A Patient’s Story…

“I heard a crystal clear human voice for the first time in years,
Maybe decades”

Hearing Solutions Patient Ted Smith Tells Story

Ted W. Smith

Q&A with Ted Smith

  1. When/how did you realize you had a hearing problem?
    It’s difficult to estimate how long I struggled with hearing loss because it happens so gradually. I know that I was asking my wife, family, and staff for repetition for many years. I first sought help in 2003, I estimate that I had been experiencing significant hearing loss for ten to fifteen years.
  2. What made you decide it was time to do something about it?
    I was twenty years into my second career as a pastor, and couldn’t understand most of what was said to me on a daily basis! Asking for remarks to be repeated over and over again is embarrassing, especially when your career involves listening and then responding appropriately.
  3. How did you decide on/find the Audiologist at Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan?
    Unfortunately, before meeting the doctors at Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan, I had received a lot of misinformation and had become skeptical of my ability to find help. In 2008, I discovered Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan and saw that it was a local business! I liked that.
  4. What happened when you went to Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan?
    Dr. Leahy and Dr. Sawhill were very encouraging from the outset. They said that my problem was not as complicated as I had previously been led to believe….and assured me that I would hear again.
  5. When you got your hearing aids, what was your reaction?
    The audiogram that Dr. Leahy performed showed significant hearing loss. She fitted me with two hearing aids, adjusted them by computer, then held a clipboard in front of her mouth (to prevent lip reading) and asked me what I had for breakfast. My eyes filled with tears as I answered. I heard a crystal clear human voice for the first time in years…maybe decades.
  6. How are you benefitting from better hearing/maximizing your hearing potential?
    Immediately I found myself able to stay “on track” in office and family conversations. My staff observed that I was a different person, more engaged and energetic. I was once again feeling alive!
  7. What is your best advice to someone who is having hearing difficulty?
    Do not wait. If you are acknowledging difficulty hearing….or if your spouse or family is telling you that you have a
    hearing problem, get help! Your situation will not get better left unattended.

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Family, Friends, and Hearing Loss

Hearing Solutions Audiology Doctors Leahy and SawhillThe holidays are an important time for friends and family to connect, share stories, and enjoy conversations. But for many, the struggle to hear and understand clearly can be frustrating and tiresome just from the effort of listening.

Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss can help enhance quality of life. Untreated or unrecognized hearing difficulties frustrate and isolate people of all ages. In adults, hearing difficulties can affect social interaction, create emotional trepidation, put a strain on relationships, and jeopardize careers. In children, hearing difficulties can impede learning and are an obstacle in building relationships that are essential to a happy, healthy lifestyle.

It is natural for people to feel insecure or embarrassed about needing hearing aids. Stigmas related to hearing aids can be overwhelming- from the fear of being “different” to the intimidating thought that needing to have devices to hear properly means they have reached “elderly status.” In reality, hearing loss does not discriminate. Age and the cause for why someone would need hearing technology to hear better varies from person to person.

Whoever said high tech can’t be elegant? Unfortunately, society has not yet given hearing aids high marks of sophistication, such as the way eyeglasses have become so stylish that kids are getting frames even though they don’t need them to correct their vision. With today’s technology and everything wireless, maybe someday soon hearing aids will be the new “trend.” Until that happens, it can help to ease concerns by involving someone who has firsthand knowledge of the benefits of wearing hearing aids to explain their experience and answer questions. Today, hearing aids are discreet, have amazing capabilities and several can even connect wirelessly with other technology (such as cell phones and tablets). Who wouldn’t want that?

If you feel someone you care about is having difficulty hearing, approach the subject gently and do not be surprised if you are met with resistance. Studies have shown it normally takes up to seven years before someone will seek help for hearing problems. It is best to be a source of support. Begin by helping your friend or family member recognize where they may be struggling.

Education is the best remedy to ease worries. Sound quality has come a long way since the inception of hearing aids, but expect some time to adjust. Often reduction in hearing happens so gradually that it may go unnoticed. You may want to provide a list of common symptoms that can help to determine if they should seek an evaluation from a professional audiologist. An audiologist will look inside the ear canal for wax build-up and other abnormalities. Most audiologists offer free screenings, which indicate if a full diagnostic evaluation needs to be completed. Offer to go with your friend or family member to their appointment, better yet, schedule one together.

