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.

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Q: What is Hyperacusis?

It’s common to occasionally notice that the volume on the TV is too high, or that a sporting event is really loud. But if volumes are constantly sounding too loud to you, there might be something else at play. Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. talks about hyperacusis in this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Faye in Normal asks, “I always think the volume is too loud, and someone told me I might have hyperacusis. What is that?” Hyperacusis is a type of reduced tolerance to sound. For people with hyperacusis, they think ordinary sounds are too loud, and loud sounds can actually cause discomfort. One of the main causes of both hyperacusis and tinnitus is exposure to loud noise. So it’s important, if you are going to be exposed to loud noise, that you use hearing protection. There is no cure for either tinnitus or hyperacusis, but there are treatment options. The most common is gonna be sound therapy, gradually exposing you to progressively louder sounds so that you can get used to that and increase your tolerance. Cognitive behavioral therapy is another treatment option as well, and that’s just kinda retraining your brain on how you react to it. If you are experiencing this reduced tolerance to noise, it would be important to discuss it with your physician and have a hearing test. I’m Dr. Arica Rock from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Are Hearing Aids Waterproof?

What if you accidentally step in the shower with your hearing aids in? Does that ruin them? Or if you forget to take them out when you go swimming? How waterproof are they? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares an overview about how much water most hearing aids can handle. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Luke in Bloomington asks, “Are hearing aids waterproof?” Well, you have to be careful with the term ‘waterproof’ because that implies total protection. There ARE hearing aids that are very highly rated for being sweatproof and moisture resistant. There are different ratings for hearing aids, and they’re called IP Ratings. Most of the premium hearing aids today have an IP rating of 68, which is very high. The first number is how resistant they are to dust and debris, and the second number indicates how resistant they are to moisture. There are also steps you can take to protect the hearing aids against moisture. There are covers and dryers you can use at home that can be very helpful too. So you don’t have to worry as much anymore if you accidentally step into the shower with your hearing aids. They can handle SOME moisture. We don’t recommend you go swimming with them, but that IP68 rating does mean they can be submerged in about 2 feet of water for up to a half hour and not be affected by the moisture. So while hearing aids may not be entirely waterPROOF, they are definitely moisture resistant. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What are Comorbidities?

Fun fact: your ears are connected to your body! Surprise! 🙂 That means your ears don’t work in isolation. The body is an interconnected system, and often times, what’s happening in one part can impact other parts…like your hearing. These relationships are called comorbidities, and as Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. explains, that’s why audiologists ask so many questions about your overall health. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Anna in Pontiac asks, “What is a comorbidity, and how does it relate to hearing loss?” In our office, we’ll talk about comorbidities with patients when we are taking your health history. During your health history, we’ll ask you questions about not only your hearing, but also your general well-being. Comorbidities come into play because we know that there are medical conditions that interact with each other. So for instance, one that’s very common is diabetes and high blood pressure. When people are diabetic, we know there is additional damage done to kidneys and blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. So they have to treat both of those conditions individually, as well as how they interact with each other. So in the case of hearing loss, we know that people who also have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, imbalance, cognitive impairment, sleep apnea, and depression, can all have inter-influencing effects on not just your hearing, but your processing and your overall communication skills. So we will ask you additional questions about your general health in order to get a better understanding of how to not only treat your hearing, but your communication goals. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What type of Hearing Aid do you wear?

