Over The Counter hearing aid development, update

The Over The Counter (OTC) hearing aid revolution has been developing rapidly over the past few years, and despite the objections put forth by the medical-model hearing aid industry and some Audiologist professional organizations, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 is now officially the law of the land. While most original equipment manufacturers are waiting on the FDA to define the new OTC hearing aid product category, some innovations are already quietly brewing. Project Ears, announced earlier, is a perfect example of a technology fusion that will lead the way for OTC product developers.

Project Ears: Mimi Meets Bragi

The Mimi Hearing Test has been winning awards for its hearing checking app since at least 2015. Regarded as one of the best hearing checking apps (currently available on iOS and Android), the Mimi Hearing Test has now checked over one million ears. Up to this point, the Mimi Hearing Test has been used primarily for driving hearing enhancement for music through Mimi’s affiliated app Mimi Music app.

Through a cutting edge collaboration with Bragi, the developer of the intelligent wireless “hearable” Bragi Dash, it looks as though the Mimi Hearing Test will now do much more than simply enhance the music listening experience of those with hearing loss. Project Ears promises to both enhance general hearing and provide tinnitus relief through a Bragi Dash like product that uses Mimi’s hearing checking technology to drive individualized amplification of sound and tinnitus masking sounds:

Making use of our in-ear computing technology and deep understanding of human machine interaction, we aim to create the world’s first intelligent sound amplifier with an embedded scientific hearing test.

Here’s how Project Ears defines their planned tinnitus masking technology:

Embedded masking sounds help you relax and forget the ringing in your ears by covering the tinnitus while you can still hear your surroundings.

While Bragi is reportedly developing a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) to deliver these technologies, incorporating a hearing check and personalized amplification (intended to enhance hearing for those suffering from hearing loss) would probably put it more in the realm of a OTC hearing aid than a PSAP. According to current draft guidance from the FDA, PSAPs are not meant to help those with hearing loss:

PSAPs are intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are intended to accentuate sounds in specific listening environments, rather than for everyday use in multiple listening situations. They are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment or to address listening situations that are typically associated with and indicative of hearing loss.

The OTC hearing aid vs PSAP distinction aside, the Project Ears announcement was largely predictable. Bragi and Starkey Hearing (a medical-model hearing aid manufacturer) announced a partnership to develop a custom-fitted version of the Dash (dubbed Dash Pro) way back in January 2016.

Starkey Promotes the Bragi Partnership in a Tweet

At the time of Starkey’s announcement, Hearing Tracker predicted that the Bragi association would eventually lead to hearing aid technologies being incorporated into Bragi’s hearable devices. While Project Ears makes no mention of Starkey, a recent quote from Jason Galster, Starkey’s senior manager of audiology research, says it all:

There will be a convergence between what we view as a hearing aid and what we view as a hearable

Check out the video below for Bragi’s teaser announcement of Project Ears.

Project Ears Press Release

Want to know more about Project Ears? Visit the Project Ears site, or read on for the official press release, received this morning via email:

Las Vegas, UNITED STATES (January 8, 2018) – Bragi (www.bragi.com), the Kickstarter-launched company behind The World’s First Smart Hearable will showcase the latest in hearable technology at CES 2018 from January 9-12.

This includes the introduction of Project Ears, a collaboration between Bragi and Mimi Hearing Technologies to develop sound amplification and hearing enhancement solutions throughout 2018.

Project Ears is already in development and will focus on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) with on board soothing sounds that deliver the same design and feel of The Dash SeriesProject Ears will examine the possibilities of personalized hearing enhancement in a multitude of different settings including the home, office, jobsite and even outdoor sport environments.

“When we introduced The Dash in 2015, one of the unexpected pieces of feedback was a group of consumers using the device’s internal storage to treat tinnitus through white noise” said Bragi Founder & CEO Nikolaj Hviid. “This led us down the path to review and develop capabilities of our in-ear computing technologies to potentially offer hearing enhancement services.”

One of Project Ears immediate development successes is the integration of a pure tone threshold test (a hearing test) that users can take on-board to create their unique Earprint. By combining this with Mimi’s personalization technology, the hearing device will automatically configure and program itself to the individual without the assistance of a smartphone or manual programing to deliver the best sound enhancement, tailored specifically to their personal Earprint.