Common Symptoms Include:

• Frequently asking people to repeat themselves

• Turning an ear toward a sound to hear it better

• Understanding people better when wearing glasses or looking directly at faces

• Having difficulty understanding in group conversations

• Turning the volume on radio or TV to a level others say is too loud

• Having pain or ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)

• Having difficulty with hearing women or children

If you or someone you care about has difficulties hearing, it may benefit you to have it checked by a professional audiologist who truly cares about hearing health. At Hearing Solutions, Dr. Kathleen Sawhill and Dr. Sandra Leahy care that friends and family are able to enjoy every day, especially the holidays. We educate patients on treatment options then prescribe solutions that best meet their hearing health care needs based on lifestyle, hearing loss and budget. Our goal is to ensure our patients have the best possible quality life. For more information on hearing health care related subjects, please visit us online at www.hearingsolutionstc.com or call us at (231) 922-1500 to schedule a free screening today.

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Resound LiNX

ReSound LiNX is an amazing new hearing aid that brings you 360 degree hearing in a package built to be smaller, more flexible and more discreet than other devices of its kind. ReSound LiNX is the first hearing aid that connects directly to an iPhone,® iPad® or iPod touch® so you get a smarter, clearer and more connected hearing experience.

Click here to download more info (PDF)

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Optimizing Your Hearing Aid Experience by Training Your Brain to Listen

We don’t really hear in our ears; we hear in our brain. Hearing aids help a person detect sounds, but they don’t provide good listening skills. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Normal hearing alone does not assure that one is a good listener. We all know people who have normal hearing but are poor listeners. Conversely, many hearing impaired individuals are wonderful listeners. While hearing is a physical function that requires an auditory system that allows access to sound, listening requires effort, and when a hearing loss is present, that effort becomes particularly difficult.

Good listening skills are one of the components essential for effective communication. As advanced as modern hearing aids are, they alone cannot produce the listening skills needed for communication. There are a number of reasons for this. For example, to be a good listener, one must integrate a number of skills including attending, understanding, and remembering. Unfortunately, many of these skills deteriorate as we age. This may show up as a worsening of short-term memory, or increased difficulty understanding rapid speech. Modern hearing aids have certainly improved the quality of hearing in noisy environments, but they do not eliminate background sounds. People with hearing loss have particularly great difficulty understanding speech in noise. In addition, we now have evidence that a loss of hearing in the ear literally produces physical changes in the brain. These changes are called neural plasticity and data shows that when parts of the brain are not being utilized, they actually change their function (not in a positive manner). Thus, the old adage, “use it or lose it” actually applies to listening because the hearing impaired person’s brain may not be receiving the kind of stimulation it needs to maintain proper function.

In addition, confidence that what you thought you heard was what was spoken, is vital. Often, when people lose confidence in their ability to communication in noisy social situations, they avoid those environments. While this may save them effort and embarrassment, it ultimately costs them important personal and social contact. Some individuals utilize compensatory strategies that may result in successful hearing aid use. Others are not so fortunate. In fact, it is not uncommon for people with hearing loss to develop counter-productive compensatory behaviors, such as nodding their heads as if they heard, or monopolizing conversation so that they don’t have to rely on their hearing.

The good news is you can optimize your hearing experience using a number of methods:

  • Having realistic expectations about your hearing aids
  • Using visual cues
  • Teaching your social network “clear speech” (such as rephrasing and slowing down)
  • Employing better communication strategies
  • Using other assistive technology in addition to your hearing aids
  • Use of captioned TV, movies, and telephones

Supplementing hearing aid use with additional methods mentioned above can be very useful in giving you the kinds of skills that make the difference between understanding and being left out of a conversation. Talk to your physician about your hearing difficulties and ask for a referral to an Audiologist who can test your hearing and establish a comprehensive communication plan for you.

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It Takes Two to Tango!

