BNA Doctors Answer Your Questions

From concerts to lawnmowers, from earbuds to Bluetooth, and from insurance to buying online, navigating the world of hearing devices can be challenging on your own. At BNA, our audiologists are making those topics easier to understand with a new show called “I Hear You,” where our doctors answer your hearing-related questions. So if you’re starting to notice yourself or a loved one having difficulty, or if you’re just interested in expert opinions on common hearing issues, these short educational, FAQ videos are for you.

Watch the latest episodes below, and then reach out to schedule your appointment at BNA. If you’ve never had your hearing professionally evaluated, here’s what you can expect at BNA.

Q: What is cauliflower ear?

Cauliflower ear is a condition often experienced by wrestlers and boxers. But why does it happen? And does it impact the ability to hear? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. gives a quick overview, while stressing that prevention is key.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Oscar in Bloomington asks, “What is cauliflower ear. Does it affect hearing?” Great question. Cauliflower ear is a deformity of the outer ear. It’s often caused from an injury, and it’s usually due to sports such as wrestling, boxing, and martial arts. It typically happens after repeat incidents. There is no cure for it, so immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent it from developing. It’s often caused because of the lack of blood flow to the outer ear, which causes damage to the cartilage. It does not typically affect hearing because it’s more cosmetic to the outer ear. Plastic surgery is sometimes the only way to help correct it and help make it look more normal. Since there’s no cure, prevention is really the key. It’s important to wear head gear if you’re involved in any of those sports like wrestling, boxing, and martial arts. So if you’re involved in any of those sports, it’s important to take it seriously and wear the head gear to prevent this from happening. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How should you clean your ears?

You’ve probably heard that you should NOT use cotton swabs to clean out your ears. (Inserting small objects into your ears is a risky, ill-advised idea.) But that raises the question: how SHOULD you clean out your ears, then? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares the best, and safest, DIY methods to clean out your ears.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Frank in Bloomington wants to know, “If I’m not supposed to use cotton swabs, how do I clean out my ears?” The problem with cotton swabs is that they can often do more harm than good. When you twist and push down into your canal, if there is debris in there, you’re compacting it further in, making the problem even harder for you, or the person that you’re going to ask to help you remove the wax. The first thing you need to know is whether you’ve had any damage to your eardrum or any problem with your eardrum in the past. You want to be careful about putting things in your canal if the eardrum is either compromised or not whole. So if your eardrum has no problems, you’re welcome to use over-the-counter methods that are softening agents. They’re marketed with names like DEE-brox or Debrox, people say it different ways, or Earwax MD. And this involves you putting a softener that has a combination of oil and usually hydrogen peroxide in it. Put several drops in the canal, leaving it in there to do its job and softening up that wax. Then you follow that up with an irrigation of either water or hydrogen peroxide. And that can be done in the shower, over the sink, but you’re usually using a bulb syringe to irrigate the canal. Some of the drawbacks of using water can be that it doesn’t dry out very quickly and people feel like they have it stuck in there. So switching to hydrogen peroxide sometimes works better. That bubbly quality it has also loosens things up a little bit better than water does, and it evaporates at a faster rate than water, so you aren’t left with that wet, plugged feeling a lot of the time like you can with water. If the OTC methods don’t work, then you’re probably going to have to see either your primary care physician, an audiologist, or an ear nose and throat doctor depending on your medical history. Because if there are other health conditions you have, like diabetes, or have had surgical procedures done on your ear, it may take a specialized, trained person to be able to clear that canal for you. There are a couple challenges along the way with doing it at home, so always defer to a professional if you’re not sure and they’d be happy to help you. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How do I travel with hearing aids?

Given that hearing aids are electronic devices with advanced technology, is there anything special you need to be aware of when traveling with them? What about going through security at the airport? Ahead of the upcoming holiday season, Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. shares some helpful tips about traveling with hearing aids.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Henry in Normal asks, “How should I travel with my hearing aids?” Great question. So, traveling with your hearing aids should be a pretty simple process. When you’re traveling with your hearing aids, the first thing I would think about is what supplies you may need to work with your hearing aids on a regular basis. How do your hearing aids obtain power? Are they rechargeable? I would make sure to bring the charger with you. If they use disposable batteries, you’ll want to bring some of your batteries. If your hearing aids use domes or wax guards, I’d bring a small supply of those just in case you need to clean them while you’re away. But another popular question we get about travel is, is there anything specific I need to do if I’m going through security at the airport. And the answer is no. You don’t need to tell anyone you’re wearing hearing aids. You don’t need to take them out. You can just go through security like you normally would. And on the plane, it’s fine to wear the hearing aids if you would like to. I would probably bring a case if you want to take the hearing aids out, so you have something to put them in. Just in case you decide the plane noise or some of the other passengers are a little bit loud, you can take the devices off and keep them safe there. So really for traveling, it’s pretty easy. Just use them the way you typically would on a day to day basis. If something happens to your hearing aids, or you have a problem with them while you’re traveling, I would give our office, or whatever audiology office you go to, a call and they should be able to find another audiologist in your area that you could get the contact information for so you could go in there and have your devices looked at while you’re away. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Is unaddressed earwax buildup problematic?

What’s the purpose of earwax? And if it’s not something you really think about very often, can unaddressed earwax buildup contribute to hearing loss? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. talks about what can happen if you’ve got too much wax in your ears.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Scott in Normal asks, “Can unaddressed earwax buildup cause hearing loss?” That’s a great question, and we hear that a lot. Earwax is meant to move out on its own, but sometimes it become trapped in our ears and then can cause a problem. It’s good to have some earwax because it helps lubricate your ear and protect against unwanted debris and bacteria. But sometimes that earwax can get trapped if it can’t move out on its own, and then it can cause a blockage in your ear and cause temporary hearing loss. This would cause what’s called a conductive hearing loss because the blockage prevents the sound from passing through naturally to your inner ear. This is usually a temporary hearing loss, which makes it my favorite type of hearing loss because it’s easily treated. Once the earwax is safely cleared from your ear, the hearing should return to normal if the hearing loss was entirely caused by that blockage of earwax. However, it is important to remember that if the earwax is not cleared safely, it could potentially cause trauma to the ear. So a common example of this is someone trying to clear their earwax with a Q-Tip, going too far, and puncturing their eardrum. And this type of thing could result in a more permanent issue. So to sum up, earwax usually does not cause a permanent hearing loss, but it is important to have it removed safely. And remember that tip: nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How do I get water out of my ear?

