ASL – American Sign Language

“Everybody’s uptight and they’re always building these walls around themselves. All you can do is try and break down the walls and show that there’s nothing there but people. It’s just like looking in the mirror.”

– John Lennon –

I encourage everyone to learn a language, because there is no better way to understand people than to learn their language. As it turns out, Gallaudet University offers free online ASL classes.

It is good for hearing people to understand that for people who grew up deaf, deafness is not a disability.

It also helps to learn about the history of deaf education. This documentary follows a family and their experience, generation to generation. (After you start the video, you can turn on the closed captions by clicking on the symbol at the bottom of the screen.)

Mail Order Hearing Aids

The Mail Order Option

Patients sometimes ask me about Eargo mail-order hearing devices. As with anything, there are pros and cons. I couldn’t put it any better or more thoroughly than an audiologist from Arizona, “Doctor Cliff”. Check out this video summary. I tell my patients to go ahead and try it. Just keep your receipt and know that, just like with real hearing aids, the law requires that you be given a 45 day trial period.

Affordable Hearing Aids

Probe Microphone Measuring Equipment

Hearing aids are expensive and reviews are mixed. Here we cover insurance for hearing aids, affordable hearing aids, and the factors that go into a successful fitting.

First, Congress made way for mail order “Personal Sound Amplification Products” or PSAPs. The difference between PSAPs is that they can’t be programmed to match your hearing loss, because there is no probe mic testing (see video), they can’t be fine tuned as the brain adapts, and they don’t process noise well.

Second, insurances are covering hearing aids more often now than ever. At one end, there is United Health Care, which partnered with High Health Innovations to provide basic mail order hearing aids. They have the same limitations as PSAPs. In the middle, there is EPIC, that gives a discount of about $1000 for a pair of hearing aids. At the other end, some plans cover the entire cost. Call the number on the back of your card to find out.

And finally, MediCal, the Department of Rehabilitation, and the Veteran’s Administration cover hearing aids for those who qualify. Starkey also has a program called Hear Now for people who can not afford hearing aids.

We are providers for Epic, Blue Shield, Anthem, MediCal, and the Department of Rehab.

You know you need a hearing aid when ….

A patient of mine wrote this on his FB page:

“Today I was at Ace Hardware, looking for a specific item, while humming along with “Sounds of Silence”. I gave up looking, and found a clerk.

Me: Excuse me, could you tell me where I can find…

Clerk: I can’t hear a word you’re saying.

Me: I’m looking for…

Clerk: It’s the music. I can’t hear you. There is music coming out of you someplace.
Me: What??? Isn’t that the store’s music?

I reached in my back pocket, and Pandora was on my phone, playing that Simon & Garfunkel tune. The clerk looked at me, shook his head, and walked away while I was trying to silence the Sounds of Silence. He failed to see the irony. They didn’t have what I was looking for, either.”

Noise harms more than the ears.

“Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

– William H. Stewart, former U.S. Surgeon General

Noise isn’t just annoying. It isn’t just bad for your ears. It’s bad for your health. Noise causes higher blood pressure and cortisol levels, which leads to heart disease. Students learn less and workers make more mistakes when exposed to too much noise in the environment. Research continues on the effects of noise on the immune system and birth defects.

The New York Times published an article on noise in NYC establishments. “The New York Times measured noise levels at 37 restaurants, bars, stores and gyms across the city and found levels that experts said bordered on dangerous at one-third of them.” Some restaurants were simply unaware of the danger and pledged to look into it. Restaurants like to play loud music because it makes people eat faster and leave sooner, so significant change is unlikely. (If you’re looking for a quiet(er) place to eat in Santa Barbara, check out my patient-recommended restaurant list.)

As I was investigating this, I actually found an organization called Quiet Communities, whose mission is to make communities quieter. I love that.

The History of Oticon Hearing Aids

Acousticon Hearing Aid invented by Miller Reese Hutchison

Oticon began with a Danish man named Hans Demant in 1903, who wanted to help his hearing impaired wife. The popular Queen Alexandra of Great Britain had worn the first portable hearing aid at her coronation the year before and Hans traveled to England to buy one for his wife. Motivated to help others with hearing loss, he began importing them to Denmark. Eventually Oticon began manufacturing their own hearing aids in 1940.

Every hearing aid manufacturer seems to focus its engineers on a particular task. Most recently, Oticon spent its energies developing a faster processor. The theory is that it can handle noise better, especially when dealing with multiple talkers. While it’s not the hearing aid for everyone, I have been impressed with the results in the patients I have chosen it for. For all you engineers and, what my dad calls “tinkerers”, here is an explanation of what they did.

Hearing Aid Manufacturers

I love history, so I thought I’d start a series on the history of a few major hearing aid companies. I can fit, repair, and reprogram just about any hearing aid from any company, but these are the ones I work with most often. Stay tuned. Next week I’ll dive into Oticon’s history. This week I’ll keep the blog post short. Carol, my husband, and my kids all say I should learn to take a break. My husband even got me a rocking chair one Christmas as a hint.

Oticon: 1905, Denmark
Phonak: 1947, Switzerland
ReSound: 1984, USA
Siemens: 1910, Germany
Starkey: 1963, USA
Widex:1956, Denmark