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10 Things You Can Do for Tinnitus

Tinnitus is on my mind today and that’s because I’m off the grid, in the middle of nowhere at my parents house.  How quiet is it out here?  Many years ago after they finished building their house I came to visit.  We were on the porch, everyone talking and I kept hearing a noise.  It was indescribable and it drove me nuts not knowing what it was. I stopped the conversation finally to ask “What is that?”  And of course everything sounded normal to them so it took a bit to pin down the noise I wanted.  “There!  That noise,” I yelled when I heard it again.  My mom said,  “You mean hummingbirds?”  I was aghast.  I could not believe how loud they were.  At home I couldn’t hear them due to traffic or city noise so I guess I forgot what they sounded like.  


Today it’s early February so isn’t porch time yet. My parents aren’t listening to the radio as they normally would avoiding today’s political environment.  None of us watch TV much either so it’s quiet in the house too. I hear my tinnitus all too well.  My tinnitus sounds like cicadas, crickets and has a high pitched squeal 24 hours a day , 7 days a week.  Luckily I habituated years ago so it’s not driving me crazy but it is noticeable.  


Memories of tinnitus are drifting in and out.  I remember when tinnitus struck back in 1987 and I was told by the ENT to go home and learn to live with it.  He gave me no other suggestions nor information.  I couldn’t sleep and I was a zombie during for days at school.  Every night I laid awake hating the sudden invasion and wished I could just die.  Only with much determination did I make it through that time period and was able to push tinnitus to the side.

I didn’t think too much about my tinnitus for many years, it was there but in the background only.  Then working as a hard of hearing assistant, I was asked to edit a tinnitus presentation into a class.  I spent weeks organizing the information and researching tinnitus on the internet.  I hadn’t heard my tinnitus so well in years! I was so happy when I finished the project.

Once or twice a year I teach the class and it always throws me back to my early days when I suffered from it as I listen to others tell their story.  At least there’s more information available today thanks to the internet than what I had in 1987.  It’s wonderful of the state of Utah to offer this class to help others.  Together we talk about it and I always hope I helped them at least a little bit.  Today I thought I’d write up a list of things to help other people as well.


Tinnitus is most vicious at night because the world is quieter.  All we want is to sleep and it seems impossible with all that racket in our head.  We lay there awake..thinking about it, hating it, crying or pissed off.  It’s at the forefront of our thinking and it’s evil.  

Here’s some things you can do to help you sleep.  The trick is to take your mind away from your tinnitus and place it elsewhere.  If you find yourself focussing on your tinnitus, take the focus away to something else.

  1. Soft noise.  Turn on the fan. Get a fish tank that bubbles. Use soft music or the TV.  There’s small water features you can buy to keep on the nightstand. Get some environmental sounds to listen too. (I use an app on my phone called SleepStream 2 and I love it.  There is a fee.)
  2. Try something visual.  I know some people don’t like lights at night so experiment.  Try fiberoptic lights or something like a projection of the night sky on the ceiling.
  3. Some people claim aromatherapy distracts them from their tinnitus at night.  Find a soothing scent.
  4. Create a regular bed time habit and make it a comfortable routine.  Turn off the TV, read a bit, have a cup of tea.  Create a peaceful atmoshphere with light background noise. 
  5. Find your happy place.  Start creating a visual in your mind of your perfect place. Counting your blessings also works, not matter how small it starts, the list will get bigger.


During the day it’s a little easier to ignore tinnitus but in quiet places or at idle times it can sneak up on you.  Again, every time you catch yourself thinking about your tinnitus take it away to something else.