Getting water in your ear is a common occurrence for kids and adults alike. But is it ever problematic? And what’s the best way to get it out, anyway? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. shares some helpful tips to try the next time your ears feel waterlogged. Watch more Q&As below, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington or Pontiac, IL locations.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Rachel in Normal asks, “How do you get water out of your ear?” That’s a great question. One thing you could try would be to use a hair dryer on low. Also, low heat can help to dry out the ear. There are over-the-counter products that you can buy at the pharmacy. They often contain alcohol, which is a drying ingredient that will help dry out the ear as well. If you’re prone to ear infections, have a history of ear surgeries, or perhaps holes in the eardrum, it’s probably best to PREVENT water from getting in your ear. There are ear plug options that are available. You can buy ones also over-the-counter. Doc’s ProPlugs is one example. They come in different sizes to get a good fit. And there are also custom-made options you can use to help prevent water from getting in your ear in the first place. So if you have water in your ear, it’s nothing really to be concerned about. There are things you can try at home. It shouldn’t last long. And as long as you don’t have any pain, it’s nothing you would need to see a doctor about. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is ear candling? Is it safe?

One alleged method for removing earwax is something called “ear candling.” But does it work? And perhaps more importantly, is it safe? Before you light a flame next to your head, check out this helpful introduction to ear candling from Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. Watch more Q&As below, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington or Pontiac, IL locations.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Amanda in Normal asks, “What is ear candling? Does it work? Is it safe?” Ear candling, we’ll start with the first one, ear candling is marketed as a way to remove earwax. It is what I would consider experimental. The FDA has not approved ear candling, and in fact they have sent warnings to some companies who manufacture or import these products. What it is, is a small hollow candle that is designed to be placed in the ear…and lit. The flame creates heat, and the proposal is the heat creates suction to pull the wax out of the canal. And/or melt the wax in the ear canal to remove it. Some of the instructions indicate that the flame burns for up to 15 minutes. When it’s done, there’s a big show of opening up the candle and you can see what it’s removed. But there’ve been studies done that show the debris you find within the candle is actually just sediment and product from the candle itself, but not really a lot of debris from our ears. As you can imagine, there’s several risks involved with doing this, primarily around having a lit flame in your ear, close to your head. There are people who have had burns. They have damaged their eardrum. Even punctured their eardrum. Not just the flame, but they have actually punctured their eardrum. So it’s not the safest method, although there are some people who swear by it. We would encourage you to choose a more safe method that HAS been approved by the FDA, whether it’s over the counter, or if you actually reach out to a doctor or an audiologist who is trained in this and know the risk factors involved with your own conditions and health that may be better suited toward the procedure. So in summary, ear candling is marketed as a way to remove wax from your ears. But studies have shown that it ISN’T effective in doing that, and ISN’T the safest option on the market. So we would encourage you to contact a physician or an audiologist who has specialized training in the removal of earwax to help you in this situation. Hope that helps! I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Are there different types of hearing loss?

Can your type hearing loss be different from your neighbor’s, or is all hearing loss the same? And if hearing loss does vary from person to person, what might make one person’s situation worse than another? In this helpful overview, Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. explains how the hearing system works, and gives a helpful overview of the different types of hearing loss. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA… we’re hear for you.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Brandon in Bloomington asks, “Are there different types of hearing loss? What makes one person’s situation worse than another?” That’s a great question. So before I answer the types of hearing loss, I think it’ll help you better understand if I briefly go over the parts of our ear. There are 3 main parts of our ear, or hearing system: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Anything that makes a sound is going to create sound vibrations or soundwaves that are filtered into the external auditory canal by our pinna, or outer ear. It’s traveling through our ear canal to the eardrum where sound is vibrating. That vibration is then transmitted from the small hearing bones into the cochlea. At the cochlea, we have tiny hair cells that convert the vibrations into neural impulses. These nerve impulses are then transferred up to our brain from the auditory nerve and processed as sound. So when we talk about the different types of hearing loss, we’re referring to what part of that hearing system has been damaged. The most common type of hearing loss is what we call sensory neural hearing loss. That is where there’s damage to your inner ear, the cochlea, or the auditory nerve. Another type of hearing loss is called conductive hearing loss. This is if there’s a problem with your outer or middle ear, and typically it’s caused by some sort of obstruction to the middle ear that’s not allowing sound to get through to the inner ear. This could be earwax buildup, fluid behind the eardrum, those types of things. The good news about this type of hearing loss is that it is often able to be medically treated. The third type of hearing loss is called mixed hearing loss. And just like it sounds, that is a combination of sensory neural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. In terms of what makes one person’s situation worse than another, that typically has to do with sensory neural hearing loss and how much damage has been done to the inner ear system. Because, unfortunately, when there’s damage to our inner ear, that can cause some distortion to the way we hear. That really affects the quality of our hearing, and unfortunately there’s not a way to correct that distortion at this point. The good news is that whatever type of hearing loss you have, hearing devices can help you get better clarity to speech in conversation, and allow you to participate in conversation more easily without having to put so much effort into it. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Do hearing aids return your hearing to "normal"?

