Archives for posts with tag: hear better in noise with hearing aids

In my previous blog I made a case for the need for hearing loop technology in public places. For hearing loops to benefit consumers – the hearing loops have to be installed to meet the IEC 60118-4 standard, clear hearing loop signage has to be provided and the consumer needs to know how to link into the hearing loop signal.

The good news is that more and more hearing aids, even small mini-devices, now come equipped with telecoils. And, thanks to the advocacy of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA),  active HLAA members and ardent hearing loop advocates around the country, more and more places are installing hearing loops.

But…a common complaint among loop advocates is that still way too many hearing aid using consumers are tragically unaware their hearing devices include this telecoil.  What can we do to correct this? That is where audiologists could play an important, even a pivotal, role. By including and activating telecoils in the hearing aids they fit, taking 5 minutes to demonstrating their benefit, and handing out information on the Americans with Disabilities Act would go a long way.

Here is what I believe hearing aid consumers should expect from hearing aid providers:

  1. The provider orders hearing aids that have built-in, vertically oriented telecoils. These telecoils, when turned on, need to offer the same gain and frequency response setting to a 60 dB sound input as compared to a 31.6 mA/m magnetic sound input. In audiology parlance this means the instrument has to have a matching ANSI SPLIV test The good news is that most European hearing aid makes meet this so called Nordic Telecoil standard.
  2. The audiologist activates the telecoil and offers the consumer clear instructions on how to use it (preferably in writing). The gold standard is that the telecoil setting is verified in a test box or in a waiting room with a TV connected to a hearing loop. If your provider doesn’t offer a hearing loop in their waiting or treatment room– share this article by Drs. Caccavo and Lopez . In it they explain why every provider needs a loop in the office.
  3. The hearing care provider explains the capabilities as well as the limitations of hearing aids, and how to overcome these limitations. Consumers need to be told that thanks to the Americans with Disability Act hearing well (in places where PA systems are used) is their civil right. That consumers should expect reasonable accommodations for people with hearing loss, just like people in wheel-chairs expect ramps and elevators. Every consumer needs to be given information how assistive technology works with a telecoil. Brochure examples can be found on the Hearing Loss Association of America  and the American Academy of Audiology websites.
  4. The audiologist is a vocal advocate for hearing access rights in the community. Where providers take on this role or where providers work hand in hand with their clients, hearing loops appear. Some providers even hand out hearing loop advocacy cards  their clients can take around in the community. Many a loop has been fostered when this conversation about hearing access was started. And when places are unwilling to offer access mandated by the ADA? Providers could offer the link to file complaints with the Department of Justice:ada.gov/filing_complaints on their practice websites.

Should you be told, when you ask about telecoils, that 1) you don’t need one, 2) that they are old technology or 3) that there aren’t enough loops around to make it worthwhile for you to get one – question his or her authority. Telecoils and hearing loops have greatly improved in the last decade and progress is being made daily in the Looping of America. To find hearing loops near you visit www.aldlocator.com , www.LoopFinder.com  or download the Loop My Phone app on iTunes.

Hearing advocates around the country are fighting for your right to hear. Join the fight – ask me how. Email me at jsterkens@hearingloss.org

 

waiting-room

 

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This is a rerun of a letter to the editor of Hearing Journal – back in December 2010

As an audiologist for close to 27 years in a small private practice, I think I’ve stumbled on what will finally make many of my patients happy. I have been in houses of worship and other public places where, although I have normal hearing, it was difficult to hear. That made me think about my patients: If I could barely hear, how wouldthey fare? I know that few of them speak up, pick up an assistive device, or move closer. More often they will complain about their hearing aid (to me!) and just sit there or stop attending these events.

The seminars I’ve given at churches and senior centers did little to increase use of FM assistive devices, and advocating for neckloop purchases rarely turned them into believers in FM technology. I have tied myself in pretzels trying to get them to advocate for themselves. That is, until I heard Dr. Dave Myers speak at a meeting about his success in looping Western Michigan.

Hearing loops turn any telecoil-equipped hearing instrument into a speaker for the PA system. This simple, unsexy, low-tech t-coil turns your hearing aid into a personalized listening device that significantly and effortlessly improves the signal-to-noise ratio—that elusive goal we all are looking for when we fit directional-microphone instruments.

As audiologists, we also know that the small SNR improvements these D-microphones provide rarely satisfy the needs of the patient, who, besides having a hearing deficit, frequently has auditory processing challenges and therefore needs an SNR improvement not possible with an ear-level device, no matter what its level of technology. This is a physics problem, not a hearing aid problem.

Enter the hearing loop, also known as “Wi-Fi for hearing aids.” It circumvents the physics problem. It does for hearing aids what no other assistive device can: Make our patients hear better in situations where heretofore they could not. It is truly the missing link in our practice. Hearing loops use the t-coil, which is present in 60% of all hearing aids sold in the U.S. and in over 90% of high-power instruments. The t-coil is low cost, low in power consumption, and, best of all, easy to use.

As audiologists, we need to advocate for our patients. Our advocacy will help them hear so much better. I will even go as far as to say that, under some circumstances, persons using the loop will hear betterthan the persons sitting beside them.

Advocating for hearing loop technology is easy. You start with your own waiting room: Install a small loop driver and start demonstrating it. Contact a reputable professional audio company and explain that you would like to work with them in bringing this technology to area churches. Donate a hearing loop driver/amplifier to your own church, community theater, or seniors meeting room to get it going. And start giving speeches to service clubs or retirement centers. Trust me, hearing is believing!

Collectively supporting “hearing loop initiatives” in our local communities will result, sooner rather than later, in a “Looped America,” as Dr. Dave Myers has written in the Sept./Oct. 2008Hearing Loss Magazine.

No technology now or in the near future can do what induction hearing loop technology can do today! Our advocacy will let America know we truly “Care for America’s Hearing” and we will benefit with increased acceptance and use of hearing aids.

Juliette Sterkens, AuD

Oshkosh, WI

 (The original letter can be found here: http://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/Fulltext/2010/12000/Hearing_Loops_Make_Consumers_Flip_Where_Hearing.9.aspx)