  1. Mindfulness works.  If you’re dusting furniture and the ringing is driving you nuts, focus instead on the dusting-the motion your hand makes, the smell of the furniture polish, the trails you make in the dust as you go.  
  2. Keep light noise in the background.  Don’t make it too loud because sometimes loud noise can make tinnitus work.  Use the radio, some music, the TV.
  3. Some people started a new hobby when tinnitus struck.  I remember a story of guy who took up running to ‘run away’ from his tinnitus.  He used it to work through his tinnitus and enjoyed it so much he became a marathon runner.  Have you always wanted to paint?  Take and art class.  Take a dance class or start attending a climbing gym.  Having something new to do will give you a new focus.
  4. Many hearing aids have a tinnitus program option.  Whenit’s quiet at the office, I’ll turn on my tinnitus program and I hear crashing waves in the background.  If someone comes in and starts talking to me, the waves fade away and I still hear environmental noise.
  5. Here’s your excuse to go get a message.  Tense shoulders leads to a tense neck and even a tight scalp.  It could be making your tinnitus worse.  It won’t take away your tinnitus but maybe you’ll feel more relaxed and able to deal with the tinnitus better.

These are practical tips.  I don’t know much about alternative therapies so I won’t get into that.  The American Tinnits Association (ATA) which talks about those therapies and you can explore them on your own.  The ATA has tons of good information on tinnitus and you can read the latest updates on studies too.

Some people have tinnitus triggers and spikes.  Mine is a lack of sleep and it will make my tinnitus scream!  I warn people it will be a bad hearing day on those days.  For other people it’s loud noises, over the counter meds, diet (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, salt) or smoking.  None of those things affect me but lack of sleep will.  It’s different for everyone.  

If you’re feeling suicidal because of tinnitus, please reach out for help.  I know someone who was and sought help and successfully habituated tinnitus.  You can move beyond it!

The Ditto

I got the Ditto about a month ago, curious to try things out that might help the hard of hearing.

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picture from pc world

The Ditto is an alerting devices for phone calls (I rarely do the phone), incoming texts, email and more.  It has a good, strong vibrate for such a little thing and it has several options of vibrating patterns.  I had a few people ask me why I wanted to try this because our phones alert us in several ways.  So here’s my deal…

My phone is always silenced.  Any noise that I can hear from any distance is going to be LOUD and obnoxious.  When it’s that loud, it scares me half to death when it goes off.  I have a flash alert set instead which works when I’m near the phone and remember to place it face down so I can see the flash.  If I’m out and about, it’s in my purse or in a pocket unless I’m expecting a text then I’ll carry it in my hand, hopefully face down to see the flash.  This makes me pretty attached to my phone and my hands full at times.  It might be nice having the Ditto but I didn’t expect to like it much because it is Bluetooth and drains the battery on my phone.

 

I tried it out driving to the SayWhatClub convention in Boise at the beginning of August.  I kept it plugged into the car charger.  It was nice to know when texts were coming in and I knew to look when I stopped.  Then I wore it the next day because I kind of liked not having my phone in my hands all the time.  I tried it in the pool (it’s water proof) at the hotel.  It seemed to lose the bluetooth connection and the ‘tether’ alert would go off.  (Tether is an alert designed to tell you when you are too far away from your phone or forgot it somewhere.)  That night I went out on the Boise Brew Cruise I kept it on (charging my phone before I left).   The cruise took us to 3 Boise brew pubs and my phone and the Ditto kept up.

So I started wearing the Ditto more because at the convention not only do I have my family/friends texting as normal but we attendees also start texting each other for information on activities and such.  I’m also charging my phone a lot more but I don’t mind because it’s useful for me.

At home I continued to wear it because I liked not carrying my phone around with me.  I wore it at work so I didn’t get behind on texts, mostly what’s going on at home and things can happen fast at home.  Yesterday I forgot to take it to work with me and I missed it.  I’ll have to start tucking it into a purse pocket.

I don’t use it all the time because sometimes I like having a break from my phone or maybe I’m not doing anything more than watching TV so I can check my phone.  I’m glad I have the device though, it’s frees my hands up and I can forget about my phone for a while confident I’ll get the alert.

