The Latest Technology…

Rebecca Berger – Doctor of Audiology

We’ve noticed a disturbing trend in hearing aid sales in our area. We’re seeing vendors use terms like “the latest available technology”. We can only assume they are referencing “available” as what they carry, since many of these vendors are not selling the manufacturers’ latest technology. Often their technology is one or more generations old in order to sell at a reduced cost. In one case, the hearing aids being sold were literally obsolete!

This distinction is important because hearing aids are medical devices. (Note that term when you see various listening devices advertised without the “hearing aid” reference. They don’t have to meet the rigorous safety requirements of a true hearing aid.) Hearing Aids are pieces of technology not unlike your cell phone. If you buy an older generation of hearing aid you can purchase the technology at a reduced price, but…

  1. It’s not the latest technology. It may not have the bug fixes and enhanced features you can get with the current technology.
  2. It will be obsolete sooner. That doesn’t mean that it will fail, but manufacturers will only support technology for a limited length of time. That length of time is determined by the age of the tech, not when you bought it.
  3. Newer hearing aids use WiFi, Bluetooth and other proprietary methods of connecting to your cell phone and other devices. When you buy older generations of hearing aids, they may cease to work when you upgrade to a newer phone or sometimes, when your phone stays the same, but does an automatic software update.
  4. The cell phone applications you use to communicate with your hearing aid may be updated to run on a new operating system, while at the same time removing some support for older hearing aids.

Buying older technology can reduce your costs. In some cases, we can also sell you an older device, though we discourage it for the reasons listed above. That doesn’t mean we aren’t conscious of your budget concerns. We will help you weigh the cost differences. Even with new technology, there are various levels and cost points supported. As with anything, saving money today sometimes costs you more money down the road.

And remember, technology is not just important in the hearing aid itself, but also in the equipment used to determine whether you have a hearing loss and the appropriate treatment of that loss. The Sound Booth which we previously discussed here is just one of the pieces of tech we have to make sure your fitting is the best possible.

The other disturbing trend we’ve seen is the lack of up front and forthright discussion of the education that Audiologist have vs. hearing aid dispensers and the regulations they must follow. We’ve discussed the differences here before. (See previous post.) Wearing a lab coat does not make you a Doctor. Look for diplomas and other displays of your dispenser’s education. A Doctor of Audiology will have their degrees prominently displayed where you can see them. A Doctor of Audiology is not a medical doctor, but they are a doctorate level specialist in the field of Audiology. They have studied and worked hard to earn the right to put AuD after their name. If they are a Doctor of Audiologist, they will be proud of their doctorate and will be happy to discuss the differences in care and privacy you will receive from them. Don’t let that important difference be downplayed.

Be an informed consumer and ask the right questions.

Marshall County Senior Expo ’19

Come see us at the Marshall County Senior Expo this Thursday, October 17th from 8:00am until 3:00pm. The expo will be at the Plymouth High School, 1 Big Red Drive. See the flyer below.

We will be doing hearing screenings on a first come, first serve basis. This is your opportunity to meet our staff and find out about the latest technology from Dr. Rebecca Berger, Licensed Audiologist.

Clogged Eustachian Tubes

Article from the August 13, 2019 edition of the Pilot News

Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. have been on a hearing health roll here lately with their The YOU Docs column. (See Right) I mentioned one of their articles in my last post and here they are again, with a column titled, “Can allergies affect your hearing?” that appeared in the The Pilot News last Tuesday, August 13th. As the article states, clogged Eustachian tubes can have several causes… all of which are better addressed sooner than later as they can lead to more serious problems. The YOU Docs article ended with a suggestion to see your Audiologist for a hearing test when you feel something is off and then, “Remember, hearing is important to long-term cognitive functioning.”; something I’ve been preaching a lot about lately!

As suggested here, as an Audiologist, I do much more than just provide and service hearing aids. My advanced degree (Doctor of Audiology) is a testament to the rigorous training I have pursued in the field of Audiology. My primary focus is your hearing health, with hearing aids being just one aspect of that care. While I am not a Medical Doctor, I am trained to recognize health issues which warrant a referral to a qualified M.D. I maintain relationships with many qualified Doctors to which I can refer you.

Many of my clients have migrated to my practice from hearing aid dispensers. They are often surprised by the additional depths of analysis I regularly provide. There are important differences, which I am happy to discuss.

Hearing Loss & Dementia

I wrote about this topic last October in a post called Hearing Aid use can Slow Cognitive Decline in Older Adults. An article in The Pilot News yesterday by Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D., titled “Now hear this — and keep dementia at bay“, reiterates the point and prompted me to discuss the issue again. Per the article, when you address your hearing loss and wear your hearing aids, “You strengthen your connection to the outside world and protect your brainpower.” The article cites a study that shows that, “Getting a hearing aid as soon as you start to lose acuity is an important way to reduce your risk of Dementia.

I found another good article on this topic here:  Dementia and Cognitive Decline – the hidden risks of hearing loss

While I haven’t done clinical studies, I can speak to the the huge change I see in some patients once they regain hearing through new hearing aids. I’ve had nursing home clients brought in with their attendant telling me they are non-responsive. Some of these clients light up when they are able to hear again and participate with the world around them. More than one “grumpy old man” has become my friend after we are able to communicate… When these things happen, I’m reminded why I love my job!

