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6 Must-have Features in Your Digital Hearing Aids

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 7:19:35 PM Asia/Calcutta

You are extremely mesmerised by the advancements hearing devices are making and you have planned to buy digital hearing aids. Because these are the hearing aids you need so badly! You feel that the technologies found in these digital hearing aids are just for you!

Of course, hearing aids are primarily meant for amplifying sounds, but the technological boom in the past few decades have also found their way into listening devices as well, which made many other features to be incorporated into them. Many hearing aid manufacturing companies offer multiple features which are designed to cater to your personal needs according to your lifestyle choices. But there are certain features which you must look for while buying digital hearing aids. While the previous analog devices amplified all the sounds without differentiating between what’s really necessary and what’s not, the digital hearing aids of this generation are built only to make your life easier and simpler - with a more comfortable hearing experience.

Do make it a point to discuss your lifestyle choices with your Audiologist while buying digital hearing aids and leave the rest upon him to decide which device would suit you the best - based on both your hearing abilities and personal requirements. Check out for these must-have features in the device you would plan to buy -

  • Multi-channel - Digital hearing aids have the option of multi-channels. Channels in hearing aids enhance the listening experience of an individual by modifying each of the discrete sections in the sound frequency ranges. The more the channels in a hearing aid, the more capable will the device be to work with more and more discrete sections by dividing the frequency range into smaller parts.

  • Binaural processing - Just as you won’t have a complete and balanced vision if you see with only one eye, similar is the case with our hearing mechanism. If both of our ears are not properly engaged in receiving, transferring and converting sound stimulus due to certain problems in either of them, we would experience an unbalanced and muffled hearing. That means if we use binaural digital hearing aids and if the two are not properly linked, then we would not have a very enjoyable listening experience.

  • Digital noise reduction - Using cheap hearing aids of very poor quality would make you feel annoyed and frustrated in noisy listening situations, such as on the roads or at a busy restaurant, particularly if you are having a conversation with someone. The modern digital hearing aids are quite advanced with noise-cancellation features which would reduce or cancel out the background noises, enabling you to stay focused on speech.

  • Digital feedback reduction - Often the analog hearing aids produced internal feedback sounds due to improper fitting of the device in the ear canal. Choose digital hearing aids which would reduce these annoying feedback sounds.

  • Directional microphones - The directional microphones in hearing aids enable the user to stay focused on the sound sources they want to, by ignoring or minimising the others which are relatively unimportant. Digital hearing aids can have more than one directional microphones. One advantage of multiple microphones in hearing devices is that you can even listen to someone speaking from behind.

  • Multiprogram - Digital hearing aids of today are advanced with multiprogram storing capabilities. In other words, it would save your volume and program preferences which you have set in different listening situations.

In a nutshell, digital hearing aids are incomplete without these smart features. Do make a smart choice and live a better quality of life.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Questions to Ask Before Buying Digital Hearing Aids

Monday, April 8, 2019 4:50:45 PM Asia/Calcutta

Who doesn’t want a happy and peaceful life? Hearing loss may have been the spoiler for quite a long time, but not any more. It’s time to fight with it. And purchasing the right digital hearing aids is an important step towards that. A good decision taken now can change your entire life.

There are many things to consider before you actually go and buy the device and these are really important. Take the time out, do the research and do think upon these. Because you are going to require a device which will serve you for many more years.

What Should You Ask Before Buying?

  • Is the provider giving me the best customer service?

Why should you compromise with the quality of the products and the associated services? Never go anything but the best. Shortlist some of the brands providing good quality digital hearing aids and service providers. Do enough research on each of them. Nothing is worse than facing a service-provider who doesn’t cooperate. It is always better to know about all the terms and policies before buying than suffering due to an unpleasant service later on after purchase. Even if the quality of the products offered is good enough, you would not get a satisfactory result if your dealer doesn’t cooperate.

  • Does money-back guarantee really mean money back?

Make this very sure before falling prey to any exciting and sometimes misleading offers. Don’t let your hard-earned money go due to these false promises often made by some dealers. Do check whether the quality of the products is worth your time and money.

