Hearing loop systems – Hear better in public places!

Imagine going to the theater and hearing the actors as clearly as if you had front row seats. Wouldn’t it be nice to adequately hear the clergy person at your house of worship? Do you have difficulty hearing the speaker in a public auditorium? Hearing loop technology allows a hearing aid user to get a clear, direct signal from the microphones or other sound sources in public areas without interference from background noise and the echo that is often found in large open spaces.

What is a hearing Loop?

In “loop” technology a signal is sent from a sound source such as a microphone, television, or public address system, to a connected wire that encircles a room or other smaller areas. The sound is sent electromagnetically from the microphone through the loop, and is picked up by any hearing aid that is equipped with a telecoil.

How do you use a hearing loop?

The signal from the loop is picked up by the telecoil in your hearing aid or cochlear implant. No extra equipment is needed. Typically, a switch or button on the hearing aid is pushed to access the special telecoil program. The telecoil allows the hearing aid to link wirelessly with a facility’s loop system. The listener can then hear the signal loud and clear in both ears. The telecoil must usually be activated in the hearing aid software by your audiologist. The audiologists at Auditory Services of York ENT Surgical Consultants at both our Hinsdale and Bolingbrook locations can activate this feature in most hearing aids that have a telecoil.

Can a loop be used with all hearing aids?

Over 70% of current hearing aids have a telecoil. However, in many of these aids the telecoil has not been made active, or the wearer is not aware of the presence of the telecoil or how it is accessed. A brief session with the audiologists at Auditory Services of York ENT Surgical Consultants can let you know if your hearing aid has a telecoil, and if that telecoil is active. We can also show you how to use your telecoil in looped areas.

Benefits of the hearing loop:

• Sound at a distance is delivered to the hearing aids directly and clearly.
• Speech through the loop is delivered through your own hearing aids which are specific to the requirements of your hearing loss.
• The loop reduces background noise, echo, and room reverberation since the sound is coming directly from the microphone to the hearing aids via the loop.
• It is a low-cost assistive device as it works with your existing hearing aids. No additional equipment is needed.

How do I find out if an area is looped?

There are many theaters, auditoriums, government buildings and houses of worship that are looped for the hearing impaired. In many European countries it is extremely common as well.

Most looped venues have the hearing loop sign in a visible location.

Assitive Listening Device - looped venue sign

To find locations that are looped in your area, you can visit the website aldlocater.com.

Hearing loops are a great way to easily and clearly hear public speakers through your own hearing aids without interfering background noise and reverberation. If you would like more information about hearing aids equipped with a telecoil, please contact the audiologists at Auditory Services of York ENT Surgical Consultants, serving the Hinsdale, LaGrange and Bolingbrook areas.

Do you have your hearing aids in?

This is a question often asked of hearing aid users by a family member who has not been heard. It is typically asked when the speaker is in another room, at the top of the stairs, or is not facing the individual wearing the hearing aids.

Hearing aids are a positive step toward improving communication with others and can provide great benefit to individuals with hearing loss. Hearing aid success does require practice and patience on the part of the individual and those who communicate with him/her. Family members need to understand that hearing aids do not repair a hearing loss. Once fit with hearing aids, realistic expectations are the key to successfully communicating with an individual with hearing loss.

Some facts that hearing aid users and their families should understand include the following:

• A hearing aid microphone is most effective at picking up sound originating from several feet away from the hearing aid. The further you are from the sound source, the less effective the aid will work.

• A hearing aid is most effective when worn in quiet surroundings. More advanced circuits in hearing aids are now available to help reduce interference from background noise. However, despite this advanced technology, no hearing aid eliminates background noise completely.

• Even when wearing hearing aids, you will achieve the best communication by positioning yourself near the speaker in such a way that you can see his/her facial expressions and gestures. Visual information increases speech understanding by about 40%.