Do hearing aids basically return your hearing to “normal,” as though the hearing loss “never happened?” Or is that still asking too much of the technology, even as it continues to advance? In this brief overview, Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. helps set realistic expectations about what hearing devices can do. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington, IL or Pontiac, IL locations.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Andrew in Normal asks, “Do hearing aids restore my hearing back to normal as though my hearing loss never happened?” Well they’re not really a FULL correction, but they can help quite a bit. So, a simple answer is that hearing aids are not like glasses. They can’t “correct” your hearing, but they can amplify sounds that you’ve been missing. The hearing aid technology has come a long way. It’s amazing how quickly, sometimes, they can process sound. Sometimes even more effectively than our own brains can. So it won’t be like the hearing loss “never happened,” but the technology is amazing, and it can help fill in those blanks and help restore your quality of life. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What are cochlear implants?

Many people have heard of cochlear implants. But what do they do? And how are they different from standard hearing aids? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. breaks down the important distinctions in this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment by calling or completing our request appointment form.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Pam in Downs asks, “What are cochlear implants, and how are they different from hearing aids?” That’s a great question Pam. They are two different types of devices. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that consists of two components. The external part is the part that will be behind the ear, that you can see. And the internal part is surgically implanted. Cochlear implants are designed for patients who have severe to profound sensory neural hearing loss. This is when they’re no longer benefitting from their traditional hearing aids due to the extent of their loss. The hair cells in the inner ear are damaged, and they do not regenerate. So the cochlear implant functions to mimic the function of the inner ear and to bypass those damaged hair cells. For some patients with severe to profound hearing loss, their hearing aids can just sound like a loud, badly-tuned radio. Cochlear implants can serve to make sounds clearer and more natural by mimicking that function of the inner ear. Properly-fit hearing aids are really the first step to determining whether you’re a candidate for a cochlear implant. It’s not something you choose lightly. It does require a medical evaluation as well as a very in-depth audiological evaluation. During your hearing evaluation, we can recommend a cochlear implant evaluation if we feel you would be a good candidate for that technology. It is a surgical procedure, so it’s not as easy as just fitting somebody with a hearing aid. It is a major surgery. After implantation, they’ll be followed for many years and see an audiologist who specializes in the programming of cochlear implants. We’ve had patients who have been implanted and are very successful. Not everyone is a candidate for cochlear implants. It’s a very involved process. Most people will benefit from traditional hearing aids. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Should I be concerned if my heartbeat is pulsing in my ears?

Have you ever heard your heartbeat pulsing in your ear? What does that mean? Is it something to be concerned about? Depending on the circumstances, yes, it could be. If you or someone you know is experiencing this phenomenon, Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. helps you identify whether it deserves a doctor’s visit. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Pontiac, IL or Bloomington, IL locations.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Daniel in Pontiac asks, “Should I be worried if I can hear my heartbeat pulsing in my ears?” That IS something you should be concerned about, and you should definitely mention it to your Primary Care Physician, or an Audiologist if you have one. Generally, that type of tinnitus is called Pulsatile Tinnitus, and it is in-time with your heartbeat. It’s a point of concern because that means you’re hearing blood flow through the vessels in your ear, or your head and your neck. That generally means if you haven’t identified a problem, you should have your cardiovascular system evaluated. So you might be referred to a cardiologist to get some more answers. Now, it is generally okay if people experience a rise in their blood pressure when they’re exerting themselves. So it’s okay if you’re working out or doing some heavy lifting where momentarily or temporarily you feel that rush or that pressure, and then as your exertion comes down, that dissipates. But if you hear it all the time, even without points of exertion, it’s very important that you discuss that with a physician or your audiologist. Hope that helps! I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss tends to be associated with “getting older.” And while aging is certainly a common cause, it’s far from the only one. So what actually does cause hearing loss? Can it even be prevented, or is it inevitable? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. helps you look at the big picture factors that should be on your (and your family’s) radar.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Valerie in Towanda wants to know, “What causes hearing loss?” Valerie, that’s a great question with a LOT of answers. One of the most common causes of hearing loss is aging. So just as our eyes start to deteriorate over time, so can our hearing system. As we get 65 or older, 1 in 3 people are known to develop some type of hearing loss. Aside from aging, noise exposure is one of the other more common causes for hearing loss, whether that be occupational or recreational noises. Those loud sounds can really cause damage to the inner ear, creating a permanent type of hearing loss. I’m talking machinery noise, loud equipment, gunfire, amplified music, lawn equipment, those are some of the different examples of loud sounds we want to be careful of. But the good news about this cause of hearing loss is that it’s very preventable. If you use hearing protection or earplugs when you’re in those type of loud environments, you can easily reduce your risk of hearing loss from that type of situation. Aside from aging and noise exposure, different types of viral infections, diseases such as diabetes, stroke, hypertension, those things can all affect our inner ear. Ototoxic medications, sometimes high doses of aspirin, or certain types of chemotherapy can cause damage to the inner ear. One other cause of hearing loss can be hereditary. Our genetic makeup can make us more susceptible to inner ear damage as well. Those examples are types of causes for an inner ear type of hearing loss. There are other situations that can impact our middle ear, like earwax buildup, ear infections or fluid behind the eardrum. Different growths or tumors within the ear. Those are types of causes for temporary hearing loss that might be able to be managed medically. So there are a lot of different causes for hearing loss. But the good news is, whatever caused YOUR hearing loss, we can help you determine the most appropriate treatment option to improve your quality of life. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Do kids need a hearing test?

