Hearing Health Blog

Introducing A3i BTE 13!

Chicagoland Audibel Hearing Aid Centers in Niles Bloomingdale and Wheaton_made for iphone hearing aidWe are excited to introduce the new A3i™ BTE 13, our newest Made for iPhone® Hearing Aid. With the addition of the BTE 13 and our latest advances to our Made for iPhone Hearing Aids – the A3i family continues to break new ground leading the way in performance, personalization and connectivity.

Our benchmark operating system,BluWave® 4.0, is now at the heart of all A3i BTE 13 and RIC 13 products enabling us to continually optimize audibility, comfort and sound quality to deliver Audibel Superior Sound. A3i delivers what patients want:

  • A more natural listening experience through Binaural Spatial Mapping and Active Noise Control2
  • Superior audibility in noisy environments thanks to our multichannel adaptive solution to directionality, Active Directional Detection and Voice Detect
  • Distortion-free comfort in loud situations with ISO-Clear Compression
  • Make control adjustments a thing of the past with Auto Experience Manager

Audibel’s patient-preferred TruLink™ Hearing Control app has been updated to include even more features that enhance streaming and hearing in noise to helps our patients hear better, live better and have a healthier life. With Stream Boost, our patients can have an automatic setting that boosts any incoming media stream for enhanced audio performance, while Comfort Boost allows them to aggressively reduce noise to optimize sound quality in noisy environments.

A3i connects hearing and health to make life better!


The man who ate his hearing aids


Man eats hearing aid_chicagoland audibel hearing aid center in bloomingdale niles and wheaton ilWe recently stumbled across a news article about a man you accidentally ate his hearing aids thinking they were cashews. You can read the full story here. Though this is obviously an extreme case of failing vision, we thought we would use the incident to remind our patients that our Bloomingdale office is located within the Wohl Eye Center.

Studies have show that there is a direct correlation between vision and hearing loss in adults in older persons. This sensory decline can have a cumulative effect on well-being, quality of life and connection to family and friends. Call today to book your hearing and vision examinations!  See our full post on our eye and ear center in Bloomingdale here.


What My Hearing Aid Taught Me…

The Atlantic_Chicagoland Audibel Hearing Aid Centers in Niles Wheaton and Bloomingdale IL

 

Cool techy article out from the Atlantic on hearing aids as “wearables.” …

What My Hearing Aid Taught Me About the Future of Wearables

By Ryan Budish

I was into wearables before there was Google Glass, Apple Watch, or the Moto 360. I was into them before cheap devices told you how much you had walked, run, slept, or eaten. In fact, I’ve been into them for so long now that I’m not quite sure when it started. I think it was around when I was 5, in 1986.

The wearables I started wearing as a kid and still wear today are hearing aids—or, as my audiologist euphemistically calls them, “amplification devices.” Although many will never need hearing aids, today’s tech firms are making it likely that, someday soon, tiny computers will become extensions of your body, just as they have been part of mine for nearly 30 years. Thanks to that experience, I feel as though I’ve had a sneak peek into our wearable future—and I can make some predictions about what it will look like.

To be fair, hearing aids are quite different from the current array of consumer wearables. Hearing aids are medical devices designed to make up for a physical impairment. By contrast, consumer wearables like the Apple Watch are luxury items that let us read text messages and measure our fitness. This distinction has legal significance: The FDA tightly regulates any device that tries to either diagnose or treat a medical condition. That means certain features are unlikely to ever exist in a consumer wearable, unless Tim Cook wants to sell watches that require a doctor’s prescription.

But despite initial appearances, both medical and consumer wearables share a few important goals.

Broadly speaking, both types of wearables aim to fill gaps in human capacity. As Sara Hendren aptly put it, “all technology is assistive technology.” While medical devices fill gaps created by disability or illness, consumer wearables fill gaps created by being human. For example, evolution hasn’t given us brain wi-fi, yet.

Both kinds of wearables also need to justify being attached to our bodies. This seems pretty obvious for hearing aids, but it is just as true for consumer devices. A wearable that serves as only a slightly more convenient screen for your phone is hardly reason for the average person to spend hundreds of dollars. Instead, wearables need to offer a feature that works best when in close contact with your body, like measuring heart rate or offering haptic feedback.

Also, both types of wearables need to embed themselves seamlessly into our experiences. If a wearable obstructs your experience of the real world, or is a distraction, it’s likely to end up on a shelf instead of your wrist. That’s not to say that they don’t take getting used to—even after a lifetime of wearing hearing aids, it still takes me several weeks to adjust to a new pair. But after that period, a well-made wearable should seem like a seamless extension of our bodies.