Article by: Patricia B. Kricos, Ph.D. – University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Mark Ross, a venerable audiologist with a severe hearing loss himself, once said: “When someone in the family has a hearing loss, the entire family has a hearing problem.” Communication is a two-way street, and both the listener with the hearing loss, and his or her communication partner, can play a role in reducing the problems that may arise during a conversation. Below are some communication strategies for both the listener and the communication partner that may significantly reduce conversational difficulties.

  1. Don’t try to hide your hearing lossListener: Acknowledge your hearing loss so that people will be more likely to look directly at you when talking, and speak clearly when addressing you. If your conversation partner knows that you have hearing difficulties, there may be fewer misunderstandings if you do not respond appropriately or if it appears that you are ignoring the talker.

    Communication Partner: If someone you are conversing with wears hearing aids and/or tells you that she has a hearing loss, do not shout or exaggerate your mouth movements. Just speak clearly, a little bit slower and a little bit louder. Pausing between phrases will help the listener have time to process what you are saying.

  2. Use hearing assistive technologyListener: If you own hearing aids, by all means wear them. If you don’t, check with your hearing healthcare professional to see what’s new in hearing assistive technology. Some amazing improvements have been made in hearing aids and it might be time for you to see what technology might be available to make your communication situations flow more easily.

    Communication Partner: If you see that the person you are conversing with is having difficulty communicating and they do not use hearing aids or other assistive technology encourage them to get help using modern digital technology and/or other assistive technology. If they are resistant to hearing technology or in denial consider using some of the strategies for handling a loved one who is in denial about their hearing loss.

  3. Polish your concentration skillsListener: Pay extra attention to the talker and try to hone your listening skills. This may be especially difficult for new hearing aid users, who may have spent several years “tuning out” during conversations, movies, lectures, or religious services because of difficulties hearing. Watch the talker’s mouth instead of looking down. Try to concentrate on the topic of conversation, even if you are missing a few words or phrases.

    Communication Partner: Realize that it can be a strain for people with hearing difficulties to listen for long periods of time. Try to appreciate that folks who have to pay extra attention during conversations will often tire more easily than other listeners, and may want to go home earlier than you do from parties, family dinners, and other group events.

  4. Be preparedListener: Anticipate difficult listening situations and plan ahead. If you’re dining out with friends, for example, suggest going at a time that is not likely to be busy, recommend a restaurant that you know is relatively quiet, and familiarize yourself with the restaurant’s menu, which can often be found online. Going to a bowling luncheon banquet? Try to arrive early so that you can pick a seat at the table furthest from the noisy kitchen, and choose to sit with your back to a brightly lit window so you can reduce glare. Be as prepared as you can to minimize listening difficulties.

    Communication Partner: When accompanying a friend or family member to an event that is likely to be a difficult listening situation, think of ways ahead of time to minimize communication problems. For example, if you are going to a lecture together, try to arrive early so that the two of you can get a good seat, up close to the podium. Engage beforehand in conversation about the lecture topic as a way of perhaps anticipating what the lecturer will say. If you are hosting a social event and know that someone who is attending has a hearing loss, strategize as to how you might reduce problem situations. Perhaps you could choose a relatively quiet restaurant and ask to have a private, carpeted room for your event. Ask that the table be set with plastic cutlery and paper dishes, which may significantly reduce the clatter of dishes and eating utensils. The efforts you take to plan for a “noise-free” event will probably actually benefit ALL of your guests.

  5. Use effective clarification strategiesListener: Avoid saying “Huh?” or “What did you say?” when you have heard at least part of what the speaker was saying. Instead, try saying something like “I know you said you are talking about the new house you are building, but I didn’t catch where you said the house is located.” This way, the talker does not have to repeat everything that was said.

    Communication Partner: When the listener has missed something you said, try repeating what you said one time, using clear (but not exaggerated) speech. If the person still does not understand, try rewording. For example, if the person did not understand you when you said, “It’s not polite to boast”, repeat it once, then reword your sentence to “It’s not nice to brag.”

