Hearing Aid Resources

As experts in the field of hearing aids, the audiologists at Ohio Head and Neck Surgeons are committed to providing high-quality hearing health care to our patients. The following articles address common questions and concerns that patients have regarding hearing aids.

Select subject below to learn more:

Cell Phone/TV Accessories

Talking on the cell phone, watching television and listening to MP3 players has become an integral part of every day life. Our hearing aid manufacturers have listened to your needs and developed technology that helps you hear better when you are talking on the phone to a loved one or watching your favorite program on TV. If you have trouble hearing in any of these situations, we have the solution for you!

Keeping Your Hearing Aids Wax Free

The majority of hearing aid repairs are due to earwax.

All hearing aid styles should be wiped with a dry cloth or tissue after use to remove wax or moisture.

Custom (CIC, ITC, or ITE) hearing aids: Clean the canal portion or receiver area with the brush and use the wire loop to scoop out any wax from the receiver tube. If the aid has a wax filter on the end, just brush over it and replace it as instructed by your audiologist.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) models with removable custom ear molds: Brush earwax away and use the wire loop to scoop wax out of the canal portion. Wash the ear mold about once a month. Remove the ear mold and silicone tubing from the hearing aid before cleaning it. Wash the ear mold and tubing with warm, soapy water. Rinse and then dry overnight, make sure there is no moisture in the ear mold or tubing before connecting it back to the hearing aid. The tubing tends to get brittle over time and should be changed every six months.

Models with the thin tube and dome: Remove the tubing from the aid, and use the black or green cleaning rod or reamer to push any debris out of the tube. Insert the reamer at the end that attaches to the aid and push it all the way through and out the dome. Reconnect the tubing to the aid. The thin tube and dome should be changed every three to six months.

Receiver in-the-ear (RIE) models: The receiver tube contains the thin wiring to the receiver or speaker and should never be disconnected from the hearing aid. Your audiologist will care for this part at your regular check-ups. The non-custom or custom dome should be cleaned with the brush and wire loop. The wax filters should be changed as instructed. The non-custom domes should be replaced every three to six months.

Hearing Aid Test Drive

Yes you can test drive hearing aids like you test drive a car before purchasing. We have demonstration hearing aids that you can wear for a week to evaluate the benefit of new technology. In order for the hearing aids to be taken out of our office, we will write down your credit card number. The credit card is not charged. When you return the hearing aids we give you the form with your credit card number so you can shred it. Please call our offices at (330) 492-2844 ext. 3 to learn more.

Yearly Hearing Aid Maintenance

Our goal at Ohio Head and Neck Surgeons’ Audiology Department is to make sure you’re hearing clearly and with as much comfort as possible. That’s why we recommend a hearing check-up at least once a year. Your check-up should include the following:

Hearing Evaluation: Changes in hearing can occur so gradually that you’re not aware of the change. If we find any changes, we will recommend treatment or adjust your hearing aids accordingly.

Check your ear canals: Earwax is the most frequent cause of hearing aid breakdown. Early detection and removal can prevent a costly repair.

Clean and adjust your hearing aids: Regular cleanings can make sure you are getting the most from your hearing aids.

Keeping the hearing aids free from earwax and moisture can minimize repairs. Look in your mail for the annual reminder cards that we send to you for hearing tests and hearing aid checks.

What Technology Level is Right for Me?

There are three levels of digital technology that you can choose from based on your lifestyle & hearing needs. The manufacturers that we use (ReSound®, Phonak®, and Starkey®) have hearing aids with the three levels of digital technology described below:

Good or Entry Level: If your listening situations are primarily in quiet environments, such as at home or conversations with one person or small groups, then the entry level or basic technology might be appropriate for you.

Better or Mid-Level: If your listening situations include the quiet environments, and you regularly find yourself in louder setting that may have higher ambient sound or requires directional hearing (meetings, religious gatherings, restaurants, etc) then the mid-level might be most suitable for you. Hearing aids in this category have features such as advanced noise reduction, automatic directionality, and wind noise management to help you hear in more difficult environments.