Of course, a reputable company will provide what is promised and will never mislead you. Check whether you are given the refund facility if you are unsatisfied with your product. Also check that you are been given full support in case your device is damaged and needs to be repaired.

Many companies offer a ‘no-questions-asked’ policy during the trial period, but often they end up asking numerous questions and take a lot of time before actually refunding for your product you are unsatisfied with.

  • Are you getting the after-sale services?

Buying a hearing aid doesn’t mean purchasing only the device. It comes with a package including the follow-up visits to the Audiologists, the reprogramming of your devices, education and guidance, adjustments, the repairing services and the availability of batteries. It might happen that your device got damaged after a certain time or your digital hearing aids need reprogramming. In the first case, you would require a good team that repairs your device and provide a spare hearing aid during that period. In the latter, you would require the help of a skilled Audiologist who would reprogramme your device according to your hearing needs.

  • Is there a warranty period?

Every good hearing aid dealer would provide you with a warranty period. But always ask and be sure what components are covered in the warranty period before you make the purchase. If you need extra coverage or an extended warranty period, talk to your dealer and your Audiologist for the available options.

  • When should I replace my device?

Most digital hearing aids should last at least 5 years, if not more. However, the life of your devices would depend greatly on the way you use them and take care of them. A lot depends upon the quality of the device as well and the features they have. Make sure to ask for the approximate time your device should work well. In case of breakdowns, consult your dealer from whom you purchased your digital hearing aids. They should either repair it or replace it with a new one (if within the warranty period). So always make these things clear before you make the investment.

  • How often should I need to adjust my hearing aids?

Your hearing keeps changing from time to time. Therefore, you need to get a hearing check-up done from at regular intervals. Your Audiologist will guide you through and tell you when to adjust or reprogramme your device or when you need to upgrade your digital hearing aids. Consult your Audiologist immediately if you face any discomfort with your device.

  • What accessories do I need?

There are certain accessories and tools that ensure that your hearing aids keep working their best. Look for cleaning kits and dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture from your device. A dirt-and-moisture-free device is bound to give you the maximum benefits.

 

The point which you need to understand that every hearing centre is different. You just need to check whether the above few things are there in the centre you have chosen. These are the basic requirements that you need to have in a hearing aid clinic and do consider checking out these things before making the purchase. Because a good decision taken now would determine your quality of life.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

CROS and BiCROS Hearing Aids

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 11:29:29 AM Asia/Calcutta

Single-Sided Deafness

Often there are cases in which people have a hearing loss in one ear and don’t have any aidable hearing loss in the other. This condition is also known as single-sided deafness or unilateral hearing loss. Single-sided deafness or SSD is a condition in which a person has lost his or her hearing in one ear, and has anywhere from normal to profound hearing loss in that ear and no hearing loss in the other ear. SSD causes real problems even if the working ear or the better ear has excellent hearing. Often untreated single-sided deafness might lead to stress, anxiety and depression, and you might isolate yourself socially. Therefore, the CROS and the BiCROS digital hearing aids are introduced so as to help people with SSD to hear better by making use of the better ear.

 

How is Single-Sided Deafness Different from Asymmetrical Hearing Loss?

While single-sided deafness, as already mentioned, refers to the condition in which an individual has some degree of hearing loss in one ear and absolutely normal hearing in the other; asymmetrical hearing loss, on the other hand, refers to the condition in which a person has mild to moderate degree of hearing loss in one ear, and severe to profound degree of loss in the other. CROS hearing aids are generally recommended for people with single-sided deafness and those with asymmetrical hearing loss are recommended BiCROS hearing aids.

 

Why is Binaural Hearing So Important?

Our body is a ‘machine’ which is finely tuned and properly balanced. If anyone organ gets damaged it will ruin this balance. Similar is the case with our ears! We really need two ears to hear well and have a proper and correct perception of sound. If there is a loss of hearing in any one of the ears, the sounds from your surroundings won’t be picked up in the correct way - thus resulting in a wrong and often misguiding sound perception - which can be dangerous!