The only time the vibrate freaked me out is when I was in the backyard with the bees.  My husband has a hive of bees and bees can freak me out.  The bees were thirsty, zooming back and forth in the yard looking for water.  I was trying to get some toys out of the shed for my grandsons while keeping my cool.  My tether alert went off and I did this freaky dance in the yard slapping at my collar-bone while turning a circle.  It took me a few seconds to figure it was the Ditto and gather my wits again.  It probably looked funny but the 5 yr old and 1 yr old didn’t catch the humor.  They were just looking at me crazy like wondering what I was going to do next.

* Texting is my main mode of communication.  I think in an average month I send and receive around 2,000 texts.  My record is around 4,000 and that was about 4 years ago.

 

Summer Busy

I keep thinking I need to post but haven’t had much time between summer camp trips, work, family and holidays. I’m not done writing about hearing loss by far but I haven’t had a lot of sit down time at my computer either. Even now I’m tapping this all out on my phone. 

Summer fun (and work) also involves the SayWhatClub convention coming up August 3-6 in Boise, Idaho. I have so much fun at their conventions and look forward to every year. I’m also on the convention committee which means a chunk of my time goes into helping to put this event on. The last month always has its challenges, the main one being getting a temporary hearing loop put in.  None of the audio visual companies up there are willing to put in a loop. Most haven’t even heard about it so I got to do a little educating at the very least. 

It’s like Boise is in the dark ages in regards to hearing loss needs. Not only are we having problems with the loop but there are issues with getting a play captioned at the Shakespeare Festival. They are really dragging their feet over this.  Boise needs us. 

In spite of the problems I know things will come through. I’m reminded that success is not a straight line. 


I will have fun. Here’s picture of past fun…

2012 My first ever SWC convention. This is the welcome party where I wore balloons because the night before someone learned the ASL phrase “She has fake boobs.”


2013 Fun with my tutu at the banquet.


2014 My tiaras and her bug eye glasses made for a lot of goofing around.


I missed 2015 only because my grandson chose that time to come into this world.  I have a great outfit planned for the banquet this year, pictures will come after the convention. 

So I leave with this quote I saw in FB this morning. 


From one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho. I’m not going to apologize for my hearing loss or regret it. I’ve met too many good people thought it to ever regret again. Hate myself? Never, there’s more fun to be had, especially with my tribe. Dieting-ah that is something I think about but the quote is right…be brave, be who we are and take risks. Even with hearing loss we can live this life!

Affordable Hearing Aids

Sound World Solutions contacted me via my blog. Over email, they told me more about their product and asked if I’d being willing to try it. They have been selling their hearing aids/hearing amplifiers in India and the Philippines but they recognized the need for affordable hearing aids in the USA. Their website states their mission as: “to create and deliver high quality, affordable hearing devices that allow people to rediscover the power of connection, no matter what their geographic location or economic circumstance happens to be.”

I agreed to try their hearing aids because I have many people come through at work who simply can’t afford hearing aids in the $3,000-$6,000 range and are seeking help financially. We have a list of funding sources at work that gives about 10 possible sources for adults. Our resources list places for easy credit terms, the Starkey “Hear Now” program (bless them), and places like United Way and the state vocational rehabilitation program for those who are at work or want to work. Most of the people I see, however, are older people on fixed incomes who really, really want to hear because they know they are missing all kinds of sounds but can’t afford the prices. The look at our funding sources and I tell them to try the Starkey program because I know they do good work.

Sound World shipped their hearing aids called the “Companion” to me. They came in a zippered protective case, a charger cord (no batteries), 3 different sizes of domes for the ear canal and a cleaner tool.

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Here’s a picture comparing the size to my tiny Siemens.

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There are some people who would be turned off by the size of the hearing aids but I was delighted because I had more room to decorate them! Before I charged them, before I performed the hearing test and before I put them in my ears, I decorated them with Duck Tape. My husband couldn’t believe I wanted to do that before heading out into some noisy environment to check them out. I have a tendency to show off my hearing aids and I was NOT going to show them off plain black.