  6. Try to determine the source of your difficultyListener: Practice analyzing WHY you are having difficulties with a particular talker, then make specific requests, politely of course. Does she have a soft voice? Rather than saying, “Say again?” try asking her to “speak a little bit louder please”. Does he speak too fast? Ask him to “please slow down a bit so my ears can keep up with what you are saying!” If she has turned away from you while talking, don’t say, “I didn’t hear you.” Instead, use a specific request such as “Please face toward me when you speak.” If she is talking with her hand over her mouth, say “Could you please put your hand down” instead of “I can’t make out what you’re saying.”

    Communication partner: The best way to speak clearly for people with hearing loss is to face them, speak a little bit more slowly, a little bit more loudly, and with natural voice intonation, not a monotone. Try not to cover your mouth when you are talking, because that prevents your partner from taking advantage of lip cues.

  7. Verify what you think you heardListener: If you have the slightest doubt that you understood a message correctly, confirm the details with the talker. It could save you some embarrassment or complications later.

    Communication partner: When giving directions, such as where and when to meet for a meeting, ask your partner who has a hearing loss if she is clear on the directions by saying something like, “Did that make sense?”

  8. Accentuate the positiveListener: Use positive words when you need help from your communication partner, such as “Could you please speak a bit louder?” instead of “You’re going to have speak louder if you want me to understand you.”

    Communication partner: When the listener with a hearing loss asks you to say something a little bit louder, take it as a compliment! It means she really wants to understand what you are talking about.

  9. Be assertiveListener: Politely let your communication partner know what you need to make the conversation flow more easily. At a group meeting, for example, if everyone is talking at once, suggest that only one person at a time talk. If you are on a conference call, suggest that each participant identify himself or herself when they say something, such as “This is Pat. I think we should have the fundraising event on a weekend.”

    Communication partner: If the person you are talking with indicates that they have a hearing loss and need you to speak a bit louder or a bit slower, try to accommodate their needs, but like Goldilocks and the porridge, it needs to be “just right”; i.e., not too slow, not too fast; not too loud, not too soft.” The accommodations you make will enable the conversation to flow more easily for both of you.

  10. Listen with your eyes, not just your earsListener: Watch the speaker’s face. Although less than 50% of the English language is visible on the lips, you can still get a great deal of help by picking up visual cues on the speaker’s face. Did the speaker say, “I need to go home”? Or was it “I need a phone”? Watch the person’s face and you will probably figure it out because “home” and “phone” look different on the lips. The speaker’s facial expressions may also help you understand what is being said.

    Communication partner: The listener may benefit tremendously by being able to watch your lips as you speak. Be sure to not cover your mouth with your hands, a restaurant menu, etc., so that the visible features of speech are available.

  11. Sometimes it’s okay to break the rulesListener: Sure, your mother instructed you carefully in social rules, like “Never interrupt”, “Don’t buck the line”, and “Wait patiently until it’s your turn to speak.” However, picture this scenario: you are at a busy airport, waiting at the gate, and after a loudspeaker announcement that you couldn’t understand, half the people waiting with you start running to another gate. Despite what your mother taught you, don’t feel that you must wait in the long line of people waiting to talk to the gate agent. Simply go to the head of the line and say “Excuse me, I don’t mean to break into the line but I could not hear the announcement that was just made and wonder if you could repeat it for me so I don’t miss my connection.”

    Communication partner: It’s important to understand that what may seem like rudeness on the part of your friend or family member is simply an effort to let you know as soon as possible that he is having communicating difficulty. For example, if he stops you in the middle of your description of your recent trip to the Rockies, just to ask you to speak a little slower, don’t think of him as being impolite or not interested. Quite the opposite, he may be indicating that he wants to hear about your travel experiences but can understand your recount better when you use clearer speech. So take it as a compliment, not as poor social skills.

  12. Go easy on yourselfListener: Be patient, with yourself, with your family and friends, and with people you encounter throughout the day. Don’t blame yourself or others for your difficulties. Just keep trying to use the tips provided here and stay positive, even when the going gets tough. Some days will be more difficult than others but a cheerful attitude can work wonders for getting through the tough times.