Hearing loss is most commonly associated with adults, but what about kids? After all, 15% of school age children have some degree of hearing loss, and it’s possible that some developmental struggles could be related to hearing issues. So how do you know whether your child should have a hearing test? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. introduces parents and guardians to the topic with this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, check out this article about hearing accessories for children, then schedule your appointment or theirs, with BNA.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Diane in Pontiac wants to know, “Should every child have their hearing checked, or only if a problem is suspected? If so, at what age and how often?” That’s a really important question, and actually, the answer has changed over the years. It used to be that hearing was really only checked if there were concerns. So some hearing losses might go undetected in young children until they’re starting to have trouble in school, or you’re noticing delays in their speech and language. So when that was the approach, by then, sometimes it was hard for a child to catch-up, and they may have already missed a critical window for developing speech and language. Thankfully now, every newborn has their hearing screened. The earlier we can catch that hearing loss, the better chance that child will have for normal development of speech and language. Sometimes hearing loss can be acquired later, even if the hearing is normal at birth. Some of the common causes for an acquired hearing loss would be maybe a severe head injury, chronic ear infections, noise exposure, certain illnesses like meningitis, and potentially harmful-to-the-ear medications. So if you’re having any concerns about your child’s hearing, I would say definitely go with your gut. They’re never too young to have a test, and as far as how often? As often as you feel is needed, or some children may need closer monitoring. For example, if there’s a family history of hearing loss, or they’re at higher risk due to a syndrome or complication. So when it comes to your child’s hearing health, there’s no reason to wait, and the earlier you get them tested, the better. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Do you need hearing aids in both ears?

Does getting hearing aids always mean getting them in BOTH ears? After all, everyone’s experiences are different, so isn’t it possible that one ear is worse than the other? What happens in that case? Do you only get one hearing aid? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. shares her thoughts on this practical topic. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Darrell in Bloomington wants to know, “If one ear is worse than the other, is it necessary to wear a hearing aid in both ears?” That’s a great question, Darrell. Some patients don’t benefit from a traditional hearing aid. This can be due to the fact that their word understanding is so degraded in the poorer ear that it’s not gonna make the signal any clearer. So in that case, the technology that would be appropriate for them would be BI-CROS. And that stands for contralateral routing of signal. The patient will still wear a device on each ear. The better ear is going to wear a traditional hearing aid. The poorer ear is going to wear a device that looks very similar to the hearing aid, but it is just a microphone. And it’s gonna pickup sound from that poorer ear and transmit it wirelessly to the better ear for improved hearing. So the patient is still hearing everything from the better ear, but this helps them detect sound from the poorer ear, just for better sound awareness, and it can result in better speech understanding. During your hearing evaluation and consultation, we can tell you whether you would be a candidate for this technology. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Are there home remedies for tinnitus?

It’s frustrating and bothersome to experience the persistent “ringing in the ears” known as tinnitus, and unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to making it go away. The good news is, there are some steps you can take to manage the tinnitus on your own. Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares some practical tips that can offer some relief. Watch more Q&As below, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington or Pontiac, Illinois locations.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Julie in Bloomington wants to know, “Are there any home remedies for tinnitus?” Well, first of all, TINN-itus, or tin-NITE-us (either way) is the ringing in your ears and your head that is NOT coming from an external source. So this is something that only you hear, and it can be very bothersome. There are no magic pills for tinnitus. That’s the first thing I need to say. There’s just not an easy answer to this problem. There ARE things that can be done, though. So the first thing you need to do if you haven’t had an evaluation, is you need to get to the root of the problem. Tinnitus is usually caused by something else, so you need to mention this to your primary care physician or your audiologist to have an evaluation. But if it is determined that there is not a solution, there are some things that can be done. The first thing is: avoiding silence. A lot of people will say the ringing doesn’t bother them until they’re ready to go to sleep or they’re trying to read. There are things EASILY available to you now with smartphones and the Internet, there are sound machines, CDs, apps on your phone you can download that generate sound and noise. You can find one that works for you. There’s no specific answer, but just generally finding something pleasing to distract you from the sound that you’re hearing can be very efficient. There are some people who feel like they can’t escape the sound, and they’re very bothered by it. And that can make them feel anxious, depressed, frustrated, and it leads to disruptions in sleep and concentration. And that can be very debilitating for some people. A lot of times, that does require the help of therapy or counseling. But there are some things at home that you can do, through cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, but also meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, reducing your stress. And again, the smartphones at home can help you with all of those things. It’s easy to find apps to solve those problems. Diet and nutrition can have an effect on tinnitus as well. So, things that can increase your blood pressure, like alcohol, nicotine, and foods high in salt or fat can also make your tinnitus worse. So taking a look at what you eat and drink can be helpful in managing your tinnitus on a daily basis. Finally, the last thing we want you to be aware of…it’s not gonna make the tinnitus go away, but you certainly don’t want to make it worse. So being aware of your noise exposure going forward, as much as you can, being careful around concerts, lawn equipment, if you’re going out hunting, single exposures can make the ringing worse, and we can’t guarantee we can get it back to where it was. So always be careful around noise going forward if you already have ringing in your ears. If you have ringing in your ears, we do suggest you discuss that with your primary care physician or your audiologist, but those are some of the things you can do at home. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Does hearing loss have warning signs?