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You may remember a post of mine from a year or so ago trying Harris Hearing aids. I was excited to have more control over what I hear through a phone app although something fell through in process and we were never able to pursue the project.

Sound World is the same way. Their hearing aids are Bluetooth (part of the reason why they are so big I’m guessing) and connect right to the phone. I found their free app in the Apple Store downloaded it with no problem. I turned on the Bluetooth option on my iPhone and proceeded to take their hearing test which turned out similar to the one I have from the audiologist office. (For those without a smart phone, the hearing aids can come already programmed and ready to go out of the box.)

the hearing test

the hearing test

The domes with the Harris hearing aids screamed because I need a lot of power being in the moderate/severe hearing loss zone. The domes with Siemens hearing aids screamed until I got custom-made molds so I kind of expected the same thing with the Companion. If I powered them up while trying to put them in, I had feedback but if I put them in and turned them on, I didn’t have the screaming and that’s doable. I occasionally have a chirp if my hand gets too close to the hearing while fiddling with my hair and that’s not so bad either but I’d like it not there at all. Another cool thing about the Companions is the wire that connects the hearing aids to the domes/speaker goes in and out of the hearing aid itself to its self adjusting.  Look at both pictures of the hearing aid decorated to see the difference in wire length.

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Different size domes and the cleaning tool.

There are 3 programs or settings: everyday, restaurant and entertainment. On my phone app I can choose the setting or I can change it through the buttons on the hearing aid.

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Likewise I can adjust the volume on the hearing aid or through the app. Even better, with the app I can adjust the treble, the mid ranges and the bass through the equalizer. I like that. A lot. Today’s world is all about options.

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Last week I tried the hearing aids in a health fair for work. It was a big test for these hearing aids in a large lunch room loaded with 300 people, with bad acoustics and someone on microphone trying to override all the noise. My boss took off her cochlear implant and then eased back into the noise with low volume which shows how harsh the noise was.   The Companion hearing aids did well in that environment, separating the speech from the noise well enough I could cope. Noisy settings are the number one complaint for hearing aid users.

They only lasted an hour. I thought I had just charged the hearing aids but on reflection it had been a week (time flies when busy). The charge generally lasts about 18 hours and should be charged once a week with light usage. I was really surprised to get an hour out of them in such a bad environment after a full week of no charging. I need to set a day every week to charge them since I’m a light user changing them out with my Siemens.

Why do I change them out? Because the Companion doesn’t have a T-coil as of yet and I am around looped environments enough which is my favorite listening system. I prefer that above all others because within a loop I feel like a normal hearing person. I also use neckloops at work to show clients how to use them so I need my T-coil hearing aids to make sure the devices work. The company has T-Coil on their list along with trying to get the size of the hearing aids down which might be good too.

The other issue I seem to have is keeping dome in the left ear. It works its way out continually and I have to poke it back in. I know from past experience this causes irritation and pretty soon I have a sore so I asked if they made custom molds for people like me. They do.

Supposedly I can pair the hearing aids to the TV streamer but I have yet to try that option. I’ve been watching TV with captions since the mid 90’s so it’s a hard habit. Depending on the movie, I still need captions to understand dialogue even with a steamer so it’s not a big bonus for me. It connects to my phone for music but I haven’t tried it for talking on the phone yet. (I’m phone shy because it can be a big struggle.)

For the first time my hearing aids talk to me. I’m not sure how I feel about that but at least I know what’s going on.

“Power on.”

“Power off.”

“Volume up.”

“Volume down.”

“Connected.” For Bluetooth options in my phone.

“Everyday.”

“Restaurant.”

“Entertainment.”

It’s a male voice. I might have to name him, any ideas for names?

I gave them another color today for their debut.

