Dr. Wright's Blog

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.  


Phonak Belong Hearing Aids

We are excited to announce that Phonak has just released a new rechargeable hearing aid. It is called the Audeo B-R.


The “B” stands for their new “Belong” platform that features a new AutoSense Operating System. This is reported to deliver 20% better speech understanding in general, a 60% improvement in speech understanding in a noisy environments and a 37% reduction in listening effort when listening in a car. It does this by capturing and analyzing sounds every 0.4 seconds in real-time and then blending multiple features to create over 200 distinct settings to match the sound environment.

The Audeo B-R will be the first hearing aid to have a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery. It will provide 24 hours of hearing after a charge for only 3 hours. The battery is expected to last the lifetime of the hearing aid, even after years of charging. This will be a great option for those with dexterity issues or arthritis. It’s also a more environmentally friendly option as there are no batteries to recycle every week. It has a wide fitting range and can accommodate most hearing losses. You can call us anytime to come in and chat with one of our audiologists about this and other hearing aid options. The Phonak Audeo B-R will be available for order this week.


Is My Hearing Normal For My Age?

One question that I hear often in the clinic is “But my hearing is normal for my age, right?” When we test your hearing, we test frequencies from 250 Hz up to 8000 Hz.

The human ear can hear actually from 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz which is a much wider range than the frequencies we test.  We test the frequencies that are important to hear speech sounds.

Each phoneme, or speech sound, can be plotted on an audiogram somewhere within the frequency range that we test. We call it a speech banana.

If your hearing loss falls below the normal hearing range it means that you are not hearing some or all of the speech sounds.

An age-related hearing loss is common and a survey from the United States suggested more than half of baby boomers are reporting difficulties hearing.

An age-related hearing loss happens gradually over time and usually begins to affect the high frequencies first. This type of hearing loss is expected to cause difficulty hearing in crowds,

soft-spoken people and can make speech sound muffled.

So, there is no such thing as normal hearing for your age; your hearing is either within the normal range or you are missing some speech sounds.