Why I have been quiet lately…

I know I have slacked on writing on my blog for quite some time. There have been quite a few things that have occurred since I last wrote. One major personal thing is that on December 10, my fiance asked me to marry him and I said yes! It is truly a day I will never forget!  A July 9 wedding is planned in North Dakota!

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Another change occurred in my business life–on January 4, 2016, I became the owner of Chicago Hearing Services! It has been a very rewarding and a very good decision!  If you haven’t been to our office, I encourage you to stop by and say hello! We always enjoy having visitors.

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I promise to be more diligent about writing so that you, my readers, can stay informed. I am planning on some great topics, but if you as readers, have any suggestions, make sure to send them my way….I promise to address each and every one!

It is quite an experience

Lately there have been a lot of posts on social media sites as well as news stories showing what it is like for someone to hear for the first time.  Usually this is a cochlear implant activation.  It is one of those stories that warm your heart.  

As I watch these videos, I see them from a different point of view compared to someone who has never worked with people with hearing loss.  As an audiologist we see this many times.  Though I am not a cochlear implant audiologist or a pediatric audiologist (they get to experience this a lot more) I still get to be present in the room when someone “hears for the first time”.

This past week I had a patient and his wife in my office due to him having hearing loss for 10 years.  He stated that it was finally time he did something about it.  After the hearing evaluation and explaining the hearing loss, I fit hearing aids on the patient so he could hear the benefit that the hearing aids would provide him.  The moment I turned on his Resound LiNX2 hearing aids, a huge smile broke across his face and he replied in broken English “It’s perfect!”.  His wife and him spoke together in Spanish for a few minutes before she immediately stood up and hugged me for a very long time while tears streamed down her face.  At the end of the visit he said, “Thank for helping me hear a whole new world”.

What is it like to be in the room when someone experiences hearing things for the first time?  What is it like to be the Audiologist and professional who helps that patient hear for the first time?  The answer is two words:  PURE JOY!

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It is that feeling you experience when your future spouse tells you “I Love You”, it is that feeling that parents experience after meeting their new child, it is that feeling when you’ve accomplished something great.  It is that feeling that is so hard to describe to anyone, yet is that feeling you want everyone to experience in their lifetime!

We as audiologists are so blessed to get to provide this feeling to so many of our patients.  What have you done that gives you the feeling of pure joy and happiness?

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Something to Lighten the Mood

 

This is a common mistake

This is a common mistake

Yes we can all chuckle about this joke. We can laugh and think this is funny but for many this mistake is reality.  You yourself may notice that you make this mistake or that loved ones, coworkers, or friends, may be making this mistake.

Why does this happen?  Why can someone hear but it is difficult to understand speech?

For many adults who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss, damage to the hearing system passes incomplete messages to the brain. More than 50% of adults over age 65 have some degree of presbycusis or hearing loss in the higher frequencies. These adults often have difficulty hearing certain higher pitch sounds such as a bird chirping , certain phones ringing and particular sounds of the English language. Because our language is comprised of a combination of vowels, which are lower in frequency, and consonants which are higher in frequency, an individual with high frequency hearing loss, might notice that they can hear, but they can’t understand. In English, consonants envelop vowels to give meaning to speech and hearing only vowels and limited consonant sounds offer opportunities for misunderstanding.

These situations in which words and sounds can be misinterpreted can be very frustrating for both the speaker and the listener.  When this situation occurs, a complete audiologic evaluation followed by appropriate amplification if necessary is recommended.

It is a new year so why not do something good for your health and well-being.  If you are missing sounds of speech and things so garbled and unclear, see an audiologist!  You don’t want you to be the butt of any jokes!

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Make Conversation Easier this Holiday Season

As I was sitting in the chair getting my haircut last week, we began conversing about hearing aids and hearing loss.  My stylist was shocked to know that even with hearing aids, it can still be difficult to hear and understand at times.  It got me thinking…Thanksgiving and the holidays are quickly approaching.

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While it is a wonderful time to get together with family and friends over the holidays, it can also be a stressful time, particularly for someone with a hearing loss.  Many times the holidays require increased effort while listening due to competing sounds, multiple speakers, and loud background noise.  Even though hearing aids can significantly help people in these situations, there are communication strategies that can be valuable.  Below are 15 strategies that both people with hearing loss can use as well as family members that are communicating.  Remember communication is two ways!