In my current role at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, I’m lucky to be able to study something I care deeply about: technology’s impact on our lives. I’m sure my interest partly arises from how I’ve depended on technology for as long as I can remember. I don’t know with certainty how consumer wearables will develop, but what I do know is how much hearing aids have changed over the last 30 years. And I have some insight into what sensory-enhancing wearables—like hearing aids, and unlike data-recording wearables like pedometers—could someday become. Over the next few years, I expect that we will see four trends, rich in both opportunity and peril, shape the evolution of these wearables from toys into tools.

* * *

1. Wearables will create substitute realities.

A man adjusts his hearing aid using his iPhone. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)

In order to justify being part of our bodies, wearables need to offer something beyond an additional screen or input device. This means that sensory-enhancing wearables will need to mediate between reality and our experiences, altering our perception of the world around us.

For hearing aids, that role is enhancing sound, replacing the too-soft sounds of the real world with louder, more comprehensible ones. But modern hearing aids don’t simply make everything louder; instead, they provide a substitute soundscape tailored to my needs and my environment. When I go into a loud restaurant, the devices can identify the clatter of glasses and the din of conversation, and tune out those sounds, while tuning into the sound of a nearby voice. The result is an audio experience that is substantially different from the objective reality; the device replaces a reality that would be challenging with a substitute that is easier to understand and utilize.

Just as hearing aids replace one soundscape with another, future wearables will be able to alter the way we experience the world. Microsoft’s recently announced HoloLens, for example, will be able to help a homeowner perform their own electrical repairs by projecting instructions, visuals aids, and even expert advice right onto an exposed electrical outlet. In that way, future wearables will replace traditional sensory or communications experiences with ones that are richer and deeper.

2. Wearables will be ruled by algorithms.

The process of substituting realities means that our perceptions of the world around us will become increasingly mediated by algorithms that we do not control or even understand. The world I hear through my hearing aids is a world interpreted and translated through millions of calculations a second. Algorithms determine whether a sound in the distance is the whir of a refrigerator compressor or the whisper of your friend. If it works correctly, I may not hear the compressor at all. But if it works incorrectly, I may not hear my friend at all.

Medical devices are already increasingly ruled by complex algorithms. Just as hearing aid algorithms determine what sounds are amplified and what sounds are muted, pacemaker algorithms determine when to deliver an electronic pulse to the heart. And bionic pancreas algorithms determine when to deliver additional insulin. In these examples, the algorithms don’t just shape the perception of reality—they make life-saving decisions.

The influence of algorithms is nothing new. They shape a lot of what we perceive online. When used in wearable devices that shape our perceptions of the world around us, algorithms can have a profound impact. For example, a device that reads facial expressions to assess moods could affect how you approach your boss, or whether you think your significant other is mad at you. Or a device that hides stressful visual stimuli could remove an annoying ad on your subway commute, but it could just as easily remove a helpful PSA. As wearables do more to reshape our realities, the way we perceive the world will become increasingly shaped by the algorithms that govern those devices.

Not only does that make our perceptions increasingly dependent on algorithms, but it makes our perceptions increasingly dependent on the people who make those algorithms. My hearing aids use increasingly complex algorithms. Although a trained audiologist can adjust the devices to my unique needs, as the algorithms become more complex, the opportunities for customization become paradoxically more limited. My hearing aids, for example, have 20 independently adjustable audio channels, and while my audiologist can adjust each one, he usually adjusts them in groups of 6 or 7 channels at a time. If consumer wearables don’t offer significant opportunities for customization (or provide access to an expert who can help customize the experience), it will leave users even more dependent on the default algorithms.

3. Wearables will fail invisibly.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

The more we rely on wearables to interpret the outside world for us, it will become critical for devices to communicate failures. And the more seamless the experience of wearables becomes, the harder it is to know when it isn’t working as intended.

In some cases failures are obvious: If my hearing aid doesn’t turn on, then I can take steps to address the issue. However, in other cases failure is less obvious. At a meeting a few months ago, I was sitting near a loud air conditioner that made it difficult to hear the people across the table. I knew my hearing aids should reduce the background noise, but because the aids produce sounds using complex, personalized algorithms, I had no way of knowing whether the hearing aids were malfunctioning or whether the air conditioner was just too loud. The more personalized the device and the subjective experience it creates, the harder it is to know when things are going wrong.

Future wearables will likely do incredibly complex things, and when the results are unexpected we may trust that the device knows best, privy to secret knowledge or power. But sometimes it will just be wrong. Identifying whether what we see or hear is the proper functioning, the outcome of an inscrutable algorithm, or simply a failure, may be quite challenging.