For many people, hearing loss happens gradually over time…which means it can be difficult for you to notice how significant the situation is becoming. Friends and loved ones often notice it first, but to you, everything still feels ‘normal.’ So how do you know when it’s really time to consider a hearing device? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. shares several warning signs that could prompt you to put a visit to the audiologist on your calendar. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Tony in Normal asks, “How do I know if I need a hearing aid in the first place? What are the warning signs?” That is an excellent question Tony. So, more often than not, hearing loss happens very gradually over time. Our brains learn to adapt or compensate for the changes in our hearing, which makes it really difficult for us to tell if we’re missing things or not hearing as well. In general, we have a few common situations that a lot of our patients start to notice that give them an idea that they’re not hearing as well as they used to. So the first situation I’d ask you to think about is if you’re having difficulty distinguishing dialogue on the television or over the phone. And along with that, if you’re also noticing that you’re gradually turning the volume up louder and louder on either of those devices. Next, I’d consider whether you’re asking for frequent repetition because you’re feeling like speech isn’t very clear or it sounds like people are mumbling. And then finally, I’d take a look at how you’re responding in groups or crowded noisy situations. If you feel like you’re really struggling to make out conversation in those environments and having to really put a lot of effort into that situation, then you might have some form or degree of hearing loss. So those are some of the subjective ways you can look at the situations you’re in and how you’re responding to them. But if you’re somebody who prefers a more objective method, there are some different online hearing screeners you could look at. I personally like a couple of the hearing aid manufacturer options. Phonak and Starkey both offer online screeners where you can actually use your headphones, and they try to guide you by putting the volume around 50% for your headset, and then playing different frequencies at different volumes to give you an idea of where your hearing levels are. So whichever method you prefer, more subjective or objective, that’s gonna give you an idea if you’re starting to have some decrease in your hearing. And if you find that there is some loss, or you think there is, the next step would be getting into an audiologist where you can have your full diagnostic hearing test done and we can determine the exact degree of your hearing loss and if any treatment is needed. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Does my child have hearing loss?

Hearing difficulties are most often associated with adults, but children can experience them as well. And depending on their age, most children may not be able to express that something is wrong. Plus, it may never cross your mind that certain behavioral issues could actually be connected to their hearing. Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares several signs that might give parents & grandparents a reason to get their child’s hearing tested. Then make an appointment, and read our article on hearing health accessories for children.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Megan in Bloomington asks, “How can I tell if my child has hearing loss?” That’s a great question that a lot of parents ask, and obviously if it’s a very young child, they may not be able to tell you that they’re having trouble hearing. Or they may not know any different if they’re born with hearing loss and that’s just what’s “normal” for them. There are certain things you can watch for, even as young as newborns and infants. With newborns, they should be startling to loud sounds, or upset by something sudden and loud in the environment. By about 3 months of age, they will usually be calming to their parents’ voice. When they can start to turn their head, they should be turning toward the source of a sound in the environment. By about 1 year old, most babies will start imitating sounds and simple words that they’re hearing. As your child gets a little bit older, they will start to develop their speech and language, and if you’re noticing delays in their language development, or if you’re just concerned with their speech, those are definitely signs that you may want to have their hearing checked. Talk to their pediatrician, and they can get you referred for a hearing evaluation, or a speech and language evaluation. Older children may not always recognize their name or notice when you’re calling them from another room. And as they start to get into school age, they may start to have academic difficulties, or you might be hearing concerns from the teacher that they’re not paying attention. They might prefer the TV or music to be up louder than you would expect. And also, you may just notice something simple like their balance is a little bit off, or maybe there are some unexplained falls. Those are other signals to have a hearing test. So if you notice any of those warning signs, it’s probably a good idea to talk to an audiologist, have a hearing check, or discuss with your child’s pediatrician. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Are hearing aids accurate?

Do you ever wonder whether hearing devices are accurately reproducing sound? Can you be confident that what you’re hearing is what it’s “supposed” to sound like? It’s an interesting question. Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. shares a brief overview. Watch more Q&As below, then schedule your appointment.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Maggie in Normal asks, “How accurately do hearing aids reproduce voices and music? In other words, how can I be sure that what I’m hearing is how it’s supposed to sound?” That’s a great question Maggie. Hearing aid manufacturers aim to reproduce sound as accurately as possible, whether it be voice or music. This is done by small computer processors in the hearing aids, so it does not replicate the process of “normal” hearing. What you hear is going to be different for each individual, but technology has improved so much, it’s as natural as they can make it. We can also set up different listening programs or settings for different environments. This helps us optimize the sound for both voice and music. For most people, hearing loss is typically pretty gradual over time, so it’s hard to know what normal sounded like. But through verification testing and fine-tuning based on the patient’s preference, we do ensure that each person is hearing as normally as possible. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Why are my ears ringing?

That ringing in your ears is called tinnitus, and many people experience it to varying degrees. But what causes it? How concerned should you be? And will it ever go away? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. walks you through the basics of tinnitus in this helpful overview. After watching, learn more in our detailed article about tinnitus treatment.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Caleb in Normal asks, “Why are my ears ringing, and will it eventually go away?” Well the ringing in your ears is commonly referred to as TINN-itus or ti-NITE-us, either one is acceptable. And it usually is described as a sound that only you can hear. So there’s nothing in the environment, but you hear it either in your ears or in your head. Sometimes a little bit of that is okay. It’s known as transient tinnitus, so people will say they hear a high-pitched ringing or a buzz, that sort of thing. It lasts a couple seconds, it can be in either ear, and it will go away. That’s just a little extra electrical activity on your nerve, and that’s normal. But there are other people who have ringing more often than not, or all of the time. And they can describe it as crickets chirping, cicadas, some people hear an ocean, or a static sound. That can be very upsetting for some people, and you want to get to the bottom of it. So the best thing to do is realize that tinnitus isn’t usually a condition on its own; it’s BECAUSE of something. So the first step is to try to figure out if there’s something in your life that is causing the tinnitus. Most commonly, hearing loss is the first thing we look at. Especially noise-induced hearing loss. So if you’ve had trauma, even a single incident with a gunshot or a firework, but also cumulatively over time, during your life if you’ve run a lawn mower, gone to concerts, worn some headphones, and eventually all of that adds up and you will experience, one day, you might have some ringing. And it doesn’t go away, and it starts to bother you. There are other conditions like: other ear problems, wax buildup, sinus infections, colds, ear infections, also head injuries, TMJ, medications, and as I said, other health conditions. So that’s what tinnitus is, and unfortunately, it won’t just go away. So it’s important to discuss that with your physician or an audiologist. Hope that helps! I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How do hearing aids work?