Suggestions for Family Members of a Hearing Impaired Person

  1. Develop an understanding of the hearing impaired person’s type and degree of hearing loss
  2. Understand that stress, illness and fatigue may make hearing more difficult.
  3. Speak naturally, and more slowly. Shouting is not always necessary or helpful. Loud volume does not equal clarity.
  4. Always face the hearing impaired person while speaking.
  5. Do not speak with a full mouth (food, gum, while smoking).
  6. Rephrase rather than repeat comments not understood by the listener.
  7. Be sure to initially obtain the hearing impaired person’s attention BEFORE introducing a topic of conversation.
  8. Favorable lighting will assist the hearing impaired person with speech reading cues.
  9. If possible, hold discussions away from background noise.
  10. Patience
  11. Understanding

Patients and family members will be more satisfied with hearing aid usage when realistic expectations are in place.

York ENT audiologists provide a full range of hearing aid services and are happy to answer any questions regarding hearing aids. Please contact our office with any questions.

photo of New Hearing Aid Application

New iPhone Hearing Aid App

York ENT Surgical Consultants presents, “New iPhone Hearing Aid App”, a video blog about the latest hearing aid technologies that have been built to communicate with Apple’s iOS devices. York ENT Audiologist, Laura Spinelli, MA, CCC-A, explains the benefits of the new hearing aid technology. Contact York ENT Audiology for more information at yorkent.com or call (630) 861-6554.

photo of York ENT Audiologist kathy otto, ccc-a

Rechargable Hearing Aid Batteries: Another Option for Hearing Aid Users

York ENT Surgical Consultants present, “Rechargable Hearing Aid Batteries: Another Option for Hearing Aid Users”, a video blog describing the cost, conveniency and environmental benefits to using rechargeable batteries instead of throw-away batteries. Audiologist Kathy Otto, CCC-A, explains the battery charging process, as well as the lifespan of the batteries. Kathy also remarks that the rechargeable aids are good for people with dexterity and vision issues due to the lack of need for battery replacement and the simplicity of putting the hearing aids themselves into a charger at night.

For more information, contact York ENT Audiology at (630) 861-6554.

Boy putting in custom fit earplugs at York ENT

Benefits of Wearing Ear Plugs for Musicians

York ENT Surgical Consultants, presents “Benefits of Wearing Ear Plugs for Musicians,” a video blog about the damaging effects of loud music to the ears. York ENT Audiologist, Laura Spinelli, MA, CCC-A explains the types of damage that can be caused by excessive volume levels in the ears. Laura Spinelli describes the process by which audiologists at York ENT can custom fit special ear plugs that will allow the fidelity of the music to remain prominent while minimizing the volume level entering into the ears. Along-side musicians, heavy snorers and swimmers can also benefit from ear plugs.

For more information, please contact York ENT Audiologists at (630) 861-6554.

York ENT Audiology hearing aid screening

Benefits of Visiting an Audiologist for Proper Hearing Aid Testing and Fitting

York ENT Surgical Consultants presents “Benefits of Visiting an Audiologist for Proper Hearing Aid Testing and Fitting” a video blog about the benefits of getting properly fitted and tested by an audiologist for a hearing aid device as oppose to a “blind” online or retail store purchase. Audiologist, Nadine Reed explains how the advanced degrees and years of experience of an audiologist are necessary for the appropriate assessment of hearing loss and type of a hearing aid needed. Nadine goes on to explain how hearing loss assessments by a professional audiologist will save you money by having a product that is appropriate for you and your lifestyle.

For more information please contact York ENT Audiology at (630) 861-6554.

photo of Remote Microphone

Benefits of a Remote Microphone for Hearing Aid Users

York ENT Surgical Consultants presents “Benefits of a Remote Microphone for Hearing Aid Users” a video blog about the use of remote microphones to help hearing aid users with difficulty hearing. Audiologist, Nadine Reed explains the benefits of using a remote microphone for hearing aid users in environments that have a lot of background noise—such as restaurants. Nadine goes on to explain how the remote microphone is used in conjunction with a hearing aid and how the device is set up to allow for better voice recognition in noisy places.

