Hearing loss is the 3rd highest chronic disease in the United States. 1 in 5 Americans age 12 and over suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear that is severe enough to interfere with daily communication.
Genetics, noise exposure, age and other conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are a few major contributors to hearing loss.
Untreated hearing loss is linked to depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and rejection, decreased job performance and earning power, dementia, and poorer overall health.
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
- Difficulty hearing on the phone
- Trouble hearing birds, wind, alarms, women and children
- Turning the TV volume too high
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
- Trouble understanding words in the presence of background noise (car or restaurant)
- Difficulty following conversations in groups
- Feeling frustrated that many people mumble
- Misunderstanding words and responding inappropriately
- Frequent ringing or hissing in the ears
A Hearing Screening helps test a person’s hearing sensitivity to different tones and is often performed by an audiologist using an audiometer. A Hearing Screening will help determine if a complete Hearing Evaluation may be necessary. Family Hearing Care provides complementary Hearing Screenings.
A Complete Hearing Evaluation is a combination of many hearing tests used to determine the status of a patient’s peripheral auditory nervous system, including the middle ear. A Complete Hearing Evaluation may include, but is not limited to, an Otoscopic examination of the ear canal and cerumen removal, Pure Tone Air and Bone Conduction Audiometry, Speech Audiometry, Tympanometry, and QuickSIN Speech-in-Noise testing. At the conclusion of a Complete Hearing Evaluation a patient and their primary care physician will receive a copy of the test results with appropriate recommendations for medical or nonmedical intervention as needed. Additionally, the Hearing Evaluation may help determine if a Hearing Aid Evaluation is appropriate in determining whether hearing aids may be beneficial. Medicare and many private insurance companies cover the cost of a yearly Hearing Evaluation.
Hearing Aid Evaluation
A Hearing Aid Evaluation helps determine the hearing aid technology, style, and accessories that may be most suited for a patient’s particular activity level and lifestyle. After a hearing aid has been fit, our audiologists use Best Practices verification methods, including Real Ear probe microphone measurements to determine if the hearing aids meet a prescriptive target for the patient’s particular hearing loss.
Unbiased Hearing Aid Information From Consumer Reports.org
Hearing Aids Styles:
Slim Tube (Mini) BTE or Receiver in the Canal (RIC)
Behind the Ear aids of this type are smaller, very thin, with an almost invisible tube used to connect the aid to the ear canal. Mini BTEs and RICs may have a comfortable ear piece (dome) for insertion (“open fit”), but may also use a traditional earmold. Mini BTEs and RICs allow not only reduced occlusion or “plugged up” sensations in the ear canal, but also increase comfort and address cosmetic concerns for many users.
These aids can be used for mild to profound hearing loss and can often be used with assistive listening devices and accessories, such as handheld remotes, bluetooth enabled devices (telephones), In-Loop systems (movie theaters and airports), remote microphones (eliminating background noise) and iPhone/smart phone applications.
Traditional BTE (“behind-the-ear”) aids consist of a larger case and an earmold with a wider tube connecting them. The case contains the electronics, controls, battery and microphone(s) thus eliminating ear wax from getting into the components. These more traditional BTEs are often used with more severe or profound hearing losses and for those with dexterity problems handling the smaller types of aids.
In the Ear
These devices fit in the outer ear bowl (called the concha) and are known as Full Shell (filling the whole concha) or In the Canal (ITC) filling the canal and part of the concha. ITE hearing aids are custom made to fit each individual’s ear and can be used in mild to profound hearing losses. Some models of ITE hearing aids can be connected wirelessly to assistive listening devices and accessories.
Completely in the Canal Hearing Aids (CIC)
This style of hearing aids fits inside the ear canal completely. Due to the deeper fit, sound can be collected more naturally by the shape of the ear, and sent down into the ear canal as it would with unassisted hearing. Depending on the size, make and model, a few allow the wearer to use a remote or mobile phone to alter memory and volume settings. Due to the small size only a limited amount of accessories are available. These aid may not be suitable for all patients or all types of hearing loss.
Hearing Aid Accessories:
Recent studies have proven that the use of accessories is directly related to the benefit hearing aids can offer and patient satisfaction. Most hearing aids can connect wirelessly to assistive listening devices and accessories. Additionally, some hearing aid accessories may be included with the purchase of hearing aids.
Today there are a variety of accessories that can be used with many hearing aids to help in movie theaters, with television, telephones, and for understanding better in background noise. Not all hearing aids are compatible with every accessory so check with your provider.
A Hearing Aid Loop consists of a physical loop of cable which is placed around a designated area, usually a room or a building. The cable generates a magnetic field throughout the looped space which can be picked up by a Hearing Aids T-Coil system (Telecoil). Typical installation sites include concert halls, ticket kiosks, auditoriums, places of worship, courtrooms, meeting rooms, high-traffic public buildings (For example Airport P.A. announcements), and in homes. Click Here to learn more and find a list of Business & organizations in the Grand Traverse Area that have a Hearing Loop System Installed.
When paired to your hearing aids Bluetooth technology it sends audio signals, settings, or digital information from your cell phone, TV transmitter, laptop computer, iPad, or Bluetooth companion microphone directly to your hearing aids or to a Bluetooth Streamer and then into your hearing aids. The most recent hearing aids allow you to connect directly to your smart phone.