Best or High Level: If your listening situations include those already listed plus ones that are more complex, such as open public spaces/shopping, large parties, busy restaurants, and sporting events, then the high level would be best for you. These instruments have the most sophisticated technology, including superior noise reduction, premium automatic adjustments based on your listening environment, and enhanced feedback suppression.

During your appointments, we will be sure to determine what level works best for you. To schedule an appointment, call (330) 492-2844 ext. 3.

Solutions for Itchy Ears

Many of our patients complain about itchy ears or are plagued by earwax constantly clogging their hearing aids. Miracell™ is a full, concentrate blend of pure botanical natural extracts that is approved by the FDA. This safe, all natural botanical solution helps to develop and maintain healthy ears. Each ingredient fills a specific need in maintaining skin health. It lubricates the ear canal without starving skin cells of oxygen. Miracell will soften earwax for easier removal and less damage to the keratin layer of skin.

 

Troubleshooting Guide

If you are experiencing problems with your hearing aid, here are a few troubleshooting tips that might help fix the problem. If you do not find an answer in the tips below, please call our office and we will help.

Symptom #1: The aid has NO SOUND or is NOT LOUD ENOUGH

Possible Problems
  • The aid is not turned on.
  • A dead battery.
  • The battery is inserted upside-down.
  • A blocked microphone or receiver.
  • A blocked wax filter.
Possible Solutions
  • Turn the aid on by closing the battery door fully.
  • Replace the battery, or insert the battery properly.
  • Clean the microphones with a brush.
  • Clean the receiver with a brush or wax loop.
  • Change the wax filters (if applicable).
  • For those hearing aids with slim tubes, remove the slim tube and use a reamer tool to remove any wax backed-up inside the tubing.

Symptom #2: The hearing aid WHISTLES

Possible Problems
  • The aid is not inserted in the ear correctly.
  • A build up of wax in the ear canal.
Possible Solutions
  • Remove and reinsert the hearing aid to ensure it is properly seated deep into the ear canal.
  • Have your ear checked for wax. Stubborn or deeply impacted wax may need to be removed under the microscope by one of our physicians.

Symptom #3: The aid WEAK, DISTORTED, or STATIC

Possible Problems
  • A low battery.
  • A damaged battery.
  • The aid has been exposed to moisture.
Possible Solutions
  • Try a new battery.
  • Put your aid in the Dri-Aid™ jar for 24 to 48 hours.
  • If you see corrosion or rust on the battery door, clean it by dampening a cotton swab with alcohol and wiping the area carefully.

If all the above suggestions fail to solve the issue call the Audiology department for an appointment: (330) 492-2844

Solutions for Moisture Problems

Some classic signs of moisture in hearing aids are:

  • A sputtering, motorboat sounding static in the hearing aid.
  • The hearing aid works normally for several hours then quits, several hours later it works normally again.
  • Battery changes do not help.

If your hearing aid has been exposed to moisture it may not work properly. Dri-Aid™ kits are dehumidifiers for hearing aids. There are two kinds: the jar and the box. By using a Dri-Aid kit nightly, the life of a hearing aid can be extended.

The jar works with silicon pellets that attract moisture out of the hearing aids. Hearing aids are stored in a jar with the pellets. When the pellets change color, they need re-activated to continue to work. They are re-activated by heating them in the microwave. Pellets can be reused for about 1 ½ to 2 years, and then another kit needs to be purchased. Cost is $10.00 for the small jar and $14.00 for the large jar. The size you need depends on the size of your hearing aids.

The box is for those with excessive moisture problems. We recommend the Zephyr electronic drying system. It is a small plastic box that plugs into any outlet. The Zephyr has a drying cycle of eight hours. The box works with silicon crystal bricks and a fan that continuously circulates warm, dry air. The silicon crystals need to be replaced every 3 to 6 months. Cost is $80.00 and includes two drying bricks of the silicon crystals.

Current Hearing Aid Technology

Reviewed below are five of the most exciting features in new hearing aid technology.

Digital Feedback Management: All new digital hearing aids are equipped with sophisticated feedback management to remove unwanted whistling. Feedback is automatically detected by the hearing aid and is cancelled out. This provides you with more gain and better comfort.

