Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Do I need Bluetooth connectivity?"

I am asked this question several times a week.

I think today's modern, digital, connected hearing aids are amazing. I have seen lives transformed by new hearing aids. But as far as deciding who needs Bluetooth enabled aids and who doesn't is not always so black and white.

Some people don't even know what "Bluetooth" is, but when you explain it to them, they love the idea behind it. Here are some suggestions for whether or not Bluetooth technology in your hearing aids is "needed":

  • Do you frequently talk on the phone, especially in the car? If so, Bluetooth technology can act as a "hands-free" system which, in some states, is required to legally talk on a cell phone while driving.

  • Do you like to listen to music through an iPod or other MP3 player but don't because of your hearing aids or fear you won't be able to if you get hearing aids?

  • Do you use Bluetooth technology with your other high-tech devices, such as laptops, televisions, etc.? It would only make sense that you would carry this technology over to something as important as your hearing aids.

  • Do you watch TV? It sounds like a silly question, but if you watch TV and wear hearing aids, even with high-end technology, you will likely still struggle to hear certain people and programs on television. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids can allow you to use devices such as the GN ReSound Unite system to wirelessly stream television to your hearing aids for optimal TV-watching, all without disturbing others.

Many of my patients, already in sticker-shock from the cost of hearing aids, balk at the idea of spending more money for Bluetooth technology. This is understandable, and certainly not for every hearing aid wearer. Communicate your concerns with your Audiologist. Most Audiologists got into this profession to help people. This technology clearly helps people.

Please do not hesistate to contact me with any questions you may have about Bluetooth technology. if I don't know the answer, I will certainly find someone who does know.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fill in the blanks

I have a big mouth. I'm often asked by my patients if I have a hearing loss and my response is always the same, "no, I just have a big mouth." Some laugh, some back-pedal saying, "no, that's not what I meant." but I'm not offended. If I didn't speak loudly and clearly, I would spend the better part of my day repeating myself.
Most of my patients don't have a hard time hearing and understanding me. I'm blessed to have normal hearing and I do all I can to protect it. Despite my normal hearing, I've had the opportunity to experience hearing loss and though it was temporary and I knew it, it was an eye-opening experience.
Back in 2000, I was a first-year grad student at the University of North Texas. That year was a huge year in my life and I went into that experience with a lot of mixed emotions: fear, gusto, excitement, pride. I can recall very clear, now eleven years ago, sitting in my very first graduate level class and seeing a note on the board that instructed everyone to take a pair of earplugs from the box on the table, put them in, and wait for our instructors arrival. She came in a short while later, and, with earplugs in our ears, we had to listen to most of her lecture with earplugs, which made things muffled, unclear, hard to understand. It was eye-opening. The material was unfamilar, the speaker too. We had a lot riding on what she said--it was our FIRST class. And, though it was mild and temporary, it gave me a great appreciation for a taste of what my patients would experience on a daily basis.
I try very hard to sympathize with my patients, but I truly cannot fully grasp what they go through with a hearing loss. The closest thing I can compare it to is vision. I have great hearing, but I have terrible vision, and it can be terrifying at times when I don't have my glasses or contacts in. But hearing and vision, though both important senses, are not the same thing.
See if you can make sense of this phrase:
_ally _ell_ _ea_hell_ by th_ _ea__ore
Hard isn't it?
Without vital letters and sounds, it becomes a garbled mess, indistinct, unclear, crazy babble.
However, this is similar to what someone with a high-frequency hearing loss hears. Hears but doesn't understand. Frequently mis-understands what is being said. Because for most people who have a hearing loss, it isn't the hearing they've lost, rather the clarity of the words. Things are as clear, sharp, bright as they should be. Things may sound dull and muffled. It may sound like the person is mumbling. Add a little bit of background noise and WHOA! Its a jumbled mess of sounds that don't make sense. "Fifteen" may sound like "Fifty", which is no big tragedy if we're talking about cents, but it becomes a really big deal if we're talking 15 million versus 50 million, which is what happened to a patient who happens to be a real estate developer and really almost flubbed a deal due to that misunderstanding!
So, you're probably wondering, "so what's that phrase up there?" Here it is:
Sally sells seashells by the seashore
See! It makes much more sense when you have all the components! And for someone with a high-frequency hearing loss, the first example of the phrase may be what they hear, which is why you may get a weird answer or a puzzled look, because the first phrase clearly doesn't make sense!
If someone you know talks too loud, frequently misunderstands the conversation (especially in noise), has the TV or radio too loud, asks people to repeat themselves, or tells others they are 'mumbling', a hearing test may be needed. It doesn't hurt, takes only about 20 minutes, and is covered by most insurers. With the holidays approaching, now is the perfect time to get help so the sounds of the season can be heard and understood! Call us today to schedule your appointment. We'd love to help.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Important (and expensive!) Lesson