Currently, Project Ears is an open-ended possibility with potential use cases that could range from and are not limited to, protecting your ears from dangerously loud noise and utilizing state of the art hearing technologies that amplify your surroundings selectively and intelligently. Bragi and Mimi Hearing Technologies are also looking forward to introducing Mimi’s personalization software to the Dash series to deliver the ultimate music experience to users.

Based in Germany, Mimi Hearing Technologies is the world’s leading expert on sound personalization and creators of the Mimi Hearing Test App, one of the most advanced hearing tests on the market and a certified medical product in Europe. Having tested over one-million ears to date, Mimi defines the future of hearing and sound, pioneering cutting-edge technologies and developing the global standard in sound personalization.

“We are delighted to welcome Bragi as a new Mimi partner.” said Dr. Henrik Matthies, Managing Director for Mimi Hearing Technologies. “With its first products Bragi has already caused quite a stir in the music and audio markets. Without a doubt, the integration of Mimi’s unique sound personalization technology into Bragi’s innovative audio concept opens up a new dimension to the users’ listening and hearing experience.”

Your comments are welcome.

8 Tips For Hearing Loss Better Communication

Hearing loss can make conversations challenging. Often we rely on our conversation person to face us when they speak and provide us context before changing topics.

But communication is a two-way street. There are also many things we can do to enhance our ability to have successful and productive conversations with others. By following some simple rules of thumb, we can put ourselves in a better position to hear and communicate as best is possible.

Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.

1. Inform Others About Your Hearing Loss

Don’t be shy about disclosing your hearing loss. People cannot help you if they do not know you have difficulty understanding. I make a habit of announcing my hearing loss at the start of any group meetings or retreats. It is easy to do as part of the introductions. This way I get the information out and avoid any awkwardness later when I ask someone to repeat themselves or grab a seat in the front row so I can hear the speaker better.

2. Be Specific About Your Needs

Let others know what they can do to help you hear better. The more specific you are in your request, such as: I need you to sit on my left side or please face me when you speak to me — the more likely you are to get good results. Be prepared to remind people what they can do to help.

3. Put Others At Ease

If you appear comfortable with your hearing loss, others will be as well. Let people know that they can ask you about it. I often joke with people saying, “If you say something to me and I don’t answer, please don’t think I am rude, it is probably because I didn’t hear, or understand you.” Humor often makes people more forgiving  and more willing to try again to engage you in conversation.

4. Stay Informed

Since context is so important in following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier to understand a new name (of a country or a celebrity) if you have seen it written about recently. This can be especially important if you are traveling to a different state or country.

5. Maintain Good Energy

Hearing may require extraordinary concentration for those with hearing loss so it is important to approach communication situations well rested and alert. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough sleep. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks from communication if you are getting tired.

6. Interrupt for Clarification In Moderation

If you miss a word or two of a story, listen a little bit longer before jumping in with “What?” You may be able to piece together what was said after another sentence or two. This does not apply at the doctor, or other important situation where full knowledge is imperative, but in social situations, not following every detail is probably OK some of the time. Also, when  you ask for clarification, say what you think you heard to minimize what the speaker needs to repeat.

7. Use Non-Verbal Clues To Guide Your Communication Partner

Cupping your hand behind your ear is a good way to ask the speaker to raise his voice without interrupting the flow of the conversation. Leaning closer to the speaker can also indicate that you are having trouble hearing them.

8. Go With The Flow

Manage your expectations. In certain situations, understanding every word may not be not possible, but try to be grateful for what you can hear. Keep your sense of humor ready for the misunderstandings. Some of them can be quite funny if you let them.

If you have any suggestion, please leave them under comments.

Right ear hearing advantage

The Remarkable History of Right-Ear Advantage

Abram Bailey, AuD

abram_bailey_aud

The summary of his article is:

1) When different words are presented to both ears simultaneously, the left ear is, on average, at a slight disadvantage in speech recognition.

2) The average difference, or “right-ear advantage/ left-ear disadvantage (REA/LED),” is small, perhaps 3-5%, in young adults with normal hearing.

3) This REA/LED increases systematically as some persons age and develop hearing loss. The effect may be due to aging effects on the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two cerebral hemispheres.