If you didn’t know, two of our doctors (Dr. McKee and Dr. Hanley) wear hearing devices. Have you ever wondered which style they use? After all, if it’s good enough for an audiologist… 🙂 We asked Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. to share details on her personal hearing aid, and why it’s the best option for her.Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Christopher in Normal asks, “What style of hearing aid do you wear, and why?” Well, as a kid I developed hearing loss and started wearing hearing aids when I was around 10 years old. And at that time, I wore what was called a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid. Those are a little bit bigger of a device, with a piece behind the ear, a thicker tubing, and a custom mold in the ear. Also, being a kid, you’re still growing, your ears are changing in size, so you kinda have to have something that’s a little bit easier to grow with you. So having that ear mold be a different piece form the hearing aid, it was easier to have it remade over time as I was growing. That’s what worked well for me as a child. As technology advanced, I was able to switch over to what’s called a Receiver-in-the-Canal, or a RIC hearing aid. The parts of a RIC hearing aid are a behind-the-ear piece that’s gonna fit back over your ear. A small, thin receiver wire that kinda loops over the ear and goes down into the canal. And that’s where the speaker of the hearing aid is, at the end of that little wire. What I really like about this type of hearing aid is that it’s very versatile. Because that wire I mentioned that goes down into the ear, comes in four different power levels: standard, moderate, power, and high power. It works for several different types and degrees of hearing loss. We can actually change that part to make it more powerful. It’s a much easier, less expensive way of making your current device work for you longer, versus needing to get new hearing aids. Some of the features, things like the Bluetooth chip inside of the hearing aid, rechargeable battery, and just also the physical fit of the style of the device is really cosmetically appealing. Most people don’t notice it’s there if they don’t know to look for it, because it’s just a really discreet fit. So, that’s the style of hearing aid that works well for me, but there are a few other hearing aid style options out there that are also great, and may work really well for you depending on your needs. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What are the Dangerous Decibel Levels?

From lawn mowers to rock concerts to elevated conversations at a crowded restaurant, sometimes sounds can get loud. But how loud is too loud? Based on the type and volume of noise, when should you wear hearing protection? And what can happen if you don’t? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. offers a helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Thomas in Bloomington asks, “What is a dangerous decibel level, and what are some examples of sounds at those levels?” Anything over 85 dB can be harmful to your hearing. Safe levels at 85 dB would only be for 8 hours, but then if you just go up by 5 dB to 90, the safe time would only be 4 hours. 85-95 dB can be heavy equipment, table saws, lawn mowers. 100 dB is gonna be factory equipment. 110 can be a jackhammer, rock concert. 140 dB is the loudness of a gunshot. Anything at 140 dB can cause pain and immediate hearing loss. 60dB is normal conversational level. So a rule of thumb is if you’re standing 3 ft away from somebody, or arm’s length, and you have to shout to be heard, the noise is probably hazardous and you should wear hearing protection. If you’re gonna be around loud noise for an extended period of time, it’s important you use hearing protection. I’m Dr. Arica Rock from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is the Worst Advice You've Seen Online?

There’s no shortage of opinions on the Internet. Especially when it comes to hearing health-related issues, it can be challenging to determine which recommendations deserve more scrutiny. Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. highlights a particular topic where popular online advice tends to come up short. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Wendy in Pontiac asks, “What is the worst advice you’ve ever seen online?” Well, related to hearing, the idea has been promoted recently that someone can just purchase an over-the-counter hearing aid without having a diagnostic hearing test. And that requires the consumer to determine if they have the type of mild to moderate hearing loss that this type of device is designed for. And there are several problems with that, because hearing loss tends to come on very gradually. And people can have different hearing at different frequencies. So it can also be where someone perceives that they have a significant hearing loss, but their hearing is actually normal. Hearing loss can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that might be missed if someone is trying to self-diagnose their hearing loss. So even if you do want to pursue an over-the-counter hearing aid, you really should have at least the hearing test done by a professional who can help you determine accurately your degree of hearing loss and whether that type of device could work for you. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What are bone conduction headphones?