For more information please contact York ENT Audiology at (630) 861-6554.

Forgetfulness linked to hearing loss

Getting forgetful? Maybe it’s your hearing.

forgetful? Maybe it's hearing loss.It has long been known that hearing loss can affect not only a person’s ability to communicate but it can contribute to depression, social withdrawal, mental fatigue, and stress. Recently, studies have found a new concern for untreated hearing loss: memory and concentration.

A study done at Johns Hopkins by Dr. Frank R. Lin and his colleagues found that older adults with hearing loss were more likely to develop cognitive decline over time than those who retain their hearing. “For many years, hearing loss in older adults has been perceived as an unfortunate but inconsequential part of aging,” says Lin. “Our research is now demonstrating that hearing loss doesn’t just affect a person’s quality of life. It may also lead to a decline in cognitive function.”

Whether early treatment for hearing loss may help in delaying dementia is “the billion-dollar question” Lin says, and one that will be addressed in a new study. “By the year 2050, 1 in 30 Americans are predicted to suffer from dementia, so we’re hoping this new research will help in developing interventions,” he says. “In the interim, we hope to encourage people to take care of their hearing, to take it seriously, and to be proactive. Hearing loss is a slow, insidious process, and many people don’t realize how bad their hearing has become until they get a hearing test.”

If you are concerned that you may have hearing loss, please call York ENT audiology for a hearing evaluation at (630) 654-1391 If a hearing loss is identified, we can share with you the many solutions available to help. It can make a difference in your present ability to communicate – and  also in your future.

Why Are Two Hearing Aids Better than One?

The following is a typical scenario of a patient undergoing a full hearing test and hearing loss is identified in both ears.

Audiologist: I will explain the results of today’s audiologic testing and discuss how your hearing loss may be impacting your daily communication.

Mr. Jones: Great!

Audiologist: Today’s testing shows that you have hearing loss in both ears and you likely have difficulty hearing certain high-pitched consonant sounds such as /s/, /f/, /th/, and /k/. By not having good access to these sounds, speech may sound muffled or not as crisp.

Mr. Jones: Yes, that’s true. Everyone is always mumbling. If they would just speak more clearly I could hear them better.

Audiologist: I can understand. You’re also right. If the person speaking uses excellent communication strategies such as standing within close proximity to you, enunciating every word, speaking slightly louder than normal, and making sure to avoid background noise, then you likely would pick up more speech and understand more information.

Mr. Jones: I agree, just as we are talking right now, I can hear you just fine.

Audiologist: Yes, but I am also using these good communication strategies. How we communicate in real life is quite different. Typically, communication occurs when there is noise nearby (e.g. tv is on, faucet is running, cooking on the stove, driving in a car, sitting at a restaurant), we speak at a normal rate of speech or slightly faster than normal, we stand at a distance from the speaker, and we don’t always look at each other when we speak. To provide you some “ease of listening,” you may benefit from hearing aids in both your ears. This way, you wouldn’t need to work as hard to get access to what is being said.

Mr. Jones: So you think I need a hearing aid?

Audiologist: Yes, I think you need TWO hearing aids, not just one.

Mr. Jones: You mean TWO hearing aids? Why not just one hearing aid, shouldn’t that be enough?

Audiologist: Two hearing aids are better than one because two ears hear more information, therefore, benefitting you and your brain and overall listening quality.

Mr. Jones: Is that so, how does that happen?

Audiologist: With two hearing aids, you can pick up and understand speech more easily than people who use only one hearing aid. The brain doesn’t have to work as hard to understand what is being said. Also, two hearing aids make it easier to hear when there is background noise.

Mr. Jones: It would be nice to hear better when out with my family at a restaurant.

