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We have worked closely with patients with hearing loss over the past 15 years. Our area of specialty is in improving their hearing with a combination of hearing aids, assistive hearing devices as well as education.
It is important to understand what hearing aids were designed for, to best understand how they can help you. Hearing aids are designed to enhance the soft high frequency sounds that most individuals with hearing loss have trouble detecting. They can enhance the sounds that their microphones pick up using their digital software. However, they are limited by the environment that they are in. In a noisy environment, their microphones pick up noise in addition to the sound of interest (usually a voice). In these cases, patients must rely on their brain to help them filter out the other sounds in the environment. Digital hearing aid software can make some adjustments to assist in these situations but in some cases other devices that can better improve the signal to noise ratio are recommended. These include FM or mini-microphone devices.
Many patients do very well with their hearing aids even in very noisy environments, once they become adapted to them. Remember that this takes time and can sometimes take up to 18 months. It is therefore very important that you wear your hearing aids consistently in all types of listening situations to give your brain the best chance at adapting and becoming successful in more and more challenging listening situations.
ABOUT HEARING AIDS
There is a wide assortment of styles and technologies available in hearing instruments today. The type that is most suitable for you is determined by your degree of hearing loss and your lifestyle. After a complete hearing evaluation, we will discuss the various options that would work the best for you.
RECHARGEABLE HEARING AIDS
We are happy to see manufacturers making strides in providing rechargeable hearing aids as an option for our patients. These can be very useful for individuals with dexterity issues as batteries do not need to be inserted into them. Patients simply insert their hearing aids into the charging case at night. The charging case is connected to a wall outlet via a cord, much like a cell phone charger. The charge effect is long lasting and not having to use batteries is better for the environment. Not all hearing aids are rechargeable. Ask us for more details.
HEARING AID STYLES
The Lyric is a non-surgically implantable invisible hearing aids. This device stays in your ear for up to 3 months at a time. You do not have to remove the device during that time. You can exercise, sleep and shower with it in. The Lyric is the most user-friendly device available. It is a good option for people who don’t want to worry about inserting hearing aids and caring for them on a daily basis. Additionally, it offers very natural sound quality because the sound is delivered extremely close to the eardrum. It does require an ear that is a certain size, shape and level of health, which we can assess in our clinic.
If you have questions about hearing aids, please contact us.
OPEN FIT OR RECEIVER
Open fit or Receiver “in the canal” – these hearing aids are small devices placed behind the ear with a slim tube or wire attached to the device and inserted down the ear canal. They are non-occluding (they do not block your ear).
This style is good for people with a high frequency hearing loss or mild to moderate hearing loss. They used to be best used for those with a high frequency hearing loss only. More recently they can be made with a custom dome tip to help those with some low frequency hearing loss and those with more moderately severe losses which is an excellent advancement to provide more natural sound to those with significant hearing loss.
We like open fit or Receiver in the ear hearing aids for most of our patients who are active and want something that is not noticeable in their ears. Because these devices tuck behind the ear nicely, generally the only part that can be seen in the wire that enters the ear canal. Even the tiny wire can be hard to see.
There are some requirements to use these open fit or receiver in the ear hearing aids effectively however. The most important thing is that the patient has enough dexterity to put these hearing aids on. We take our time to practice this repeatedly so that our patients feel like the hearing aids are inserted and don’t fall out of the ears. They are made with a special retention piece that is critical for retention of our active patients.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) – The BTE is general a slightly larger device than the Open fit or Receiver in the canal although it looks similar. It is designed to sit comfortably behind your ear while the amplified sound passes down a tube to a custom made earmold that fits securely into your ear. Because they are larger, BTEs can accommodate bigger batteries for longer life and larger amplifiers for maximum amplification. BTEs are suitable for moderate to profound hearing losses. BTEs work best for people who have both a low and high frequency hearing loss. Those with a high frequency hearing loss only could feel that their ear is ‘plugged up’ or blocked if they wear BTEs.
Generally patients with more significant hearing losses are a good fit for BTEs as they will be guaranteed to have enough power to meet their hearing loss needs over the next several years. BTEs are durable, reliable and can be ordered to be extremely dust and moisture resistant.
Although BTEs are a good choice for many of these reasons, they can be somewhat challenging to learn to insert because there are two parts to insert. We practice repeatedly with our patients and once inserted, BTEs are extremely unlikely to fall out of the ear.
BTEs are compatible with Bluetooth devices, which is important since many people who have BTEs also have severe hearing loss and can greatly benefit from related TV, phone and FM devices that work through bluetooth.