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Overall I would recommend these hearing aids to people who have a moderate or less hearing loss who can’t afford hearing aids out of an audiology office. Why not a severe/profound hearing loss? Because my moderate/severe hearing loss requires a lot of power which creates feedback. If I have some feedback, what will it be like for someone with a bigger hearing loss than mine? I think it would work fine for someone with my kind of hearing loss provided they are experienced with hearing aids and can work it but for someone totally new to hearing loss it might be a bit frustrating. If it’s a moderate or mild hearing loss I think the aids will work fine and not have a lot feedback issues.

Some hearing aids are better than none and these are certainly affordable and usable. The website says one hearing aids is $449 and $735 for two hearing aids. They don’t have all the bells and whistles (they tell me they are working to have more options in their hearing aids and making them smaller is a priority) but they do have the basics; noise settings, volume, connectivity through Bluetooth. Bonuses include not having to buy batteries and being able to make self adjustments through a smart phone. Thank  you World Solutions for letting me try your hearing aids.

Summer life

I have outlines and subjects galore to write about but since late July, life has been non-stop with traveling.  I thought I’d share some of it with you and then get serious about writing again.

Late July and into August we did a Vanagon trip to the Oregon/Washington coast but right before leaving, I hosted an HLAA-SLC social at my house.  Good people, a great night.

Our social

Our social

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We made it to the California Sierras to visit friends who also have a Vanagon. (Ours is blue.)

We made a quick tour of Mt. Lassen before hitting up the Giant Redwoods in California.

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Redwood National/State Park.

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Whale’s Head Beach, about an hour north of the California border in Oregon. Loved it because hardly anyone was there.

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Made it to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR. Their nut brown is awesome and they have a good chocolate one too.

This was about an hour before getting to Astoria., it's one of my favorite pictures.

This was about an hour before getting to Astoria., it’s one of my favorite pictures.

Then up to Ocean Park, WA to visit good friends.  Brrr!

Then up to Ocean Park, WA to visit good friends. Brrr!

Onto Seattle to visit family and the troll under the bridge...which has a VW bug under a hand by the way.

Onto Seattle to visit family and the troll under the bridge…which has a VW bug under a hand by the way.

While in the area we also visited Jimi Hendrix’s grave, Pike’s Market and Snowqualmie Falls.

Then back down through Oregon again where we traveled up the Columbia River Gorge, watched wind surfing at Hood River, OR.  We drove by Mt. Hood and camped along the Pacific Coast trail.  Then I had to go to Bend, OR to the visit Deschutes Brewery.

Their seasonal ale was good but River Ale is still my favorite.

Their seasonal ale was good but River Ale is still my favorite.

From there we toured the Lava Caves.  Brrr!  After that we found an abandoned campground nowhere close to a town.  It felt very Friday the 13th.  It was peaceful.

Our whole trip was blue skies and good weather, except traveling through NV to CA where we hit a thunderstorm with lots of rain and again on the way back through NV to Utah we got drenched.

I wasn’t home 12 hours from that trip before I took off to Arizona to be with my youngest son.  His living quarters was threatened by a rare wildfire in Mohave, AZ.  The fire actually went all the way around his place but left a good chunk of the neighborhood alone which was amazing!  We didn’t know that for 3 days however because they wouldn’t let people in until the hot spots were down, the propane tanks safe and downed wires back up.  It was 3 days of hell waiting to see if his cat made it through the 110 plus temperatures without electricity and a huge fire blazing all around.

The fire went down down the streets on both sides of the property.

The fire went down down the streets on both sides of the property.

Leo the Cat came through unharmed!

Leo the Cat came through unharmed!

I came back home 5 days later and went to work, tying up the speechreading and hearing aids 101 classes updates.  Ken and I found time to go camping in the High Uintas in eastern Utah at Spirit and Hoop Lakes.

The stream that fed into Spirit Lake.  This was about 10,000 ft.

The stream that fed into Spirit Lake. This was about 10,000 ft.

