Archive for August, 2008

August 30, 2008: 9:24 am: Assistive Devices, Entertainment

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man wrote:

I have worn non-telecoil hearing aids for 8 years now and will be ordering mini BTE hearing aids with a telecoil soon.

Our satellite TV audio feeds into a stereo receiver and I currently wear headphones when watching TV. Am I correct to assume I could plug a neckloop with a proper size adaptor into the stereo receiver headphone jack which then would pass the audio to the hearing aid’s telecoils?

Yes, that’s exactly the way it works. You can plug a neckloop into any jack where you would plug in headphones or earbuds.

However, a word of warning. Neckloops are always mono devices, so you wouldn’t hear true stereo as both stereo channels would be “smooshed” together into what I call “dual mono”.

Also, if you are using a neckloop, you’d need to have a stereo to mono adapter (which you can easily get from Radio Shack) or you’d only hear one channel while the other channel would be shorted to ground (not a good idea).

If you want to hear true stereo, you’d need the Music Links I have on HearingLossHelp website (or something similar). They work exactly the same as neckloops, but are true stereo devices since the signal at each ear is too weak for the opposite t-coil to pick up. You can see the music links here.

The man continues: “I would also be using a patch cable between the neckloop and the stereo, as I do now to lengthen the neckloop cable.”

That’s not a problem. If you’re going to be using a stereo patch cable with a neckloop, then the stereo to mono adapter goes at the neckloop end—in other words the neckloop plugs into the adapter and the adapter plugs into the extension cable. Note: If you use the Music Links, you don’t need any adapter.

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August 28, 2008: 9:21 am: Assistive Devices

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

Most states in the USA have a free Equipment Distribution Program (EDP) for hard of hearing people. This program includes amplified telephones and other goodies.

In some states, having a hearing loss is your only requirement. In others, you must meet their specific eligibility requirements (low income for example), or else you are expected to pay a portion of the costs of the equipment.

Click on this state EPD link, especially if you are in a lower income bracket, in order to see whether there is an EDP program available in your state. You can then click on your state link to see its program and eligibility requirements.

Note: currently this site lists the EDP programs available in 32 of the 50 states. Although not all state programs are listed here yet, more states will be added to this site in the future.

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August 26, 2008: 9:19 am: Assistive Devices

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady wrote:

I’m very interested in the Music Links as I recently went bilateral with 2 cochlear implants. One of my biggest concerns is not being able to listen to music with both on (as the cord provided by Cochlear only accommodates one processor and I’ve had to make do with 1970s headphones which blasts sounds to everyone in the room, not just me).

When I turn on the T-coils on my processors and turn up the sound on the iPod, will sound be heard by others in the room? Or just me? (this is a concern as I love to blast sound but don’t want to bother the people around me by playing the same song over and over again.)

That’s the nice thing about using T-coils and the Music Links. You alone will hear the music through them. When you plug the Music Links into your iPod, only a magnetic field is “transmitted”, not any sound, so no one can hear anything unless they too have t-coils (and are very close).

You can get the Music Links here, and then listen away to your hearts content without bothering others!

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August 24, 2008: 9:12 am: Assistive Devices, Loop Systems

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady wrote:

If my dad gets some new hearing aids in the not too distant future, the loop system will work better for him. His hearing aids only have either the T [t-coil] or M [microphone] setting, not the M/T setting. When it is on the T setting, he thinks it is just too much noise and, of course, he doesn’t like the fact that he can’t hear others in the room.

I can understand a person wanting the M/T setting so they can hear both the TV and people talking in the room. Personally, I wouldn’t like this arrangement as I have too much trouble hearing one sound by itself. Hearing two sounds at the same time would be next to impossible for me. However, if that is what your dad wants, here is a way to do that with his current hearing aids (even though they do not have the M/T setting).

What you can do is plug a microphone into the microphone jack on the back of the Univox 2A loop amplifier. (The TV is plugged into the mic/line jack with the switch in the “line” position). This way the microphone picks up room sounds and puts them on top of the TV sounds, exactly as if he were listening with hearing aids that had a M/T position.

Either place the microphone in the center of the room to pick up everybody’s voices, or better yet, get a lapel mic and clip it to the person speaking. That way the voice will be clear and hopefully stand out above the sounds from the TV.

For a room microphone, I’d suggest the MM-200 microphone set on the coffee table near the people talking or in the center of the room.

The lapel mic I’d choose is designed to be used with the Univox 2A loop amplifier. This microphone has an extra long (10 foot) cord so it can reach to several people in a typical living room.

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August 22, 2008: 9:10 am: Hearing Aids

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A mother wrote:

My daughter loves swimming but obviously struggles without her aid in. Can I buy something to protect the hearing aid while she is swimming?

As you know, hearing aids are not supposed to get wet—if you want them to work properly, that is. I’ve never heard of anything that will truly protect normal hearing aids while swimming. There are some moisture guards available, (e.g. Super Seals), but they are not designed to be used while actually in the water.

