Providing hearing aid solutions in Nashville,TN

Listen up, Music City; your hearing is about to take center stage!

Let’s start with the basics. You’re hearing is what drives your life, enlivens your relationships, keeps you in the loop and at the top of your game.

The quality and clarity of your hearing is essential to living your life to the fullest. If your hearing is suffering even just a little bit, if you’ve felt frustrated, isolated or left out because you can’t make out the conversation, Audiology Associates and Hearing Aids Today can change all that with a lifestyle solution just for you.

We’re here to help you understand your hearing loss, and help you take back the life you’ve been missing. You don’t have to miss another sound, the solution to your hearing problems is right around the corner.

Hear more – anywhere, anytime!

Want to be a part of the conversation again?

Dr. Jina Scherer has built a practice that is 100% focused on you – your family, your work and your life. The conversations that start in our office are about building relationships of trust, and finding solutions that inspire.

We know how hard it can be to struggle with hearing loss and feel like there’s nowhere to turn. Audiology Associates & Hearing Aids Today is dedicated to helping people hear better everyday. Our clients, friends and family in Nashville have come to trust us for exceptional care and service, and we take that trust very seriously.

Nearly 36 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss, and every one of them has a family, a job and a lifestyle that can also be significantly affected. That adds up to a lot of people suffering, losing hope and missing out on things when they don’t have to.

The comeback your hearing deserves, is here today!

  • Hear Better, Live BetterClick here to see how our Audiology Services can help you hear and live better.
  • Acoustic or Electric – Turn It Up! – Check out our full line of musician’s earplugs, tips to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss. Click here to find out more.
  • A Tip of the Hat to TechnologyClick here to see just how far hearing aid and hearing assistance devices have come – We guarantee you’ll be surprised!
  • Testing, Testing – One, Two… – Already have a hearing aid? We can test any hearing aid you have and see that it’s delivering the best sound possible. Click here to set up an appointment today.

Your Ears…Only Better!

“I was a pretty good imitator of Roy Acuff, but then I found out they already had a Roy Acuff, so I started singin’ like myself.” – Hank Williams

Rediscovering your hearing is like finding your own voice, it will change your life overnight!

People come to Nashville to become a star; they stay because of the family they find here. Audiology Associates and Hearing Aids Today is part of that family, and the relationships we’re building everyday are far better than a single night on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

When you struggle with hearing loss, your relationships suffer, your business suffers and your life is a little less than it could be. When the chips are down, the relationships in your life are more important than anything else; isn’t that what all those songs are really about?

Before we help people to hear better…We Listen! Our amazing staff of audiology and support professionals know what they’re listening for, so when you step into our office, you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.

It’s time you did something about your hearing loss, and we’re here to help!

  • Meet the TeamClick here to meet the best audiology professionals and support staff anywhere in Music City.
  • Contact Us – Nothing beats getting your questions answered face-to-face. Click here to get in touch and schedule an appointment today.
Natural, effortless listening pleasure…
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4 Important Sounds You’re Missing With Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Here’s one thing most people are surprised to learn: in most cases of hearing loss, people can hear a number of sounds without any problem, and have difficulty only with particular sounds.

In particular, if you have difficulty only with high-pitched sounds, you may have the most common kind of hearing loss, referred to as high-frequency hearing loss.

With high-frequency hearing loss, you can likely hear lower-pitched sounds normally, causing the impression that your hearing is normal. Higher-pitched sounds, however, may not be heard at all.

So which frequencies should you be able to hear with standard hearing?

To begin with, sound can be characterized both by its loudness (measured in decibels) and by its frequency or pitch (calculated in Hertz).

With normal hearing, you’d be able to hear sounds inside the frequency range of 20 to 20,000 Hz, but the most important sounds are inside the range of 250 to 6,000 Hz. Within that range, you would be able to hear most frequencies at a relatively low volume of around 0-25 decibels.

With high-frequency hearing loss, you might be able to hear the lower frequencies at fairly low volumes (0-25 decibels), but you wouldn’t be able to hear the higher frequency sounds without raising the volume (by as high as 90 decibels with severe hearing loss).

So which higher-pitched sounds, in particular, would you have trouble hearing with high-frequency hearing loss?

Here are four:

1. Consonants

Speech includes a mix of both low and high frequency sounds.

Vowel sounds, such as the short “o” in the word “hot,” have low frequencies and are typically easy to hear even with hearing loss.

Problems develop with consonants like “s,” “h,” and “f,” which have higher frequencies and are more difficult to hear. Since consonants transmit the majority of of the meaning in speech, it’s no wonder that those with high frequency hearing loss have trouble following discussions or TV show plots.

2. The voices of women and children

For the countless numbers of men who have been accused of ignoring their wives or of having “selective hearing,” they may for once have a legitimate excuse.

Women and children tend to have higher-pitched voices with less magnitude, or loudness. For this reason, those with hearing loss might find it easier to hear the male voice.

Several of our patients do complain about not hearing their grandchildren, and this will often be the primary motivator for a hearing test.

3. The chirping of birds

The songs of birds chirping are generally in the higher frequencies, which means you might stop hearing these sounds completely.

Indeed, we’ve had patients specifically reveal their surprise when they could hear the sounds of birds again with their new hearing aids.

4. Certain musical instruments

The flute, the violin, and other musical instruments capable of making high frequency sounds can be difficult to hear for people with hearing loss.

Music as a whole does tend to lose some of its power in those with hearing loss, as specific instruments and frequencies cannot be differentiated.

How hearing aids can help

In combination with the above, you may have difficulty hearing several other sounds, like rustling leaves, rainfall, and the sound of streaming water.

But it’s not impossible to get these sounds back.

The key to treating high-frequency hearing loss is in amplifying only the distinct frequencies you have difficulties hearing. That’s why it’s essential to obtain the right hearing aids and to have them programmed by an experienced professional.

If you amplify the wrong frequencies, or even worse amplify all frequencies, you’re not going to get the results you want.

If you suspect you might have high-frequency hearing loss, give us a call today. Our seasoned hearing professionals will thoroughly test your hearing, identify the frequencies you have difficulty with, and program your hearing aids for optimal hearing.

Are you ready to start enjoying your favorite sounds again?

The Health Benefits of Better Hearing

Family at the beach

It’s frequently suggested that we don’t fully appreciate the things we have until they’re gone, and this appears to be specifically true of our ability to hear. Hearing loss is not only tough to detect; it’s also difficult to appreciate just how much hearing enhances our lives.

As one of our principal senses, along with vision, hearing effects our mental, social, and physical health, so when we compromise our hearing, we put our overall welfare in jeopardy. But restoring our hearing can have several health benefits that we never really give much thought to.

Here are three ways improving your hearing can enhance your social, mental, and physical health.

Hearing and Relationships

The foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and with hearing loss, that foundation is weakened. Misunderstandings, hard-feelings, and avoidance can all result from hearing loss and the barrier to communication it produces.

Hearing loss can be especially disruptive to a marriage, as Julie and Charlie Kraft had to find out the hard way.

For most of Charlie’s adult life, he has had a common form of hearing loss known as high-frequency hearing loss, in which he has difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. And because the female voice is higher-pitched than the male voice, Charlie had an especially tough time hearing his wife.

But seeing that Charlie wasn’t aware of his hearing loss, he thought his wife Julie simply talked too quietly, which was frustrating for him. At the same time, Julie thought Charlie spoke too loudly—not to mention that she always had to repeat herself—which was aggravating for her.

In this way, hearing loss creates a frustrating barrier to communication where both people harbor bad feelings towards one another.

In Charlie and Julie’s example, they had the awareness to recognize the hearing loss and to take action to tackle it. After Charlie started wearing hearing aids, he no longer had to speak so loud, and he started hearing new sounds, like the sounds of birds on the golf course. But the one benefit he reported he appreciated the most was the enhanced communication he had with his wife.

Julie agreed, and both expressed how much healthier their relationship is without the stress of hearing loss.

Hearing and Physical Health

Does using hearing aids tend to make you more active?

The answer is yes, according to a survey conducted by Hear The World Foundation, which revealed that 21 percent of those interviewed stated that they exercised more after getting hearing aids. In addition, 34 percent said they actively participate in sports at least once per week, and 69 percent believe that their hearing aids have a positive effect on their general health.

Hearing loss can make communication difficult to the point where people tend to avoid the social events and activities that they used to enjoy. With hearing aids, you can pursue these activities more confidently, leading to more exercise and improved physical health.

Hearing and Mental Health

In a recent study, researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found a strong connection between hearing loss and depression among US adults of all ages.

Other studies by Johns Hopkins University have linked hearing loss to general cognitive decline, including memory issues as well as an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Clearly, the lack of sound stimulation to the brain with hearing loss causes several negative effects, leading to an increased risk of depression, social isolation, and mental decline. But the good news is, studies have also shown that wearing hearing aids can reverse or prevent many of these problems.

How Has Better Hearing Improved YOUR Life?

Statistics are one thing; stories of actual people reaping the benefits of improved hearing are quite another.

If you use hearing aids, let us know in a comment below how your life, relationships, and/or physical or mental health has improved! You may end up inspiring someone else to take the first steps toward better hearing.

6 Encouraging Things Wearing Hearing Aids Says About You

Family at the beach

It remains a mystery as to why wearing a pair of glasses—which improve vision impairment—is perceived as an indication of intelligence, while wearing hearing aids—which correct hearing impairment—has been perceived as an indication of old age.

Perhaps it’s about time the stigma of hearing loss is corrected, and we redefine what it means for our bodies to interact with technology.

The question is, when you look at someone using a pair of hearing aids, what do you think?

Here are 6 of the favorable things we think wearing hearing aids says about you.

1. You enjoy living an active life

Most social gatherings and activities require healthy hearing, while spending time alone at home does not. Wearing hearing aids is therefore a sign that you like to be active and social, and that you’re not going to allow hearing loss hold you back from pursuing your favorite experiences.

2. You’re an open-minded, proactive problem solver

When you’re confronted with difficult challenges or obstacles, you find ways to overcome them. You don’t wait around feeling sorry for yourself or retain a stubborn denial of the issue—you’re broad-minded enough to admit to your hearing loss and practical enough to treat it.

3. You’re tech-savvy

Today’s digital hearing aids are like small computers, equipped with incredible features like wireless connectivity, bluetooth streaming, directional microphones, and background noise reduction.

By sporting a pair of modern hearing aids, it shows that you are on the cutting-edge of technology, eager to reap the rewards that new technology has to offer.

4. You’re health conscious

Several new studies, especially from Jonhs Hopkins University, have connected hearing loss to major medical ailments including depression, general cognitive decline, memory issues, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Wearing hearing aids indicates that you value living an overall healthy lifestyle, proactively taking the steps necessary for a long, healthy life—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

5. You value your relationships

You know that the groundwork for any healthy relationship is strong communication, and you’re not going to let hearing loss erect a barrier between you and the people you love.

Your relationships are simply too important to permit hearing loss to produce instances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and the stress of others always needing to repeat themselves.

6. You’re self-confident

You’re not trying to hide the fact that you wear hearing aids—you’re proud of it. You love to live an active, social life and you’re proud that you’ve taken the steps to ensure your own quality lifestyle.

In fact, many hearing aid users have reported superior performance at work, and research by the Better Hearing Institute shows that hearing aid users reported higher household income than those with untreated hearing loss.

What do hearing aids say about you?

What did we leave out? What would you include in the list?

There are numerous reasons to proudly wear hearing aids: let us know in a comment some of the reasons you wear hearing aids so we can keep the list going.

5 Good Reasons to Get a Hearing Test

Hearing Test

In the United States, roughly 37.5 million adults have some level of hearing loss. Yet according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only 20 percent of those who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them. That implies that millions of Americans who could enhance their life with better hearing decide not to do so.

And that’s not all.

After being told that they require hearing aids, people wait an average of 5-7 years before even purchasing them—which is unfortunate, because for those that do choose to use hearing aids, the outcomes are overwhelmingly favorable.

Many studies have demonstrated that using hearing aids enhances relationships, boosts general physical and mental health, and even increases household income, as discovered by the Better Hearing Institute.

Regrettably, 80 percent of those who could use hearing aids will never enjoy these advantages. And of those who do, it’s a shame that they have to wait such a long time.

The question is: if people are holding out 5-7 years before getting a hearing aid, what is eventually persuading them to do so? And if we understood the reasons, would it inspire us to deal with our own hearing loss earlier?

With that in mind, we’ve gathered the most common “triggers” that have inspired our patients to finally arrange a hearing test.

Here are the top five:

1. Not being able to hear the grandkids

Here’s one we’ve heard more than a couple times.

The thing about high-frequency hearing loss is that the sounds most difficult to hear are often higher-pitched. That makes the female voice and the voices of children especially tough to understand.

Consequently, many people with hearing loss miss out on what their grandchildren are saying, or otherwise have to make them repeat themselves. Over time, the grandkids start avoiding the grandparents, and this provides a strong incentive to book a hearing test.

2. Strained relationships

Communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, which is the reason hearing loss is so frustrating for both individuals.

If you suffer from hearing loss, you may think everybody else mumbles, but your partner probably thinks you communicate too loud or “selectively listen.” This brings about tension, and before you know it, you discover yourself in more arguments than normal.

Regretfully, many people wait until their spouse is at a breaking point of frustration before scheduling a hearing test. We’ve witnessed first hand that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if hearing loss were taken care of earlier.

3. Feeling left out

How confident and involved can you really be if you can’t comprehend what others are saying?

Many individuals with hearing loss lose their self-confidence and sociability when it’s easier to avoid the situation than it is to struggle to hear and comprehend what’s being said. This leads many down a path of isolation.

It’s this experience of isolation—and missing out on social activities—that encourage people to grab the phone and schedule a hearing exam. And there are very few activities that hearing loss doesn’t affect in a unfavorable way.

4. Being unproductive at work

We’ve heard a myriad of stories of people that come to their breaking point at the office. Frequently they’re at a critical meeting and can’t hear their co-workers sitting across the table. They either have to disrupt the meeting to get people to speak louder or repeat themselves, or otherwise have to remain silent because they can’t follow along.

There’s a reason why wearing hearing aids is associated with higher household income in those with hearing loss. If you have better hearing, you’re simply more self-confident and efficient at work.

5. Concern about general health and well-being

Last but most certainly not least, people are becoming progressively more conscious of the health risks associated with hearing loss. While there are several ailments linked to diminished hearing, the most worrying connection is that between hearing loss and dementia. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who sustain their hearing.

What’s your reason?

The bottom line is that many people wait far too long to deal with their hearing loss, even though the majority of hearing aid users state that their lives have been enhanced with better hearing.

If you wear hearing aids, let us know the reason you decided to arrange your initial hearing test. Your response may result in helping someone in a similar circumstances to achieve the rewards of better hearing sooner rather than later.

4 Reasons to Upgrade Your Hearing Aids

Hearing Aids

When should I upgrade my hearing aids?

This is a common question we hear from our patients, and the answer requires some thought. While hearing aids traditionally have a life-span of 3-7 years, there are a few instances in which you may desire to upgrade earlier.

Here are 4 reasons you may want to consider an upgrade.

1. Your hearing aids are no longer working well

If your hearing aids are not performing as effectively as they used to, the first thing to look into is cleaning or repair.

Hearing aids are exposed to earwax, humidity, and other debris, so your hearing aids may merely require a cleaning. In other cases, the electronics within the hearing aids require repair, but otherwise the hearing aids are still effective.

If your hearing aids are harmed beyond repair, on the other hand, or if they are past their standard life-span, you might want to upgrade to a new set.

2. Your hearing needs are not being fulfilled

Let’s say you obtain a new job that will require a lot of speaking on the phone, which has regularly been a challenge for you with your existing hearing aids. You learn about a new kind of hearing aid that can stream calls wirelessly from your iPhone directly to your hearing aids, leading to clear sound that you can quickly fine-tune. In this scenario, you may want to upgrade your hearing aids to match your new hearing requirements.

It’s a smart idea to make a list of all the situations in which your existing hearing aids are not operating to your preference. Then, by speaking with a hearing specialist, you can identify the hearing aids that can better satisfy your needs.

3. Your hearing has changed

Hearing can and does change through the years, and it’s possible that your present hearing aids, while sufficient at first, are now not capable of handling your hearing loss. If this is the case, you will require a new hearing exam and a new set of hearing aids programmed to complement your hearing loss.

4. You want to make the most of the latest technology

Hearing aid technology is evolving quickly; just 10 years ago it would have seemed like science-fiction to believe that you could stream music wirelessly from your iPod to your hearing aids. Each year, surprising new functionality is added to new hearing aid models, and you may find that you’d like to take advantage of the new technology.

For example, maybe you just bought a new Apple Watch and you discovered that a couple of the new hearing aid models are compatible. If you want to control your hearing aids with the watch, you would need to upgrade to a suitable model.

The decision to upgrade your hearing aids in the end comes down to answering two questions:

  1. Are my current hearing aids meeting all of my listening needs?
  2. Is there new technology or functionality that I would like to take advantage of?

Hearing aid technology is evolving quickly, and most of our patients are surprised to discover what the new hearing aid models are capable of. And the truth is, you can’t really answer the second question without knowing what’s available.

If you would like to know what some of your options are, give us a call today and we’ll explain to you all the available technology and how it could make your life better and easier. You might be surprised at what you find.

10 Cool Ways to Control Your Hearing Aids With the Apple Watch

Apple Watch
By Joho345 (Own work) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Picture being able to fine-tune the volume, treble, and bass on your hearing aids as discretely and effortlessly as checking the time on your wrist. Or picture fine-tuning your hearing aids for any hearing situation without ever having to touch your hearing aids.

Sound too good to be true? A couple of years ago, it was; but with the Apple Watch, hearing aid users are changing the way they interact with their hearing aids.

With Apple’s most personal device to date, you can now leave your hearing aid remote control at home, your cell phone in your pocket, and your fingers out of your ears. All hearing aid adjustments and settings can be accessed from a software program within the watch—meaning you’ll never have to touch your hearing aids or constantly fumble through your phone again.

Here are 10 cool things you can do with your Apple Watch and compatible hearing aids.

1. Ditch the hearing aid remote control

The dilemma with modern hearing aids is that as they come to be smaller, more effective, and equipped with more capabilities, they become harder to handle. This makes a remote control a must, but who wants to lug around yet another device?

Even utilizing your cell phone as the remote control can get tiring, but with the Apple Watch, if you want to modify a setting, you just lift your wrist. It can’t get any easier than that.

2. Easily adjust the volume, treble, and bass

Need the hearing aid volume adjusted? No problem, just inconspicuously raise your wrist, tap the hearing aid application on the watch, and swipe your finger to adjust the volume control slider. You can also easily fine-tune the treble and bass to produce the perfect sound quality in any listening scenario.

3. Mute your hearing aids

Circumstances arise when you don’t want to amplify sound, and with the Apple Watch, you can turn off the hearing aids with the press of a button.

Although we don’t endorse using this functionality on your spouse.

4. Create and save custom sound settings

Having a conversation in a busy restaurant is very different than having a quiet conversation at home; that’s why hearing aids have what are known as “environmental presets,” or settings that amplify sounds according to the environment.

With the Apple Watch, you can conveniently access and change between presets, modifying settings on the fly depending on where you are. And as you make your changes, if there is a unique setting that works particularly well, you can save the setting, name it, and access it later.

5. Stream music and phone calls

You’re out for a run and you want to play your favorite album. That would in general require you to remove your hearing aids, but with Apple Watch, you can stream music wirelessly from the watch to your hearing aids. In this manner, your hearing aids have the dual purpose of a sound amplification device and a set of high-quality headsets.

Additionally, you can effortlessly answer or forward phone calls right from the watch, as the audio is directed wirelessly to your hearing aids not unlike the music.

6. Find your missing hearing aids

We all lose important things, like our car keys, and we waste a lot of time trying to find them. But when we misplace our hearing aids, it’s not only inconvenient—we risk ruining the device that links us to sound, which can be scary.

With the Apple Watch, if you misplace your hearing aids, you can expediently find them as the watch can detect their specific location and display it on a map.

7. Focus on speech and block out background noise

Most digital hearing aids feature directional microphones and other background-noise canceling functions. With the Apple Watch, you have access to these capabilities on the fly, with the ability to narrow the focus in a noisy room, for example, by tuning in to the person you’re conversing with while filtering the background chatter.

8. View your battery and connection status

You no longer have to worry about running out of battery power and being stuck without audio. You can readily keep tabs on your hearing aid battery life right on the Apple Watch.

9. Make your hearing aids invisible

You can’t literally make your hearing aids invisible with the Apple Watch, but with the right hearing aid, it will seem that way to those around you. The Apple Watch, in combination with a completely-in-the-ear-canal hearing aid, will be completely out of view. And when you’re fine-tuning your hearing aid settings on your watch, people will think you’re checking the time.

10. Manage your tinnitus

Sound therapy in the form of white noise, music, or nature sounds can be streamed wirelessly to your hearing aids, and the sounds can be adjusted to match up with the frequency of your tinnitus—all from the Apple Watch.

Customize your hearing experience

While the Apple Watch is not compatible with all types of hearing aid, a number of hearing aid models currently are, and we expect more models to be designed in the future. The Apple Watch is the perfect resolution to many of the issues conveyed by our patients and allows for a level of interaction and control like never before.

Contact us today to find out more about this incredible technology.

Do you own an Apple Watch? Do you use it to control your hearing aids? Let us know about your experience in a comment.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss

We all procrastinate, routinely talking ourselves out of stressful or uncomfortable activities in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions are all around as we tell ourselves that we will at some point get around to whatever we’re presently working to avoid.

Sometimes, procrastination is relatively harmless. We might plan to clear out the basement, for instance, by tossing or donating the things we rarely use. A clean basement sounds good, but the process of actually lugging items to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the consideration of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to find innumerable alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

In other cases, procrastination is not so harmless, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright hazardous. While no one’s idea of a good time is having a hearing exam, current research shows that untreated hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you need to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a well-known analogy: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you understand what will happen after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t repeatedly utilize your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing happens with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sounds, your ability to process auditory information becomes weaker. Researchers even have a label for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”

Back to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but continued to not make use of the muscles, depending on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get progressively weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the a smaller amount of sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which produces a variety of other consequences recent research is continuing to identify. For instance, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% drop in cognitive function compared to those with regular hearing, in combination with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

General cognitive decline also can cause significant mental and social consequences. A leading study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with untreated hearing loss were much more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to take part in social activities, in comparison to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not having the ability to hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that disturbs all aspects of your health. The sequence of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which leads to general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which in the end leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing serious medical issues.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. Immediately after the cast comes off, you start exercising and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recover your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again applies to hearing. If you enhance the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can regain your brain’s ability to process and understand sound. This leads to better communication, better psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in almost every area of their lives.

Are you ready to accomplish the same improvement?

How Insects are Revolutionizing Hearing Aids

Contemporary hearing aids have come a long way; current models are highly effective and include powerful digital features, such as wifi connectivity, that strongly enhance a person’s ability to hear along with their all-around quality of life.

But there is still room for improvement.

Specifically, in certain instances hearing aids have some challenges with two things:

  1. Locating the source of sound
  2. Eliminating background noise

But that may soon change, as the latest research in hearing aid design is being guided from a unusual source: the world of insects.

Why insects hold the key to improved hearing aids

Both mammals and insects have the equivalent problem relating to hearing: the transformation and amplification of sound waves into information the brain can use. What scientists are finding is that the approach insects use to solve this problem is in ways more effective than our own.

The organs of hearing in an insect are more compact and more sensitive to a larger range of frequencies, enabling the insect to detect sounds humans are unable to hear. Insects also can detect the directionality and distance of sound in ways more exact than the human ear.

Hearing aid design has generally been directed by the way humans hear, and hearing aids have had a tendency to supply straightforward amplification of inbound sound and transmission to the middle ear. But researchers are now asking a different question.

Borrowing inspiration from the natural world, they’re inquiring how nature—and its hundreds of millions of years of evolution—has attempted to solve the problem of sensing and perceiving sound. By examining the hearing mechanism of several insects, such as flies, grasshoppers, and butterflies, researchers can borrow the best from each to establish a completely new mechanism that can be put to use in the design of new and improved miniature microphones.

Insect-inspired miniature directional microphones

Experts from University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and the MRC/CSO Institute for Hearing Research (IHR) at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, will be testing hearing aids outfitted with a unique type of miniature microphone inspired by insects.

The hope is that the new hearing aids will accomplish three things:

  1. More energy-efficient microphones and electronics that will eventually result in smaller hearing aids, lower power usage, and longer battery life.
  2. The capacity to more accurately locate the source and distance of sound.
  3. The ability to focus on specific sounds while wiping out background noise.

Researchers will also be experimenting with 3D printing methods to improve the design and ergonomics of the new hearing aids.

The future of hearing aids

For virtually all of their history, hearing aids have been designed with the human hearing mechanism in mind, in an effort to replicate the normal human hearing experience. Now, by asking a different set of questions, researchers are building a new set of goals. Rather than attempting to RESTORE normal human hearing, perhaps they can AUGMENT it.

6 Ways Your Brain Transforms Sound Into Emotion

It has long been understood that there are powerful connections among sound, music, emotion, and memory, and that our personal experiences and preferences determine the type and intensity of emotional response we have to diverse sounds.

As an example, research has revealed these prevalent associations between specific sounds and emotions:

  • The sound of a thunderstorm evokes a feeling of either relaxation or anxiety, depending on the person
  • Wind chimes commonly provoke a restless feeling
  • Rain evokes a feeling of relaxation
  • Fireworks evoke a feeling of nostalgia and pleasant memories
  • The vibrations of a cell phone are often identified as annoying

Other sounds have a more universal identity. UCLA researchers have observed that the sound of laughter is globally identified as a positive sound signifying enjoyment, while other sounds are globally linked with fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and surprise.

So why are we predisposed to certain emotional reactions in the presence of specific sounds? And why does the reaction tend to differ between individuals?

While the answer is still in essence a mystery, current research by Sweden’s Lund University delivers some interesting insights into how sound and sound environments can have an affect on humans on personal, emotional, and psychological levels.

Here are six psychological mechanisms through which sound may provoke emotions:

1. Brain-Stem Reflex

You’re sitting quietly in your office when all of a sudden you hear a loud, abrupt crash. What’s your reaction? If you’re like most people, you become emotionally aroused and motivated to investigate. This type of response is subconscious and hard-wired into your brain to alert you to potentially significant or life-threatening sounds.

2. Evaluative Conditioning

People commonly associate sounds with particular emotions based on the circumstance in which the sound was heard. For example, listening to a song previously played on your wedding day may give you feelings of joy, while the same song first heard by someone during a bad breakup may yield the opposing feelings of sadness.

3. Emotional Contagion

When someone smiles or laughs, it’s difficult to not smile and laugh yourself. Research conducted in the 1990s discovered that the brain may contain what are labeled as “mirror neurons” that are activated both when you are carrying out a task AND when you are watching someone else perform the task. When we hear someone communicating while crying, for example, it can be hard to not also experience the corresponding feelings of sadness.

4. Visual Imagery

Let’s say you love listening to CDs that contain only the sounds of nature. Why do you like it? Presumably because it evokes a positive emotional experience, and, taking that even further, it most likely evokes some powerful visual images of the natural surroundings in which the sounds are heard. For example, try listening to the sounds of waves crashing and NOT visualizing yourself relaxing at the beach.

5. Episodic Memory

Sounds can activate emotionally potent memories, both good and bad. The sounds of rain can provoke memories of a peaceful day spent at home, while the sound of thunder may result in memories affiliated with combat experience, as seen in post-traumatic stress disorder.

6. Music Expectancy

Music has been described as the universal language, which makes sense the more you consider it. Music is, after all, simply a random assortment of sounds, and is enjoyable only because the brain imposes order to the sounds and interprets the order in a specified way. It is, in fact, your expectations about the rhythm and melody of the music that trigger an emotional response.

Sound, Emotion, and Hearing Loss

Irrespective of your particular reactions to different sounds, what is certain is that your emotions are directly involved. With hearing loss, you not only lose the ability to hear particular sounds, you also lose the emotional impact associated with the sounds you can either no longer hear or can no longer hear comfortably.

With hearing loss, for instance, nature walks become less pleasant when you can no longer hear the faint sounds of running water; music loses its emotional impact when you can’t distinguish specific instruments; and you place yourself at greater risk when you can’t hear fire alarms or other alerts to danger.

The bottom line is that hearing is more important to our lives—and to our emotional lives—than we probably realize. It also means that treating your hearing loss will probably have a greater impact than you realize, too.

What are some of your favorite sounds? What emotions do they evoke?

Are there any particular sounds or songs that make you feel happy, angry, annoyed, sad, or excited? Let us know in a comment.

6 Ways to Lose Your Hearing

The strange part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to begin appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t stop to contemplate, for instance, how much we value a good conversation with a close friend until we have to recurrently ask them to repeat themselves.

Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is closely tied to your capability to hear—regardless of whether you realize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this recognition, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time and effort trying to get it back.

So how can you retain your ability to hear?

Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.

1. Genetics and aging

Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that progressively takes place as we get older. Combined with presbycusis, there is also some evidence indicating that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.

While there’s not much you can do to prevent the process of getting older or modify your genetics, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other sources outlined below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is considerably more challenging to treat if aggravated by avoidable damage.

2. Traveling

Persistent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss, which is not-so-good news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds generates an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even louder sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.

So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should look for ways to limit your collective noise exposure during travel. If you own a convertible, roll up your car windows and drive a little slower; if you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet and consider earplugs; and if you use the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headphones.

3. Going to work

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are subjected to potentially harmful noise volumes at work. The highest risk occupations are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.

The last thing you want is to spend your total working life accumulating hearing loss that will prevent you from making the most of your retirement. Speak with your manager about its hearing protection plan, and if they don’t have one, check with your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.

4. Taking drugs and smoking

Smoking interferes with blood flow, among other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really needed another reason to stop smoking. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or toxic to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.

The bottom line: avoid taking ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

5. Listening to music

85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. Many of our favorite hobbies yield decibel levels just above this threshold, and anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. If the limit were just slightly higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.

But 85 it is. And portable music players at maximum volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straight forward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at live shows, and limit your time of exposure to the music.

6. Getting sick or injured

Specific ailments, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, frequent exercise, a balanced diet, and frequent tracking of glucose levels is crucial. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.

Talk to Your Hearing Specialist

While there are several ways to lose your hearing, a few easy lifestyle alterations can help you conserve your hearing for life. Remember: the mild hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are slight in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.

Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.