Binaural hearing or hearing with both the ears has advantages in ways more than one (otherwise why would you be gifted with two ears)! Our brain makes use of information received from both the ears. It is only after receiving information from both the ears will the brain be able to process the information about the sound signals correctly, thus enabling you to have a distortion-free sound perception.

Hearing with two ears definitely has great advantages over hearing with one in situations like -

  • Improved speech recognition and understanding even in noise.

  • Better sound localisation or better recognition of the direction of the sound.

  • With binaural hearing, you will have a clearer and a much more natural sound perception as you are able to hear sounds coming from all the directions. It is because you will be able to hear sounds approaching from a much wider range, thus enabling you to understand and comprehend sounds better.

  • ‘Stereo’ hearing or binaural hearing (hearing with two ears) is less strenuous than ‘mono’ hearing (hearing with only one ear). People with monaural hearing usually get tired more faster than those with binaural hearing.

  • Two ears will act as a cushion as the sounds are divided equally between the two ears. This characteristic of binaural hearing also enables you to tolerate louder sounds much better than you would have done with monaural hearing. That is you won’t have to face jarring effects if you face some sudden loud noises.

  • Children will learn speech and language skills better than those peers with mono hearing (due to unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness).

  • Individuals with binaural hearing respond in group discussions much faster than their peers with monaural hearing.

  • Children with binaural hearing are more self-confident than those with monoaural hearing.

  • Binaural hearing makes sure that you can have your peace-of-mind while performing your day-to-day activities.

So this is why you need to hear well with both the ears!

 

CROS Hearing Aid Systems

CROS and BiCROS hearing aids are usually recommended for people with single-sided deafness. The CROS (Contralateral Routing Of Signals) digital hearing aids are recommended for individuals who have lost their hearing in one ear and have normal hearing in the other. In other words, the CROS hearing aid device is recommended for those who have unaidable hearing loss in one ear and no loss in the other. This device takes the sound from the poor ear to the working ear to enable you to hear well with less strain. The CROS device is usually not considered a full-fledged hearing aid.

The CROS hearing aid has microphones and an amplifier chip, but no speaker. The transmission of sounds takes place wirelessly from the hearing aid on the poor ear to the receiving hearing aid on the better ear. Although it may seem strange to wear a hearing aid on the ear with normal hearing, it is just delivering the sounds from your bad ear, and not amplifying any sound.

CROS Hearing Aids

There is yet another case in which the person has hearing loss in both the ears - with aidable hearing loss in one ear and unaidable loss in the other. In such a case, BiCROS (Bilateral Microphones with Contralateral Routing of Signal) hearing aids would be helpful. This type is similar to the CROS system - a CROS transmitter is paired with an active hearing aid. It is suggested for people who have asymmetrical hearing loss, with one ear being better than the other, though both have some degree of hearing loss. For example, a person having mild to moderate degree of hearing loss in one ear, and severe to profound degree of hearing loss or even total hearing loss in the other - would qualify as an ideal candidate for BiCROS digital hearing aids.

A BiCROS hearing aid picks up sounds from the ear with unaidable hearing loss (that is from the bad ear), processes it and mixes it with its own input and then amplifies the mixed signal and delivers the resultant into the other ear with aidable hearing loss (the better ear). This whole process is done in such a manner that you would feel that you are actually hearing from your bad ear.

BiCROS Hearing Aids

 

The Conclusion

The goal of these CROS devices is to provide the person with a sense of binaural hearing when true binaural hearing aid fitting is not possible. The good news is, these digital hearing aids are introduced with advanced wireless technologies with which the user no longer needed to stay connected physically, and yet enjoy the listening experience seamlessly.

This type of set-up is made so as to enable you to have a clear sound perception from all the directions and from both the sides of your head - which is important. In other words, the CROS and the BiCROS digital hearing aids are designed to give you a feeling of binaural hearing.