4) When elderly persons with hearing loss are evaluated for possible use of amplification, some reject binaural fittings in favor of monaural amplification, suggesting the possible presence of binaural interference.

5) The favored fitting, in this case, is usually for the right ear.

Click this title to read the entire article :

The Remarkable History of Right-Ear Advantage

Memory loss linked to hearing loss

Studies show that a person with an uncorrected hearing loss, who is trying hard to listen and make sense of what’s being said, does poorly at remembering what has been said. It appears that the brain shifts its focus, in order to comprehend real-time speech, leaving very little to remember what’s been said.  Experts call this ‘Cognitive Load’ and it can be described as similar to streaming video on a slow Internet connection, where the results are frustrating, choppy and nearly useless.

Here are ten tips to reduce your brain’s cognitive load and increase the success of your connection with friends and family:

  • Have your hearing tested if you suspect it’s not as acute as it used to be and you have increased problems understanding.
  • Maximize your hearing ability by wearing hearing aids if you have a hearing loss
  • Reduce multiple activities so you can concentrate on one thing at a time; cooking the meal while trying to carry on a conversation.
  • Try to relax. Find a quiet spot and take a break from noise when agitated.
  • It’s not necessary to understand every word that is said.  Use your eyes to pick up non-verbal visual cues to help what is being said.  And instead of asking people to repeat, ask them to rephrase.  Often times it’s only one word that makes the difference between understanding or not.
  • Trying to hide a disability is stressful. Therefore, talk about your hearing loss and explain your situation to others so that they know you might not understand everything said
  • Others don’t judge you by your disabilities but by how well you overcome them
  • Avoid being frustrated by people with soft voices in noisy environments, either find a quieter place to have a conversation. Face the directly and be close.
  • Familiarize yourself with your hearing aid controls, and which settings are best in noisy environments
  • Anticipate the chances of hearing aid failing at the worst possible time by prior proper maintenance and operating on fresh batteries

Heart Trouble and hearing loss connection

Numerous scientific studies in recent years confirm the link between heart disease and hearing health. The connection seems to come from the small but required amount of oxygen rich blood circulating through the inner ear (cochlea).

When cardiovascular health problems cause changes in the heart’s efficiency, it can be reflected in a person’s hearing health as well. A loss of hearing sensitivity can be one of the earliest symptoms of heart disease.

To potentially predict signs of heart related issues, an annual hearing check to monitor your hearing health can be considered a smart early detection system for potential heart health problems down the road.

As a result of the compelling body of evidence linking the heart and the hearing, there has become an increased collaboration among cardiologists, hearing care providers and other healthcare professionals – working together to find solutions.

There are five main warning signs of an impending cardiovascular event. Their continued presence oftentimes means that a physician should be consulted and that a person may be in danger.

The warning signs are;

  1. Chest pain
  2. Light-headedness, dizziness, and other pain
  3. Changes to your ability to exercise
  4. Heavy or labored breathing
  5. Feeling unwell or fatigued

Since you may already in trouble by the time one or more of the above warning signs manifests itself,  it is reassuring that there is something that can alert you to a heart problem much earlier? The earlier a heart problem is detected the more likely it becomes that you can take steps to avoid suffering a heart attack.

Researchers such as David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have concluded that the onset of hearing loss for people even as young as their forties can be just such an early warning. This means that if you notice sounds becoming little less clear, or that the TV needs to be turned up a little louder, getting your hearing checked may be a lifesaver.

Here are 4 other facts about the relationship between your heart and your ears.

  1.  Both heart disease and untreated hearing loss are linked to increased risks of depression. However, among those with hearing loss that use hearing aids are more likely to be a more optimistic and positive outlook on life as they become more reengaged in their lives.
  2. Increased levels of exercise is beneficial for both your heart and your ears. By keeping your body active through walking, or anything that increases your physical activity you are also helping to keep blood pumping strongly through your heart as well as improving oxygen rich blood circulation to your ears.
  3. Smoking has known links to numerous cardiovascular problems and also plays a role in increased hearing loss risks as well. It is unclear whether or not the toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, however the damaging effects they have on respiratory and heart health are clear and this in turn has a negative effect on the ears.
  4. Healthy eating habits keep both your heart and hearing in better shape. Diets rich in the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals can help our bodies and heart in countless ways, especially when combined with an exercise regimen. For example, diets containing increased amounts of antioxidants (vegetables) and omega 3 fatty acids (wild fish) can help protect skin, tissues and organs as well as strengthen blood vessels.