Don’t accept cognitive decline as inevitable or just part of growing old. If hearing loss is a contributing factor, see your Doctor of Audiology (Me!) and find out if there is something that can be done to help!

 

Hearing Aid use can Slow Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

It should be common sense that untreated hearing loss and the associated isolation would exacerbate cognitive decline, but a study was completed on behalf of the SENSE‐Cog WP1 group and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 66, Issue 6, June 2018 provides backup data. The conclusion: “Hearing aids may have a mitigating effect on trajectories of cognitive decline in later life. Providing hearing aids or other rehabilitative services for hearing impairment much earlier in the course of hearing impairment may stem the worldwide rise of dementia.”

Note that it also says that addressing this earlier provides the best effect. Just another reason proper hearing health care is important to your quality of life. Don’t forget that changes in your hearing can also be indicators of other issues. As your Audiologist, I can help with these issues, and if necessary, direct you to other health care professionals with advanced skills in these areas.

Hearing Aid Finder

One of the cool things things about today’s hearing aids is all the new connected technology. I’ve talked about the benefits of connecting your hearing aids to your phone here before, but did you know that you can find your lost hearing aids with a phone app? Here’s a story from a hearing aid user that lost his hearing aids at a football game and ended up finding them after sorting through a dumpster. That’s dedication! He used the hearing aid finder app to pinpoint the bag each hearing aid was in! (Find the story here.) Pretty cool stuff!

Check out the Resound site here to see some of the other interesting things you can do with the new technology.

Can Hearing Loss Ruin Your Marriage?

I ran across an interesting article on helpingmehear.com. I thought it was worth sharing. Here’s an excerpt:

“Statistics show that there is a fourfold increase in the divorce rate of couples where one partner has severe hearing loss, as compared to couples where there is no loss or only mild hearing loss. But even mild hearing loss can make you miss or confuse sounds so that you end up not fully hearing what your partner just said. This missed conversation can eventually lead you to withdraw from interactions rather than deal with the frustration. That leads to an overall decline in your quality of life, and it can destroy your marriage.”

You can find the entire article here.

So many times, it’s the spouse that prompts a visit for a hearing test. While I joke about “spousal hearing loss” being the first thing to happen, it’s true that your spouse may often be the first one to notice the problem and is often the one most affected by it. If you find yourself asking your spouse to repeat themselves or just flat don’t hear what they are saying, come see me! Odds are I can help with that.

 

How do I explain this differently???

I had a deer hunter in the office the other day. We did a hearing test. I showed him his audiogram with its peaks and valleys.There’s a strong likelihood that his hearing loss is due to his hunting hobby. Shotgun blasts next to unprotected ears are not recommended. We discussed this. We discussed hearing protection.

He purchased new hearing aids. He was thrilled with the results and then commented, “I bet I’ll be able to hear the deer rustling through the leaves again with these! Can’t wait until deer season to try them out!”

Ugh! How do I explain it differently? Having a hearing loss doesn’t make you immune to additional loss! That is unless you have pushed it to where you’re completely deaf…

Like the guy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wearing his hearing aids, there are times I’ll counsel you against wearing hearing aids too.

IMS Observations

My husband, Kevin, was at an Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) event the other day and I’ve trained (educated) him to look for hearing aids and hearing protection. Ha! He said there were multiple places where you could get ear plugs and most of them included some kind of marketing connection.  Hmmmm… something for me to think about.

Hearing Aids at IMS? Not during a race!!!

He snapped a picture of the gentleman to the right, watching a race with his hearing aids on.Yeah, this is an example of one of those few times I recommend NOT wearing your hearing aid!!! Even with an existing hearing loss, you should be wearing ear protection. You could be damaging ranges of hearing where you were previously adequate.

But then he also saw this cute “Pit Crew”. He spoke to their mother before taking the picture. They got recommendations from their audiologist for the proper headphones for this application. The set the baby on the left is wearing is a hand-me-down from her older sister, so they’re old hands at this. Getting used to them at a young age not only helps make them acceptable, but also starts a life-time habit of hearing protection. Will this prevent them from ever wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say since there are so many potential causes including just advanced age, but it definitely gives them a leg up on others.

Kevin is becoming my #1 salesperson. He actually ran into someone else from Plymouth there and in the conversation on hearing conservation, he found out that he was a hunter and had been stymied trying to find fitted hearing protection for gun use. I can do that! Kevin gave him my card, so I’m looking forward to meeting this gentleman. I’m sure I can make his situation better.

Economical Hearing Options

Steve Martin is working on a new hearing aid prototype. They’re not as unobtrusive as the new behind the ear aids I sell, but it does target that low cost market of people who don’t think looks matter and aren’t concerned with the latest technology.

Celebrity endorsements can make all the difference. Just look at the success of the George Foreman Grille. You don’t necessarily need to have a background in the tech you decide to create to be successful.

I tend to agree with Josh to the left here though. Steve’s old friend Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase had this handled years ago with “News for the Hard of Hearing”. There’s no reason to be concerned about others in the room…

If by chance you aren’t interested in going old school and want to consider some of the latest technology. Give me a call. I’m not as funny as these guys, but I bet I can help you hear better.