Saturday, 3 June 2017

Behind-the-ear hearing aids and tubing

If you wear the larger over-the-ear (0TE) or behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, then at some stage you may need to replace tubing that goes between the ear mould and the aid. It does deteriorate with time, and become hard or crack. When this happens you will suddenly lose volume and changing the battery won’t help. You may also find you have increased feedback or whistling.

Sometimes you can see the crack, but it's often quite hard to spot. If the tubing is several months old, feels stiff, or has a yellowish tinge, it's time for a change. You can do this yourself, or ask your audiologist. If you do it yourself, just take note of the information below.

The tubing should be glued in lightly. Remember you have to be able to pull it out to change it when it does become stiff or cracks. Apply a tiny dob of glue on the outside of the tube and slide it in. Don't put glue right near the hole at the end of the tube, or it may block the sound hole.
If you apply to much glue, the tubing will become so embedded in the mould, that it will need to be sent away to have it removed. So be sparing – you can always put a bit more glue on if it comes out.

When measuring the length of the tube from the mould to the hearing aid, take care with the length of the tubing. Remember it has to overlap onto the hook by 3 or 4 mm. If your aid has been comfortable and your tube length is comfortable, just measure it to that length. If the tubing is too short it will pull hearing aid down on your ear, and your mould up in the ear canal, creating discomfort. Compare the new length of tubing with the old - if it's more than a few millimetres shorter, this may be the cause.
If in doubt cut it longer - you can always shorten it but you can't make it longer.

If the tubing is too long, it can also cause discomfort – it will push the aid up and it changes the way the mould sits in the ear. The audiologist (or receptionist) may not get the tubing length quite right, so be prepared to go back and have it re-done it if is uncomfortable.
I keep a couple of spare tubes at home, in case I need to re-do it. I also have learned to take some on holidays with me. I once had a tube crack over a long weekend; no audiologists were open, and I had no spare tubing. I ended up trying to tape the crack to stop the whistling so I could talk to people on this special weekend. It wasn’t very successful.

Another common cause of discomfort is if the hearing aid has twisted on the tube. If your hearing aid was comfortable yesterday and isn't today check the angle at which it is sitting on the tubing.
If the mould has twisted on the tubing, it will push into your ear in a different spot. This causes tension between the angle of the over the earpiece and the moulds.
Try rotating the mould on the tube with practice you will work out the best angle usually facing backwards slightly.

Like all things, taking a little time to get to know your hearing aid will make it easier to trouble-shoot.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Moulds and Mould

If you wear over-the-ear hearing aids, especially the bigger ones, you will have had the pleasure of trying to get moulds that fit well. And this is not easy – my hearing aid provider said 'Moulds that fit well are like gold.’
I keep wondering how hard this should be – you fill the ear with soft moulding goob, wait for it to set, and then take a mould from that. We are onto our second and third attempts. It does matter that this is right – too loose and they move around, whistle, or fall out; too tight and they press and hurt. If you fix where it presses in one area and then another develops. I'm using wet and dry sandpaper at home now – I find the grinder at the hearing aid place has too rough a finish. Even the soft polishing brush doesn't leave a really smooth finish for my super-sensitive ears! When we get a good fit, we’ll get a mould made, and keep a 3D image of it ready for next time.
If you have had skin irritation issues – itching or mould growth or redness, you can request a special coating on your moulds. This finish can be applied to in-the-ear devices as well. Wearing anything in your ear for long periods of time reduces the air flow, and prevents the ear canal from drying out. Your skin reacts to the constancy of moisture in the ear caused by reduced airflow by itchiness, or sometimes a growth of fungus. It is not uncommon to see infections in the ear canal in people who often wear other in-the-ear gadgets, including hearing protection plugs, i-pod plugs, swim plugs etc. Some of this may be related to hygiene of the plugs – handling noise protection plugs with dirty hands each time you take them out and put them in will certainly increase your chances of infection.
You can ask for an air hole in your mould and this will improve the ventilation and reduce irritation. It does have some impact on the sound, as the hole allows some of the sound to bounce back out. If you have a mild a loss this hole will also allow some natural sound to come in to your ear. The new barely there moulds allow plenty of airflow. It's worth trying different styles of these small moulds– some are soft, some are more rigid, and you may find one suits your ear better than another. They shouldn’t hurt or fall out.

The moral of the story is: Don't be afraid to keep asking until you get it right! 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Dry aid and other care tips

 Dry aid and other care tips
Wax and moisture damage says the report. Really? I'm very careful about my hearing aids – don't drop them, never forget to take them out for a shower or swim. I don't wear them when it's hot unless I have to. Humidity, moisture, and wax are notorious for shortening the life of a hearing aid. So is hopping in the shower with them…
If you can take them out on really hot days, or when exercising, you will prolong their life as they are exposed to less moisture from perspiration. To help protect them, there are little ‘sweat socks’ you can buy to place over the hearing aid that wicks the moisture away. (Or you can place the mould in the ear and let the over-the-ear bit hang in space…)
Using a ‘dry pack’ overnight for storage will help to dry out some of the moisture that accumulates daily around your devices. Do use the dry pack according to the instructions to get the best out of it.
Don't store your hearing aids in very hot or cold environs. Avoid humid places e.g. the kitchen with the oven on. If you do wear your hearing devices in very humid conditions, dry your ear canal with the clean tissue regularly, and wipe the outside of the mould and cover.
Regular servicing of your hearing aids every 6 to 12 months will certainly prolong their life. You may need to ask for this. You would never buy a car and not service it, yet some companies will only offer a service just before the warranty expires at the 3 year mark. Be assertive!
If you do get an itchy canal from your mould, a special coating can be applied that will prevent irritation - more on that next blog.
Like so many things round hearing devices, you need to ask questions – write these down between visits and take the list with you. There are often good solutions, but you have to ask – the information isn’t volunteered at appointments unless your audiologist is aware of what issues you are having.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