Remember to schedule an annual hearing screening along with your annual physical, dental checkup and eye exam, you can help protect your hearing health. If you have a hearing loss, wearing hearing aids will further protect your health and aid your happiness.

Personality changes with hearing loss, study shows

People tend to become less outgoing as they age, with a new study from the University of Gothenburg indicating this change is more apparent in those suffering from hearing loss.

Researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over the course of six years. Subjects were tested for mental and physical prowess every two years, including personality characteristics such as emotional stability and extraversion. Results indicated that even if emotional stability stayed the same during the study period, participants became less outgoing.

Researchers could not connect the changes to most physical or cognitive impairments, or to difficulty finding social activities. Hearing loss was the only thing linked to reduced extraversion, and use of hearing aids did not affect this link — indicating to researchers that providing support in the use of such hearing aids is key.

​​​​​​​”To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies…. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,” said Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.

“Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is hypothesized that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others,” she added.

Hearing Loss leads to Fall Risk

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk studies:

This article explains the links between falls and hearing loss and was originally published in Aging Answers magazine, March 2015.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths for Ohioans age 65 and older.  Falls among older adults cost Ohio residents $646 million in 2012. Moreover, the rate of falling has been increasing.  From 2000 to 2012, Ohioans aged 65+ experienced a 167% increase in the number of fatal falls and a 136% increase in the fall death rate.  On average, 2.7 older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2012.

But there’s a ray of hope in this disconcerting data.  Most falls can be prevented.  And preventing falls is the number one thing you can do to keep your loved ones aging safe at home.

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk

Two recent studies point to a critical link between hearing loss and an increased risk of falls.

In one study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that people with only a 25 dB hearing loss (considered mild), were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling, even when adjusting for other factors, such as age and inner ear (vestibular) function.  The same study showed that as hearing loss increased beyond the 25 dB loss, so did the chances of falling.

Another study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that patients with hearing aids in both ears performed better on balance tests when their hearing aids were ON compared with when they were OFF.

Hearing Check-ups – An Easy Way to Identify Fall Risk

Although the NIH reports that 47% of adults 75 and older have a hearing impairment, the good news is that it is easy to find out how much loss is present, and that the super-majority of people with hearing loss can effectively be treated with hearing-assistive devices, especially hearing aids.

A simple step to identify and reduce fall risk is to insist mom and dad get a hearing check-up.  This easy test is non-invasive, painless, and takes less than and an hour or two if you have a convenient location to get a hearing evaluation nearby.

Some Audiologists and hearing aid fitters do not charge anything for a hearing evaluation, and will share the audiogram and other test results to help you determine if you have a hearing loss, if any exists, so be sure to ask about costs and what you can expect when you schedule.

Hearing Aids – An Ounce of Prevention

This next step is critical but by no means easy, given the ambivalence many older adults feel about hearing aids.  If the hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids or another assistive device — make sure they wear them!

While hearing aid performance continues to rise, some prices and sizes have fallen, meaning they’re more affordable and discreet than ever.  If their current aids are not working properly, demand the assistance you deserve to make sure the aids are functioning, have been fitted correctly, and proper training in use and care was provided.  Above all, help set realistic expectation since no assistive device is capable of returning hearing to a pristine state.

 Consider Home Modifications

“Fall prevention is absolutely critical to remaining safely in their homes.” says Brian Pritchard, a home modification specialist for HandyPro of Cleveland.

“That TV commercial we’ve all seen, of someone who has fallen and can’t get up, is giving people a solution that only helps them AFTER they’ve experienced an injury.  We want people to prevent falls from happening in the first place.”

Start with the basics, like installing grab bars inside and outside the bathing area, and near the toilet.  “Many people use hand towel holders for support or to pull themselves up, and are pulling them right out of the wall and down to the floor when they fall. You need something properly installed and designed to support enough weight to keep you safe”.