Tamarack Lake,  hike up from Spirit Lake.

Tamarack Lake, hike up from Spirit Lake.

That night was cold!  I broke out the down coat.

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And we still had fun.

Fishing at Hoop Lake which was about 9,000 feet.

Fishing at Hoop Lake which was about 9,000 feet.

So then I come home to work and visit with my grandkids for a few short weeks.

Riley who is about 4 months old here I think.

Riley who is about 4 months old here I think.

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From there I went to the ALDA convention, Association for Late Deafened Adults.  It was my first ALDA con and it deserves a post all on it’s own.  Here’s two of my favorite pictures from karaoke night.  (Yes the deaf can and will sing at the ALDA con.)

Taking a break from all the fun.

Taking a break from all the fun.

These two are feeling the music's vibrations through a balloon for the first time.

These two are feeling the music’s vibrations through a balloon for the first time.

So I’m home again, visit with kids and grandkids and we’re off again in less than two weeks.  This time we went up Gray Canyon on the Green River in Utah.  The one thing about having a ‘handicap’ is my National Parks pass card called Access.  It’s gotten us into the National Parks free and 1/2 off camping in most places.  I felt guilty about having one for a while but got over it.  I miss out on so much in the hearing world why not have this one perk in life?

Sunset on Swasey's Rapid

Sunset on Swasey’s Rapid

Campsite near practically right on the rapid.  It's great white noise for tinnitus.

Campsite near practically right on the rapid. It’s great white noise for tinnitus.

My hubby guiding us down the Green River.  We did two days on an 8 mile stretch of the river.

My hubby guiding us down the Green River. We did two days on an 8 mile stretch of the river.

I’m home again as of last night.  I have to be up early to travel to busy health fair to talk to people about the services Utah offers to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Then my parents are visiting for the weekend.  I have about a two week breather before my next planned trip to Montana to visit a dear friend.  After that, I hope to stay home for a little while. I hope to be able to post a couple of times before going. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Advice for New Hearing Aids

People often ask my advice on hearing aids. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for about 25 years now, starting with the old, awful analog ones and moved into the digital models.  I’m on my fifth pair of hearing aids. I also help teach a class at work called Hearing Aids 101 so I have some knowledge and experience.  Here’s a lot of what I saw but it by no means covers it all.

T-Coils are important! Here's what they look like in different sizes.

T-Coils are important! Here’s what they look like in different sizes. I picked this picture up through Loop Seattle.

  Make sure you get a tele-coil (t-coil) in your hearing aids.  Audiologists like to say it’s old technology and you’ll never use it but it’s NOT outdated technology.  A t-coil (originally developed for the telephone but it’s uses have grown) is a tiny coil of copper wire in a hearing aid. Most hearing aids have them but audiologists don’t always tell people about it.  If you already have hearing aids you may have one but the program is not turned on.  Ask your audiologist if you have one and if it can be turned on to experiment with.  

I used my t-coil setting a lot in the early years with my analog hearing aids to get by on the phone and I don’t think I would have lasted so long the phone without it. I held the top of the phone a little above and behind my ear hovering the edge of my hearing aid. It cut out my environmental background noise and focuses on what’s coming across on the phone only.  Unfortunately my environmental noise would bleed over into the phone at times because I worked in salons which could get noisy but even then the t-coil helped a great deal on the phone.

This picture came from Galluadet page: http://tap.gallaudet.edu/voice/wirelessandhearingaids.asp

This picture came from Galluadet page: http://tap.gallaudet.edu/voice/wirelessandhearingaids.asp

  These days I don’t use the phone much but when I do I use neckloop which also works with the t-coil. It has a jack that will fit into anything headphones can plug into. I use it with my iPhone and I hear the conversation in both my ears which gives me a little extra to work with in trying to understand the conversation. I also use it on my iPod to listen to music and I take it to venues who advertise ALDs to plug into their receivers since they usually only offer headphones. Headphones over the top of hearing aids will not work as well as a neckloop. I have this neckloop because it has a mic to use with my phone. I don’t know if this is the ‘best’ brand, it’s what I bought first and use.