However, all is not lost. There really is a special hearing aid that is designed to be worn in the water. This hearing aid is, appropriately enough, called the “Dolphin” and is made by Rion of Japan.

To learn more about these special hearing aids, click here, then click on “Hearing Instruments” then click on “Behind-the-ear” then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Next 9″. The waterproof hearing aids are pictures 5 and 6 on that page. (Model numbers HB-54 and HB-54AS).

Here is the link to spec sheet for the HB-54 model.

Where can you get Rion hearing aids? You can find their worldwide list of distributors here.

You also might want to check out the Hearing Aids Wholesale website. They list the Rion HB-54 for $935.00. (You may, or may not, be able to find a better price elsewhere, but if you don’t know where to start, this is one place you can try.)

How good are these hearing aids? One mother just wrote:

We recently purchased one Dolphin hearing aid for each of our two kids. We spend a lot of time at the neighborhood pool in the summer.

This year we noticed that our usually-very-outgoing son was starting to shut down (socially) at the pool because he knew he was missing what the other kids were saying, and he was starting to notice the looks that he would get when the kids would repeat themselves and he still didn’t get it. His looks of embarrassment and even mild panic were heartbreaking!

Our daughter, who is naturally more introverted, was even more intimidated because she couldn’t hear what was going on around her. She refused to get in the pool at all and preferred to sit quietly in a chair to read and watch the other kids.

The new aids weren’t in the original budget for this year, but we couldn’t put it off when we saw how intensely the kids were being affected. We got the Dolphin aids about a month ago and we all love them. It has made a huge difference for both of our kids. David is right in the thick of the action again (what a moment we had the first time he jumped in with his Dolphin aid on—he came up yelling, “Mom—I could hear a sound when I jumped in!”—he hadn’t ever heard the water rushing around his head before), and our daughter can hardly wait for pool time to come every day and she swims with all the other kids.

Sorry to have raved for a bit, but you all understand how exciting it is when something eases our kids’ struggles even a little bit!

Incidentally, you can wear these hearing aids anywhere—not just in the water. So if your kids are active and like to squirt water on each other to keep cool, or jump in the pool, these may be the hearing aids for them!

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August 20, 2008: 9:04 am: Coping Strategies

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has just released “The Savvy Consumer’s Guide to Hearing Loss.” This excellent 184 page book, by Karen Rockow, Ph. D,. herself hard of hearing, and now with a cochlear implant, gives a lot of practical coping strategies for people new to hearing loss. “It is filled with invaluable information for all those who find themselves in the difficult transition from being “hearing” to becoming deaf or severely hard of hearing.”

The good news is that it won’t cost you a penny if you download it (in PDF format) by clicking on the above link. I think you’ll enjoy this informative book—and learn a lot in the process.

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August 18, 2008: 8:46 am: Hearing Loss

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady asked,

My son is 5 years old and will be entering Kindergarten in the fall. We are currently trying to fit him with new hearing aids. His left ear has reverse slope loss. 65db @ 250 60db @ 500, 45 @ 1000, 25 @ 2000-8000. His current ear mold has a vent to allow natural high sounds to enter.

His right ear has the more common ski-slope. loss from 40 @ 500 all the way to 110 @ 4000 The right ear mold is completely closed.

My audiologist told me that in order to obtain the correct amount of low frequency amplification in the left ear she would need to close the mold. Somehow that seems less than perfect and doesn’t sit right with me.

It may be theoretically true that he needs to have an ear mold with no vent so lots of low frequency amplification can be pumped into his left ear, but it doesn’t work out in practice. This is because people with reverse slope hearing loss don’t want or need all the low frequency sounds. Amplifying these sounds to “normal” is actually counterproductive. This is because it makes it so we can’t understand speech as well. All the research shows, and those of us with reverse slope losses firmly declare, that we need less low frequency amplification than what is theoretically true.

Few audiologists apparently know how to properly fit people with reverse slope losses—so they go by the theory—and it is wrong. All the adults with reverse slope losses that I have heard from have told me the same story—their audiologists insist on setting their aids wrong to begin with (too much low frequency amplification and not enough in the high frequencies). They insisted that their audiologists adjust them in the reverse before they were happy.

She then asks: “Do you agree that it may be the only way to achieve help in the low frequencies? Does it matter that the mold had an opening and now it will need to be closed but that the high frequencies have good hearing?”

Here’s the problem. With reverse slope losses, we hear the highs. When we wear hearing aids, there are only two ways we can do this. One is if the ear molds have large vent holes. The second way is if the hearing aids are wide band aids (and almost none are) and amplify up to 16,000 Hz or so. (Most hearing aids only amplify up to 6,000 Hz or so.) Thus, by wearing hearing aids, we hear less than we should—unless provision is made for us to hear the high and very high frequency sounds upon which we so much depend.

You would do well to read my unabridged article on the subject of reverse slope hearing loss, The Bizarre World of Extreme Reverse-Slope (or Low Frequency Hearing Loss—especially the final section—which gives tips for properly setting hearing aids for reverse slope losses. Be warned, it’s 32 pages long—but it is very easy to read.