How do hearing aids actually work? What’s really going on inside those little devices that allow them to improve your quality of life so dramatically? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. provides a fantastic, easy-to-understand overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Nick in Normal wants to know, “How do hearing aids work?” That is a great question. So I’m gonna start more generally-speaking. Hearing devices work by amplifying sound through a three-part system. So we start with the microphone where sound comes in and gets converted to a digital signal. The amplifier then strengthens that signal so the speaker can produce the amplified sound into the person’s ear. Because hearing aids are all digital now, that allows me as the audiologist to customize the sound for each individual person’s hearing needs. So once we have your comprehensive hearing test, we can see exactly what degree and pattern your hearing loss is so we can fine-tune the hearing devices exactly for your ears. It really helps us give you the best hearing we possibly can. On top of that, digital hearing devices have a lot of more advanced features like background noise reduction, multiple microphones, wind noise suppression. Just a lot of different features we can help set up in your programming that are gonna work automatically for you to help you have improved hearing in multiple different environments. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is the best hearing aid brand?

As you might expect, determining the “best” brand of hearing aids isn’t a simple, cut-and-dry answer. A lot depends on your needs and preferences. Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. identifies a few things to consider in this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Matthew in Pontiac asks, “Which brand of hearing aid is best?” Thanks for asking! Well, I’m not gonna pick a favorite, but I am gonna give you some ideas to think about when I’m considering a device for a patient. First of all, your individual needs are very important when you’re choosing a device. Every manufacturer has a different spin on things, just like a producer of cars or appliances. And you may like one hearing aid more than another because of the way the charger works, or it doesn’t have batteries, or you prefer to have batteries because you travel a lot. Also, color, style, the way it fits. All of those things are what we consider when we’re choosing a device for you, which is why we spend a large amount of time going over who you are as a person, and the needs you have, in order to work through all those options so you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the things that are laid in front of you. But by getting to know you, we’re able to choose a device that we feel will work best for you. Manufacturers will claim that there are significant differences between themselves! But I think that for the most part, they also are all following a similar structure in their offerings, as far as the technology levels. You may also want to make sure, when you’re doing your research into hearing aids, to choose a provider (like BNA) that offers several different manufacturers so that you aren’t pigeonholed into a device with no options to meet your needs. And again, you may also want to ask if that product is locked, so that if you tend to move around or travel a lot, and you need help when you aren’t at your home base, that some other provider will be able to help you if you’re having a problem. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Does insurance cover hearing aids?

When it comes to your hearing, it’s not always easy to understand what insurance covers (and doesn’t cover). Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. offers some clarity with this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at either our Bloomington or Pontiac, Illinois locations.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. David from LeRoy wants to know, “Does insurance cover hearing aids?” That’s a good question, and one we get often here at Bloomington-Normal Audiology. There is a dividing line with most insurance carriers between diagnostic services and a product. So unfortunately, the majority of insurance policies will not cover hearing devices unless it’s specifically written into the policy. However, for the diagnostic portion, where you’re just coming in for the exam and you want to know where you hearing is -if it’s good, or if you need to be concerned- THAT is generally covered by all major carriers. Some insurance programs allow you to add on features with different providers, so there’s a possibility that you could add on vision or hearing or those types of things. But you want to be careful when you add on those programs to make sure you do your research on what that program actually is. Is it actually providing a funded benefit for you where they’re going to pay something, or is it just saying that you would get a discount -but you only get that discount if you go to a certain person involved in their network who agrees to those terms? We understand that this may be a whole new ballgame for you, and we are here for you to help navigate the process. So don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us here at BNA, and we would be happy to see you and answer your questions. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Should I buy hearing aids online?

Online shopping is now commonplace, and almost anything can be delivered to your doorstep within a few days. But is that the best way to purchase hearing devices? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares some important tips to consider before adding hearing aids to your online cart. Watch more Q&As, read this article about additional over-the-counter considerations, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Carol in Bloomington asks, “Why would I go to a doctor’s office when it’s cheaper to buy hearing aids online?” Carol, that’s a reasonable question this day and age. Everybody is buying things online, and it just falls on your doorstep like magic. I don’t know that that is the answer for everybody at this point in time when it comes to their hearing care. It really comes down to price and value. So when people ask about affordability, it really depends on giving you the best bang for your buck. So you need to consider not just the device itself and what it does and what it costs, but also the person who’s going to be providing your care, troubleshooting, training, and those sorts of things. Especially as a new user, there’s a lot of things people don’t know. So being able to just call somebody up, or come in for an appointment and ask, “You know, I ran into this problem. Do you think there’s a way we can make this better?” Or, “I know you showed me how to do this before I left, but I got home and it all went out the window.” So just having the reassurance and we are here for you when you need us to answer those questions or solve a problem, that’s what we think is important. Not just the device. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: If Bose and other big companies are making hearing aids that you can tune yourself with an app, why not just get those?

Some big companies (like Bose) are starting to make hearing devices which seem to offer customization through apps. For some people, those types of devices could be a good option. But should a recognizable name brand and a few good features be enough to sway your decision? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. helps fill-in the gaps. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Jeremy in Pontiac asks, “If Bose and other big companies are making hearing aids that you can tune yourself with an app, why not just get those?” That is a great question. While I do feel that Bose hearing devices are going to be a really good option for some individuals, there are some things I think you should consider before purchasing them. They are a direct-to-consumer technology. That means it’s something you can obviously get directly from Bose. You need to be 18 or older to get these devices, and they are meant to be something for a person with mild to moderate hearing loss. And the idea is you’ll be able to check your hearing from the app also, which gives you a good idea, but I would recommend seeing an audiologist to get more of a comprehensive hearing test before making your decision to purchase these devices or not. You really want to make sure there’s not any type of medical condition impacting your hearing before you purchase any type of hearing technology, just so you know you’re starting from exactly where your permanent hearing is, so that the devices get set the most appropriately for you. The other things to consider with the Bose hearing devices are that they do not allow for streaming. It also is not rechargeable. So you would be changing a battery probably on average every three to four days. So, while I do think there are some great features with the Bose hearing devices, we do still highly recommend coming to visit an audiologist so you can find out what path is the best for you. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What about hearing aids at big box stores?