You’re fading out…

Fading sound the last thing you want when you're so dependent on hearing devices to keep you in touch with your family, work and friends.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the causes:
If the battery is low it will still turn on for a few seconds or moments and then fade out. Sometimes batteries are ‘duds’. The easy answer is to try a new battery.
The battery terminals maybe dirty. If you don't feel confident to clean them, ask someone who has a practical skill set. All you need is a clean tissue or a piece of clean, soft paper (not shiny paper), and gently wipe across the terminals.
Perhaps it seems quiet because all your family have a laryngitis - I can recommend cough drops.
If the antenna inside is loose, it will receive intermittently. It may cut out for no obvious reason, and then the sound comes back again. Or the sound may return if you fiddle with it. A loose battery cover can also cause this effect. You’ll need to send the device away for repair.
Lastly it could be dirt, sweat, wax, and just general wear and tear. Ask for your provider to clean it every 6 to 12 months.  It only takes a few minutes, and they should be able to do it on the spot.

Remember like any machine it needs TLC and a service from time to time - particularly while still under warranty so you get maximum benefits and a long life from it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Supporting each other

So much of coping with a disability, is having a support network of friends, family, and work colleagues who understand your difficulties, and care enough to assist. In a way, they ‘fill in the gap’ and form a bridge between you and the activity so you can join in.

Lots of you already do this in all sorts of ways— by walking slower when shopping with an elderly parent; by waiting while your friend puts glasses on to read a note; by providing a meal or cleaning for a friend who is ill. There are any ways you can assist someone who has a hearing loss too: repeating a phrase they missed; facing them when you speak; turning off the radio/TV and shutting the door on the washing machine to reduce background noise.

People often say to me, ‘You look too young to be wearing hearing aids’. They are even more surprised when I tell them I’ve been wearing them for nearly 30 years. Having some sort of impairment in function is certainly not associated just with old age. Countless young people have had a serious accident or illness that has left them with some loss of function, and face many years of struggle, pain or unemployment as a result. Most people with a hearing loss are under 65 years old.

I have really valued the people who have made an effort to assist me when I have struggled to hear. 
This thoughtfulness doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by anyone who has wanted to participate and been in need of some small assistance in order to join in. Simple things like repeating a key phrase e.g. the topic of conversation; providing transcripts of videos or talks; or offering me a chair closer to the speaker has helped so much. It enriches our lives and enables us to keep on being part of the community. This in turn, provides opportunities for us to contribute as well.

There are some great activities out there for people with all sorts of abilities – we just need a few more people who are willing to make small sacrifices and provide that ‘bridge’ between those who have every faculty on perfect working order and the rest of us who require some small assistance.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

i-phones, text and speech

i-phones, text and speech

Well, I’ve hit the 21st century – I have an i-phone. I’ve mastered LED flash and vibration for notifications, volume for speech, and even emails.

I realise why it’s taken me so long to go this way – I much prefer to communicate by speech when talking with people. I like to hear the words and the intent which is communicated by inflection, tone and volume. I like the speed at which we can convey so much by the medium of voice.

Writing can be so open to ambiguity and so much care must be taken to avoid misinterpretation. We may not realise how much our voice impacts on what we are saying until we don’t have it. Our voice tone rises at the end of a sentence to convey a question. We use our voice to intimate irony, sarcasm, humour, boredom and irritation. The same sentence can mean quite different things given a different inflection. Try saying, ‘I don’t know what you mean’ in diverse ways.

Words written and without vocal inflection, can have several interpretations and can be taken the wrong way – maybe depending on the mood of the person who is reading them. There is no voice tone to qualify the intent of the words used, and this is why I prefer to talk, not text or email.

With a hearing loss, this can have its moments. I have extra volume phones at home and work and almost always, that’s enough. (Interpreting foreign accents on telemarketers is another matter.) But my work mobile…! I have handed it to others on occasion to be my interpreter – luckily most conversations are around making an appointment, not personal counselling!

I was advised an i-phone has best accessibility for vision and hearing impairment by a friend with vision loss. I might add that the sales people in telco stores really need to brush up on the best models for those of us with less than perfect sensory systems (most of us over 40 really). They could not advise me on anything. And it seems one of the best models of phone that had extra volume (Dave) has been superseded by a quieter version (Max).

So I’m pretty happy with my purchase, though a little extra volume would be handy for those very quiet speakers. My next goal to deal with the whisperers is to find the speak-and-read feature. I know it’s in here somewhere…

Monday, 13 June 2016

Movies and the sound of music…

Do you use your hearing aids when watching movies?

Is it just me, or do you find the music so loud it marches right across the dialogue, drowning out the speech?

My hearing isn’t perfect – but I am not stone deaf. In any session at the movies, I’m pulling my hearing aids out each time the music crescendos, then pushing them in to try to catch the dialogue. It is not a relaxing experience!
I know I’m not alone. Like any of us who value our hearing, I want to protect these precious sense organs – not damage them by blaring music.

Even friends who have no hearing issues have commented on the volume of music in today’s movies. They complain that they cannot hear the words because of the volume of the music. That’s ok in a fairly predictable action movie, but not in a drama. Some have taken a leaf out of my book: they now turn the music down and use captions, and have discovered a whole lot of side benefits. ‘It’s great,’ they say, ‘I can watch the late, late movie and not wake the kids’.

So if you want the sense-surround experience, go to the movies. But if you want to know what is going on in the program, select your DVD or television channel with captions so you can enjoy the drama without reaching for the Panadol.