Pearls of Wisdom

Posts for tag: Austin Hearing Aids

By The Audiology Department at Hearing & Balance Center of Austin
November 01, 2018
Category: Audiology

Is there REALLY a difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Aid Dealer (Audioprosthologist/ Hearing Instrument Specialist)?

 

In one word, YES!

It is easy to become confused about professional nomenclature regarding hearing healthcare professionals. In Central Texas and the greater Austin area, it is becoming more and more confusing by the day. Often consumers are unaware of professional and educational differences between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. This fact has only become more of an issue as hearing aid dispensers have taken to calling themselves audioprosthologists (sounds an awful lot like audiologist doesn't it). A white coat can be purchased off of Amazon, but the education, that is earned. Often patients may obtain a hearing test or screening and purchase hearing aids without the knowledge of what sort of education or certification the provider has.  Here are some of the key differences between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser.

 

Audiologist:

An audiologist is a professional with either a masters or doctorate degree that specializes in diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, tinnitus and vestibular/balance disorders. Doctors of audiology complete a minimum of 8 years of schooling including undergraduate and doctoral degree.  There is also a one year supervised residency that is completed prior to obtaining state licensure or certifications. Audiologists gain extensive training in anatomy and physiology of the ear and brain, psychoacoustics, amplification devices, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, and auditory rehabilitation.  Audiologists also have the ability in working with all ages from new born to geriatric. Audiologists must pass a national state licensure exam and obtain continuing education requirements to maintain state licensure.

Hearing Aid Dispenser:

On the other hand, a hearing aid dispenser is trained in performing audiometric tests and fitting and dispensing hearing aids. The requirements to become a dispenser differ from state to state. In some states only a high school diploma and passing an exam is required prior to obtaining a state license. Other states require two years of college or post-secondary education prior to taking the exam. In Texas, only a high school diploma is required along with passing a written and practical exam.  Hearing aid dispensers are typically only trained in working with adults. Many states place restrictions on their ability to dispense hearing aids to any child under the age of 18. In Texas, hearing aid dispensers are not at this time, allowed to fit children. Also, it is not within their scope of practice to treat tinnitus, and they are not able to diagnose the severity or origin of a hearing loss. Dispensers are also not qualified to recognize medical abnormalities and make appropriate referrals.

 

As you would when making any medical decision, choosing the most qualified professional to handle your health care is the most important. Moving forward with addressing your hearing healthcare needs is no small matter. Fitting a device is not as easy as pushing a button, and it is critical to your success to make sure that you receive the correct rehabilitation, validation and follow-up to ensure your success.

Next time you plan on getting your ears checked, make sure you ask if your provider is a licensed and experienced audiologist.

 

If you or a loved one have concerns about your hearing, tinnitus or balance function please call (512) 258-2300 to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors of audiology today.

 

Signia Styletto Hearing Aid Review | Hearing & Balance Center of Austin

 

Introducing The Signia Styletto

 

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.

 

Signia Styletto Fashion Hearing Aid Austin, TX