Hearing devices require periodic adjustments and maintenance to keep them working optimally… and ultimately to keep you hearing your best. That’s why service is a key part of the equation when considering hearing aids. Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. discusses service in the context of big box stores. and helps you cover all the bases before making a decision.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. John in Pontiac asks, “Hearing aids seem less expensive at big box stores. Do they work the same?” Great question. When deciding where you want to go, it’s important to really compare what you’re getting. I feel like service is somewhat lacking at big box stores. Also, people who have gotten their hearing aids at COSTCO, for instance, they think it’s the newest thing available, but it might be two models ago. But they’re advertising it as the newest, up-to-date technology when that’s not necessarily true. They often do the hearing test for free, and so if you hear the word free, you think you’re getting a great deal. Oftentimes, the software is locked, so if you do decide to go somewhere else for service, our hands can be tied, and we can not be able to make any programming changes because of that. Another issue to consider is the turnover. They tend to have providers there for short periods of time. So if you do have a problem down the road, when you go back, it’s not gonna be the same person. It’s hard to develop a relationship with your provider if they’re not familiar with your history. In our experience, developing a relationship with our patients really helps to create a better outcome. We often take our time in the testing and do more than just the beeps and single words to really get a feel for what the need is. And also lots of questions about your lifestyle and what’s gonna be appropriate for you, but we can also consider your budget too. We also pride ourselves in follow-up. We have a system to keep people coming back in so we can keep their hearing devices working properly. People don’t realize that hearing aids require maintenance, and it’s not something you put in your ears every day and never come back for cleaning and checkups. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How does Bluetooth work with hearing aids? Is it safe?

Wireless technology, like Bluetooth, has been around for awhile now, but how does it work with hearing aids? And is it safe? Dr. Stacy Chalmers shares her insight with this helpful introduction to the topic of Bluetooth and hearing aids. If you’d like to read more about bluetooth technology and how to use it, check out our blog post from earlier this year. Then schedule your appointment with us at BNA in Bloomington or Pontiac, IL.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Shelly in Normal wants to know, “How does bluetooth work with hearing aids? Are bluetooth hearing aids safe?” Bluetooth is basically a way to communicate wirelessly between two devices, and it can be used safely with hearing aids. It’s a good way to stream sound from, for example, a smartphone into the hearing aids wirelessly. For phone calls this works great, and it’s more tuned to your specific hearing needs, so you’ll get a better sound quality too. The other advantage of bluetooth with smartphones is that it can allow you to use your phone as a remote control device, so you can adjust volume. You can go to different listening programs very easily with the tap of a finger. It’s all visual, so you don’t necessarily have to be feeling for buttons on the hearing aids. All those things are very helpful for hearing aid users, and it’s pretty standard on hearing technology now, so it doesn’t necessarily make the devices a lot more expensive. It’s a very safe, secure connection. Bluetooth is widely used, and it’s been determined that it’s very safe to use Bluetooth in hearing aids. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Does it matter where you buy hearing aids?

You can buy hearing aids online or in big box stores, but is that really the best route to go? Does it matter where you buy your hearing devices? Dr. Natalie McKee thinks so, and shares some important tips if you’re considering those options. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at BNA in Bloomington or Pontiac, IL.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Lauren in Normal wants to know, “Where can you buy hearing aids, and does it matter?” That’s a great question Lauren. I believe it does. But it really depends on what you’re looking for, if you feel like you have a small problem or a big problem, how much you know about the problem yourself, and whether you feel comfortable doing research and taking care of things on your own. Here at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, we specialize in helping people navigate the process from start to finish, so we would encourage you to contact us, and we would be happy to guide you through the journey. But there are places you can research on your own online that are starting to offer direct-to-consumer sales. Most of those devices, you’re going to be ordering, programming, and taking care of on your own. There are also big box stores starting to carry devices, and there is often a provider in that box store to take care of you. But their hours can vary, and the provider can change. It can also be a little strange buying bananas while people are getting their hearing tested, in our opinion. But if you’re looking for value, and you feel comfortable doing that, that’s fine. There are also some audiology programs online that you can buy directly where they don’t just send it to you and let you do it on your own, but they’ll send it to you and then setup a remote call to work with you over a video call or a regular phone call to set it up and make adjustments. One thing to keep in mind if you’re buying these products is to find out, if you’re not buying from someone locally, if these are products that are locked that no one else can help you with. It may leave you with what seems like a great deal, but then when you have a problem, no one can help you unless you send it away and just wait for it to return. So be sure to ask the right questions when you’re considering those options. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What happens during a hearing test?

We talk a lot about getting your hearing tested, but… what actually happens during a hearing test? Is it something you can “fail”? Do they hurt? And how long do you have to wait to get your results? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. answers these questions and more, demystifying the hearing test once and for all.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Danielle in Normal wants to know, “What happens during a hearing test? Does it hurt? How long does it take to get the results? That’s a great question. The first thing we do before testing is check your ears for any wax or obstructions. During a hearing test, there are some simple parts to it, and then we get more advanced. Any hearing test is gonna consist of responding to beeps to find the thresholds where you can hear at different frequencies. We also do speech testing in quiet, but more advanced testing we move to is how you understand sentences in background noise. If you’re found to be a hearing aid candidate, we spend a lot of time asking lots of questions about your lifestyle and social life, work life, any dexterity issues. Anything that’s gonna help us make the best recommendation. Nothing we do hurts, I assure people of that all the time. And the great thing is, you get your results right away. There’s no waiting to send them to a lab. We go over everything as soon as we’re finished with the testing. Most people are surprised by all the different tests we do. People often think of in grade school when they had a hearing screening, and they had to raise their hand when they heard a beep, but it’s more than just the beeps. It’s the words and your understanding and how you function in different environments. It’s never too soon to get a baseline hearing test. Kids especially. They’re terrified. They think they’re gonna get a shot when they come see us, so I always assure everyone before we start that it’s not gonna hurt. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: How can I improve my hearing without getting a hearing device?