4. Wearables will record everything.

If failures are hard to detect, the solution is just as challenging: pervasive recording. The more the behavior of wearables is dependent on context and inputs, the more that troubleshooting requires data collection. After a plane crash, one of the first things that investigators look for is the “black box” flight data recorder, because it is often impossible to reconstruct what went wrong without also knowing things like the airspeed, the throttle, and the position of the flaps and gears. Troubleshooting wearables presents many of the same challenges.

When I go to my audiologist, I can tell him that I didn’t think my hearing aids worked correctly at a noisy restaurant a few weeks ago. But without a record of the the noisy environment and the sound I heard from the aids, he can only guess about what happened. For the user, this trial-and-error form of troubleshooting can be frustrating, especially when it involves multiple trips to the audiologist for readjustments.

Up until recently, the idea of storing gigabytes of data on a hearing aid would have been absurd. The devices didn’t have sufficient storage and persistent recording would sap the already-limited battery life. But the newest hearing aids now record certain types of data for diagnostic purposes. If I raise or lower the volume on the aids, the device records information about the new setting and lets my audiologist download the data at a later date. As data storage becomes cheaper and power efficiency improves, the collection of additional data could help the device be better fitted to my needs and enable better troubleshooting.

The same drive toward additional data collection will happen in consumer wearables as well. How do you know if your mood-identifying glasses are working correctly? That requires knowing both the input (the image of someone’s face or their voice) and the output (the identified mood). It would be easy to store still images of faces for diagnostic purposes and troubleshooting, and just as easy to upload them to the device manufacturer to help improve their algorithms.

In some cases, storage may not even be necessary as consumer wearables might transmit everything in real time to centralized servers for processing. With limited processing power and battery life, wearables might offload computationally intensive processing to centralized computers. This is what Apple does (or used to do) with Siri, where at least some analysis of your voice request is processed on remote Nuance servers. Although this enables more complex analysis than small wearables might be able to do otherwise, it also creates greater privacy concerns as more data is transmitted to, stored by, and kept by others.

* * *

When I got my first pair of hearing aids, they were large and analog, and my audiologist made adjustments to the sound outputs using a small screwdriver. My hearing aids today are so small they can fit invisibly in the ear canal, and my audiologist adjusts them wirelessly on computer. The pace of progress has been astounding, and I have no doubt that progress has changed my life for the better in significant and concrete ways.

The price of progress, however, is complexity. Older hearing aids had limited customization, altered sounds in very basic and predictable ways, failed in obvious ways, and didn’t collect data. Now things are different. The endless customization available in new aids creates more opportunities for mistakes. The complex algorithms make it harder to diagnose problems. The total substitution of experience stifles attempts to identify errors. And increasing data collection means hearing aids may soon have to grapple with thorny issues of privacy.

The same holds true for consumer wearables. If they follow the path of hearing aids, future generations of wearables will be more immersive, more complex, more difficult to troubleshoot, and more pervasive in their data collection. As long as we see wearables as toys or luxury goods, it is easy to write off these challenges. But there is a real opportunity for wearables to improve the lives of many in substantial ways just as they’ve improved my life since 1986. To realize those improvements, we cannot ignore these trends, and we must take wearables seriously as the indispensable tools they will soon become.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/02/what-my-hearing-aid-taught-me-about-the-future-of-wearables/385145/

 


Find Tinnitus Relief in 2015

Chicagoland Audibel Hearing Aid CentersEvery year more than 50 million Americans experience persistent ringing in the ears both day and night. This condition, called tinnitus, is one of the most common hearing loss-related impairments that historically had very few treatment solutions. However, over the past two years, Audibel has been helping numerous patients finally find the relief that they have been looking for with the A3 tinnitus device.

Up until the introduction of the Audibel A3 tinnitus device, the best clinical treatment suggestions had been a mixture of preventative actions and therapeutic solutions. Traditional tinnitus treatments have been more focused on coping with the condition instead of managing the condition, similar to what is described in this Harvard Health Publications article. However, the A3 tinnitus device helps to cover up the tinnitus by creating a sound stimulus to soothe the irritating ringing.

While the ability to diminish the tinnitus side effects with the A3device varies by individual, the large majority of wearers have reported success! To learn more about tinnitus solutions and to try an in-office trial of the Audible A3 tinnitus device, simply visit our Contact Us page or call our office during regular business hours. We want to help you find your tinnitus relief!