In-the-ear (ITE) – In the ear hearing aids are custom made to fit securely in your outer ear. ITEs are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. They are good for individuals who want an easy to use solution as they are one piece only and quite easy to insert into the ear canal. They are an ideal solution for people with dexterity issues. ITEs are best suited for people who have a high frequency hearing loss with at least some low frequency loss as well. Those with a high frequency hearing loss often feel that there ear is ‘plugged up’ or blocked if they wear ITEs. ITEs can get plugged with wax so patients who don’t have serious wax issues are best suited for ITEs. These are compatible with Bluetooth devices.
In-the-canal (ITC) – In the canal hearing aids are custom-made to fit almost entirely inside your ear canal, making them difficult to notice. ITCs are suitable for mild to moderately-severe hearing losses. These are the easiest of all hearing aids to insert. They do sound best for paitents who have at least some hearing loss in the low frequencies as well as the high frequencies. They can get plugged with wax, so ears that are not extremely waxy are the best fit for ITCs. These are compatible with Bluetooth devices.
Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) – Completely in the canal hearing aids fit deep inside your ear canal so that they’re practically invisible. The benefits include cosmetic appeal, and they are suitable for mild to severe hearing losses. They can take practice to learn how to insert completely. They can also get plugged with wax so they are best recommended for those without significant ear wax accumulation. CICs use a small size 10 battery and therefore need to be replaced more frequently than the larger batteries used in other hearing aids. Some of these devices are now compatible with Bluetooth devices.
INVISIBLE IN THE CANAL
Invisible in the canal (IIC) – Invisible in the canal hearing aids fit very deep in the ear canal. They are the hearing aids that many people refer to as ‘invisible daily wear’ and can normally only be seen if someone looks down the ear canal. IICs are suitable for mild to moderately-severe hearing losses. They take practice at learning to insert, so those with good dexterity are good candidates for IICs. They can also be affected by wax so those without significant wax accumulation issues are best suited for IICs. Because these hearing aids are very small, they take a size 10 battery which needs to be replaced more frequently than the larger batteries in larger hearing aids. These devices are not normally compatible with Bluetooth devices as they are so small.
Assistive Listening Devices
We go beyond hearing aids when offering hearing assistance to our patients.
Some of the assistive devices that we provide include Bluetooth devices, personal pocket amplifiers with headphones, assistive microphones and FM listening systems.
Many manufacturers are now producing hearing aids that are compatible with Bluetooth technology. We offer devices that allow your hearing aids to link directly via Bluetooth to your cellphone, iPad, computer or television OR a tiny microphone that your spouse or friend can wear. This allows the sound signal that you are listening to come directly through both of your hearing aids which gives you high quality sound without background distractions.
Personal FM systems can be used with hearing aids. FM systems can be extremely helpful in specific listening situations and for patients with very challenging hearing losses where hearing aids only help to some extent. Patients wear a pickup device on their hearing aids or around their neck. A microphone is worn by their communication partner or placed near the person they want to hear. The sound that the person wants to hear gets sent through the air from the microphone to the pickup device and received into both of the hearing aids. This allows sound from a distance of 20-30 feet to be delivered clearly to a person’s ears. It therefore helps cut out background noise significantly and essentially enables the person with hearing aids to use the microphone as a ‘3rd ear’ to hear with. New FM systems are available which look very modern and our patients have found them exceptionally helpful in situations such as boardroom meetings and cocktail parties.
MINI-MICROPHONES (REMOTE MICS)
These systems are very cost-effective versions of a personal FM. Although not as powerful, they can work quite effectively for patients with a mild to moderate hearing loss for 1 on 1 situations. They send the sound signal from the communication partner wearing the small microphone directly to your ears via a Bluetooth device. These are very useful in restaurants, pubs, or on car rides as well as around the house. They are best suited for speaking with 1 person at a time.
POCKET AMPLIFIERS (POCKET TALKERS)
Pocket amplifiers are simple devices that can be used to turn up sounds when patients don’t have hearing aids. We have used them frequently with patients in long-term care facilities. They look like a Walkman with headphones. The person talking speaks into a microphone which gets turned up and sent directly into the person’s ears via the headphones. There is a wire and the maximum distance between the microphone and the person’s headphones is approximately 5 feet.
OTHER HELPFUL DEVICES
We often recommend assistive listening accessories such as amplified telephones, shake awake alarm clocks, and television listening devices. We carry some of these devices and refer our patients to the Deaf and Hear Alberta location for the ones we don’t have.
Contact us to book an appointment to discuss these and other upcoming options.