Sends the television signal directly to your hearing aids or to a Bluetooth Streamer and then into your hearing aids. A TV Transmitter allows you to hear the TV at your preferred volume while everyone else can listen to it at whatever is comfortable for them. While at the same time the sounds in the room are also amplified. For example, a user can hear the television program and the conversation in the room at the same time.
Allows you to control volume and change programs on your hearing aids. Some of the most recent hearing aids allow your cell phone to be used as a remote control.
Allows a companion, lecturer, minister, or others to send their voice directly into your hearing aids. The volume of their voice can be adjusted to be louder than background noise to give you better understanding. For example, in a loud crowded restaurant a companion microphone can isolate the audio to the table you’re sitting at and not the surrounding conversations.
Hearing Aid Manufacturers
Unitron Hearing Inc. designs and manufactures hearing instruments in all styles and technology levels. Unitron also offers convenient and specialized wireless accessories and assistive listening devices that help people hear in particular noisy listening situations or when on the telephone, watching TV, or in the car. In addition, Unitron is a main supplier of digital hearing instruments to the United States Veterans Administration (VA). Unitron was founded in 1964 and is based in Plymouth, Minnesota . They also has offices in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. As of November 3, 2000, Unitron Hearing, Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Sonova Holding AG who also owns Phonak.
Phonak Inc. is one of the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers, offering a full range of hearing aid styles. Phonak is a Swiss company known for cutting-edge technology and style. Phonak operates as a subsidiary of Sonova Holding AG who also owns Unitron Hearing. The Phonak product line begins with an affordable basic model using key features such as feedback suppression, directional microphones, and background noise suppression. Phonak also has a complete line of hearing aids for children and teenagers, with child-friendly designs.
Phonak also sells an “invisible” “extended wear” in-the-canal hearing aid, Lyric, for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. The hearing aid can stay hidden in the canal for as long as 60-90 days per fitting and needs to be replaced about six times a year. Lyric is sold on a subscription basis, with customers paying for a full year’s worth of hearing aids at a time.
In 2006, Phonak launched the initiative “Hear the World” which creates awareness for the topic of hearing and hearing loss and promotes good hearing across the planet. The goal of Hear the World is to educate the public about the importance of hearing, the social and emotional implications of hearing loss, and the available solutions for those with hearing impairment. In 2010 “Hear the World” became an initiative of the entire Sonova Holding AG, including Unitron Hearing Inc.
Widex is the world’s sixth largest hearing aid manufacturer. In close collaboration with international audiological researchers and specialists, the company has developed a wide range of digital hearing aids, including the world’s first 100% digital in-the-ear hearing aid in 1995. The Widex product line incorporates key features such as feedback suppression, directional microphones, and background noise suppression. When talking about Widex hearing aids in general, we often refer to “The Widex Sound” as a special signature or trademark of the superior sound quality of Widex hearing aids.
The Widex “Zen” program is designed to help patients manage tinnitus or the ‘ringing in the ears’. Using a variety of random, chime-like noises, the Zen program attempts to make tinnitus less noticeable. The audiologist can program the pitch, tempo, and volume of the noises to the unique preferences of the individual. You can hear what the Zen program sounds like by clicking here.
GN ReSound is one of the world’s largest providers of hearing aids and diagnostic audiological instrumentation, represented in more than 80 countries. Headquartered in Ballerup, Denmark, GN ReSound is part of GN Store Nord. ReSound was founded by Dr. Rodney Perkins of Stanford University in 1984. ReSound hearing instruments are manufactured in Bloomington, Minnesota. In 2010 ReSound introduced the first hearing aid featuring 2.4 GHz technology that receives a wireless signal from accessories without a body-worn streamer. Currently, ReSounds top of the line models ‘LiNX’ hearing aids, work directly with the iPad, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6. Starkey ‘Halo’ is the only other model on the market to work directly with a smart phone (other models require the user to wear a device to connect a devise to the hearing aids). ReSound released an application to connect LiNX Hearing Aids with the Apple Watch. Allowing users to change settings and control accessories directly from the Apple Watch.
Starkey, In 1967 William F. (Bill) Austin owned a 30 employee hearing aid repair company. He purchased a very small ear mold laboratory named Starkey and the rest is hearing history. Starkey Laboratories, Inc. is now one of the world’s leaders in manufacturing custom hearing instruments. The company operates 33 facilities in 18 countries around the globe. Starkey Laboratories offer a full line of hearing aids including the “Halo” with TruLink which is an iPad, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 directly compatible hearing aid. Through the company’s Starkey Hearing Foundation, Starkey Labs provides hearing testing and hearing aids to people around the world in under developed countries where hearing aids are often unavailable. Begun in 1978, the Hearing Foundation has provided over 20,000 hearing aids to patients in need each year.
Siemens Hearing Instruments
Siemens is based in Germany (Berlin, Munich) but has offices worldwide. In the United States, the Siemens headquarters are in Piscataway, New Jersey. Siemens offers a broad range of hearing aids for every lifestyle and all configurations of hearing loss—including waterproof, and rechargeable hearing aids. Siemens also has a complete line of wireless accessories that connect hearing aids to mobile phones, TVs, MP3 players, and other audio devices.
Oticon was founded in 1904 in Denmark by Hans Demant whose wife was hearing impaired. Oticon manufactures a full line of digital hearing aids with features like ‘Speech Guard’ (which delivers more natural sounding speech), ‘Spatial Sound'(which preserves your ability to know where a sound is coming from) and Connectivity (which links you to TV, computers and smartphones).