 


Talking About Hearing Loss is A Matter of Timing

Audibel_Hearing AidsTalking to a loved one about their hearing loss is a difficult thing to do. Each holiday season, millions of American struggle with hearing loss at social gatherings around Thanksgiving, religious holidays and New Year’s Eve. For some there is embarrassment and frustration. For others their family and friends are more burdened by the challenge of communicating to their loved one with hearing loss. Since awareness for hearing difficulties tends to reach its height this time of year, we want to offer suggestions for knowing when it is best to speak to a loved one about addressing hearing loss.

Accepting change is often said to be one of the hardest things to do. In fact, it has been found that there are many stages in the process such as anger, denial and, ultimately, acceptance. Far too often those with hearing loss are pushed too hard into making a hearing aid technology purchase at the early stages of this process. Many individuals will return the product and subsequently wait several more years until taking the needed actions. Just like changing any habit or situation for the better, it takes the proper mental commitment from the impacted party for successful outcomes. For a concerned loved one it is important to employ caring and patience in your sentiment when speaking to a loved one about their hearing loss. Patience is extremely important as this individual should be shown the respect to make the decision, when they are ready.

By taking this suggested approach, the best possible outcomes will be achieved for all parties involved in that the loved one will be committed to improving their hearing and getting the most out of their investment. If you would like additional assistance in crafting your approach for speaking to a loved one about their hearing loss, simply reach out to our office by phone or submitting your information on our Contact Us page. Also, when that person is ready to take the first step, we offer complimentary hearing consultation appointments to help determine the best course of action for gaining better hearing.


Better Hearing Can Help Overall Health

Chicagoland Audibel Hearing Aid Centers, Invisible Hearing Aids, Made for iPhone Hearing Aids, Niles, Wheaton, BloomingdaleEvery New Year brings many new resolutions. Most often we aim to have better dietary habits, exercise more often or get adequate rest every night. Rarely does anyone consider taking better care of his or her hearing health! However, senses, especially hearing, play a vital role in overall health and wellness. Here are several reasons why having your hearing checked annually is an opportunity to be healthier now and in the future.

Most people make a goal to regularly visit their dentist, eye specialist and physician for annual check-ups.  So why is having an annual hearing screening so commonly neglected? The biggest reason might be that symptoms from a toothache, high blood pressure or poor vision are much more noticeable than symptoms of hearing loss. Those symptoms are often more subdued over time, even though hearing is a crucial part of our quality of life.

Numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between the likelihood of getting dementia and people who have untreated hearing loss.  However, a Johns Hopkins University study showed that a majority of people who treated their hearing loss with hearing aid technology were able to ward off dementia symptoms for several years. Additionally, hearing loss has been linked to heart health as the inner ear is a sensitive to blood flow and can indicate abnormalities in heart function.

A simple, yearly hearing screening, which we offer at no cost, can go a long way to prevent possible health complications down the road. To get your annual hearing screening scheduled for yourself or a loved one, simply click here <contact us> and call our office during regular business hours.

 


Modern Hearing Aids are like a Computer for Your Ears

Audibel_blog_Hearing AidsOften we jokingly say, “These aren’t your grandpa’s hearing aids,” but nothing could be truer. Today’s hearing aid technology is truly a marvel in sophistication and design. Digital hearing aids encompass much more than a simple microphone and receiver. In fact, a microchip circuit board allows a wide range of features, programs and settings to function simultaneously and tailor to the individual’s unique hearing needs. In this blog we will explore what makes up a hearing aid and its many capabilities.

Don’t let size fool you! Whether a larger on-the-ear device or a miniature in-the-canal device, all of today’s hearing aids are packaged with several complex components to produce the most comfortable sound amplification possible. There are five main parts to hearing aid technology. The microphone is the primary component that picks up sounds and determines the environmental settings. From there, the sound is transmitted to the circuit board for processing. This component is essentially the ‘brains’ of the hearing aid, just like the processor in a computer or mobile device.  Once the sound is processed, it is emitted to the wearer via the receiver; amplifying the sound based on the listener’s unique hearing loss needs.

The antenna is an increasingly important component. As hearing aid technology continues to sync with media devices and smartphones for audio streaming capabilities, the hearing aid antenna is the primary component that picks up those streaming signals. Lastly, the battery supplies the energy needed to continuously power all of these parts for optimal performance.

As you can see, today’s hearing aids are truly ‘computers for your ears.’ We encourage anyone to participate in our hearing aid trial programs, whether you’re considering using hearing aid technology for the first time or upgrading an older pair of devices. Simply submit your information on our Contact Us page or call our office during business hours. We look forward to showing you more about this sophisticated technology!