Automatic Program Adjustments: Many hearing aids now have automatic program adjustments that analyze your surroundings and adjust for different types of environments (i.e. quiet, noise, speech, music). Program and volume changes are automatically synced between both hearing aids. This technology makes hearing aids easier to use.

Mini-BTE with Manual Control: In the past many behind-the-ear (BTE) users had to compromise cosmetic appeal for manual control over their aids. Most companies now have a miniature BTE that also has a manual push button. This button can be programmed for program changes or as a volume control. Mini-BTEs are not noticeable on the ear and are good for mild to severe losses.

SoundRecover: SoundRecover compresses and shifts high frequency information into an adjacent area of hearing. This compression will give you better speech understanding, and awareness of high-pitched sounds such as children’s voices. It is helpful for all degrees of hearing loss.

Connectivity: An accessory can be paired with most hearing aids to allow Bluetooth and wired hands-free listening with cell phones, televisions, mp3 players and more.

Hearing Aid Circuitry: What’s Digital?

Digital Hearing Aids are the latest advance in hearing aid technology. They are very different then conventional hearing aids. A digital hearing aid has a computer chip doing the amplifier work rather than the traditional analog circuitry. The actual hearing aid is a miniature computer in itself. This major breakthrough in technology greatly increases the amount of sound processing possible in a small amount of space. The potential improvement from digital hearing aids is remarkable because they have minimal distortion, allowing for clearer speech quality. They have the ability to analyze the sound environment and adapt to the amplification accordingly, enhancing speech clarity. This is all done automatically, without volume controls or remote controls.

Cell Phones and Hearing Aids

Every major cell phone manufacturer is now required to offer phones that work better with hearing aids. These phones are rated for how much interference they are likely to cause a hearing aid. Ratings are given for “M” (microphone) and “T” (t-coil), and range from 1-4. The higher the rating, the less likely you are to experience interference. Only phones rated 3 or 4 are considered Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC). A rating of M3 or M4 means the phone will sound clearer when listening through the microphone. If you use a t-coil, look for a phone with a T3 or T4 rating. To know whether a phone is compatible, look for the HAC rating on the phone package or manual.

Other Cell Phone Features to Consider

  • Volume Control: Ensure the phone has an adjustable volume control.
  • Display and keypad lighting: Backlit displays can be a source of noise for t-coil users.
  • Speaker phone: Using a speaker phone may reduce interference.
  • Teletypewriter (TTY): capability or other assistive device connections
  • Vibrating alerts
  • Flashing screen to alert a call
  • Different ringer volumes and tones
  • Test messaging services
  • Hands-Free Listening

Several accessories are available to pair cell phones and hearing aids, allowing you to communicate hands-free. All of these accessories require your hearing aid be Telecoil (t-coil) compatible. If you are unsure whether your aid applies, please contact our office.

Neckloop/Amplifier CLA7: Wired system that connects any device with a standard audio plug (cell phone, cordless phone, MP3 Player, computer, etc.) to a t-coil equipped hearing aid. The system operates by using a hands-free neck loop with microphone and adjustable volume. Price $100

Bluetooth® Beetle: Wirelessly transmits speech or audio from a Bluetooth® capable cell phone to the t-coil program of a hearing aid. The device and phone must be within 30 feet from one another. Can be worn with a neck loop (both ears) or a single ear hook (one ear). Price $150

Phonak iCom: Only available for certain Phonak products (Audeo®, Exelia®, Versata®, Certena®, & Ambra®). This device allows for a variety of inputs, including Bluetooth, direct audio, and FM signals. Adaptors are also available to stream landline telephones, TVs, MP3 players, and computers. Price $320

-- back to top --

 

Hearing Loss Resources

Over 34 million Americans are affected by some degree of hearing loss. There are many risk factors, including aging, loud noise exposure, heredity, and some medications (such as chemotherapy or large doses of aspirin). Untreated hearing loss has been associated with social withdrawal, increased social anxiety, and depression. The best way to determine if you have hearing loss is to get tested by a licensed audiologist.

