Do more than just turn up the vol­ume

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - RETIREMENT LIFESTYLES -

Ap­prox­i­mately 20 per­cent of Amer­i­cans live with hear­ing loss, ac­cord­ing to the Hear­ing Loss As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. If you’re among them, you may think all you need to do in or­der to hear bet­ter is to turn up the vol­ume. But many fac­tors make up hear­ing, in­clud­ing sound qual­ity, clar­ity, the abil­ity to iden­tify where sounds are com­ing from and how your brain pro­cesses these sounds. To get the best hear­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, you need to ad­dress all of them.

A re­cent sur­vey con­ducted on­line by Har­ris Poll il­lus­trates the chal­lenges peo­ple with hear­ing loss ex­pe­ri­ence lis­ten­ing to con­ver­sa­tions and pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion. The poll of more than 2,000 adults found 67 per­cent strug­gle to hear in noisy places like a restau­rant, and 73 per­cent have trou­ble hear­ing sounds com­ing from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Eighty-five per­cent have to lis­ten harder to un­der­stand what’s be­ing said around them, and more than half ac­tu­ally have to strain to un­der­stand, fol­low and par­tic­i­pate in con­ver­sa­tions.

Hear­ing aids can help many of the 48 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who ex­pe­ri­ence hear­ing loss, but it’s im­por­tant your hear­ing aids ad­dress more than just vol­ume. De­pend­ing on the type of hear­ing loss, you may have trou­ble hear­ing clearly in a crowded room, iden­ti­fy­ing the di­rec­tion a sound is com­ing from, or hear­ing high­pitched sounds like a door­bell or the voice of a grand­child. The abil­ity to hear low-vol­ume sounds is only one com­po­nent of good hear­ing; qual­ity, clar­ity and di­rec­tion­al­ity are also im­por­tant. Your hear­ing aid needs to ad­dress all of those fac­tors, and not just in­crease the vol­ume of noises around you.

At­tor­ney Chris Mam­mel of Florida found dis­tin­guish­ing sounds com­ing from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions to be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges of his hear­ing loss.

“Court­rooms are nat­u­rally noisy places,” Mam­mel says. “If I was sit­ting in the au­di­ence, wait­ing for my turn be­fore a judge, I couldn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions or where sounds were com­ing from. It made it dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine what kind of mood a judge was in be­fore I had to stand in front of her.”

Like many peo­ple with hear­ing loss, Mam­mel found the ef­fort of lis­ten­ing to be tir­ing. While your ears han­dle the mechanics of hear­ing, it’s your brain’s job to in­ter­pret the sound mes­sages the ears send it. Peo­ple with hear­ing loss of­ten have to put more ef­fort into lis­ten­ing and in­ter­pret­ing what they hear.

If your hear­ing aid fails to ad­dress sound clar­ity and qual-

your brain will have to work harder to in­ter­pret the in­for­ma­tion com­ing from the de­vice. That ex­tra work can ac­tu­ally lead you to feel fa­tigued, and even for­get what you heard. In fact, 43 per­cent of re­spon­dents in the sur­vey said they have trou­ble re­mem­ber­ing what was said.

For Mam­mel, the so­lu­tion was a new ad­vance in hear­ing aid tech­nol­ogy. The Oti­con Opn hear­ing aid with BrainHear­ing tech­nol­ogy al­lows users to hear well from all di­rec­tions. BrainHear­ing tech­nol­ogy makes lis­ten­ing eas­ier on the brain. Su­per­fast pro­ces­sors within the de­vice fil­ter out dis­tract­ing noises, al­low­ing you to more eas­ily fol­low con­ver­sa­tions, even in loud en­vi­ron­ments like a busy restau­rant. You en­joy a more bal­anced, nat­u­ral sound ex­pe­ri­ence.

In a com­par­i­son study against cur­rently avail­able pre­mium hear­ing aids, Opn demon­strated a 30 per­cent im­prove­ment in speech un­der­stand­ing and a 20 per­cent re­duc­tion in lis­ten­ing ef­fort, as well as up to a 20 per­cent bet­ter re­call of con­ver­sa­tions.

The de­vice im­proved Mam­mel’s abil­ity to dis­cern di­rec­tion­al­ity and fol­low con­ver­sa­tions in the court­room and the board room, shift­ing fo­cus eas­ily to the speak­ers he wanted to hear.

“Be­fore, I would have to pick some­one right next to me in the room and that would ba­si­cally be the only per­son I could speak with,” he says. “Now I can par­tic­i­pate around the ta­ble in con­ver­sa­tion. I can look down the line three or four peo­ple and still fol­low or ac­tu­ally par­tic­i­pate in a con­ver­sa­tion with them. It’s re­ally been a re­mark­able change.”

Many peo­ple also want aids that can in­ter­act with other im­por­tant de­vices in their lives, such as mo­bile phones or home sound sys­tems. Opn con­nects di­rectly to mo­bile phones and other ex­ter­nal de­vices with the tap of your fin­gers, al­low­ing you to stream au­dio sig­nals di­rectly to the hear­ing aids. Wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy al­lows two hear­ing aids to com­mu­ni­cate with each other for im­proved spa­tial and di­rec­tional aware­ness.

As you grow older, your like­li­hood of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hear­ing loss in­creases, and nearly half of all peo­ple older than 75 will have trou­ble hear­ing, the Hear­ing Loss As­so­ci­a­tion re­ports. In fact, hear­ing loss is the third most-common phys­i­cal con­di­tion, af­ter arthri­tis and heart dis­ease, and it can af­fect ev­ery as­pect of your life, in­clud­ing your phys­i­cal and men­tal health, re­la­tion­ships and self-esteem. To learn more about hear­ing loss, visit www.bet­ter­hear­ing.org or www.hear­ingloss.org. For more in­for­ma­tion about Opn, visit www.oti­con.com.

BRAND­POINT

Like most peo­ple with hear­ing loss, Christo­pher Mam­mel says noisy places like restau­rants are the most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions for lis­ten­ing.

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