 


Chicagoland Audible’s 5 Steps to Better Hearing

Having a hearing loss is not something that most people get excited about. However, with the right attitude and approach, it can actually be a very manageable condition to care for. In my years of caring for those with hearing loss, I have seen time and time again peoplemake remarkable improvements by simply dedicating themselves to getting the most out of wearing a hearing aid. With hopes of similar outcomes in the future I am sharing 5 simple steps to better hearing for you or a loved one to use.

1. Admit that your hearing is not what it may used to be. Understanding your hearing has changed is difficult at first, but the sooner one begins to seek a solution the more likely they are to maintain critical speech comprehension abilities and avoid unnecessary struggles.

2. Keep an open mind and positive attitude while seeking help. Like we have all been told from a young age, attitude is everything. The same applies to having success in treating your hearing loss. Since everyone’s hearing loss is unique, there are a lot of options available to consider. We strive to present those solutions that are best for you.

3. Learn about your hearing problem. Get educated on what may have caused your hearing loss and what the best solutions are for treatment and extended care. We will make sure every patient is aware of the factors and given the resources needed to be successful.

4. Set realistic expectations for hearing aids. As was mentioned in step 1, expectations for restoring perfect hearing are not realistic. Today’s hearing aid technology has produced tremendous hearing benefits for wearers. Your focus should be on improving your hearing abilities with hearing aids at a slow, gradual pace as you adapt to wearing a hearing aid.

5. Patience, practice and time are critical to success. As with anything good, it comes from hard work and practice. Improved hearing in various situations is no different. At first, regaining comprehension abilities for sounds that have not been heard in years may be difficult. However, the reward will be yours to eventually hear simple sounds that mayhave been lost, even perhaps the songs of birds on a nice day.

We are aware that an investment of money and time into hearing aids is not alwayspreferred. Yet, we are confident that with the right attitude the benefits of better hearing will justify those investments on a daily basis for you. We aim to make the process of gaining satisfaction with improved hearing as simple as possible. To start your hearing journey or help a loved one get the care they need, contact us today – visit our Contact Us page now.


We Have an App for That!

Hearing Loss AppForThatIt appears as if every business has an app to support the customer shopping experience, but not many offer apps to help you after a product is purchased. We presently offer several apps aimed at helping you understand hearing loss and ensuring you get the most out of your hearing aids. Read on to learn about these apps provided by our manufacturing partner, Audibel, and the features they offer.

Several of our hearing apps are used at specific milestones in your journey to better hearing. One such app is called SoundCheck. It offers a free hearing screener to test you or a loved for any symptoms of hearing loss. For new hearing aid wearers, Hear Coach offers auditory rehab games to help you re-learn how to perceive sound and understand speech. For current hearing aid wearers, we offer many user-friendly apps such as the T2 Remote app. It enables your smartphone to function as a wireless remote for adjusting your hearing aids. Another smartphone app, the TruLink™ Hearing Control app, connects to our Made for iPhone® hearing devices to offer numerous personalized options, including remembering your favorite locations and automatically changing settings to accommodate each.

As you can begin to see, there are many apps to choose from and more are on the way! With these apps, more individuals can test for symptoms of hearing loss and enjoy the added benefits as current hearing aid wearers. To start your hearing journey or learn more about which iPad® and smartphone apps we offer, simply contact us!

 


Becoming Master Artists of Better Hearing

Chicagoland Audible Hearing Aid CentersMany times when people ask why someone wants to become a hearing care specialist, they say a loved one was given the gift of being able to hear again and they want to share that with others. Yet rarely does anyone ask what it takes to become a practicing hearing specialist. Let’s take a look at the requisites needed to receive certification for dispensing and fitting hearing aids.

While every state has slightly different requirements for its hearing instrument specialist certification, there are still many common fundamentals for all specialists-in-training.  Just like other specialized professions, there is a governing board called the National Board for Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. It requires examinations as well as experience working with a current, certified hearing instrument specialist.

The exam requires extensive time studying and preparing for questions on varying topics such as assessing patient needs, analyzing test results, fitting hearing aids, counseling practices and much more. Additionally, a letter of recommendation from a current employer confirming at least 15 months of supervised hearing aid dispensing is a mandatory requirement to even take the exam.  Once certified, continuing education is required to maintain our license and stay at the cutting edge of hearing technology and patient care.

We are very serious about the level of care given to our patients and hearing aid technology that assists your hearing difficulties. Our goal has always been, since we started down the path to a certified hearing specialist, to help you or a loved one with hearing needs. If you have hearing-related questions, reach out to us using our Contact Us page or call the office during business hours.