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Ageing and Hearing Loss

Saturday, March 2, 2019 2:01:14 PM Asia/Calcutta

It is true that hearing loss occurs in most of us as we grow older. Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is quite a common issue these days that affects older and elderly adults, and sadly in most cases, it is unpreventable. You can only try to stay healthy as long as possible.

In the US, approximately 1 in 3 people in between the age group of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and about half of those who are of 75 years and above have difficulty hearing. Hearing impairment is ranked third in the list of chronic health conditions which affect people belonging to the age group of 65 and above.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, within the year 2025 there will be about 1.2 billion people over 60 years of age worldwide, with more than 500 million individuals who will suffer a significant hearing impairment from presbycusis, also known as an age-related hearing loss.

Presbycusis has a major impact on the quality of life of a person and is related to a significant reduction in his or her communication skills. It also affects the psycho-social aspects of an individual, such as inducing progressive isolation, possibly exacerbating anxiety-depressive status and/or accentuating possible cognitive deficits.

 

Classifications of Presbycusis

Schuknecht, et al. 1993 categorised presbycusis into four types based on pathology and audiometric findings - sensory, neural, conductive, and metabolic (strial).

  • Sensory presbycusis is defined as epithelial atrophy and loss of sensory hair cells as well as the supporting cells of the organ of Corti, which arise from the base and progress towards the apex. In this type of presbycusis, the slope of the audiogram (a graph which shows the results of the pure-tone hearing test) occurs in the high frequencies, therefore, the speech discrimination is preserved.

  • Neural presbycusis results from nerve cells atrophy in the cochlea and central neural pathway. Atrophy occurs throughout the cochlea with no sheer or dangerous drops in the high-frequency threshold in the audiogram. The speech discrimination decreases severely even before hearing loss is recorded.

  • Conductive or mechanical type arises from thickening and secondary stiffening of the basilar membrane of the cochlea with a gradual sloping high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss. Speech discrimination is preserved in this type of presbycusis.

  • Atrophy of stria vascularis results in metabolic or strial presbycusis which affect the entire cochlea and show a flat curve in the audiogram.

 

Why Do People Get Hearing Loss as They Age?

There are many factors which contribute to hearing loss as you start ageing. Although it is quite difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss or presbycusis from other factors that might be responsible for it, yet let us take a look at the possible reasons that might cause hearing loss as you age.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) - It is caused either by long term exposure to sounds which are either too loud or which last for too long. This exposure causes damage to the hair cells present inside the cochlea of the inner ear, which are responsible for converting sound waves into neural signals, thus making them ready to be sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. Once damaged, these hair cells can never grow or regenerate. They are gone forever! Therefore the term ‘permanent hearing loss’!

  • High blood pressure or hypertension - The link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is pretty simple. When your blood pressure is high, your blood vessels are damaged, which is not limited to just one area in your whole circulatory system and thus includes your ears as well and hampering proper blood circulation. In simple words, if the blood circulation in your ears is affected, your ears won’t work well and thus leading to hearing loss problems.

  • Diabetes - High blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, thus affecting your hearing abilities.

  • Ototoxic medications - Medications, like chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the sensory cells of your ears, thus affecting their functioning and causing hearing loss.

  • Genetics - Yes your parents hearing health matters! Some diseases like Otosclerosis, Usher Syndrome, Pendred Syndrome, which cause hearing loss are hereditary.

Apart from these common causes of age-related hearing loss, there can be cases like sudden damage to the internal structure of the outer or the middle ear due to various reasons like a serious injury. However, these conditions are very less as far as presbycusis is concerned.

Studies show that most of the older people who acquire a hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

 

Age-related hearing loss is a gradual process and often occurs in both the ears, affecting them equally. And the sad part is that in most of the cases an individual may not even realise that he or she is suffering from age-related hearing loss and that he or she has lost some of his or her hearing ability. And this realisation is generally late until there are some other damages associated with it. Of course, there are so many hearing loss treatment options, the most common being hearing aids, but you just need to take that action.

But the question arises, ‘How would you know that you have hearing loss?’