All About Earwax

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance secreted in our ear canals that varies in color from yellow to brown. Its purpose is to protect the skin of the ear canal, assist in cleaning and lubrication, and to provide some protection form bacteria, fungi, insects and water.

Production, Composition and Types

Cerumen is produced in the outer third of the cartilaginous portion of the ear canal. It is a mixture of viscous (sticky) secretions from sebaceous glands and less-viscous ones from sweat glands. The primary components of earwax are shed layers of skin with 60% of the earwax consisting of keratin, (the fibrous, insoluble protein that is the main element of our hair and nails), about 20% of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and about 10% of cholesterol.

There are two distinct genetically determined types of earwax: the wet type, which is dominant, and the dry type, which is recessive. Caucasians and Africans are more likely to have the wet type (honey-brown to dark brown and moist), whereas East Asians and Native Americans are likely to have the dry type (grey and flakey).

Function of Earwax

Cleaning
Cleaning of the ear canal occurs by the “conveyer belt” process of epithelial migration, aided by jaw movement. Cells formed in the center of the tympanic membrane migrate outwards, at about the rate of fingernail growth, to the walls of the ear canal. As it migrates outward, it takes with it any dirt and dust that may have gathered in the canal. Jaw movement assists this process by dislodging debris attached to the walls of the ear canal to aid the migration outwards.

Lubrication
Lubrication prevents dehydration, itching and burning of the skin within the ear canal. The lubrication properties come from the high lipid content of the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands.

Antibacterial and antifungal effects
Recent studies have found the cerumen has an effect on some strains of bacteria. It reduces the viability of a wide range of bacteria including Haemophilus influenza, Staphylococcus aureus, and many variants of Escherichis coli, sometimes by 99%. The growth of two fungi commonly present in otomycosis was also significantly inhibited by cerumen. These antimicrobial properties are due primarily to the presence of saturated fatty acids and the slight acidity of cerumen.

Treatment

Excessive cerumen may block the passage of sound in the ear canal causing a hearing loss. Softening the earwax with over-the-counter preparations will cause the earwax to more easily move out of the ear canal. The use of a syringe and warm water will help irrigate the ear canal after the cerumen has been softened. The most common method of cerumen removal by general practitioners is syringing with warm water. An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist is more likely to use a curette or suction while viewing the cerumen under an operating microscope to precisely remove it. Cotton swabs, on the other hand, push most of the earwax further into the ear canal while only removing a small portion of the top layer of earwax that happens to adhere to the fibers of the swab.

Did you know?

  • Fear, stress and anxiety can result in increased production of earwax from the ceruminous glands.
  • Cerumen-type has been used by anthropologists to track human migratory patterns, such as those of the Inuit.
  • In medieval times, earwax was used as pigments by scribes to illustrate illuminated manuscripts.
  • Ear candling does not remove earwax, and is considered dangerous. The dark residue that is left after the procedure is not earwax, and is present whether or not the candle is inserted in the ear.
  • The TV show MythBusters showed that candles made of earwax can sustain a flame, but do not burn long or bright enough to be as practical as other candles.

Do You Think You Have Hearing Loss? Take this simple test:

Do you...
Have difficulty understanding what is being said, unless you are directly facing the speaker?
Find yourself complaining that people are mumbling or slurring their words?
Continually ask people to repeat words or phrases, though they feel they're speaking loud enough?
Prefer the TV or radio louder than others do?
Have difficulty understanding conversation within a group of people?
Avoid group meetings, social occasions, public facilities, or family gatherings where listening may be difficult?
Have trouble hearing at the movies, house or worship, concert halls, or at other public gatherings – especially where sound sources are at a distance?
Have ringing in the ears or other head noises? (hissing, buzzing, crickets, etc). Tinnitus is often a symptom of hearing loss, but not always.
If you answered "yes" to at least two of these questions, you may have a hearing loss.
Contact us today at (330) 492-2844 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

Untreated Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the United States, affecting more than 34 million Americans over the age of 50. Despite that large incidence, three out of five people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids. A study by the National Council on the Aging found that denial, cost and vanity are the biggest barriers to the use of hearing aids.