Everyone is familiar with the classic style of headphones or earbuds that pump sound directly into your ears. But did you know there’s another type of headphone that skips your outer ear and transmits sound right through your skull? They’re called bone conduction headphones, and Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. gives a great overview in this fun explainer…which includes a party trick! Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Brianna in Normal asks, “What are bone conduction headphones?” There are two types of headphones: air conduction and bone conduction, and most people don’t know very much about the bone conduction headphones. Bone conduction headphones are a newer product on the market, but they’re starting to gain some momentum in the athletic, running community and swimming community primarily, because they aren’t required to be worn and plug your ears. Naturally, with air conduction headphones, sound will travel through our ear canal, through the middle ear space, to the inner space, up the nerve, and to our brain. Bone conduction headphones rely on our skeletal system. And it’s a neat little trick that you can…if you want a party trick, find a tuning fork and if you strike the fork and put it on the heel of your foot, you will hear that sound as it travels up your skeleton. This is the concept that the bone conduction headphones are using. The headphones look a little strange. They typically have a behind-the-head band that comes around, and then there’s tension in that band because it has to press up against the bony area around your ears in some way or fashion. But the idea is that the sound is transferred through the skull, skipping the outer and middle ear, going directly to the inner ear and travelling up through the brain for us to enjoy the sound. These are often very helpful for people who want to run outside and have more awareness of traffic or people around them. But also these systems, because they’re usually completely contained, they’re also marketed to be waterproof. So people who swim for long periods of time doing laps, this can help pass the time and entertain them as they go. There is one danger, though, that you still have to worry about with these. You CAN still give yourself permanent hearing loss when you crank up bone conduction headphones. So if you’re interested in these, be sure to check them out. But just remember that the volume is important and not to crank it up too high. You want to be smart and protect your hearing, even with bone conduction headphones. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: What's the difference between amplifiers, over-the-counter hearing aids and prescriptive hearing aids?

There are several types of devices on today’s market that claim to improve your hearing. How can you tell them apart, and how would you know which is right for you? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. gives a fantastic overview on the differences between amplifiers, over-the-counter devices, and prescription hearing aids. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Logan in Bloomington asks, “Can you explain the differences between amplifiers, over-the-counter hearing aids, and prescriptive hearing aids?” This is a great question because there are a lot of different options for hearing devices, and it really can make it difficult and confusing for the consumer to understand which device is gonna be the best option for them. Let’s talk about amplifiers first. Amplifiers are just what they sound like, what they say they are. They’re going to amplify everything the same amount. So if you’ve got a person talking over here that you’d like to hear, and then maybe somebody over here vacuuming, unfortunately it’s just gonna bring both of those things up the same volume, and the amplifier is really just gonna make everything louder. And the same amount of louder. Some of the differences in over-the-counter hearing devices is that they are meant to be something for a mild to moderate hearing loss. So for a person who is probably feeling like they hear well in most environments, but are just experiencing some difficulty hearing in specific situations occasionally. Whereas with a prescription hearing aid, that is something that you do still need an evaluation, recommendation, and assistance from an audiologist. These hearing aids are designed for all degrees of hearing loss, from mild to profound. So when you’re looking at those two categories, the OTC device and the prescription device, they do have a lot of the same features; however, the customization, the function, the computer processing, those things are gonna vary greatly between the two devices. So I encourage and recommend anybody who’s looking at a hearing device, they should get a diagnostic hearing test done first because that is going to tell you the exact degree of your hearing loss. Really really encourage seeing an audiologist in the beginning, either way, in the beginning, just so we can get you more information and understanding about your hearing loss. Then you can make a more informed decision about what the best treatment option is for you. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: Are Smartphones Required for Today’s Hearing Aids?

As technology has advanced, it seems almost every model of hearing aid can be connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth. But, what if you (or a loved one) don’t have a smartphone? Can you still use these types of hearing devices? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. offers some assurance that, no matter what phone you use, your prescription hearing aids will still work. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Patrick in Bloomington asks, “Do you need a smartphone with Bluetooth for today’s prescription hearing aids to work?” That’s a great question, and you do NOT need a smartphone with Bluetooth for the hearing aids to work. The main purpose of the hearing aid is to help you hear in everyday, daily activities. The phone part is really just kind of a secondary thing, but there are some cool options that are available if you do have a smartphone with Bluetooth. There’s kinda two purposes: you can have an app on your smartphone that works like a remote control, and you’re able to adjust volume up and down, maybe mute the hearing aids, have different settings for different environments. And for some of them, they even have features like “find my hearing aids” if you were to lose them. And then the second part with the Bluetooth connection is with certain smartphones that are compatible with your hearing aids, you can stream any audio source from your phone, whether it be phone calls or music. And these are just some neat features that are available. With over-the-counter hearing devices, you probably WILL need a smartphone with Bluetooth, and that’s just to get them initially setup for you. But with prescription hearing devices, you do not need a smartphone with Bluetooth in order for them to work. 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: Can You Wear Hearing Aids During Exercise?

Many people who wear hearing aids are incredibly active. And since that activity can span from high-intensity water sports to simple increases of moisture and sweat during golf or hiking, how might that impact your hearing aids? If increased exercise is on your radar this time of year, Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares helpful tips for using your hearing aids during physical activity. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Justin in Bloomington asks, “Should you wear your hearing aids during intense physical activity like exercising?” Well, it does depend on the type of activity. You want to make sure, if you’re VERY active, that you choose a style that is secure on your ear. Most hearing aids are NOT waterproof, so you do have to be careful if you’re doing any type of water activity. Although there are SOME waterproof hearing aids and very moisture-resistant hearing aids now, they still shouldn’t get soaking wet. There are dehumidifiers that you can use that are fairly inexpensive that can help dry-out the hearing aids. They also make covers that can help protect your hearing aids. Many people CAN successfully use their hearing aids while they’re exercising, and enjoy it even more so now that they can Bluetooth stream into the hearing aids. So you can listen to podcasts or music while you’re exercising. In fact, many times, it is actually better to use them while you’re exercising, especially if you’re communicating with someone else, or needing to hear important sounds around you. We can help make sure you’re successful in doing that, and that it’s less risky, by helping you choose the best style, and using maybe a dehumidifier, for example, just to help make sure the hearing aid keeps working properly. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: How to consider the cost of hearing aids?

In any purchase, cost is always a factor. And with an unfamiliar product like hearing aids, it can be challenging to know how you should evaluate the price you’re quoted. Sometimes, there’s a lot that goes into it. And other times, it’s the opposite and there’s NOT a lot that comes with the “cheaper” price you see. Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. has years of experience helping patients understand the landscape of hearing aid pricing, and she shares some great tips in this helpful overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Kyle in Pontiac asks, “How would I know if the hearing aid price I’m quoted is too expensive?” That is something we deal with every day, and a lot of it comes down to delivery model. The first step in coming to see us is the initial exam and consultation. The second step, if you do have hearing loss, is a personal consultation where we go over what your concerns are, what your lifestyle is like, and then we present what the market options are, and what you think you may like. Then there’s the fitting itself, and that first appointment is the longest. It’s usually 60-90 minutes where we get the settings the way they should be, teach you how to use it, how to do upkeep and maintenance, charge it, connect it to your phone, all the accessories you may have chosen to go with it. Then there are consecutive follow-up appointments that we schedule to review things, make adjustments, fine tune, and answer your questions. Then you move into what we call the maintenance period. And so when pricing structures are created, you have to take all of those things into account. In our office, we like to just make it a pay-as-you-go system, and therefore you have charges along the way. We’re happy to explain all of those as we go. So price can drive a lot of decisions when it comes to this choice, and I think a lot of people are probably going to want to consider over-the-counter hearing aids because of this. They are naturally cheaper, but you have to understand that you’re missing out on those initial consultations, advice, and then also follow-up care and maintenance. So if finances are a concern, or if you’ve been quoted for a product that you aren’t sure about, feel free to reach out to a second opinion audiologist. We’d be happy to do that for you. Or work with an audiologist that does have a structured pricing system so you feel more comfortable as you move through the process. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: What's that squealing noise?

Have you ever been close to a loved one who wears hearing aids, and they suddenly start making a loud squealing noise? (The hearing aids, not your loved one. 🙂) What causes that feedback, and is it normal? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. gives you a comprehensive explanation for why it happens…including a demonstration using her own device! Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

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Sydney in Pontiac wants to know, “My grandma has a hearing aid that often makes a high-pitch squealing noise. What causes that? How do you stop it?” Sydney, do you mean like this? That is MY hearing aid whistling, or what we call feedback. So most of our patients and viewers know I wear hearing devices. I have since I was 10 years old, so I’m very familiar with feedback and high pitch squealing noise. Very annoying! So I understand why it’s an important to ask and address. It happens when the amplified sound from the hearing aid, kind of escapes back out of the ear canal, jumps back into the hearing aid microphone, and gets re-amplified. There are a few different things that can cause feedback. Some of those things are normal. Such as, if your hearing aid is out of your ear but powered-on, since the sound has nowhere to really go but out, it might whistle or make that sound. And that’s fine. If you get really close to something, like I demonstrated when my hand got really close to the microphone, or maybe if you’re giving somebody a hug, and your ear gets close to the other person’s head or their shoulder, the microphone might make a little bit of a squeal. And that’s completely normal. There are some examples of feedback that could indicates more of a problem with the hearing aids, or your ear, that need to be addressed. One of the more common causes of feedback is earwax buildup in the ear canal. If your ear canal is blocked with wax, the sound from the hearing aid can’t get through. So again, it’s escaping back out of the hearing aid, creating that feedback. The resolution for that is gonna be getting your ears cleaned out. Another example is going to be a poor fit of the hearing device. If they’re not fitting the ear canal appropriately and not creating a good seal, that sound from the hearing aid, again, is not staying in the ear canal and it’s maybe leaking back out, creating the feedback. Some hearing aids have a thick tubing that needs to be changed about every 6 months, because it starts to get hard. When it starts to get hard, it might make the hearing aid produce more feedback. And there can be some issues with the microphones on hearing aids if they get dislodged. So don’t worry if your hearing aid is doing this. That can be a normal reaction from the hearing device. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s broken. But if it is something happening more consistently, just make sure you get back into your audiologist to have it checked out. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: Need help with OTC hearing aids?

In recent years, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices have become more widely available. But what happens if you have an issue with them? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. shares the good news that audiology practices like BNA can help…but only up to a point. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Heather in Pontiac wants to know, “I bought an OTC hearing aid, but now I need help with it. Where can I go for assistance?” Great question Heather, and we would be happy to help you. It is a question that we get a lot: how do these work? Either people have heard about them, or know somebody who’s purchased a hearing aid over-the-counter. They think they can manage it at home, but then it ends up being something they have questions about. And we’re more than happy to help in any way we can. Some of the things we can help with are making sure it’s a good fit, giving you tips on how to get it in your ear, and how to take it out. As well as cleaning and maintenance. You’re gonna want to keep these clean, and you might not know how to do that, so that’s something we can definitely help you with. As far as maybe adjusting the sound or fine-turning, that may not be something we can do, and that’s just by design of these over-the-counter devices. For some people, over-the-counter devices can be appropriate, just make sure you know about warranty information and things like that. And know there are some things we’ll be able to help you with, but there are also limitations as well. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: What to do with old hearing aids?

What should you do with old hearing aids that are no longer needed? Maybe they’re broken, or outdated, or perhaps they’ve been left behind after a loved one passed away. Is there a better option than just throwing them away? You bet! Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares some good advice. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Stephanie in Pontiac wants to know, “What should I do with my old hearing aids?” A lot of times people ask this question if a family member has passed away and they’re not sure what to do with their hearing aids. Sometimes they can be donated for someone else to use, and occasionally you could receive a tax credit for this, but hearing aids do lose their value very quickly and it can be difficult to determine if there’s any value. Our office accepts donated hearing aids that could be reconditioned and repurposed for someone who may not be able to easily afford hearing aid technology. There’s not really any type of buyback program, but it’s still better to donate them than to just throw them in the garbage. Even if they can’t be reused or repurposed, a lot of times the parts can be salvaged or used by the manufacturer for repairs or even recycled there. So if you or someone you know has hearing aids that aren’t needed anymore, don’t just pitch them. You can bring them to your local audiologist, and we can help you determine the next steps. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: Why Do Some Sounds Reduce Anxiety?

Can certain sounds actually help you relax during times of high stress and anxiety? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. gives a brief overview about how it works, and why it’s different for everyone. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations. 

 

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Hi, 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. Morgan in Bloomington wants to know, “Why do certain sounds reduce stress and anxiety?” The reaction we have to stimulants in our environment is typically monitored by our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in our body. The sympathetic system is what kicks in first, and that’s what’s responsible for our fight or flight responses. Your parasympathetic system tries to bring it back into check. But there are also ways you can help yourself, and that’s where these sounds, these relaxing sounds can come in. It helps us naturally bring our breathing rate down, and our pulse down. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to the sound that’s going to make things better, because it is a very personal experience. Some people will find one thing very pleasing that another person finds very annoying. So the job for you is just to find those sounds that relax you. Keep that in your toolbox and know that you have that when you are in a stressful situation, so that you can calm down and let that parasympathetic system jump in and help you relax. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: How long do hearing aid batteries last?

There’s never a good time for your hearing aid batteries to die. But it is preventable if you know how long you can expect them to last. Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. talks about two different kinds of batteries and the factors that contribute to their longevity. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Haley in Bloomington asks, “How long do hearing aid batteries last?” This is a great question, and I’m gonna start by differentiating the hearing aid batteries, because there are two different types. We’ve got some hearing aids that work with disposable batteries, and other hearing aids that work with rechargeable batteries. So first, I wanted to address, just kinda the daily life of the different types of batteries. With our disposable batteries, daily life is going to vary depending on a couple things: the size of the battery. So the smaller the battery is, the shorter the battery life. The larger it is, the longer the battery life. And then also how often or how much you’re streaming Bluetooth. That’s the direct sound from your phone or your tablet coming into the hearing aids. If you are doing that often, that’s also going to pull more power from your hearing aid battery. So for a disposable battery, the life of the battery is going to range anywhere from about 2 days to 8 or 9 days. Another part of that disposable battery is you never know when it’s going to die. There’s never a good time for your hearing aid battery to die. It’s always gonna be when you’re at a play, or in a meeting, and all the sudden the battery’s out. Whereas a rechargeable battery is gonna be more consistent for you on a day to day basis, as long as you’re charging it every night, which you need to do. It’s gonna last for about 16-20 hours. So that can be a little more convenient, I would say. Most patients are really liking and preferring that rechargeable option because of the consistency of knowing it’s going to last all day. Typically on average, it’s gonna be about 3 years before you start to see the overall life or charge of the hearing aid battery kinda start to go down, where it maybe isn’t lasting that full 16-20 hours a day. But we do have some convenient options for either replacing the rechargeable battery here in the office, or getting it to the manufacturer to replace before the end of that 3 years. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: Can earwax & ear hair harm hearing?

Can too much earwax impact your hearing? Or even more interestingly, how about hairy ears? Can too much ear hair actually impact your hearing? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. offers a helpful overview on these light-hearted questions. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Dylan in Bloomington asks, “How does earwax or hairy ears affect your hearing?” Wax in your ears can become impacted and definitely cause a hearing loss. Our ears are meant to be self-cleaning. The way the skin grows, it pulls the wax from deeper in the canal to the outside. And some people think having wax in their ears makes them unclean or unhygienic. But the wax serves a purpose. It helps moisturize the ear canal to avoid irritation, and it also collects dust or dirt or bacteria before it can get further into the ear. Anyone who uses hearing aids or earplugs to protect them from loud noise, or even earbuds to listen to music, they can have more of a wax issue because they’re always pushing something into the ear canal. It can cause the wax to buildup. That can be the issue with Q-Tips too. You can push the wax further into the ear canal causing more of a problem. Hairy ears, too, can cause a problem because it’s gonna kinda collect that wax and cause everything to buildup too. But it’s a common thing. Some people have more wax and hair in their ears than others. So even though the wax is there for a purpose, you do want to help manage it. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: How long do hearing aids last?