  1. Face the person directly on the same level whenever possible.
  2. Be sure that the light is shining on the face of the speaker, not in the eyes of the person with impaired hearing.
  3. Whenever possible, try to look and speak directly at the hearing impaired person.
  4. Do not talk from another room; if you must, make sure that the person has heard you call him/her and tell them what room you are in.
  5. Recognize that all people, especially people with impaired hearing, do not hear as well and understand less when tired or not feeling well.
  6. Speak in a normal fashion without shouting or elaborately mouthing the words. Words spoken a bit more slowly are clearer than those that are shouted.
  7. Keep your hands away from your face while talking.
  8. If you are eating, chewing or smoking while talking, your speech will be more difficult to understand.
  9. If the person has difficulty understanding some particular phrase or word, try to find a different way to say the same thing.
  10. Avoid talking too rapidly or using sentences that are too complex and long. Slow down a bit; pause between sentences or phrases; wait to make sure you have been understood before going on.
  11. If you are giving information, such as time or place, be sure it is repeated back to you by the person with impaired hearing. Many numbers and words sound and look alike.
  12. Avoid sudden changes of topics. If the topic changes, tell the person with impaired hearing; “We are talking about ___________now”.
  13. In noisy places, make sure the loudest noise is behind you. In restaurants, request a table by the wall or a booth. Avoid busy times at restaurants, when they are the noisiest.
  14. Look for ideas or concepts rather than isolated words.
  15. Relax! Do not strain to see or hear. A combination of good hearing and seeing enables you to understand more of the conversation.

So as you are sitting at the Thanksgiving table this Thursday, remember everyone wants to be a part of the conversation!  Good strategies makes communication easier on everyone!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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First Visit Jitters…Calmed

Picking up that phone and making “that” call can be scary.  It may be a phone call asking a girl out on a first date, calling a family member with bad news, or even scheduling a doctor’s appointment knowing the outcome may not be what you want to hear.  For many of our patients, making the phone call to schedule an appointment for an audiologic evaluation can cause hesitation.  Telling patients thank you for calling is huge because that is the first step to an improved quality of life.

So now that you made the call, what happens?  Here is a small preview of what occurs during a visit to the audiologist.

1.  Yes of course there is paperwork to fill out but this is for your own good.  Whether it is done at home or in the office, a case history is important for your care.  Audiologists find out a lot of information based just on the case history alone.  It allows us to also figure out how the appointment may go and what issues will need to be addressed.

2.  Once the audiologist has met and spoke with you about the case history, the actual hearing test will begin.  Yes this is the part when you raise your hand or push a button when you hear the beeps.  The audiologist is trying to find your threshold level of hearing;  that is, the quietest sound you can detect.  These sounds are ear and frequency specific and plotted on an audiogram.

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Audiogram showing environmental sounds as well as sounds of speech

Audiogram

Basic audiogram chart. Sounds are plotted for each frequency and intensity level.

 

 

 

 

 

Audiograms

An audiogram showing a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss.

3.  After the pure tones (beeping) comes word and speech testing.  During these variety of speech tests, audiologists are finding out at what level you are hearing and understanding speech in both quiet and noisy situations.  This helps the audiologist determine if you will benefit from amplification or if your hearing loss may require medical intervention by a otolaryngologist (ENT).

4.  Following the basic hearing evaluation, other tests are completed to check the health of the middle ear as well as the acoustic reflex.  The purpose of these tests are to confirm the above hearing test findings and to provide more puzzle pieces for the audiologist to make a complete diagnosis and to help form a care plan.

5.  Following the audiologic evaluation, the audiologist will discuss the results with you and your family.  This allows questions to be asked and answered as well as a treatment plan to be formed.  If hearing aids are recommended, a hearing aid evaluation will be performed (that’s for another blog post).

I hope this is something that will help calm the nerves and instead help you look forward to your visit.  Make the call!  You are only one step away from better hearing and improving your quality of life!

 

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month…And Wait…It is also Audiology Awareness Month!

October begins a month of awareness for me!  It is a month when looking up at the Willis Tower at night, its spires are lit in pink.  Watching college and NFL football with my boyfriend, I see pink accessories worn by both athletes and fans.  It is a month to bring awareness–awareness to Breast Cancer!
Breast Cancer AwarenessAccording to cancer.org 1 in 8 women (12%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  It is a staggering statistic and a reason to draw attention to it.

