Posts for tag: Austin Audiologist
Signia Hearing Instruments (aka Siemens for those who have been around a long time) has released Styletto. A sleek, rechargeale hearing aid that reminds us of something that Steve Jobs would have debuted with a lazer show as it came up out of the stage to a fanfare of trumpets. It makes you want to bust out your iPhone and color coordiante with your Apple watch, head phones and maybe even your fashion jewelry. But as the dust settles, what is left?
So Is The Styletto a Hearing Aid?
Yup. Every inch of this is in fact an amplification device. It has Signia's new Nx chipset (which in all reality is one of the more novel things to come out of the hearing aid world in awhile). It's slim design and lack of buttons make this look more like an accessory than a hearing aid, so I can see where the confusion is coming from. It is significantly thinner and a skosh longer than a normal hearing aid. Like with everything it has Pros and Cons, but at the end of the day it's all about what you NEED. So let's see what makes Signia’s Syletto stand out.
Styletto’s Slim Design and Rechargability
While the industry standard in rechargability uses either a lithium ion, rechargeable interchangeable or zinc-air button battery, Styletto is the first to use the slim-pin design. This is what allows the aid to be much thinner (think the diameter of a regular water straw) than your typical hearing aid. To accomplish this slimmer design, the device itself is in fact longer than your typical hearing aid. It has a brushed metal plate that faces outward from the ear without any push buttons or on ear manipulations. Don’t worry, you can still change your volume and programs from the phone app OR the little key fob remote control (this has a name, but right now it has left me).
Here is where, the road warrior - I hate changing batteries or plugging something in every night - individual is going to get excited. Like the Apple Air Pods, the Styletto’s carrying case IS THE CHARGER. Yup, you can get 3 - 4-ish charges off of the case itself. All of the spec sheets say 19 hrs of wear time. If your day takes you to a dinner meeting, after hours happ-hour or all night sales schmooze-a-thon, putting the devices in the case for 30 min will get you an extra 5 hours of run time. So think, driving in the car to get to your meeting, or sitting in the salon getting your hair done, put the Styletto in the case, and presto, 5 more hours of play time. The case fits easily in your purse or pocket and can be recharged using an external power bank. So if you REALLY had to, you could honestly not plug anything into a wall for about a week if needed. This is honestly, from my perspective the best feature about this hearing aid.
Does Syletto Have Direct Connectivity to iPhone or Android via BlueTooth?
Sadly, no. With everything in technology, there is a give and take with everything. Getting the slim design, cool charging capabilities AND Signia’s Nx chip came with a price, direct connectivity. I would hope in the next 3-5 years that will happen, but right now that is not an option. You CAN in fact have a program built into the aid where you can have the phone calls go into both ears. BUT to do this you have to either go to the app and change programs before you call, OR once you pick up the call say “Oh, can you please wait?” And then go to the app, change programs and go. Now this will work with landline OR phone, so that is something. For those who need the hands free streaming, this won’t be the hearing aid for you. But for those with the mild-moderate hearing loss, where this isn’t a problem, working in an office where phone calls aren’t part of your every day, this is still a viable option.
Because it does not connect via BlueTooth, changes to volume and programs are made via a high frequency tonal signal. This is standard within the hearing industry and is of no surprise here.
Does the Styletto use Signia’s New Own Voice Processing (OVP)?
Why yes, yes it does. Hinting to how long I’ve been in this industry, every now an again Siemens (now Signia) comes out with something that truly changes how the hearing aid world functions. When their e2e (ear to ear) processing started back in the day, I can remember being in Topeka, KS at the VA Medical Center thinking “Holy ____, this just changed the game.” This my friends is one of those times. Outside of hearing conversation in noise & hearing the television, the complaint I hear the most is “my voice is too loud” or “I don’t like the echo in my voice.” This is due to a few things, and I won’t bore you with the physics (if you really want to know, call me or make and appointment and we’ll have a chat) but Signia has developed within their algorithm an ability to genuinely combat this. You may not get streaming, but you DO get Own Voice Processing, and that isn’t bad.
Tele-Audiology To the Rescue
As you may know, I have quite a background in Telehealth, it’s kinda my passion, which is why we have a Tele-Audiology clinic at the hearing & Balance Center of Austin. Of the main six manufacturers only a few have the capability of functioning in a tele clinic. Signia’s first instance for this delivery model was limited, but effective. With Telecare 3.0 they have stepped up the game, and Syletto comes equipped with this capability.
So Is There Anything You Don’t Like About the Syletto?