A survey of hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

The survey also found that significantly more of the older adults with hearing loss that do not wear hearing aids reported feelings of sadness or depression that lasted two or more weeks during the previous year. Non-users of hearing aids were more likely to think that other people get angry with them for no reason.

The study also examined social behavior and found that people that don’t use hearing aids are significantly less likely to participate in social activities. Those with more severe hearing loss, 42% of hearing aid-users participate regularly in social activities compared to just 32% of non-users of hearing aids.

Hearing aid users reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, including relationships at home, feelings about self, relationships with children and grandchildren, mental health, self-confidence, sense of safety, relationships at work and independence in their social lives. The families of hearing-aid users also noted improvements and were even more likely than the users to report the improvements.

Encourage those with difficulty hearing to see an audiologist for an evaluation and discussion of hearing aid options.

Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease

AIED (Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease) has made national news due to famous radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

AIED was first described in 1979. The most common sign and symptom is a significant sensorineural hearing loss that occurs over a period of weeks to months. It usually affects both ears. Some patients also have dizziness or true vertigo.

The diagnosis of AIED is made by the clinical signs and symptoms of a rapidly progressive sensorineural hearing loss. In any person with presumed AIED, it is necessary to rule out other possible causes of progressive sensorineural hearing loss, such as an acoustic neuroma, neurosyphilis, and Meniere's disease. About 20% of the patients have other autoimmune diseases, such as Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

The mainstay of treatment is high dose, long-term steroids that may go on for 4 to 5 months. About 6% of patients with AIED progress to the point of profound hearing loss. At that point, the only option for hearing is the cochlear implant.

Communication Strategies

Communication strategies are simple ways to make conversation easier and more enjoyable for all listeners. We recommend you share them with your family and friends.

Speak clearly and naturally:
Do not shout. It can distort the signal, making it harder to understand. Slowing your rate of speech will allow the listener to process meaning. Pausing between sentences call allow the listener to “Catch up” if they lag behind.

Move closer:
Reduce the distance between speaker and listener, especially in background noise.

Face the listener:
Ensure the listener can clearly see the speaker’s face and lips.

Get the listener’s attention:
Before you begin talking, attract the listener’s attention by saying their name, entering their field of vision, or lightly tapping him or her on the shoulder.

Rephrase rather than repeat:
The same words that are repeated may still be misunderstood by a person with hearing impairment. Rephrasing can give the same message but in a easier to understand way.

Take the surroundings into account:
Do not try to communicate from another room. Turn off or move away from extraneous noise such as loud music, vacuum cleaners, lawn equipment, etc.

Be patient:
Being patient and respectful is one of the best ways to support a hearing impaired person. Listening can be exhausting for him or her, especially in noisy situations.

Do Not Pretend:
Acting like you understand conversations, such as laughing when everyone else does or just nodding your head can add to breakdowns in communication. Inform others of your hearing loss so that everyone can practice good communication strategies. Not doing so can cause misinterpretations and damaged relationships.

Tinnitus: What is it?

Tinnitus (pronounced /ti-nahy-tuhs/) is the perception of sound within the ear when no corresponding external sound exists. It is a phenomenon that affects about 10% of the population, or up to 50 million people in the United States. It can take many different forms, including ringing, chirping or clicking sounds. It can last several moments or hours at a time. Tinnitus is usually subjective, meaning it is only heard by the person affected.

There are many causes of tinnitus. It may be something as simple as earwax plugging your ear, or could be a symptom of more serious middle ear problems such as infection, a hole in the eardrum, or an accumulation of fluid. It may also be caused by an allergy, high or low blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, a tumor, or injury to the head or neck. A variety of medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives/antidepressants, and aspirin may also cause tinnitus. When hearing loss is present, tinnitus is often simply a symptom of the damaged auditory system.

Tinnitus is usually more noticeable in silent or very quiet situations (such as at bedtime). The amount of attention paid to tinnitus can vary from person to person. Constant tinnitus can cause anxiety and stress for some people who experience it.

Tinnitus Treatment Options

For most patients there is no known cure for tinnitus. However, relief (reduction in the perceived tinnitus) can be achieved through various treatment options. It is strongly recommended that you consult a hearing healthcare professional to determine a course of action that is right for you.