October is about awareness in another form.  It is Audiology Awareness Month!  It is not as widely known about and does not trend on social media or foundations donating millions, but it is worth talking about!  According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) 1 in 8 people over the age of 12 have hearing loss in at least one ear.  That is the same statistic for breast cancer!  Though hearing loss is not life threatening, it is still a staggering statistic.

It may be hard to see the connection between breast cancer and audiology but actually they go hand in hand.  Why you ask?  Cancer of any kind requires treatment, many times of which is chemotherapy.  Hearing loss and tinnitus resulting from chemotherapy is one of the most common and lasting side effects of treatment.  One study found that after chemotherapy, 61% of the patients had permanent high-frequency hearing loss.

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause ototoxicity, resulting in hearing loss.  Ototoxic agents attack the cochlea and hair cells and cause damage to these delicate structures. Some ototoxic agents (ie aspirin in large doses) can cause temporary damage.  The bad news with chemotherapy, if ototoxic monitoring is not occurring, permanent damage can result.

Audiologists play an extremely vital role then in the care of a cancer patient.   Ototoxic monitoring, performed by an audiologist, allows for specialized audiologic testing to occur so that early signs of damage may be detected and reported.  This in turn, can help the oncologist change the dosage or duration of the specific chemo agent.

Here are some pointers to remember is you or a loved one is receiving chemotherapy (from an audiologists view).

1.  When they are discussing your chemotherapy and they discuss side effects.  Ask them if the treatment causes hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

2.  If the chemo drug has a chance of ototoxicity, make sure to have your hearing monitored during and after the course of treatment.

3.  If the drugs are ototoxic, wear hearing protection during and after a course of chemotherapy so that loud noises will not disrupt hearing as well.

4.  Hearing loss from chemotherapy can usually be improved with the use of amplification and hearing aids.

See audiology awareness and breast cancer awareness can share the same month!  Now if only we can have a ribbon that would match the pink!

A piece of advice:  When you schedule an appointment for your mammogram, schedule an appointment for a hearing test with an audiologist!

What I would tell my younger self…

I recently got asked to write an article for the American Academy of Doctors of Audiology student newsletter, AuDiogram.  I was so honored to get to do this and thought I would post it on my blog for all to enjoy.  I took inspiration from “What I would tell my younger self”.  

The first day seeing a patient in clinic, though nervous, I knew audiology was the right profession for me.  Audiology allows me to meld my science background, people personality, and refining an art into an amazing profession.  I knew that in order for my skills and ability to be maximized, I had to go into private practice.  Private practice allows me to provide excellent individualized service and being rewarded when providing high quality care.  Having worked at Chicago Hearing Services for the past five years, I learned the power of a relationship from my boss who is also my mentor.  A positive experience for the patient, allows for the best compliment, a patient referral and personal “thank you”.  When you ask yourself or your colleague, “Why did you go into audiology?” many responses are “because I wanted to help people”.  It isn’t just about helping someone but also helping them to foster and maintain a relationship.  That is what I try to focus on and remember.

Private practice also allows me to progress our profession.  Being part of a small practice, I understand and see how insurance and legislation affects our jobs and patients.  It is because of this, I have a strong drive to be active in my state academy.  As a board member with positions for both Governmental Affairs and Public Relations, I was able to assist our state academy further our profession with Legislative and Public Awareness.

You may be reading this as a first year AuD student or one soon to graduate.  My advice is three fold:  1. Don’t forget why you entered this profession and be passionate about it.  When you are in the trenches and wonder how many more times you have to talk about acclimatization or explain an audiogram, remember you are forming relationships, both with your patient and for your patient. 2.  Putting in your time is worth it. Focus on the positives while you are learning instead of the negatives.  Long hours in graduate school will help prepare you not just technically but emotionally as well.  No business owner, president, or director, in any career, was successful overnight.  When you are working long hours or at a job that isn’t “perfect”, know that if you continue to stay involved and excel, opportunity will knock.    3.  Audiologists, particularly in private practice, cannot live in fear, must think positive, be creative, allow change, and be willing to reinvent themselves.  Strive to do these things on a daily basis.  Think outside the box and how you can do things better than you did yesterday.