BLUETOOTH AND HEARING AIDS
Wireless technologies are enhancing the hearing experience of many of our patients. Read on for a brief look at how far we’ve come with hearing aid connectivity. So what is wireless technology as it relates to hearing aids, and why take notice? Wireless technology, is what it sounds like; the natural progression from cables and cords, to cable-free operation. It makes things simpler, clearer and more convenient.
Cutting the cords
Early analogue hearing aids were often so large that they had to be carried, strapped on to a patient’s belt, or worn on a harness under clothing. A speaker on a cable ran up to the patient’s ear, and delivered the sound in a very rudimentary way.
Miniaturization of hearing aid circuits and refinements in battery technology meant that the hearing aids began to be small enough to be worn on the ear instead of on the body.
The cables were gone, but the size, appearance and limited sound quality of hearing aids meant they acquired a negative reputation, despite manufacturer’s best efforts to make them more attractive.
This negative perception still persists for many who had an experience communicating with family members who struggled to benefit from these very large, very basic hearing aids, and now require amplification themselves. Thankfully things have changed significantly.
The digital hearing aid revolution began in 1996. Digital hearing aids allowed a great deal of flexibility and control for both the clinician and the patient; basic remote controls began to become available, along with multiple listening modes and volume, all controllable by the patient from a small wireless handheld unit.
Cables persisted for some hearing aids. For those with hearing in just one ear, wires were used to route sound from a microphone on the non-hearing ear to a hearing aid. Wires ran externally around the back of a patient’s head, allowing users to hear sounds from their non-hearing side. better ear – this is a Cros or Bicros system.
Soon, hearing aid manufacturers discovered ways to coordinate hearing aid functions; changing the listening setting or the volume control on one aid, meant that the other would follow suit.
Modern hearing aids use wireless technology to improve your hearing experience.
Hearing aids have come a long way in the 20 plus years since they became digital. Hearing aids are now small, powerful and versatile; a far cry from the early analogue aids of the past. Because of circuit-board miniaturization, hearing aid size is now limited mainly by the size of the battery required to power it, and the size of the speaker required to drive the sound! There are some exceptions, such as the tiny Lyric, which can last for an extended length of time on an integrated battery.
For conventional digital aids, the most recent and notable leap in technology is synchronization. Pairs of hearing aids are now actually sharing and exchanging high fidelity audio – wirelessly. Hearing aids no longer work as two separate units, but in tandem to provide stereo sound. Processing a stereo sound means that it becomes possible to significantly reduce the effects of wind noise, improve speech in a crowded place, and provide a sense of synchronized stereo sound, which is shown to improve intelligibility.
This same audio synchronization technology means that the cables used in Cros and Bicros systems are no longer needed; instead a wireless satellite microphone sends the sound from the non-hearing side to the hearing ear over the air. The cosmetic appearance is greatly improved, and the sound quality is excellent.
The incorporation of Bluetooth technology into hearing aid systems has been a welcome development and more and more hearing aids are supplied to patients with a device called a Bluetooth streamer.
These easy to use units are essentially traditional remote controls with a built in Bluetooth chip. This technology can be used to turn a pair of digital hearing aids into a discreet hands free kit for a smart phone, iPad etc. Answering and talking on the phone using your hearing
aids is finally a reality, and is something we are able to provide for new hearing aid patients every day. Smart Phones can be used with streamers to voice dial from your contact list, dictate notes, set reminders, send text messages, dictate emails, look up the weather forecast or even check sports scores!
The connectivity offered by Bluetooth streamers can also extend to stream entertainment audio such as sound from the TV, Radio, MP3 players, iPads and computers, even game consoles. In our experience, satisfaction with these products is very high, even with those of our patients who admittedly a little techno-phobic. Many of those patients now use their streamer every day as an empowering tool to simplify the process of controlling their hearing aids, communicating and enjoying entertainment.
Bluetooth Mini/Remote Microphones
These tiny devices are worn by your partner, allowing you as the hearing aid wearer to receive priority sound from the wearer’s voice. The most recent addition to this set of wireless accessories is probably also one of the most exciting. Bluetooth microphones are a very good solution to the problems created by background noise.
Mini- microphones, also called remote microphones, are ideal for situations where background noise would otherwise have interfered with the conversation, such as cocktail parties, family gatherings, public events, and restaurants. For those of my patients who are already using these devices, the feedback has been very positive. I would expect many more people to benefit from them. The video below shows an example of how the microphone works.
Contact us to discuss whether Bluetooth and wireless technology can be used with your current hearing aid system. In many cases we can add these devices to hearing aids you already have, making the best use of your current hearing aids.