Dr. Wright's Blog

3 reasons to get hearing aids before the end of 2016

1. Without fail at the end of each year we have a dozen or so people who are smart enough to realize if they purchase hearing aids within the 2016 calendar year that they can claim this expense as a tax deduction.  This not only goes for hearing aids but also for batteries and repairs.  Added to other medical expenses people incur each year in things like dental, prescriptions and even insurance premiums, the benefits can be worth the extra planning.  If you are considering hearing aids keep this in mind and you can enjoy them over Christmas plus get the tax break!

2. Have improved hearing for the upcoming social season.  Many people have a lot on the go in December and will put off their hearing until the new year.  Why miss all of the Christmas dynamics with Aunt Liz making quiet side bar remarks about Auntie Linda that send you into gut splitting laughter.  Enjoy hearing these moments when they come up.

3.  In January many of the hearing aid companies raise their pricing so you will miss out on some great promotional pricing. Oticon sale pricing will end Dec 31 as will Resound's and Siemens.

New Technology in Hearing Aids

Every few months we see something new come into the hearing aid market.  This is great for those who are hard of hearing because each iteration moves technology closer to the end goal of better hearing.  I would like to recap the newest products we have seen in the last few months.

The newest product:  The Widex Beyond hearing aid.

The Widex Beyond:

This is the newest made for iPhone (MiFi) hearing aid to hit the market.  It will be available for shipping as of January 23, 2017 in Canada.  Clinics like Oak Bay and Broadmead Hearing will have priority access to this aid and it will be available November 30 to our clients. Widex has always done a great job of amplifying the soft sounds in our environments and preserving the nuances of sound.  This new hearing aid promises the longest lasting battery life when considering streaming audio to a hearing aid.  The app that they have designed has more access to user control such as an equalizer band and easy access to changing the microphone pick up.  

The Phonak Belong:

This is Phonak's newest product launched in September 2016 and its primary feature is the rechargeable battery.  It is NOT made for iPhone and still uses the streamer to connect to phones and TVs.  It is nice for those who don't want to change batteries weekly and they have guaranteed a 3 year battery life.  The battery is integrated inside the hearing aid and will need to be returned to Phonak in order to change it.  What they have also incorporated into this product is the new Sound Recover 2.  This is excellent for those who have hearing loss that is profound in the high frequencies because it truly improves speech clarity.

The Oticon Opn:

A June release of this product has given us time to evaluate its effectiveness.  This product has truly improved peoples ability to understand speech in noise.  November 11 was finally the release of their firmware upgrade which will allow us to fit more hearing losses as well as the introduction of the Opn2 and Opn3.  These new additions to the family of Opn aids provide a few more price points.  


Rememberance Day

One of the privileges that we have as Audiologists is learning the stories of the men and women who served our country.  Often these stories are around the incredible noises these people were exposed to which ended up causing hearing loss.  

Audiology as a profession began after many Veterans came home from World War One with devastating hearing loss.  These men were using bullet shells stuffed in their ear canals as hearing protection and when they came home, there were no professionals able to help.  So, we owe our entire profession to Veterans who graciously risked their lives and sacrificed their hearing to protect us. 

Daily, I see the effects of noise on hearing and hear how men had to sleep in engine rooms of ships for months on end with noise so loud you had to shout to be heard.  

It's no wonder these men have tinnitus and hearing loss.  

Thankfully,  Veteran's Affairs Canada is very generous with the provision of hearing aids and tinnitus maskers to support those with hearing loss.

So, on this Rememberance Day we honour those who left their families, sacrificed their health, hearing and often their lives for the rest of us to be free.  

Thank you.  


What is inside a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are becoming smaller and yet more powerful with every advancement in technology. You might be wondering, how can they fit all of that technology in such a tiny space? What exactly goes inside a hearing aid?  

In all hearing aids you will find these 5 basic components: a microphone, an amplifier, a battery, a loudspeaker and a computer chip that is programmed by the audiologist. The microphone picks up the acoustic signal in the environment and converts it to an electrical signal. Most hearing aids have more than one microphone to pick up sound in a more directional manner, which prioritizes sound coming from the front of the listener. The sound becomes analyzed by the computer chip. The processed sound is then sent to the amplifier. The amplifier sends the signal to the loudspeaker which emits the sound into the ear canal towards the tympanic membrane where it can then be processed by the inner ear. In most new hearing aids there is the addition of a 6th component – the wireless antenna for connecting to other wireless devices (e.g. cell phones).

Today’s hearing aids are digital devices which means the “natural” sound waves are converted into digital bits (0,1) that will be processed by the hearing aid. This digital signal processing allows audiologists to have much more control over the settings in the hearing aids. Instead of having devices that “amplify all sounds,” we can selectively amplify only the frequencies where the hearing loss occurs to protect your ears from further damage. We can selectively enhance soft speech while leaving loud speech alone, which makes for a more comfortable sound environment. We can adjust how quickly or effectively the hearing aid deals with background noise. In addition, the hearing aid can better distinguish between different types of “noise.” It will adapt differently based on whether the background noise is a continuous sound, such as a car engine, or whether it’s a more variable sound such as music or other speech.

This is a fascinating time to be entering the world of hearing aids because with every new advancement in computer technology, hearing aids will continue to benefit. According to Starkey “the processing power of the printed circuit board inside a Halo hearing aid is magnitudes greater than the computers aboard the Apollo 11 space shuttle that landed on the moon.”


The Top 3 Newest Hearing Aids

Technology in the industry of hearing aids in changing rapidly.  After returning from two conferences this month, (World Congress of Audiology and The future of Audiology) I can see that the competitive nature of the hearing aid industry is producing some great new technology to meet this increasing need.  This list goes over the newest hearing aid technology and why it might be a good choice for your hearing needs

1.  Phonak Belong Platform:  Released September 12, 2016.

Phonak has long been a leader in the hearing aid industry.  The new Belong hearing aid platform has a few interesting additions most notably being that there is the option to have a rechargeable battery.  This is unlike any rechargeable battery seen in the past because it is integrated into the device itself.  This means it has no battery door at all.  They claim the battery will last for 5 years before it needs to be changed, however this is untested in the hearing aid market, so actual results will remain to be seen.  The charger is sleek, small and has a 24 hour charge.  

2. Oticon Opn: Platform released June 2016.

This paradigm shift for Oticon has proved successful in the hearing aid fittings we have seen to date in our clinic.  Their move away from traditional directionality, (like we see in the Phonak Belong platform), is an industry first.  Their philosophy is to keep the sound scape open and by using sophisticated processing algorithms, reduce ambient noise when trying to focus on a speech signal.  As well, this is one of only three hearing aids that also connect to an iPhone which makes it appealing to those who want better direct hearing on the phone as well as to control their hearing aids using their phones.  It currently is only available in the premium price point class, however they are expanding the class of products to entry level later this fall.  

3. Widex Unique: November 2015 release

Widex has had their Unique platform available for nearly a year at this point, but I am including it on this list because of the feature set that it has in the entry level category.  For those who are interested in great, new technology but are not in the market for top of the line product, then this choice is for you.  The Widex Unique 110 hearing aid has a lot of great features and sound quality for the price point.  

At Broadmead and Oak Bay hearing clinics you can have access to any hearing aid that is made world wide.  We don't stock hearing aids, but rather order the one that is the exact match for your needs.  

If you are interested in a trial of these or any other hearing aid, please contact us at 250-479-2969.