I just had baby now what…

I am at the stage when many of my friends and family are having children.  It is such an exciting time for them as they welcome their new son or daughter.  A colleague and fellow OSU Alum, Kelsey, is not only a great audiologist but also a wonderful newborn photographer.  Seeing her posts on her blog and website always make me smile a bit.  Pure innocence and joy!  I always admire this little miracle.  I appreciate children more after working with pediatrics as well as learning all about them.

courtesy of moments by kelsey

courtesy of momentsbykelsey.com

A newborn goes through many tests when they are first born.  One of these tests they receive is a newborn hearing screening.  Thanks to technology and legislation about a decade ago, it is now a Federal law that this screening is required before a baby leaves the hospital or within one month of age if it is a home birth.

Why is this screening so important?  Critical language development occurs between 0-3 years old.  If a child cannot hear, their language can be severely impacted which can lead to educational and social issues.  By identifying and diagnosing these children early, these detrimental effects of hearing loss can be negated.  The goal of the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) is to identify children with hearing loss by one month of age, diagnose them by three months of age, and begin services by six months of age.  When this is achieved, the potential for this child is overwhelming positive.

So how does a hearing screening work?  There are two screening methods that are used to perform newborn screenings.  Both methods are quick, safe, accurate, and effective.  Hospitals choose which screening method to use based on a number of factors.  The first method is otoacoustic emissions (OAEs).  OAEs are a measurement of how the cochlear hair cells are functioning.  The cochlea, the organ of hearing, creates a signal that a special microphone can pick up if the cochlea is working correctly.  It allows us as audiologists to know how the organ of hearing is working.  The second method is an automated auditory brainstem response (AABR).  This test measures brain activity in response to auditory input.  It allows the screening to assess the entire auditory system.

Every 3 in 1000 children born will be born with a significant hearing loss.  Complications such as prolonged ventilation, ototoxic medications, and some maternal diseases can increase this risk for hearing loss.  This is the reason hearing screening is so vital.

So to all you new parents–Congratulations and know that by screening your children you are providing them with a great gift!

Momentsbykelsey.com

Illinois Hands and Voices

How to Communicate with Children When You Have Hearing Loss

By Guest Blogger, Shanna Groves of Lipreadingmom.com

As a hard of hearing (HOH) mother of three, I can become frustrated with not hearing my children’s voices well. And I am not alone. According to the Deafness Research Foundation, 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Many are parents or grandparents.

Among them is Mary Butler of Tennessee, a hard of hearing mother of one. Because of the challenges of understanding a child’s delicate voice, Butler said she would think twice before watching other people’s children.

“It is very difficult, if next to impossible, to discern what they are saying,” Butler said. “I’ve met children who became very frustrated with me because they thought I wasn’t paying attention to them. Let’s just say I am happy to baby sit a newborn, but once they reach the age where they start talking, I’ll pass.”

Among the communication difficulties noted by Deborah Wolter and Kathleen Quinn in their article “Young Children in Families with a Parent with Hearing Loss” (Hearing Loss, July/August 1999) are:

  • Lack of dialogue between kids and their HOH parents
  • HOH adults using older children as interpreters for younger kids
  • Failure to hear a child’s night crying and identify its cause
  • Tantrums, whining or frustration among children when unable to get the adult’s attention
  • Younger kids gesturing, pointing or leading the HOH adult instead of talking

In a perfect world, all children would come with captioning devices attached to them so hard of hearing folks could understand their words. Until that day, these communication and technology strategies may help.

Make Eye Contact
Susan Baird of Ontario has lived with hearing loss since age 13. Her son, who lives at home, also has hearing loss. Because her kids become frustrated with repeating things, she asks them to tap her shoulder and clearly say “Mom” first. She then makes eye contact, and they begin speaking.

“I tell them always to face me when talking, be close to me when talking and talk slowly to me,” Baird said.

If it is an important conversation topic, Baird takes them to a quiet room to talk so that she and the kids can pay attention.

“Sometimes if they don’t do these things, I just don’t answer as I have only heard part of the story,” she said.

Consider Technology and Hearing Dogs
Hearing our children when in another room of the house is challenging if not impossible for HOH adults. In addition to wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants, some parents and grandparents rely on hearing assistive technologies.

To hear her child’s middle-of-the-night cries, Butler initially opted for the AlertMaster wireless notification system, which flashed a connected lamp and shook her bed to alert her. One drawback was that her youngster had to wail loudly for several seconds for the monitor to be activated. She eventually chose a simple Fisher Price Lights and Sounds monitor that features illuminated red dots as the crying intensifies. As a back-up, Butler slept with her hearing aids on. While the hearing aids were uncomfortable to wear while sleeping, she insists that they were crucial in alerting her to her child’s sobs.