Audiologist: That’s right, you will hear better with the hearing aids. The hearing aids don’t eliminate the background noise, they make communication more comfortable. Just like people with normal hearing, they still can hear background noise but their brain “squelches” or reduces how loud that noise is. This squelching effect helps them to concentrate and listen to the person sitting in front of them. Also, two better hearing ears can detect or localize sounds in the environment better than one ear. It’s much more difficult to track sound or speech nearby when relying on one better hearing ear.

Mr. Jones: This is interesting and I agree that these are nice benefits to listening. Any other benefits I need to know about?

Audiologist: Well, yes. Generally, people who use two hearing aids rather than one are more satisfied with their listening experiences, find listening more pleasing, and are less fatigued by the end of the day. It’s hard work trying to listen all day when you have hearing loss in both ears?

Mr. Jones: Who are you telling?! I’m tired at the end of the day. I communicate with people at work and worry that I might miss something important. I then go home and talk to my wife and children. My wife sometimes becomes upset with me because she accuses me of not listening. I’m really trying here. It’s frustrating.

Audiologist: I completely understand and hope you consider trying two hearing aids.

Mr. Jones: Absolutely! I look forward to hearing better and improving my listening experiences at work and home. Thank you!

Photo of a wireless remote microphone

Remote Microphones: For Those Who Have Difficulty Hearing with Background Noise

Photo of a wireless remote microphone

Example of a wireless remote microphone

The most frequent complaint audiologists hear from patients is the difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise.  Most hearing aids are adequate in a quiet room, but in a restaurant or dining hall people struggle to hear their companions at the table. The noise is often louder than the speaker, making it very difficult to understand what is said.  As wireless hearing aids have become popular, one of the most helpful accessories for hearing speech in noise is the wireless remote microphone.

A remote microphone for hearing aids is a small, wireless microphone that can be placed at a distance from the listener, and sends voices and sounds directly to the hearing aids.  When the microphone is placed close to the speaker or sound source, it provides direct access to the hearing aids, making the speaker’s voice much louder than other noises in the room. The microphone can be clipped onto the speaker’s blouse or lapel, or placed on a table or podium to pick up more than one voice at a distance.  The advantages of a remote microphone are:

  • The speaker’s voice in a noisy area is much louder than the background noises of the room.
  • The microphone maintains a constant loudness in the hearing aids, regardless of the distance from the speaker, up to 20-25 feet.
  • The microphone is very portable and can be clipped on a friend or family member to enhance their voice, or set on a television or table to pick up another sound source.
  • A listener can more easily multitask when using the remote microphone.  For example, a driver whose passenger is wearing the microphone can keep his eyes on the road while talking to the passenger.  A person who is cooking and has his back turned to a spouse can still easily have a conversation.
  • Wireless microphones are available now for most hearing aids that have wireless or Bluetooth capabilities.
  • Microphones can connect to external devices such as an ipod or ipad and stream sound directly to the hearing aids.

Wireless microphones are available for most hearing aid models, including Siemens, Oticon, Starkey, Resound and Phonak.  In addition, Phonak has a new FM system for hearing aids called Roger that has even greater noise reduction capabilities for its remote microphone. This system has a powerful processor with greater speeds, so the lips and voice of the speaker are more synchronized. The power consumption is lower than for Bluetooth microphones, and the range between speaker and listener is slightly greater. Roger has both a clip-on and pen microphone.  The Pen microphone has context sensing software that is incorporated, and will switch from an omnidirectional to a precise directional microphone depending on its position.  When placed flat on a table it will pick up the voices from all around the microphone (omnidirectional).  When it is held up and pointed toward a speaker, it will enhance primarily that one speaker’s voice (directional).

Understanding speech in the presence of background noise has always been a problem for the hearing aid user.  Wireless remote microphones are now making it easier to participate in family gatherings, to communicate with friends at restaurants and parties, and to attend meetings where the speaker is at a distance.  Please contact the audiology staff at York ENT at 630-861-6554 (Hinsdale) or 630-759-0065 (Bolingbrook) if you would like further information about hearing aids and new accessories such as the wireless microphone.

Below is a video example of the Phonak Roger Pen Microphone works: