Friday, 19 August 2016

Innovative hearing aids can now interact online

Hearing aid manufacturer Oticon introduces the first hearing aid that connects to and interacts with door bells, smoke detectors and baby alarms using the internet.

It is now possible to program hearing aids to talk directly with door bells, smoke detectors and baby alarms. Hearing aid manufacturer Oticon introduces the first hearing aid that connects to and interacts with the internet.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been around since 1999, and a growing number of devices are now connected and able to interact with each other. The most popular IoT devices today include “mood lighting” systems, home thermostats and smoke detectors, and wearable devices offering consumer-grade fitness-tracking and health-monitoring.

Oticon wants to see this first phase of the Internet of Things give way to a more meaningful phase – an Internet of Things that matter – where devices and services people depend on for their health and safety join today’s more entertainment and convenience-oriented offerings.

That’s why the company is launching project ON, a new technology that makes the company’s latest-generation hearing aids Oticon Opn™ part of the Internet of Things through the online service IfThisThenThat.

“Why does an IoT hearing aid matter more than, say, a garage door that opens automatically when you approach home in your car?,” asks Michael Porsbo, Project Manager, Project ON. “For example, children with a hearing loss depend on their hearing aid. A dead battery is much more than an inconvenience. An IoT hearing aid can address this issue by sending a text message to a parent when the battery is running low. A mother with a hearing loss hears can also benefit with an alert to her hearing aids from the baby alarm when her baby is crying.”

Project ON also provides the convenience people love about the Internet of Things. A gentle ping in your hearing aid when the doorbell rings, or having your hearing aid know to automatically turn off the lights and turn down the heat when you leave the house can make life easier and safer for people with hearing aids.

Beyond the practical advantages, Oticon sees IoT-enablement as helping to redefine hearing aids as more broadly functional wearables - a perception that can help chip away at the stigma still attached to hearing aids. “We don’t expect to see people wearing hearing aids just to get these extra functions,” says Porsbo. “But with IoT functionality, the difference between an IoT hearing aid and a connected wireless headset isn’t very great.”

By allowing hearing aid users to choose and even create their own services, project ON gives people the freedom and excitement they expect from the Internet of Things. “Who are we to decide what services people can access, or to stop people from inventing their own combinations of trigger events and responses?” says Porsbo. “The IoT model enables us to give people possibilities – and let them decide where to go with them.”

With the launch of rechargeable hearing aids later this year also, it is exciting times for the hearing aid industry.

To find out more about Oticon Opn watch our video by clicking here.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Is hearing loss affecting your relationship?

One in six people in the UK experience some form of hearing loss. Your wife, husband or partner may be one of them.
Untreated hearing loss does not only affect an individual's quality of life - it also has an impact on his or her relationships, especially the most important ones. This is because hearing loss affects one's ability to communicate, and by definition, communication involves a least one other person.
Let’s talk about what this means in practical terms. Some or all of the below scenarios might sound familiar to you if you are living with somebody with hearing loss...
  • Telephone conversations between you turn into arguments and shouting because they cannot hear you properly. You: “Please pick up some milk tonight” Partner: “What about tonight?” You: MILK, I said can you get some milk”. You may revert to texting one another rather than talking.
  • You may have to watch TV in separate rooms because your loved one has to have the volume up too loud.
  • Parties and social gatherings may be avoided because they think they not be able to hear what people are saying to don’t want to look silly when they respond to a question with the wrong response. It’s becomes easier just to stay at home and your social life suffers.
  • You may now have to pick restaurants based on their noise level over where you actually might like to go. If the ceilings are too high or the music is too loud it will make it impossible for your loved one to hear.
  • You are always being accused of mumbling and the frustration of them not being able to hear can lead to arguments.

My advice to you would be to start having the conversation about what could be done to resolve the problem, and the first step would be to book a hearing assessment.
Assessments begin with a discussion on loved one’s hearing and any impact it may have on their daily life and then a variety of tests are carried out in a sound proof environment. Having you along as well for support really helps. It can also help the audiologist gain a different person’s perspective on how the hearing loss affects you both.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

“What?”, “Huh?”, “Pardon me?”, “Would you mind repeating what you said? I couldn’t understand you.”

If you or one of your friends or family members has a hearing loss, then these phrases will be very familiar to you!

Many hearing impaired people are aware that their hearing has deteriorated but are reluctant to seek help. Maybe it’s just that they don't want to acknowledge the problem, are embarrassed by what they see as a weakness, or believe that they can "get by" without using a hearing aid. According to hearing loss charity Action on Hearing Loss, people take on average 10 years to address the effects of hearing loss before getting seeking help.

But time and again, research shows us that untreated hearing loss can have a negative impact on social life, psychological well-being, cognitive ability and our overall health. Each can have far-reaching implications that go well beyond hearing alone. In fact, those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal.

Studies have linked untreated hearing loss effects to:
  • fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • irritability, negativism and anger
  • social rejection and loneliness
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • reduced job performance and earning power
  • diminished psychological and overall health 

Fortunately, hearing loss is treatable.  
Hearing aids are currently the best option for individuals suffering from hearing loss, allowing them to hear many of the sounds they have been missing. Many different types of hearing aid are available, packed full of fantastic features and paying a visit to your local audiologist would allow you to better understand what options are available.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Festive Season and Hearing Loss: How to enjoy the sounds of the season

For many people with hearing loss, the holidays can be especially challenging. While large family gatherings offer a great chance to catch up with friends and family, Christmas parties can lead to challenging listening situations for people with hearing loss.

Here are some tips for people with hearing loss to better enjoy holiday gatherings.

  1. Find a quiet corner – Stand away from loudspeakers and noisy kitchens and position yourself in the quietest area of the room. This way you can hear conversation rather than noise.
  2. Pick your seat – If you’re having a sit-down dinner, pick a seat at the center of the table nearest to a close friend or relative. This way you have a better chance of hearing conversation and enjoying your meal.
  3. Pick your drink – A glass of wine can make you more relaxed – or it can confuse you and make your level of understanding worse. Be aware of what you are drinking and your own level of tolerance.
  4. Buddy up – Find a friend or relative with whom you can hang out at the party. This person can help you to feel more included in conversation and can repeat things you may not understand.

Wearing hearing aids
If you have hearing aids, it’s important that you wear them to festive events. You may think that with so much noise at a party or family dinner, hearing aids would just make things louder, but modern digital hearing aids aren’t simple sound amplifiers. They are designed to filter out all the unwanted noise - like the clanging of dishes in the kitchen or the background music - and help you focus on speech.

Two hearing aid features in particular are put to work in crowds:
  • The Speech Enhancer - Many hearing aids reduce noise by using a speech enhancer. This technology works to reduce background noise and helps you focus on what you need to hear.
  • Directional Microphones - Directional microphones work to reduce the amount of noise allowed to enter your hearing aids. In noisy environments, like at a Christmas party, the system will work to pick up the least amount of noise.If the noise is located behind you, your directional microphones will adapt to pick up sound from in front of you and dampen noise from behind you. According to a 2004 study, directional microphones are proven to improve speech understanding in noise.

Have the “hearing loss” conversation
Christmas gatherings are a good time to have “the conversation” with friends and loved ones. We’re talking about the conversation about hearing loss and getting hearing aids. If you think your loved one is unable to hear correctly, take out your phone or tablet and encourage them to book a hearing test. This is a great first step to help someone realise they have a hearing loss.

Help guests with hearing loss
You might not have hearing loss - but one of your guests might. Here are some tips on helping your guests with hearing loss enjoy your party"
  • Background music - Everyone loves a good Christmas carol, but when those carols are in the background of the conversations of 20+ people, no one can hear them anyways. Consider turning down the background music - or turning it off completely when several guests are socialising at once. People tend to speak louder to be heard over the music, so your music may in fact make the party louder.
  • Dish Duty - Hold off on cleaning the dishes until after your guests have left. For people with hearing loss, the clatter of kitchen dishes can distract from dinnertime conversation. Take time to enjoy your guests rather than worrying about the clean-up!
  • Seating - If you know that one of your guests has a hearing loss, seat that person at the center of the table closest to those with the quietest voices. It may also help if you sit next to that person, so you can help him or her to better understand the conversation.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Christmas Appeal: Supporting Deaf Children in Rwanda

As part of my company's community and charity work, we are involved with a project in Rwanda, supporting very under priveledged deaf children.

As you prepare for the celebration of Christmas, buying presents and baking the cakes and mince pies, please spare a thought for those less fortunate than we are. 

This is Israel. He is 11 yrs old, and until May this year, he had never been to school.  He was born profoundly deaf, into a very poor rural family in Rwanda.  His mother has since died, and he was discovered by ‘Chance for Childhood’ workers in Rwanda when they were visiting remote villages in the Nyabihu District. His father is very poor. Israel had no decent clothes, the ones he is wearing are made at the School for him.  His shoes are far too big, but he has shoes!

When he arrived at the school, he knew no sign language, could not read or write, and communicated by gesture.  There are no hearing aids available to him either.  But he has proved to be a quick learner!  He has learnt the alphabet, signs for many practical things and basic numbers and arithmetic.  He enjoys school and has made friends with whom he can communicate.

Israel will get no presents this Christmas.  However, Chance for Childhood and Nyabihu Demonstration Centre for the Deaf, are giving him the best present they can – a language, the chance of an education,  vocational training when he is older, friends just like him, three meals a day, access to health care and much more. They are giving him a chance to move out of abject poverty, - a future where he could earn a living and provide for his family.

There are 109 children just like him at the Centre.  However, the Centre is in a rented building, which is in very poor condition, and part of it is due for demolition next year to make room for a new road.  But they have acquired land to build a new purpose built Centre. The plans for the building are now being drawn up and the next stage will be to start building.  Just £5 will buy 100 bricks, and we need a lot of bricks!

Please donate what you can so that children like Israel can have a more secure future.  

Thank you.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Experts warn that one in five Brits will suffer from hearing loss by 2035

Despite a growing problem, medical research spending on hearing loss has dropped in last decade, according to Action on Hearing Loss.

The number of people in the UK suffering from hearing loss will top 15 million by 2035, experts warn.

One in five of us will face deafness, tinnitus or hearing loss due to our rapidly ageing population, according to Action on Hearing Loss.

But despite the growing problem, medical research spending on hearing loss is the only area which has seen a drop in the last decade, a report by the charity found.

There are now 11 million people - one in six adults - in the UK living with hearing loss.

This figure is set to rise to 15.6 million by 2035, and will affect one in five adults.

There is plenty of research which shows that early intervention prevents hearing loss becoming worse over time, and this the decision hits the people who are least able to afford to pay for privately prescribed hearing aids.

I've campaigned for some years though my company's “Love your Hearing” campaign, to raise awareness about hearing loss, and I urge everyone to have regular hearing tests.  Ultimately untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation and has been linked to ill health and depression. 
What is even more worrying is that clinical commissioning groups across the UK are withdrawing free NHS hearing aids to new patients with mild hearing loss it will save £150,000 a year. This will only exacerbate the problem.
Let's hope the something changes and fast!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Improving your hearing in time for Christmas

There is nothing like the festive season with one social engagement after another. From the Christmas office party, drinks with friends and the buzz of the family gathering on the big day, December is a time for fun and social interaction.

But is it? For those experiencing hearing loss, this can be something of an annual nightmare, causing a variety of communication issues!

Imagine if you can, being unable to hear speech clearly because Christmas music is being played in the background or not being able to hear the excitement of children opening presents because they are all talking at once and you cannot separate the sounds clearly. Imagine dreading Christmas dinner on a large table with 15 other people because you won’t be able to hear what is being said around you. 

These are issues a normal hearing person doesn’t normally even consider.
Over 119,000 people in Suffolk have a hearing loss but the number is far smaller for those who have sought professional help from their local audiologist.

Hearing aids can make such a difference to someone's quality of life at this time of year. Hearing aids are so much smaller and discreet than they ever used to be and packed full of amazing features that will help during the festive period.  

You may have thought that with so much noise at a party or family dinner, hearing aids would just make things louder, but modern digital hearing aids aren’t simple sound amplifiers. They are designed to filter out all the unwanted noise - like the clanging of dishes in the kitchen or the background music - and help you focus on speech.

Features such as directional microphones work to reduce the amount of noise allowed to enter your hearing aids. In noisy environments, like at a Christmas party, the system will work to pick up the least amount of noise. If the noise is located behind you, your directional microphones will adapt to pick up sound from in front of you and dampen noise from behind you. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with hearing problems, don’t struggle through another festive season not being able to join in and have fun. I urge you to book a hearing test now and find out what could be done to help you in time for Christmas.