Actually, yes. From an audiological standpoint I really don’t like the fact that the receiver is not interchangeable. You read that correctly. The component that goes from the hearing aid to the speaker in your ear is part of the whole thing. Part of the beauty of a RIC (receiver in the canal) is that if anything happens to the receiver (moisture, you need to change the receiver, change length, someone breaks it) you can just change it right then and there like a LEGO block. Believe me I do this a lot. You can’t do that with Syletto. Now, Signia has come up with this quick replacement system. That sounds good, but environmentally I’m not a fan and it seems like a huge waste.
Overall, I think that this is a solid, out-of-the-box solution. I think this has the possibility of being and accessory and moving us past the stigma associated with hearing loss. This is NOT grandma’s hearing aid. But let’s be real here, I like to look into the future, and what Signia has done here is create something that they can market test and then I think, de-feature for the OTC classification that will drop in 2020. OTC aids will be for mild to moderate loss, like the Styletto, which honestly is a brilliant idea. For the mild to moderate hearing loss crowd, this is really something to look into.
To find out more, or to see if Syletto is a fit for you, call (512) 258-2300 to schedule an appointment with our Audiology staff today.
When is the right time to think about a Cochlear Implant?
For people with hearing loss, hearing aids are a great option to gain access to speech and communicate with those around you. But for some, hearing aids are not enough. Some people have too great of a hearing loss that even a hearing aid cannot help. For those people, cochlear implants are possible option.
Most people on the street are familiar with hearing aids. However, many people have likely never heard of a cochlear implant. So what is it? A cochlear implant is a surgical prosthetic to help someone with severe to profound hearing loss. These devices are composed of two parts- an internal and external unit.
The external unit contains a transmitter, microphones, and a speech processor. The microphone and speech processor are housed inside of a device that is similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. A cable connects the processor and microphone to the transmitter that attaches to the outside of your head via magnet. The microphone picks up sounds and sends it the speech processor that analyzes and digitizes the signal before sending it to the transmitter.
The internal unit is comprised of an electrode array and a receiver. The receiver is located under the skin on the temporal bone. The electrode array is located within the cochlea, or the organ of hearing. The receiver collects the signal sent from the transmitter and converts it to an electrical pulse. This pulse is then sent to the electrode array which then directly stimulates the auditory nerve. This signal then travels the length of the auditory system up the brain where it is processed as sound.
Now surgery may seem scary, but for some, a cochlear implant is a good option to regain functional hearing again.
Who is a candidate for a cochlear implant?
- Have a moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears
- Get little to no benefit from hearing aids
- Have no medical contra-indications that would put them at risk during a surgery
- Is psychologically ready to undergo the time commitment required with a cochlear implant
- Have a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears
- Get little to no benefit from hearing aids
- Have no contra-indications that put them at risk for surgery
- Have familial and educational support that will emphisize the development of auditory skills
What is the process for getting a cochlear implant?
A potential cochlear implant candidate should talk with their ear, nose, and throat surgeon and their audiologist. From there, the audiologist would perform a candidacy evaluation. This candidacy appointment is completed in the best aided condition, meaning the individual would wear his or her hearing aids for the testing. FDA guidelines must be met that shows the individual is not getting functional benefit from amplification. Once approved for the implant, the individual will undergo a medical exam, imaging studies, and a psychological exam. After the child or adult is determined to be a candidate, he or she will undergo implantation surgery.
Now a cochlear implant is no walk in the park. Even after getting an implant and “turning it on,” an extensive amount of follow ups must occur to appropriately program this device. Also, practice on the patient’s part must occur that includes at home listening exercises to retrain your brain how to accept an auditory signal again. It can be frustrating at times because progress can be slow.
However, with appropriate follow up and effort on the patient’s part, cochlear implants can allow individuals to rejoin the hearing world again! So do you think you are ready to talk about cochlear implants?
For more information contact the Hearing & Balance Center of Austin at Great Hills ENT at (512) 258-2300.
National Protect Your Hearing Month
October is a popular month. Not only is it National Audiology Awareness Month, but is also National Protect Your Hearing Month! Hearing loss can affect any individual at any age and stem from varying causes. One cause that is preventable is noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent and irreversible, and is the cause of hearing loss in 1 of 3 individuals suffering from a hearing impairment. Excessively loud noise can cause damage to our inner ear sensory cells and result in this type of hearing loss. Even sounds as loud as a hairdryer or blender are loud enough to cause this cell damage. We live in a noisy world, experiencing dangerously loud sounds daily from traffic noises to emergency sirens to sporting events. We must take responsibility for our hearing health into our own hands and protect our ears from dangerously loud sounds.
Ways to protect your ears and hearing include:
Wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time.