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August 16, 2008: 8:43 am: Sudden Hearing Loss

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

The Washington Post (June 26, 2008) ran a piece entitled “Sudden Hearing Loss May Portend Stroke” The first three paragraphs read:

Sudden hearing loss may foreshadow a stroke by as much as two years,” say Taiwanese researchers.

The researchers analyzed five years of follow-up data on 1,423 patients hospitalized for an acute episode of sudden hearing loss and found they were more than 1.5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than a control group of 5,692 patients hospitalized for an appendectomy.

The findings, published in the current issue of Stroke, haven’t been duplicated in other research and should be interpreted with caution.

The article then goes on to muddy the waters and reaches no clear conclusions.

What the researchers don’t seem to realize is that this can make sense. if a person has a build-up of “gunk” in their arteries (to use a fancy medical term), and if that gunk should travel to one of the arteries in (or leading to) the inner ear and block blood flow there, the result is sudden and drastic hearing loss.

If the same gunk had traveled to the brain and blocked an artery there, the result would have been a stroke. Same condition—just a different location.

Now, since the arteries in the inner ear are among the smallest in the body, it doesn’t take much to block them. Thus such episodes of sudden hearing loss truly may indicate an underlying problem that, if not fixed, may lead to strokes and heart attacks if bigger pieces of gunk lodge in the brain or heart respectively. Thus it behooves us to heed warnings such as sudden hearing loss of vascular origin.

Having said that, there are lots of causes of sudden hearing loss that have nothing at all to do with vascular issue. Thus, don’t think if you get sudden hearing loss, you will get a stroke later—but it might be a precursor if you already have vascular issues.

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August 14, 2008: 8:41 am: Assistive Devices

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady asked:

I’m currently trying out a loaner PockeTalker Pro. There’s also a PockeTalker Ultra. I’ve downloaded the spec sheets on both, but I’m still not clear on what the difference is between the two models. Do you know?

The Pro is the older PockeTalker model. Williams Sound didn’t think it looked sexy enough anymore, so they came up with a newer design and called it the Ultra. Basically, the differences are cosmetic. The amplifiers produce about the same volume. One difference is that the Ultra has an external tone control. With the Pro, you have to open it up and use a screwdriver to adjust the tone.

The Pro comes with a case which you wear on your belt. In contrast the Ultra has a lanyard so you can hang it around your neck. The batteries are different too. The Pro uses two double A batteries while the Ultra uses two triple A batteries. You can see the PockeTalker Ultra here.

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August 12, 2008: 8:28 am: Assistive Devices, Entertainment

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

In response to my article “Setting Up Your Digital-to-Analog Converter Box” (July 15, 2008) , a reader supplied some more valuable information.

Steve wrote:

The most recent issue brings up the topic of the Digital TV conversion. There are a couple of things that the web sites do not mention, I thought your readers might like to know what I have learned.

1. Do not use the coupon(s) initially to buy a converter box. If you decide to return the box, you will probably not get the coupon value returned even though the store gets paid for redeeming the coupon.

I had to return two boxes after testing each one at my home. One didn’t receive digital signals on two stations in my area. Another had such a bad user interface and remote control that I deem it to be less than useful.

When I decided on the converter box I liked, I took it back to the store and effectively returned it and bought it again this time using the $40 coupon. The store people understood this tactic very well.

Be sure to check out all of the features you will use, especially the closed caption setup if you need it. Not all boxes are easy to set up for these options.

2. Attaching a converter box to a VCR will not allow you to use the VCR programming features to change the channel during a recording session. For example if you want to set your VCR to record channel 2 from 7 to 8 PM, and then record channel 4 from 8 to 9 PM, this will no longer work with the converter box supplying the TV channel signal. You have to preset the converter box to the channel you want to record and then program the VCR to record on the input channel (such as channel 3 or 4 or the line input) for the amount of time you want to record. Changing the channel selection on the VCR will cause it to record nothing since the converter box is supplying the TV channel signal to channel 3, 4, or line input.

I have not found any Digital TV converter box that will change channels at a programmed time.

There are a few DVD and VCR boxes that have digital tuners that will allow you to program them like you are used to with your older analog VCR. These cost more than $200.

3. If you do decide to use the two converter box setup (one for the TV and one for a VCR), be sure that the two converter boxes are from different manufacturers (not just different brand names but actually different manufacturers). If you have two from the same manufacturer, there is a very high probability that the remote control from one will work both boxes. There is even the possibility that one remote from a different brand will operate both boxes—change the channel on the box connected to the TV and the channel on the box for the VCR will probably change too.

There are also other possible issues with antenna signals (UHF), older splitters and amplifiers, as well as, using older cable from the antenna to the converter box that could be a problem setting up a digital TV converter box.

I hope your readers find this useful.

I’m sure they will. Thanks so much Steve for your insights on this issue!

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