The goal of tinnitus treatment is always the same: to make it more difficult for the brain to detect the tinnitus signal. Ultimately, over time, less importance is assigned to the tinnitus and relief is achieved. Many patients find using hearing aids can provide respite from tinnitus. The amplified sound from a hearing aid covers-up the tinnitus and makes it less distracting. Fans, radios, sound machines and televisions can also be used to mask the symptoms tinnitus. When hearing aids are not of benefit, more intensive tinnitus treatment can be explored.

Treatment usually involves two components:
  1. Counseling to better understand tinnitus
  2. Sound therapy where a tinnitus sound generator (TSG) is used to conceal the signal. Sound generators are hearing instrument-like devices that deliver constant sound to the ear, which over time can provide relief from perceived tinnitus. Some patients report immediate relief using a tinnitus sound generator or combination device. For others it takes time. Studies have shown it can take 3-12 months for complete tinnitus habituation (relief from perceived tinnitus) to occur.

If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, contact Ohio Head and Neck Surgeons to discuss your treatment options.

-- back to top --

 

Balance Resources

Balance problems can have many different causes, including circulatory issues, inner ear disturbances, or infection. Vertigo is the sensation of spinning or the room spinning around you. In contrast, disequilibrium is a feeling of off-balance or falling to one side. Lastly, pre-syncope is a feeling of nearly fainting or passing out.

Imbalance is especially troublesome in older adults, who are at a higher risk of falling. For younger individuals, balance issues can create problems both at home and work.

Helpful Hints When Dizzy

Here are tips to help diminish the dizziness:

  • Change your position slowly, especially when going from a lying down or sitting position to standing.
  • Look up or down slowly, and only for short periods of time.
  • Turn your head slowly from side to side and move your whole body when doing so.
  • Most cases of vertigo and dizziness are not serious, and either respond to treatment or improve over time. When changing positions quickly, older people sometimes experience dizziness due to circulatory problems.
  • Follow-up visits are important if the dizziness or vertigo persists.

Understanding Balance Problems

More than 2 million people visit their doctor each year complaining of dizziness. Some people describe their balance problem by saying that they feel dizzy or lightheaded. This feeling of imbalance without a sensation of spinning is rarely due to an inner ear problem. Other people describe their balance problem by using the word "vertigo", which in Latin means "to turn". They describe that either they or their surroundings are spinning. Vertigo is usually due to an inner ear problem.

Dizziness can be associated with a central problem resulting in not enough blood and oxygen getting to the brain. This may be due to arteriosclerosis, cervical osteoarthritis, diabetes or anemia, and generally occurs when getting up from a seated or reclining position.

Vertigo is usually due to an inner ear problem associated with the following conditions: Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, Eustachian tube blockage or benign positional vertigo. Usually one ear is affected more than the other. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fullness feeling in the ear, ringing in the ear, and hearing loss. People with true vertigo may have jerky eye movements called "nystagmus".

A complete medical evaluation is necessary to determine the cause of the dizziness or vertigo. The medical evaluation may include a hearing test, lab tests, videonystagmography (VNG), and a MRI. The medical evaluation, hearing test and VNG can be completed in our office.

-- back to top --

 

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are technologies beyond hearing aids that help you hear better and communicate easier. Devices include amplified telephones, strobe light smoke alarms, hands-free telephone accessories, and FM devices to help you hear from a distance. Please browse the following articles related to ALDs.

Can You Hear Your Smoke Detector?

Have someone test your smoke detector while you’re in various rooms of your home. Listen if you can hear it with your hearing aids as well as without. If you can’t detect the alarm, consider the following options:

Portable Visual & Audio Smoke Detector:
Plugs into a standard outlet and can be used wherever necessary. Also comes with a back-up battery. Cost is $165.

Portable Smoke Detector & Signal Unit with Vibrator:
It includes a battery operated audible smoke detector, an AC powered receiver unit that attaches to wall or sits on nightstand, and a vibrator to tuck under your billow or mattress. Cost is $300. A strobe light option is available for $310.

-- back to top --