Vibrating and strobe-flashing monitors can be programmed to alert a parent or grandparent of noise coming from a child’s room. A video monitor is another option, but only for daytime use as there is no guarantee of it waking up a HOH person in the middle of the night.

A frequency modulated (FM) system can assist with hearing a child in a noisy car or restaurant. The HOH adult attaches a FM system loop to hearing aids, and the child wears a microphone receiver. The child’s voice is transmitted directly to the adult’s aids via the FM system.

For the animal lover, a trained hearing assistance dog may work just as well or better than assistive technology. Denise Portis of Maryland acquired a hearing dog as her kids got older. Canine helper “Chloe” alerts Portis to various sounds and provides balance support due to the Meniere’s Disease Portis has dealt with for five years. “When Chloe is with me, I don’t feel as ‘deaf’ or as ‘helpless,’” Portis shared on her site, HearingElmo.com. “She makes me feel more ‘normal’ in providing things I cannot do for myself.”

Have Fun with Communication
Portis began losing her hearing after the birth of a son. Her daughter was barely a year old. To teach such young children how to communicate with her, Portis devised age-appropriate games.

As toddlers, they played a variation of Peek-a-boo. Portis covered her eyes with her hands and remained quiet. Then she lowered her hands, made eye contact and spoke to them. “If they grew impatient and said something while I was ‘covered,’ I’d say, ‘Oh… What? Wait I can’t see you. I can’t hear you!’” Portis said. “They soon learned to mimic me and would be very quiet and serious when their chubby little baby hands covering their eyes. Then they’d ‘pop’ out and laugh and say, ‘I see you… I see you.’”

The “Guess What? Face” game became popular as the kids grew older. Portis would run over to them and in an excited voice say, “I’ve got my Guess What? Face on!” Then, kneeling at eye level and with her hands on their cheeks, she would tell them something.

Turn Noises Off
Sometimes a parent or grandparent with hearing loss needs a hearing rest. Whether it is a nap or a few minutes of quiet time, we should encourage children to accommodate us in our need for minimal noise.

Russell Barr’s hearing loss is selective. He can understand most men’s voices, but he struggles to hear children. When his granddaughter visited, the TV was turned off and other background noise was reduced. “This translates into more immediate and intimate time with her. And in overcompensating, I actually pay more attention to her,” said Barr.  “Who doesn’t like to be the center of the universe even for a couple of minutes?”

One part of the day can be declared “Take My Ears Out” time. Portis let her kids know when her hearing aids or cochlear implant was taken out, and they would have to write her a note if they wanted to discuss something. “Now that we have our own computers,” Portis said, “they often IM me during the day even though they are only downstairs. I’ve even received text messages from my son who prefers not having to come find me!”

Educate Your Child
As our children grow, there is much we can teach them about hearing loss. Besides facing us when they talk, kids should be educated about good speech habits, such as enunciating words, speaking slowly, and standing no more than a few feet away when talking to an adult with hearing loss.

When Eric Wright, who has hearing loss, doesn’t catch what his daughter says even though she is facing him, he asks her to speak clearly into his hearing aided ear. “I have lost those pitches that include small children’s voices,” he said. “I also have a hard time when people are talking fast because they are excited. I have to ask people to slow down sometimes.”

Other helpful tips for parents and grandparents with hearing loss:

  • Encourage your children to speak clearly by teaching them proper word pronunciation. Emphasize each vowel and consonant sound, particularly the “softer” consonant sounds of “t,” “s” “f” and “v.”
  • Ask the child to turn off any toys or music before speaking, since both create background noise.
  • When your kids are in the backseat while you are driving a car, ask them to wait until you are at a stoplight to communicate with you, if at all possible. Try not to respond to comments from children unless the car is stopped. The FM hearing device (mentioned above) may help with hearing their voices.
  • In other situations, respond to a child’s question or comment only if he or she is facing you. Eventually, the child will understand the importance of eye contact in communicating with a HOH person.
  • If you don’t understand what a child said, resist the urge to pretend you did. Instead say, “My ears didn’t hear you. Please tell me again.”

(c) Copyright LipreadingMom.com