There are many signs which tell you that its time that you take serious action. If you are still confused about whether you are suffering from hearing loss, here’s a simple checklist for you. Ask yourself and try to answer all of them. If you answer with an ‘Yes’ to three or more of these questions, then it’s a good chance that you are having some degree of hearing loss.

  • Do you feel embarrassed while meeting new people?

  • Do you feel that others are mumbling?

  • Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?

  • Do you often find it difficult to understand what others are trying to convey and hence feel frustrated?

  • Do you face problems while listening to the radio or the TV and hence end up raising up the volume which is too loud for others?

  • Do you have a hard time hearing while at the movies or at the theatre?

  • Do you have trouble hearing when you are at a restaurant with your family and friends?

  • Do you face difficulties in understanding speech in a noisy area?

  • Do you have difficulties in differentiating between ‘s’ and ‘th’ sounds?

  • Do you have difficulty understanding what your co-workers, clients or customers are trying to say?

  • Do you often end up arguing with your family members because you are unable to understand them?

  • Do you often avoid attending social gatherings?

  • Do you often avoid making phone calls or even receiving them, thus end up giving excuses via text messages like ‘I was not carrying my phone’ or ‘My phone was silent’, etc.?

  • Do you have a sensation of ringing in the ears or tinnitus?

 

Now that you know that you might have hearing loss (and that’s why you are reading this blog), head on to know how to fight against it.

 

How to Fight Against It?

Do not panic! The first and foremost thing that you should do is to get up from your chair at the corner of your room and step outside your house! Visit your nearest hearing clinic or a professional Audiologist and get your hearing tested. An ideal Audiologist is supposed to test your hearing thoroughly, provide you with an audiogram report and explain you the test results in details. Depending on your test results - that is the type and the intensity of your hearing loss, your Audiologist will suggest you the hearing aids (devices that are worn in the ear to enable you to hear better) which would best suit your hearing needs as well as your personal preferences.

A good Audiologist will also do a test and trial with a few hearing aids of various types and determine with which device are you responding the best. Also, he or she would also help you out in the days to come if you face any problems with your device in the future - such as reprogramming and fitting.

Keep in mind that hearing aids are not like eyeglasses, which would give you a clear vision immediately after wearing them. Hearing aids don’t just work that way. It takes time for your brain to adjust to this new hearing world which it was missing for all these days because of your untreated hearing loss.

If, however, you find that your hearing aids are not giving you many benefits even after using them for a long time, then you need to consult your Audiologist immediately. It might be that your hearing loss is so severe such as in case of a severe to profound degree of sensorineural hearing loss, then your Audiologist might recommend you to go for a cochlear implant, an electrical device that is surgically implanted inside your ear and in which you would get a permanent hearing solution, and unlike hearing aids you don’t need to change the device after using it for some years. A cochlear implant only needs to be updated from time to time.

Apart from hearing aids and cochlear implants, there are other devices as well such as assistive listening devices which include telephone and cell phone amplifying devices, smartphone apps to enhance the listening experience and closed-circuit systems like hearing loop systems (example microphones) which are found in places like a theatre, a temple or at some other public event.

Lip reading or speech reading is another option to assist hearing impaired people and to help them understand better what others are trying to convey. Lip reading involves paying close attention to lip movement as well as other body language movements and gestures.

 

The best way to avoid hearing loss problems is to prevent it. Because prevention is always better than cure!

 

How Can I Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Although at present, proper preventive measures of age-related hearing loss have not been found, yet there are certain ways following which can help you prevent hearing loss due to ageing. These are as follows -

  • Protect your ears and avoid being overexposed to loud sounds. In this way, you can prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Use earplugs or other protective wearables whenever you are near a source of some loud sound.

  • Avoid the intake of ototoxic medications until and unless you have no other option.

  • Take care of your high blood pressure and diabetic problems by consulting a good health professional.

  • Get your ears checked from time to time to prevent any serious hearing loss problems in the future.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking.

So stay healthy and hear better for as long as you can!