Geemarc Powered Neckloop with Microphone.

Geemarc Powered Neckloop with Microphone.

  And then there’s the hearing loop that also works with the t-coil program.  It’s all over Europe and is just starting to make headway in the USA.  Basically if I walk into a looped room and turn on my t-coil program I can hear 90% of the conversation and I DON’T have to pick up any other devices to make it work. My word discrimination is 50-70% (or worse) with hearing aids depending on the environment.) I’m not sure why this assistive listening system works so much better than the usual FM and infrareds but it is a huge difference. It’s my preferred listening system. If you want to learn more about hearing loops I suggest going here. http://www.foxvalleyhearingloop.com/ Juliette Sterkens who is HLAA’s officially hearing loop advocate helped set up this site and she can say it a lot better than I can. Hearing loops are also available for cars, living rooms (for the TV) and simple counter loops for a small area.

bluetooth

Bluetooth technology.  Audiologists are big on this and it’s great for personal devices, I like listening to my music with it best. My current hearing aids came with a Bluetooth necklace which hooks me up to my phone and other devices once it’s paired (and pairing isn’t always easy). I have a streamer for my TV and I can hear more words however I still require captions to fill in the blanks. Bluetooth however draws on a lot of battery power and the more you use it the faster you will go through hearing aid batteries.  (T-coils require no extra battery power.)  You can’t use Bluetooth in big venues yet so it’s mainly for personal devices. With hearing aids, you can have both Bluetooth and a t-coil, why not have the best of both worlds? Ask your audiologist to make sure your new hearing aids have t-coil as well. People who go with Bluetooth only and regret not having t-coils later.  Hearing loops are not in wide use yet but when it’s available, it’s awesome.  The hearing loop movement is growing.

Hearing Aid Brands

   I get asked about the top brands all the time.  The most used hearing aids are: Widex, Phonak, Siemens, Starkey and Oticon.  There are several other brands out there but I have little personal experience with them. CostCo sells hearing aids cheaper and they are Phonak or Siemens but the model’s have different names.  They might not have all the bells and whistles the higher priced versions do but you’ll pay up to $3,000 less at CostCo.  The main problem I hear about them is that the hearing instrument specialists come and go fairly fast. People will get one who can program well and that person will leave and be replaced by someone who is so-so at programming.  Here’s a good website to compare brands of all kinds and read reviews from people who wear them. http://www.complete-hearing-aid-reviews.com/

Do Not Give Up Until Satisfied

You’re the boss. You paid for the hearing aids and you paid good money.  You paid in advance for all the tweaking of programs and minor upkeep of hearing aids. It’s called a bundle package which pays for the hearing aids, the services and minor repairs so keep going back until they get the programming right, until you are satisfied with them. Hearing aids will never replace true hearing but you should be able to wear them and notice a difference. Without my hearing aids in I have a 30% word discrimination at best. I went back with this last pair I bought twice a month for 6 months until I was satisfied and eventually wound up with a 72% word discrimination test, the highest I’ve had in years. The audiologist should make you feel comfortable to come as often as needed.

Prices

You can ask if they have unbundled deal. (Most audiologists do not offer this.) This option allows you to pay for the hearing aids alone and then pay a service fee each time you go in. For some people, this is the cheaper way to go but it is nice to go back as often as necessary without the worry of running up a bill.  

Haggle over the price of hearing aids, strike a bargain.  They should never ever be above $6,000 in my opinion but I know some pay $7,000. The prices aren’t set in stone and you may be able to bargain it lower. Shop around and compare, bring the best price quote back to the audiologist you like and see if he/she will work with you. Most audiologists want to make that sale but most of the time we are clueless and don’t question the price.