How long do hearing aids typically last? Some patients choose to update frequently, to take advantage of the new features and technology in the latest models. But not everyone can do that. So what’s a reasonable projection before you’ll likely “need” to consider a replacement? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. offers a helpful range of expectations, and explains what lifestyle factors can impact where a given patient might fall on that spectrum. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Ashley in Bloomington asks, “How long do hearing aids last?” That’s a question we hear a lot. The average lifespan is about 4-6 years, but they can last a lot longer, or even shorter, depending on a lot of factors. The style of hearing aid you choose could affect the durability and the longevity. Also how well you take care of it. The daily cleaning and routine maintenance. There’s normal wear and tear that can happen. Some people who work outdoors, for example, are exposed to a lot more dust, dirt, perspiration. It’s important to consider your lifestyle and how rough you might be on the hearing aids when you’re choosing the best style for you, and the audiologist can help you determine what should last the longest. So while hearing aids are a big investment, you can generally get at least 4-6 years from them, and we can help you choose a style that will work best for you and keep things working as long as possible. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: Do loud talkers have hearing loss?

Do you know someone who seems to TALK IN ALL CAPS? Do you wonder WHY THEY’RE ALWAYS YELLING? Being a “loud talker” could be a sign of a hearing issue. Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. gives a fantastic overview on why some people struggle to regulate the volume of their voice, and how it can happen at any age. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Austin in Normal asks, “I’ve been told I’m a loud talker. Could this mean I have hearing loss?” We get this question a lot, and it is one of the reasons people schedule appointments for hearing exams. Some people will be loud talkers due to the circumstances of how they were raised. Anecdotally, we have patients tell us, well I grew up with 5 or 6 siblings and I had to be loud if I was gonna be heard and get my point across. So some of us naturally come up being louder talkers, or end up in professions where we learn to talk loud: like audiology. But also teachers, public speakers, salesmen, people who have to be up in front of people. And those people sometimes can turn it off-and-on. They know they need to be louder for a situation, and then they go home and have their “inside voice.” But there are people who will, with hearing loss, they don’t realize the volume of their own speaking, and as their hearing loss increases, they will gradually get louder and louder. This will happen to people of any age. So we’ll see little kids sometimes and parents will say, “Everything was fine, then all of a sudden the TV needs to be louder and they’re screaming about everything all the time.” And they end up having an ear infection or fluid. They get that treated and then their volume goes back down. The same thing happens with hearing aids typically. The patient can’t regulate themselves well. Then you get amplification bringing everything back up to where it should be, and they now hear themselves better. Then that’s a self-regulation of bringing themselves back down. It sometimes takes a little time to get back down to normal, depending on how long it’s been. But yes, that’s something we work through with patients if that does end up being the cause of the problem. So if you’re concerned about the volume of your speech and think maybe you have a hearing loss, it’s a good reason to come in for a baseline, and we’d love to see you for that. Hope that helps! If you have more questions, be sure to reach out to us. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is lobe gauging?

Just how stretchy are your earlobes? And if you’re going for a unique jewelry look, can you stretch them to the point where it actually impacts your hearing? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. gives an overview on the interesting subject of lobe gauging. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations.

 

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Hi, 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. Steven in Normal asks, “What is lobe gauging? Why do people do it? Can it affect your hearing?” It’s a great question, Steven. Lobe gauging is also called ear-stretching, and it’s the process of stretching the pierced holes in your earlobe. When you stretch your earlobes, it allows people to wear a unique type of jewelry called spacers or gauges. Some people like to stretch their ears because of cultural traditions, while others just like the look of it. I would compare lobe gauging to tattoos. It’s really a personal preference that gives us a specific aesthetic, but it is important to note, again like tattoos, once it’s done, it can be hard to go back to the way it was. Luckily, in regards to our hearing, earlobe gauging does not impact your hearing in any way, since our earlobe is not a direct part of our hearing function. So if you are interested or considering earlobe gauging, rest assured it will not affect your hearing. 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 ears ever stop growing?

Once you reach a certain age, do your ears stop growing? Or will they just keep getting bigger and bigger…and bigger. Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. addresses this light-hearted topic, and helps explain why your ears keep wanting to expand. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Chelsea in Normal asks, “Is it true that your ears never stop growing?” It IS true that your ears never stop growing. The bones won’t continue to grow, but the cartilage will. And these are very small changes over time, so you’re not going to end up with giant ears, but they do continue to grow. The purpose of our outer ear, or the pinna, is to collect sound and funnel it into the ear canal. And this aids in natural amplification and localization, which is telling your brain where sound is coming from. So in this case, the bigger the ear, the better. So it doesn’t hurt that our ears grow continually over time, but it can cause the ear canal to change. And with hearing aids or ear plugs, fit can become an issue, so we can monitor that over time and adapt things as we need to. Hope that helps! If you have anymore questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Can deformed ears impact hearing?

