Dr. Wright's Blog

Interactive Impairment

This week I saw a man who has been using hearing aids for a number of years and he was talking to me about his hearing loss. What struck me, was the way in which he was describing the effects of his hearing loss. He described his hearing loss as “an interactive impairment which is more egregious with his partner.” I thought this was very insightful because often I will hear someone with hearing loss say that they don’t need their hearing aids when they are at home because it is just them and their partner. This man articulated this issue beautifully in my mind because the difficulty that hearing loss causes is not as simple as hearing. It is an interruption to an interaction that has a flow or a life to it. When the flow is disrupted, there becomes frustration or irritation on both sides. In my mind, as well as the articulate Mr. Doyle, the term interactive impairment should be the new way to describe hearing loss.

The New Widex Evoke Hearing Aid

The New Widex Evoke - Release Date May 14, 2018

A new product release is always an exciting time!

Widex is a great hearing aid that we have worked with in past years with their Unique and Beyond platform, but now we get to see a new chip which is improving the hearing aids overall ability to analyze and clean up a noisy signal.

What we know about this new platform from Widex is that they have added to the available fitting rationales from their previous product. They made changes to better meet the needs of different hearing aid users. The goal is to ensure that each different person gets optimal amplification depending on their previous experience using hearing aids.

The Evoke is constantly analyzing the environment around the patient. In Evoke (as compared to their Beyond product), they have made changes to how accurately the sound is categorized. The two new sound classes make a total of 11 sound classes with the new classes being social and classic music. The social sound class is designed to give the best sound in smaller gatherings reducing soft sound from a distance leading to more effortless listening. This effectively creates a bubble around the patient to allow them to hear well in small groups by reducing soft level noises following louder bursts of speech. This same feature helps with the music setting by enhancing the soft parts of music to enrich the overall sound.

Variable speed compressor. Dual compressor design allows the hearing aid to use both slow and fast acting compression to allow for both audibility and intelligibly. The different compressors vary depending on the environment that the hearing aid detects. The fast compressor is best illustrated in the social sound class. The fast compressor is used to make quiet sounds even quieter by reducing them to be below the hearing thresholds.

A new special program called “impact program” is an advanced program optimized for very challenging noisy environments by creating a sharper overall sound to increase speech understanding in noise. This is only available in the Evoke 440.

Widex has four available technology levels from the Evoke 110, Evoke, 220, Evoke 330 and Evoke 440.

If you are interested in this technology, give our office a call and book a consultation with one of our Audiologists.

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.