0 Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Can Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?

Friday, November 2, 2018 6:44:59 PM Asia/Calcutta

Are you worried about Tinnitus, and tired of living with it for a long time now? Are you wondering whether you will ever get cured of it? The good news is, some Tinnitus problems can be managed with the help of hearing aids. However, it cannot be fully cured with the help of these devices - no matter how technologically advanced digital hearing aids you are using. Also, you must realise that you should consult a certified Audiologist at the earliest - because delaying or avoiding Tinnitus won’t be a solution!

 

Incidence and Prevalence

According to the CDC estimates, in the US, the prevalence of Tinnitus is about 15% of the total population (that is, about 45 million Americans) - and a majority of them are senior citizens belonging to the age group of 65-85. Apart from ringing in the ears, Tinnitus is also associated with other sounds, such as buzzing, humming, hissing, or even roaring, and in some cases cricket-like - even when there is no presence of external sounds! Tinnitus can occur either in one ear or both the ears, or even in the head - and the ringing sounds can be either constant or intermittent. It has become a common problem nowadays, and about 2 million Americans are suffering from quiet an alarming or chronic stages of Tinnitus. The result being - effect on daily functioning, a decline in the productivity at workplace, difficulties concentrating in academics, misunderstandings in relationships and among family members, sleep disturbances, and worse still - it might affect emotional or psychological conditions.

 

How Can Hearing Aids Provide Tinnitus Relief?

There are many varieties of advanced and smart digital hearing aids which help manage and reduce tinnitus problems. However, apart from hearing devices, there are many other tinnitus instruments which can be clubbed together with the use of these digital hearing aids to improve outcomes and enhance tinnitus relief. Also, there are various maskers and home masking devices which are used to cover up or conceal the tinnitus sounds.

There is a specialised therapy known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) - which uses cognitive behavioral therapy along with a masking device which makes the person suffering from Tinnitus learn to ignore the background noises of Tinnitus.

All of these methods have the sole aim of comforting or lessening the problem, thus making tinnitus less audible - because tinnitus cannot be cured completely; it can only be treated and in the true sense, be ‘masked’.

 

Now What is Meant by Masking of Tinnitus?

Just like hearing loss, tinnitus is a problem which cannot be cured, it can only be treated. In other words, if your tinnitus problem is caused due to hearing loss, then hearing aids can help manage and comfort your ringing sounds. It is because when you were living with an untreated hearing loss, your brain was not able to receive all the sounds due to lack of stimulation in the specific sound frequencies in which you are having the loss. For example, you may not be able to hear the sound of birds chirping if you have a high frequency hearing loss.

After you have opted for advanced digital hearing aids, you will again be able to hear those sounds in these frequencies. Studies have shown that after this amplification with the help of hearing machine, people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus, have reported a significant decline in the severity of tinnitus problems as well.

The reason behind this is after the adaptation of digital hearing aids, one is once more able to listen to natural sounds of the surrounding environment, such as the rustling of the leaves, the rainfall, the splash in the pool, the singing of the cuckoo, and so much more - which they were missing for all these days! This ability to hear these natural sounds acts as a ‘masking’ effect for tinnitus - due to which a person who is suffering from both hearing loss and tinnitus will at least be relieved from the annoying ringing sounds which were hampering his/her life activities for so long!

Also, in addition to improving the hearing and communication abilities of the concerned person, hearing aids also amplify the background sounds. This helps reduce the loudness or the prominence of Tinnitus, and help the person concentrate more on the sounds of nature. Simply taking one’s concentration off the disturbing Tinnitus sounds serves as a relief for many people. Besides, on using digital hearing aids, a person is no more required to strain while trying hard to hear something properly. This itself reduces stress, as hearing devices are meant to improve communication, and thus, the concerned person is relieved from Tinnitus problems.

However, you will be surprised to know that there are many advanced digital hearing aids today that are aimed at directly managing Tinnitus problems. So why should you delay in opting one? Just go ahead and stay away from the icy pangs of tinnitus!

Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee
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