Hear Better at Home
You might be surprised how many small ways you can complement the better hearing you already get from your hearing aids. Read on to learn about technology that can improve communication — and connection — even more.
If you’re adjusting to hearing technology, you’ve no doubt noticed how many situations around the home could be improved through better hearing, especially if you’re retired, work from home, or have relatives who live far away.
Today’s hearing aids are tiny computers, which means they can take advantage of the latest in computer technology — and you can take charge of your hearing.
For those with hearing loss — with or without hearing devices —closed captions improve speech understanding. But if you’re on a video call with loved ones in a different state, or you work from home, is that even possible? Turns out, it is.
Video calling platforms
For personal use, such as video calls with loved ones, Skype and Google Hangouts offer closed captions. For businesses, Microsoft Teams now offers captions only in meetings, and Zoom doesn’t have a built-in capability, but captions can be generated by a third-party service.
You can also download mobile apps to create closed captioning for phone and video calls. Google Live Transcribe (Android), Rogervoice (iOS and Android), and Otter (iOS and Android) transcribe your calls in real time. Google Duo, which works on both iOS and Android, is a video-calling app that will soon offer captioning.
Did you know there are devices that allow your TV, stereo, or other sound source to "talk" to your hearing aids wirelessly? In other words, with these devices, your hearing aids become wireless headphones. The process is called streaming, and the devices are called streamers.
There are streamers to handle any kind of input. Some use a microphone to capture soundwaves in the air, others are plugged directly into the sound source, still others can receive a traditional Bluetooth wireless signal. But all of them use an FM signal or electromagnetic field to "talk" to your hearing aids.
What does this look like in action?
- Are you watching TV with one or more people? With a TV or media streamer, you can control the volume in your hearing aids, while the others in the room listen at a different volume.
- It’s the big game, but you need to head to the kitchen. No problem — with a TV or media streamer, the sound travels with you in your hearing aids, allowing you to hear the sportscasters’ play-by-play.
- Need to take the trash out but your favorite song just came on the radio? With a media streamer, you can still groove to the music in your hearing aids as you quickly pop into the backyard.
- Hard to hear the other end of the table during weeknight family dinner? Use your tabletop or clip-on microphone to stream the conversation right to your hearing devices
There are also mini-remote controls available that allow you to discreetly adjust your hearing aid settings or volume from your pocket or purse!
Hearing aid batteries are not strong or long-lasting enough to support traditional Bluetooth technology. That’s why most streamers use an FM signal or electromagnetic field to talk to your hearing devices.
But some newer hearing aid models are equipped with a newer, low-energy version of Bluetooth. These hearing aids can stream the sound directly from your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices — no streamer needed! You can even use your smartphone to discreetly adjust your volume or settings.
This same streaming technology lets you use your phone as a microphone. Simply place your phone where you want to pick up conversations, music, or other audio and activate Live Listen (built into iOS) or Headset Remote (an Android app). Whatever sounds your phone picks up will be streamed to your hearing devices.
There’s a vast array of options for making your hearing even better around the house — contact us today to learn more!
Three Cheers for Earwax!
Let’s talk earwax. From its texture to its appearance, it gets a bad name. We suspect the yellow-brown goo might be down a friend or two, so we want to give credit where credit is due.
Here are five reasons we think you should give earwax a second chance.
Earwax Protects Your Ear Canal and EardrumLike many things that seem pointless (eyelashes and nose hair, for example), earwax is actually important. It keeps dust, bacteria, and other microorganisms out of your body. A natural antimicrobial, earwax also keeps infection at bay should your ear canal sustain a scrape. Finally, it keeps your ear canal lubricated so it doesn’t become dry and itchy.
Earwax Is Self-CleaningYour ear canal has a slight incline. Your jaw’s motion during chewing and talking keeps your earwax from settling into your skin. Put the two together, and you have the perfect self-cleaning system: Your earwax slowly travels down your ear canal, where you can gently wipe it from your outer ear if necessary.
Earwax Isn’t Even WaxThe technical term for earwax is cerumen. It comprises a few different things: Secretions from two glands combine to line the inside of your ear canal; then dead hair, skin cells, dust, and the already mentioned microorganisms become trapped in this mixture. All of it together is cerumen.
Earwax Is a Good SignIn general, having earwax is not the sign of poor hygiene some people think it is. Everyone produces earwax, and it serves several important purposes. You will know if your earwax becomes a problem, because you’ll experience hearing loss or develop discomfort in your ear canal.
Cotton Swabs Are Not the AnswerYou can revel in crossing one more thing off your daily hygiene list: cotton swabs. Again, the ears are self-cleaning. On the rare occasion you suspect you have too much earwax, don’t stick anything hard in your ear, and don’t use ear candles. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that are as simple as a drop or two of a solution to break up the earwax, followed by flushing your ear canal gently with water. Regular use of cotton swabs strips your ear canal of important protection and can lead to impacted earwax.
Contact us today to schedule a hearing-health consultation!
Home Safety for People With Hearing Loss
So many things around the house are designed to alert you using noise. But what if a hearing loss means you miss when the smoke detector or alarm clock sounds? The following alerting devices are ideal methods for helping your home — or the home of a loved one — feel even safer.
A smoke alarm-based alert uses a bright, blinking light to indicate the smoke alarm is going off. You can buy an adapter for your existing smoke alarm, or you can buy a whole new battery-powered or hardwired smoke alarm with an alert built right in. When paired with a central alert system, you can also include a vibrating shaker to put under your pillow.
A doorbell alert sends a signal to a receiver that flashes a light, increases the volume of the doorbell, activates a shaker under your pillow or couch cushion, or all three. Often, you can buy extra receivers as well, so you could have one in your living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Some work up to 20 feet, others up to 1,000 feet. They are available in either battery operated or hardwired to your electrical system.
The NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio offers a simple text readout and visual or vibrating alarm features. Third-party vendors offer adapters that color code the warning lights and make the display more readable.
These are available in everything from simple to complex. The simplest style has an audio monitor for baby’s room that triggers a vibrating shaker under your pillow. You can also find systems, however, that use multiple monitors, video, lights, and sound. You can even turn your smartphone into a video monitor that triggers an under-pillow vibrating shaker.
There are alarm clocks tailored to those with hearing loss, and there are accessories you can use with your existing alarm clock as well. Just like the doorbell alerts, alarm clock alerts increase the alarm volume, use a shaker placed under your pillow, use flashing lights, or all three. Still others have outlets — plug in any bedside lamp, and it turns on and off as the alarm sounds. Do you use your cell phone or smartphone as an alarm clock? There are shakers you can place under your pillow that are triggered by a smartphone app when your phone alarm goes off.
You can get traditional phones tailored to those with hearing loss or purchase accessories to use with your existing phone. A louder ring, flashing lights, a vibrating shaker under the pillow, or all three are available. There are even phones with outlets — plug in any available lamp, and it turns on and off as the phone rings.
Contact us to learn more about home safety or to schedule a hearing evaluation!
Four Animal Facts: Hearing Edition
Do Cats Enjoy Cat Music?
The answer is yes, cats do enjoy cat music! Read on for details and to learn more quirky facts about hearing in the animal kingdom.
But not so fast: If you were knee high to a long-horn grasshopper, the type known as a katydid, you would not see human ears perched on tiny katydid kneecaps. But the “ears” used by one type of katydid (Copiphora gorgonensis) are remarkably similar to ours. In our case, an internal eardrum captures sound waves, causing faint vibrations. This makes three tiny bones in the inner ear vibrate strongly. The result is waves in the fluid of the cochlea, and these waves are turned into neural impulses for the brain to interpret. Similarly, the katydid’s external eardrum captures sound waves, causing faint vibrations. This makes a tiny plate vibrate strongly. The result is waves in the fluid of something much like our cochlea, and these waves are turned into neural impulses and interpreted as sound.
Dolphins are well known for using echolocation to hear underwater. Using the cavity just below their blowhole, dolphins create whistles, clicks, and other noises. These sounds echo back, and dolphins use the information they get from the echo to learn about the seafloor, water depth, obstacles, prey, predators, and other dolphins. What isn’t so well known is this: The returning sound waves produce pulses in the dolphin’s teeth and jawbone, and then surrounding fats conduct these pulses to the middle ear. In other words, a dolphin’s teeth, jawbone, and surrounding fatty tissue serve the same purpose as our visible outer ear, ear canal, and eardrum!
Elephants Can Talk to Each Other 6 Miles Apart — And You Can’t Hear It
One of the first things you think of when pondering pachyderms is their loud, trombone-like call. But did you know most of their communication among themselves happens using notes at such a low pitch, we can’t hear them? Known as infrasound, these low-frequency noises can be heard by other elephants more than 6 miles away. What do they use infrasound for? Everything from guiding a herd’s movement to warning away competing males during mating season to keeping tabs on a separated calf. Researchers in 2012 finally determined how they accomplish this. Rather than tensing and releasing the muscles in their large voice box, similar to purring, they force air through their voice box, just like we do when we talk or sing.
Can music be used to influence the behavior of cats? Three researchers thought so and developed a theory: Cats naturally communicate using a specific range of frequencies (that is, notes or pitches) and certain tempos. If you played cats some music composed using these frequencies and tempos, they should enjoy it. The researchers composed two cat songs, then sought out cats to play them for. In total, they went to 47 households with cats and played them the two cat songs as well as two classical songs. The cats showed a strong preference for the cat songs, even moving toward or rubbing against the speaker when a cat song was playing. How would your cat react? It probably depends on its age: The young and old cats reacted with the most enthusiasm. The middle-aged cats were more likely to be indifferent.
Contact us today if you need to schedule a hearing evaluation!
Q&A: Live Speech Mapping
Q: What is live speech mapping, and how can it help me? A: Excellent question! Live speech mapping is a mechanism for fine‑tuning hearing aids to the specific pitch and volume of your loved one’s voice and other important sounds. The procedure has been around a while, but many people have likely never heard of it. Let’s take a closer look at three things: who might need live speech mapping, how it works, and why it matters.
WHO MIGHT BENEFIT
Hearing technology has made a world of difference in helping people of all ages communicate their best, but some patients who use hearing devices might still experience difficulty understanding the one voice that matters most to them — typically a spouse or other close relation. In our experience, many people in that situation have found that live speech mapping improves their ability to understand critical speech.
HOW IT WORKS
During the mapping process, a skinny tube with a tiny probe microphone is placed in your ear canal along with the hearing device — don’t worry, it’s painless! Your spouse or another familiar voice that you want to hear then reads a paragraph aloud. The microphone allows us to precisely measure:
- The sounds your hearing aids are producing at your eardrum
- The way your device’s current settings are processing speech
We then see on the computer monitor exactly where the speech is falling within your audible range and can adjust your devices accordingly.
WHY IT MATTERS
Maximizing your hearing devices involves tailoring them to your specific listening needs. Live speech mapping can play an important role in that, helping you more clearly perceive and understand the critical voices in your everyday life. As a practice committed to empowered communication, helping you hear on your terms is important to us. We want you to hear your best so you can live your best. If you haven’t experienced live speech mapping and want to hear your loved one better, we highly recommend a visit to see how this valuable diagnostic procedure might support your listening goals. So don’t wait. Contact our caring team today. We’re here to help!
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