Dr. Wright's Blog

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

What Does 'Wheel of Fortune' Have To Do With Hearing?

How do they do it?  How is it that some contestants can see:

  ' __ o_ _     _un' on a game show and know that it says “home run”. 

It is because they have strong visual processing ability in the visual cortex and can see what is not there.  

Visual processing can be used as an effective analogy to auditory processing.  With hearing loss, the ear is unable to deliver the full auditory spectrum to the brain, so the brain needs to be able to effectively fill in the blanks to understand the message.  Some brains are excellent at this task.  Think of the group of twenty year olds at the bar not seeming to have any problems hearing one and other. 

It is because their brains are able to fill in the blanks of what the ambient noise is masking.

Auditory processing abilities are different in us all. Generally, the older we get, the more of the signal needs to reach our brains to understand the message. 

Hearing aids are an important part of this equation, but they are not 100% of the solution. 

Two people who have identical hearing loss could function quite differently depending on how well, or how poorly they can process auditory information.