Audio Spectrum Explained

A patient of mine just told me about a website that explains the audio spectrum, audio production, microphones, sound waves, sound perception, and more: Teach Me Audio: No nonsense guide to Audio Production. Speech is between 250 and 8000 Hz, so those are the frequencies that get tested in an audiogram. (Actually, sometimes I test higher than that if someone is starting chemotherapy. Chemo is ototoxic and the toxicity shows up first in the ultra high frequencies. So I test above 8kHz before and at intervals after chemo. If hearing drops above 8 kHz, the oncologist knows chemo has reached ototoxic levels and they may choose to tweak the dosage a bit.)

While the whole website is fascinating, the Audio Spectrum page can help you check your hearing aids. If you can’t hear part of the frequency range between 250 and 8000 Hz when you’re wearing your hearing aids, they may need to be reprogrammed.


Tinnitus means noise in the ears or head. Hearing aids can help a LOT. Either the amplification of a hearing loss masks the tinnitus, or a tinnitus masker reduces stress by competing with it. It doesn’t seem like adding more sound to the tinnitus would help, but it does. One of my patients said, “It’s like it competes with the tinnitus, so it sort of keeps it in it’s place. Most manufacturers include a tinnitus masker in their hearing aids. Widex makes one that is particularly effective. Here are samples of the some of the masking “noises” it makes.


Everyone’s experience is different. It can sound like ringing, buzzing, or whistling, among many other sounds. It is often just a minor annoyance, but not always. Sometimes it’s severely stressful, even to to the point of causing serious depression. William Shatner shared his experience when he was the spokesperson for the American Tinnitus Association.


Telecoils are an old technology from the late 1930s and most hearing aids have them. They were originally designed to help hearing impaired people hear clearly on the phone. Today, they are used more often in theaters with an induction loop. A room is “looped” with a wire that receives the sound signal from the stage and then transmits it to the hearing aid. This turns hearing aids into something like a custom headset. A California hearing aid impaired group recently tried to pass legislation requiring audiologists to include a telecoil in every hearing aid. I encourage everyone to choose one with a telecoil, but, for some people, they’d rather forgo the feature in favor of either a smaller hearing aid or another feature like rechargeable batteries. If you have hearing aids and aren’t sure if you have a telecoil, you’re welcome to come by and I’ll check. If it’s in the aid, but not activated, it’s pretty easy to do so. I have included a video explanation of how a looped room works with a telecoil in the Hearing In Noise section of this website. Ampertronic has a history of the induction loop on it’s website.

If This, Then That (IFTTT)

“If This, Then That”, or IFTTT is a cloud service that uses connections, called applets, to link internet enabled devices (like a TV, door bell, lights, or fire alarm).  It can also link devices to online services (like your email account, Facebook, or Twitter).  So hearing aids can now do some pretty useful and fun things you may never have imagined.


  • Your hearing aids can tell you when you get an email or when the door bell rings.
  • A mom can get an alarm on her phone when her daughter’s hearing aid batteries go low.
  • Your coffee maker can start when you close the battery doors on you hearing aids each morning.
  • You can hear a live music concert through your hearing aids.


Watch this video to see what I mean.

The website for the cloud service is

Hearing Aid Batteries

Tips to Prolong Rechargeable Battery Life

Rechargeable batteries last about 1 year and cost about $30 each.  How long a charge lasts depends on how much you stream phone calls and media and how severe your hearing loss is.

18-19.5 hours      No streaming

16-17 hours          90 minutes of streaming

15-16 hours         4 hours of TV and 1 hour of phone streaming

1. Charging

Always fully charge the batteries, until the light in the charging dock is solid

green – it takes approximately 7 hours.

2. Out of power

If the batteries are drained and the hearing aids have switched off, never try to

get more use by opening and closing the drawer. Either:

a. Place the hearing aids in the charging dock and ensure it is powered on.

b. Insert disposable batteries and keep the rechargeable batteries safe for

charging later.

3. Not in use

If you are not using your hearing aids for an extended period of time, take the

batteries out.

Note: Avoid leaving the rechargeable batteries in the hearing aids with the

battery drawers open. This will compromise battery life.

4. Handling

Don’t keep the rechargeable batteries together with metal objects such as keys

and coins.

5. Maintenance

Wipe off any moisture on the hearing aids or charging dock before charging

using a soft tissue. Do not use rubbing alcohol or other chemical substances.

Tips to Prolong Non-rechargeable (Zinc Air) Batteries

Zinc-air batteries will last from 4 days to 2 weeks, depending on the size of the battery.  Prices vary dramatically.  At the drug store, you’ll pay about a dollar per battery.  At Costco or Amazon, it’s about 25 cents.  We have batteries too.  They’re about 90 cents each because we can’t buy in bulk.  We will mail them to you though.

1. Wait 5 minutes after you take off the tab before you put the batteries in your hearing aids.

2. Open the battery doors at night.

Unilateral Hearing Loss

Adults with Unilateral Hearing Loss

People occasionally ask if they really need two hearing aids. The answer is, yes, you do. If you need to save money, it’s much better to get two less expensive hearing aids than one high tech hearing aid.

There two reasons why, but first I have to explain that if one ear is at least 30dB better than the other, you brain ignores the poorer (unaided) ear. Even if the sound is loud enough for the unaided hear to hear, the brain can’t use it. Having explained that, unilateral hearing loss presents two problems:

1) Inability to tell where sound is coming from, which is a safety issue.

2) Significant difficulty hearing in noise. (For anyone who has normal hearing, I strongly recommend you experience this by putting one earplug deeply in one ear and have dinner at a loud restaurant. You’ll see how much harder it is to hear in noise with only one normal ear.)



Unilateral Hearing Loss in Children

For kids, unilateral hearing loss is an even bigger deal than doctors and teachers often think.

1) Kids with a hearing loss on one side are 10 times more likely to fail a grade or need help keeping up in school.

2) Kids with hearing loss in one ear are 5 times more likely to have some problems getting along with others. As Hellen Keller said, “Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”

It’s also more important to act as soon as possible than doctors and teachers may assume. Children pick up most of their language between ages one and five. The time between ages one and five is called the critical period.

Schools will set up special individual support for kids with hearing loss. It’s referred to as an IEP or a “504”. Here are a few typical accommodations, but there are many more:

1) Preferential seating
2) Extra time for taking tests.
3) FM amplification systems
4) Classroom noise reduction
5) Buddy system for notes and in class explanation
6) Dictation apps

Karen L. Anderson, PhDSupporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss

Quiet Restaurants in Santa Barbara

It’s hard to find quiet restaurants in Santa Barbara.  If you wear a hearing aid, this is pretty important.  I posted this a while back, but a patient of mine just recommended a new one for the list, Louie’s. Email me if you have another for me to add:


Louie’s (table # 8)
Paradise Café (Veranda)
La Playa Azul (Veranda)
Scarlet Begonia (Patio)
Lure (in the back of the restaurant at 5 pm)
Rose Café
Stella Mare’s
The Patio Cafe
Meun Fan thai cafe
Tree House
Max’s (after 1pm)
D’Angelo Bread