are having trouble, you can send a message to your Audiologist through the app on your iPhone. For example, you might say, “I’m reading my newspaper, and the sound of paper rustling is far too loud.” 
  1. The Audiologist would retrieve this message on her computer the following day, make an adjustment to the settings in your hearing aid, and send those adjustments through a dedicated cloud back to your iPhone. You will receive a message through your app and when you accept it, the hearing aids will automatically download the new settings.

We would prefer to do all of our adjustments face-to-face in the clinic. However, this feature would be handy for those who live a distance from their clinic or find travel to be difficult.  A few of our clients live live in Qualicum Beach and even as far as Haida Gwaii.

All of this enhanced technology has not spiked the cost of the hearing aid.  It is comparable in price to the other major hearing aid manufacturers. If you think this technology would be worth a try, give us a call and book an appointment to see one of our Audiologists.

Is it normal to have a ‘better ear’?

Have you noticed that you hear better with one ear compared to the other ear? If you have noticed that you are turning your head to one side to hear better, you are hearing better on the phone with one ear compared to the other, or if you have tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing, humming) in one ear and not the other then you may have hearing loss in one ear.

This is not normal and an assessment should be carried out by an Audiologist to determine why hearing in one ear is better compared to the other.

Hearing that is worse in one ear could be an indication of a medical condition. Otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth around the ossicles, the small bones in the middle ear cavity is a common reason for unilateral hearing loss. This condition will reduce the mobility of the eardrum and significantly limit the ability for the sound waves to be conducted through these middle ear bones.   

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 and 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.

There are several medical conditions which can cause a decrease in hearing but the lesson is that hearing better in one ear is not normal and should be evaluated as soon as you notice the difference. 

If you are lucky, it is just a blockage of cerumen or wax in the ear canal.

Aisling Smyth, M.Sc., R. Aud