In 2006, a patient came in and bought A hearing aid. He needed two, but thought he could 'get by' with one. It was a small, receiver-in-the-ear style, small and discreet for this attractive young business man.

Within two months of fitting him, he called me, telling me his hearing aid had fallen off his ear and down a hole at a job site. He was upset, but paid his loss/damage deductible, was fit a few days later with the replacement aid and went on his merry way. Though I can't guarantee it, I'm fairly certain I encouraged him to purchase at least a supplemental loss/damage warranty through a company like ESCO or Discovery, as I do each time a patient has to use their loss/damage warranty.

Since that time, our office contacted him several times regarding adding the second aid as well as updating his hearing test. We never heard from him, until today. He called to ask about 'insurance' on his hearing aid. I remembered this patient (I usually do) and relayed the story to our receptionist, Holly. I picked up the phone and spoke to him and verified with him that we had indeed replaced his hearing aid shortly after he was initially fit. I apologized but explained that once a manufacturer replaces an aid once, the only warranty the aid has is repair and if its lost or damaged beyond repair a second time, they will have to purchase an aid at full replacement cost, which in his case was $1795.00.

However, we always try to help patients when we can and today was no exception. The aid he purchased in 2006 has since been replaced with a 2nd generation model and I told him we could replace the aid for $1500.00. This is the cost of the device plus a nominal fee to fit the aid, as we are moving towards an unbundled format.

He supposed to call tomorrow once he got back in the office and was in front of his calendar to schedule a hearing test, as he said he wasn't hearing as clearly as he once did. We'll do a hearing test and hopefully convince him to be fit in both ears this time around.

The moral of the story? If your aids have to be replaced under the loss/damage warranty, spend the couple hundred dollars to insure them through an outside company. Although he would've likely paid about $200 a year, it would've been far less expensive to insure it than it will be to replace it, a second time!

We use two warranty companies at Coastal Audiology and the levels of coverage are similar with each having their own pros and cons. We're always happy to discuss your options and assist you at making the most cost-effective and beneficial choice for you.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shaking things up a. Bit...

Several years ago, we tried giving our patients a choice with respect to what services they purchased with their hearing aid purchase. They could purchase the traditional way, or with all their services bundled together, or unbundled, which they purchased just their devices and a few follow-up visits. While the unbundled approach wasn't unpopular, it wasn't exactly popular.
Recently, some well-respected national organizations have gotten behind the movement of unbundling hearing aid purchases to make hearing healthcare more affordable for everyone. This pleases me tremendously since earlier this summer, we began the arduous process of moving to an unbundled only approach to fitting hearing aids as opposed to giving patients the choice.

This is such a foreign concept, but one I feel will ultimately only benefit patients as well as the profession. Patients will pay only for services they use, as they use them, which is fair. Why should someone who comes in 20 times a year pay the same as someone who comes in 4 times a year?

We always welcome feedback and I look forward to hearing what people have to say about this.