    Communication partner: Keep reminding yourself that although it may be difficult for you to converse with someone who has a hearing loss, it is even a greater challenge for that person, given the many difficulties encountered during a typical conversation. Be patient, use the communication strategies outlined here, and appreciate your own good hearing abilities.

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About Hearing Health

One of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, hearing loss affects more than 34.25 million Americans—most of whom are below retirement age.

Hearing loss can strike at any time and at any age. And when left unaddressed, hearing loss can affect virtually every aspect of an individual’s life. Numerous studies, in fact, have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall physical health.

Despite the far-reaching impact hearing loss has on so many aspects of an individual’s life, many people who are aware that their hearing has deteriorated are nevertheless reluctant to seek help. Unfortunately, too many wait years, even decades, before getting treatment, becoming more and more disconnected as time goes by.

But the fact is that with modern advances in technology, there are solutions for many. In fact, 90 to 95 percent of people with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids—and their quality of life significantly improved.

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Today Show – What to do…

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Diabetes and Hearing Loss

William Luxford, MD, Otolaryngologist
House Ear Clinic, Los Angeles CA

Patients with diabetes are more than twice as likely as those without the disease to have hearing loss, according to a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. Overall, more than 40 percent of people with diabetes in the study had some degree of hearing loss.

People with diabetes should ask their doctors to check their hearing. This routine. A hearing check can be invaluable in identifying diabetic patients with potential hearing loss giving them an opportunity to receive the treatment they need. To facilitate hearing checks, the Better Hearing Institute has designed a Quick Hearing Check to help people quickly assess if they have a hearing loss requiring a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing professional. The quick check is available online at www.hearingcheck.org.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by researchers who analyzed data from hearing tests, administered from 1999 to 2004, to 5,140 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Its findings prompted investigators from the NIH to recommend that physicians encourage their patients with diabetes to have their hearing checked.

For years, physicians who treat people with diabetes have regularly ensured that their patients receive regular vision check-ups. This important study underscores the need for physicians now to encourage each of their patients to get their hearing checked as well. Both vision loss and hearing loss are associated with diabetes.

Studies conducted by BHI and others show that people with untreated hearing loss have a lower quality of life and even earn less income than people with normal hearing or people who have treated their hearing loss by using hearing aids. Modern hearing aids that use digital technology can help most people with hearing loss.

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Facts about Hearing Loss

  • Excessive noise is the number one reason for hearing loss.
  • Experts agree that continued exposure to noise of 85 dB or louder, over time, will eventually harm hearing.
  • If you cannot carry on a conversation in the presence of noise, it is too loud for your ears and can potentially cause hearing loss.
  • 1 in 4 workers exposed to high levels of noise will develop a hearing loss.
  • The number one reason people seek a hearing solution is the recognition that their hearing has worsened. Usually this occurs from making a serious mistake, family pressure or safety concerns.
  • Professions at risk of hearing loss include firefighters, police officers, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals.
  • The ear has over 25,000 tiny hair cells to help you hear the nuances of sound.

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Hear for the Holidays

Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan is pleased to announce our 3rd Annual “Hear for the Holidays” Contest!

The contest, started by Doctors of Audiology Dr. Sandra Leahy and Dr. Kathleen Sawhill in 2008, is seeking someone in the community who would most benefit from a FREE pair of hearing aids and follow-up services.

To enter the contest please submit an essay, in 1000 words or less, stating whom you would like to nominate for consideration and how that individual would benefit from hearing aids and hearing services. Be sure to include the nominee’s name, address and phone number along with your name, address and phone number.

All entries must be received by Monday, December 6th, 2010 The winner will be selected based on financial need, degree of hearing impairment and the quality of the essay.

Essays may be submitted by mail to:
Hearing Solutions of Northwest Michigan
3241 Racquet Club Dr., Ste. B
Traverse City, MI 49684

or by fax to (231) 922-1502. The winner will be notified on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010.

If you have any questions about the “Hear for the Holidays” Contest, our practice or would like to schedule an immediate appointment please call us at (231)922-1500.

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