Everyone’s circumstances are unique. So even if hearing devices aren’t in your immediate future, BNA still wants to help. Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares a handful of tips, tricks, and best practices for how you can improve your hearing without getting a hearing device.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Eric in Pontiac asks, “How can I improve my hearing without getting a hearing device?” There are certain communication strategies you can use if you’re having difficulty understanding someone. Rather than just asking “What?” or “Huh?”, you can ask a more specific question. That way, you and the other person may not get as frustrated with them repeating information. If the problem is that they’re moving too fast, maybe say, “Can you slow down a little bit?” That way they do’n’t just say it LOUDER when that’s not what you’re looking for. If it’s a very noisy environment, you can step out of that environment. If you’re mainly struggling with the television, you could put the captioning on at the bottom. Even I put that on sometimes just to help fill-in some of the blanks. There are wireless headsets you can set up with a TV. Another thing you can do is just try to protect the hearing that you DO have to prevent further hearing loss or prevent future hearing loss. Wear good hearing protection. You can even have custom hearing protection made, or filtered protection. Another important thing is just to have your hearing checked regularly so we can monitor for any changes and help you determine what might be most appropriate for your hearing healthcare needs. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is the average cost of a hearing aid?

How much do hearing aids really cost? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. transparently talks real numbers, shares some clear price ranges, and explains which factors have the biggest impact.

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I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Paul in Bloomington asks, “What is the average cost of a hearing aid?” So, the average cost of an instrument is typically, in our office, between $600 – $3,000 per device. That price differential comes from the technology that goes inside of the product. So they may all LOOK the same, but the computer chip that goes inside of it is what dictates the cost of that instrument. There are features in there that make it “smart,” and can make more features automatic for you, so you don’t have to worry about manually turning things up or down, or worry about which environment you went into where you have to manually choose another setting. It will just automatically detect that you’ve gone into that environment and react accordingly. All you really have to worry about is: where is the person talking, and where do I need to pay attention? That comes at a cost, to have those features more automatic. And it’s important to know that not only do you have a device with that cost, but there’s service that’s bundled-in with it. And that bundled price typically includes not only the service you receive immediately when you take it home, but also follow-up care thereafter for a period of 2-3 years. The manufacturer also will guarantee that product, for a period of time, against defect and ordinary wear-and-tear in order to make sure you keep hearing at no additional charge to you. Most of our patients end-up spending somewhere between $3,000 – $4,000 for a pair of devices, based on the average, middle-of-the-road pricing we have. And again, that will include a couple years of service, not only from the manufacturer, but also ourselves. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Navigating the world of Medicare can be daunting. If you’ve wondered what Medicare does (and doesn’t) cover when it comes to your hearing, Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. helps clear it all up.

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Elizabeth in Bloomington asks, “Does Medicare cover hearing aids?” So, unfortunately, Medicare parts A and B (traditional Medicare) does not cover hearing devices. But the good news is, we are starting to see some of the other policies like Medicare Advantage plans (otherwise called Medicare part C), those plans are starting to offer some coverage on hearing devices. You’ll just want to check your policy to see if it requires you to see a specific provider who’s in-network with your plan. And then the coverage ranges everywhere from a discount program (where you’d get a discount on the devices) all the way up to full coverage on premium hearing technology, which is the best you can get. What Medicare DOES cover is part of the testing for getting hearing devices. You would get a discounted rate for the hearing test, and Medicare requires a referral from your primary care physician. So you would need to get that in order for us to bill to Medicare. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What’s the difference between a hearing doctor and an audiologist?

Terminology can be confusing. What’s a “hearing doctor”? And is that the same as an “audiologist”? Where do “Ear, Nose, and Throat” doctors fit in? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. helps clear it all up.

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I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA answer your hearing-related questions. Connie in Bloomington wants to know, “Hey Dr. Rock! What’s the difference between a hearing doctor and an audiologist?” Great question. An ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT, is a medical doctor who can treat hearing and balance issues medically or surgically. They’re the ones who can prescribe medications. They’re the ones who do surgery. And again, they’re a medical doctor. An audiologist is also trained to diagnose and treat hearing and balance issues. Audiologists have at least a Masters level education, if not a Doctorate level, and go through extensive training in hearing and balance. I think we often call ourselves hearing doctors because we’re the ones who specialize in the hearing aspect of it. If you have an ear infection, or something medically going on, that’s when you’d want to see the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. But for any hearing difficulties, an audiologist is the best person to see. If your wife is complaining that the television is too loud, or you’re having difficulty hearing in background noise, then you should probably see an audiologist. And if you’re not sure, you should discuss it with your primary doctor. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Can earbuds cause hearing loss?

Earbuds are everywhere. Should you be concerned about your level of exposure? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares her opinion on the popular topic.

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I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions.

Brad in Bloomington asks, “Do earbuds cause hearing loss? If I wear earbuds every day, am I at risk?”

You can wear earbuds safely. Generally, it’s a good idea to follow the 60/60 Rule, where you keep your volume limited to 60% or lower, and don’t listen for more than 60 minutes at a time before you take a break. You can also use noise reduction so that you’re not competing with external noise and possibly turning the volume up higher. For example, some people want to listen to music when they’re mowing, but then they end up causing more harm because they’re turning the music up higher. Whatever you’re using, the best rule is to limit how much you’re using it so that you’re not overwhelming your ears. Give them breaks to keep everything safe.

Hope that helped! If you have any more questions, let us know.

I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we are ‘hear’ for you.