Hearing Aid Programs

There are several programs you can have in your hearing aids. I have 5 programs, 3 I use often and 2 I use here and there.  The number 1 setting is the main setting or the master program. Next I also have a program for noisy settings which focus my microphones extreme forward and drops the noise a few levels so I can tolerate noise better. The other one I use often is the ‘stroll’ program (I have Siemens hearing aids right now and different companies have different names for the programs.) It’s set up for walking next to someone and the microphones go from side to side as needed following voices. I use this program mainly in the car and it helped a great deal.

I have a dedicated Bluetooth program which I rarely use but it’s there when I want it. I also have a dedicated T-coil program which I use for the phone, neckloop and meetings in town with a hearing loop.  There are other programs that offered, ask your audiologist to read off what’s available and then experiment with them.  I might replace my Bluetooth program (I rarely use it) with the Zen program for tinnitus to see what it’s like.

Warranties and Batteries

  You should get a 2-3 year warranty on the hearing aids. Some audiologists might offer free batteries for that amount of time with the purchase of new hearing aids. If your audiologist doesn’t offer, ask. Tell him/her that you heard of someone who does and see if they will make you a deal.

  You should have 30-90 days to return the hearing aids for your money back (aside from ear mold prices).  If you really don’t like them don’t be afraid to return them and try another brand.  

  Smaller hearing aids may appeal to vanity but you won’t get all the cool programming options.  They also don’t last as long and go through more batteries than the bigger ones.

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All Audiologists Should Tell You About Assistive Technology

  Ask your audiologist about assistive listening technology and how it can complement your hearing aids.  Hearing aids are made for conversation within a 4-6 foot range, after that, their ability diminishes which is why you can’t hear well in church, the theater or at lectures.  Assistive listening devices that use FM or infrared technology will eliminate the distance and help you hear a lot better in public venues.  Look for the sign above when you are going out and inquire about the devices available.  It will create a much better experience for you.

Ear Molds

  Make sure your ear molds are snug but don’t hurt.  If they are a poor fit things will sound more tinny.  If they hurt, the audiologist can shave the bumpy parts down some.  There’s also different kind of mold materials, hard plastic and soft plastic. A lot of hearing aids now come with ‘domes’ a sort of one size fits all thing.  I had horrible feedback (squealing) with domes, they itched and I didn’t hear well with them. I also did badly with hard plastic ear molds that inserted into the canal only. They constantly worked their way out and I was poking them back in which made my ears sore. Next we tried custom molds made for me (red!) with soft rubber material and a little kickstand to help them stay in place. It worked!

  Ask for a ‘real ear measure’ test once you get your hearing aids.  It will help the audiologist measure how sounds are coming into your ear through the hearing aids.  (Not all audiologists do this but they should.) Once I could only tell my audiologist that things sounded harsh without specifics so he ran this test and was able to pin point the possible harsh noises and make it more bearable. It’s a small tube inserted into the hearing aids and just into the ear canal. It’s hooked up to the computer which then generates all tones of speech and measures it out.

 I’m sure there’s a lot more I missed.  If you questions ask and I will try to get you the answer.  Here’s a few links to check out if interested.

More information on t-coils: http://blog.widex.com/post/83699151141/telecoil.

HLAA talks about Unbundling Prices: http://www.hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/HLM_SepOct2011_Unbundling_of_Hearing_Aid_Costs.pdf

A Response to Hearing Loss

I had a haircut appt and could not get the address to work on my maps. I had to use the phone and it went badly because it kept breaking up making my faulty hearing worse. Finally someone texted me directions and I got to the haircut.

Afterward, I was talking to her on the porch about hearing loss and apologizing for being late. We talked about people who are deaf (not capital D) and she says, “I don’t care what others say I think you people are intelligent.” I was a little shocked. (Maybe her sister, who made the appt, told her I was an idiot.) I didn’t know quite what to say so told her, “We can do anything anyone else can do except hear.”

What would you say?

shocked