Final tips to reduce fall risk

  1. Get your hearing tested annually and wear your hearing aids on a regular basis.
  2. Declutter to make the home safer and install proper safety handrails and other assistive devices.
  3. Keep active.  Begin a regular exercise program and seek assistance from community fitness programs if you need help getting things kick-started.
  4. Use special precautions when venturing outside in the winter.  Ice can be treacherous and the body dehydrates faster in the colder weather.
  5. Have your health care provider review your medicines for any that may cause dizziness or fainting.

 

Caring for hearing aids, TIPS

To get the longest life out of your hearing aids, follow these tips..

Protect your hearing aids from high heat, ear wax, and excessive moisture.

Don’t expose them to direct sunlight, and never leave them in a car, especially in direct sunlight.  Avoid other locations where they might be subjected to extreme temperatures.

Avoid excessive moisture. It’s a good idea to remove them if you’ll be exercising vigorously or engaging in any other type of activity which will cause you to sweat excessively. And of course, do not wear them while bathing, swimming and in the rain wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect them.

Clean your hearing aids at night when you take them out. Wipe them with a soft, dry cloth and inspect the tube tip opening to see if any wax has accumulated. If it has, use a hearing aid brush and pick to gently remove the wax.

NEVER use any type of alcohol or cleaning solvent for cleaning, as solvents can be very harmful to the plastic material that the hearing aid is made of.

Hairsprays and hair gels can also harm the material and can cause clogging of the microphone openings. It is wise to insert the hearing aid after the hairspray dries.

If you follow these simple tips you can keep your hearing aid working properly for many years to come.

Diplomats’ Hearing Loss caused in Cuba investigated

WASHINGTON — A senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday that several U.S agencies are investigating allegations that Cuban officials directed some kind of ultrasound energy at American diplomats in the Havana embassy that left several with damaged hearing. 

Hearing Loss Audiogram

The official said the State Department’s office of Diplomatic Security is leading the investigation. The FBI has one person in Havana, a legal attaché with the American embassy, who can help. The FBI may be asked to provide technical assistance in the probe.

 ‘Acoustic attack’ in US embassy in Cuba blamed for diplomats’ hearing loss 2:31

One State Department official confirmed reports that the “incidents” involved symptoms of hearing loss. And a Cuban government official told NBC News that the Americans had complained of an acoustic “incident.”

The State Department has also left open the possibility of a third country being involved. Iran, North Korea and Russia all have a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba.

“We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday.

She said that there are a “variety of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S. government. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

Cuban officials have denied directing any actions against the diplomats and have launched their own investigation.

“Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this situation.”

Also on Thursday, Canadian officials said one of their diplomats in Cuba was treated for hearing loss. The Canadian government is “aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working — including with US and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause,” a spokesperson told the Associated Press.

The U.S. first learned of the health issues toward the end of 2016, more than a year after the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana.

Nauert said the Americans working in Cuba had returned stateside for “medical reasons.”

Image: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba
An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters file

Two Cuban officials in Washington were asked to leave the U.S. in May as a result of the incidents.

The development threatens to set back relations between the two countries, but the U.S. embassy in Havana remains open.

The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva Convention to protect our diplomats,” Nauert said. “That is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours, why we take this so seriously…in addition to the protection and security of Americans.”

“What this requires is providing medical examinations to these people,” Nauert said. “Initially, when they’d started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing. So we’re monitoring it.”

A U.S. government official said several colleagues at the U.S. embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months. Some subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Washington, D.C. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the alleged incidents violated international norms: “The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades. This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement. Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates international norms.”

Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities, re-opening embassies in each other’s capitals and establishing a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

President Donald Trump rolled back part of his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba, but has left in place many of the changes, including the re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Extend hearing aid battery life, tip

There was a recent discovery to make hearing aid  batteries last 85% longer. 

And who made this discovery?

Would you believe it was a 14-year-old boy.

His name is Ethan Manuell of Rochester, Minnesota, He learned that batteries can last up to 85 percent longer when left exposed to oxygen, after removing the adhesive tab, before being inserted into the hearing aid itself.

Zinc Air hearing aid batteries have a tab or sticker attached to the back of them.

Ethan learned that the best way to improve battery life is to remove the tab from the back of the battery , then wait five minutes before inserting the battery into the hearing aid.

This will allow ample time to air-charge the battery to receive essential oxygen.

So, next time you need to change your batteries, try his trick so you can get more life out of them.

Everything you want to know about EarMolds