This includes mowing the lawn, attending concerts and sporting events, shooting guns at a range or hunting, watching fireworks, etc.
Walking away from the noise source i.e. speakers at a concert.
Maintaining safe listening levels for music and television. Turn down the volume on iPhones, iPods, and TVs.
Audiologists can assist you with selecting and creating/ordering appropriate custom hearing protection devices for your specific needs. Don’t become a statistic-protect your hearing now!
Approximately 37.5 million Americans Suffer from Hearing Loss1
This number affects individuals of all ages, from birth through the elderly. Untreated hearing loss not only affects your ability to hear sounds and understand speech, but can significantly impact the brain’s ability to process information and have a negative effect on your social and emotional health.
Signs you may be experiencing hearing loss include but are not limited to:
Often asking for repetition or clarification of what someone has said
Difficulty understanding conversations in noisy environments
Inability to hear speech clearly when the speaker is not directly facing you
Relying on visual cues and context cues to follow conversation
Close family or friends comment on inappropriate conversational input or often needing to repeat themselves
An audiologist is the primary doctorate-level professional to evaluate, diagnose, and manage both hearing loss and balance disorders. He or she has the education to provide full diagnostic testing, counseling, and management options for varying types and degrees of hearing loss. Dr. Paige Peterson and Dr. Sabrina Marciante at The Hearing and Balance Center of Austin are doctorate level audiologists that work with adults and children of all ages. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, or feel as though your hearing acuity is not as sharp as it once was, please contact our office for an evaluation.
 Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National health interview survey, 2012 (PDF). National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260). 2014.
Phonak Audeo B-Direct Hearing Aid: A User's Review
It is no secret that the latest hype and buzz word in the amplification industry is direct connectivity. With so many to choose from, as a hearing aid user myself, and an audiologist, it is confusing even for me. The newest manufacturer to throw their hat into the connectivity ring is Phonak. In true Swiss fashion they were late to the game, but they did come with a twist.
Most direct connectivity amplification systems (notice I do not use the term hearing aids here, as I have said before hearing aids are part of an amplification system an are a therapeutic device) only work if you have drank the Apple Kool-Aid and have an iPhone. I'll whole heartedly admit, that is the reason I returned to the Apple family from my beloved Android device. I wanted direct connectivity, plain and simple. I didn't want to wear something around my neck, or have a bridge device that allowed me to stream phone calls and music. Now here comes Phonak with their Phonak Audeo B-Direct hearing aid, it has the capability of pairing with ANY mobile device with Bluetooth 4.2 technology. Say WHAT?!?! But like with everything in the tech world, this comes at a cost, and in my opinion a pretty hefty one that isn't related to the monitary value.
To achieve this Phonak utilized their Belong technology platform and developed their Sword™ 2.4 GHz chip. Now from a user standpoint this sounds really exciting because the Belong platform is awesome. The regular Audeo B hearing aids have great speech in noise capabilities and Sound Recover 2 is this side of magical. This new marriage allows the user to stream their phone calls and walk away from their phone, because the hearing aid uses the microphones in the aid to pick up your voice and you can answer/end calls from the hearing aids onboard button. The downside is that you can only do this to one ear. But wait, if you had a bluetooth headset you'd only go to one ear, right? Well yes, in 2009. Today people are used to their wireless headphones that can do the same thing in stereo. We know from an audiological standpoint that binaural summation (use of both ears amplified) has a very positive effect on the outcome of speech intelligibility for those with hearing loss. In less nerd terms, if you use two ears and you have hearing loss, you'll hear better. Yes, you can pair it to your beloved Android, Jitterbug or old Nokia that you just refuse to give up. That is super cool actually. But that my friends is where the cool factor ends. I will admit, the sound quality while on a call is fantastic, and the connectivity of the phone call is beautiful. I did experience fewer dropped calls and the answering/ending of calls on the ear was nice, but I personally really needed that call in two ears.
I love to listen to music through my aids. It helps with my tinnitus on days where my masking and hearing aid just won't do the trick. Now come the downsides to these hearing aids. You can't stream directly. Nope, not at all. You again have to have a third party bridge device in the form of a hockey puck looking thing, or the trusty neck loop. All of the lovely binaural hearing features that Phonak has built it's very existance on and that the regular Belong platform excells at, yup all that's gone too. And you remember that trusy telecoil that works well in theaters, churches, movie theaters, schools etc. Yeah, that's gone too. I'm pretty sure the Hearing Loss Association of America is going to have a field day with this one. Yes, its old technology, but its good technology, and I am a firm believer that everyone with hearing aids should have a t-coil.