From anomalies at birth, to unexpected injuries, to cosmetic choices, there are a variety of ways ears might become misshapen. But is there a point at which those malformations could become problematic, even impacting your ability to hear?

Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares a helpful overview on outer-ear abnormalities. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Tyler in Normal asks, “Can deformed ears impact your hearing?” While a lot of the hearing process, and any interruption of it, occurs in the portion of the ear that we DON’T see, even the part that we DO see is important for our hearing. The outer ear, the pinna or the oracle, is important for collecting and channeling the sound into our ear canal. Some of the most common malformations in this area are present at birth. For example, microtia, which is also called ‘small ears,’ is when the outer ear is not fully developed or irregularly formed. Aural atresia is an absence of the ear canal opening, and this can impact the hearing. It’s often accompanied by an absence of the eardrum or the middle ear bones that help transmit the sound through the ear. Sometimes surgery can help with these irregularities, and bone-anchored hearing aids, or bone conduction hearing aids are another common treatment option. Sometimes a misshapen ear can be more acquired. For example, cauliflower ear is a common one among wrestlers, and sometimes this can affect the hearing. Another abnormality could be in the earlobe area, and this can happen from piercings or trauma. And while there’s no known biological function of the earlobe, there is a high blood supply in this area, and it may help to warm the ear. So while most people may assume that any trauma or damage to the outer ear portion to the ear we DO see would cause hearing loss, it’s important to remember that the majority of hearing loss occurs from damage in the inner ear. So if you’ve had any trauma or cosmetic enhancements to your ears, it’s not likely to affect your hearing, but if you have any concerns, it’s still important to go have it checked out. Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Should kids swim with an ear infection?

Summer is primetime for family vacations, water parks, and swimming lessons. But what if your child comes down with an ear infection? Are all the water-related plans thrown into uncertainty? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares some tips on how you can approach ear infections when they intersect with water activities. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Hannah in Pontiac asks, “Is it okay for a child to go swimming with an ear infection?” Mmm, maybe. There are two things you’re gonna want to know before you make that decision. The first one is: if it’s a middle ear infection or an outer ear infection. And also, number two, how much pain is being experienced? If it’s painful, probably not. You just want to avoid that. With an outer ear infection, you’re also probably gonna want to avoid it. That means the ear canal itself is infected, and you’re really gonna want to avoid getting it wet. For infections to go away, it’s best for that area to stay dry. Sometimes the ear can drain and you just don’t want to complicate matters with an outer ear infection. With a middle ear infection, if there has been no eardrum rupture, which can happen, but if it’s not ruptured, and if the pain is manageable for the child, and you’re swimming in what we would call “clean water,” so not lake water or pond water, that sort of thing, so the water’s been treated, then it would probably be okay. If you wanted to be extra careful, you could make sure the child wears earplugs to assist in keeping that canal dry and prevent more complications. But one thing you’re also gonna want to make sure of is that even though the pain is manageable out of the water, changing pressure, and with their head under the water, that can change the pain level. So they’re gonna want to be careful. No dive-bombing off the diving boards, and cannonballs, and that sort of thing, because you don’t want to make the situation worse. But if they’re just swimming and splashing around at a splash park, splash pad, that sort of thing, it is probably safe for those middle ear infections. If there is something that you have to be doing with the water, whether it’s swimming lessons or a meet, or a family vacation, or that sort of thing, you’ll want to weigh your options for that child, just to determine if it is possible for the pain management side of things, and also what kind of infection they have, and how that treatment plan has been designed, before you make a decision. 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: How to reduce ear infection pain in children?

It’s never easy to see a child struggling through the pain of an ear infection. Have you ever wondered whether there are at least ways to reduce that pain and “take the edge off”? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. offers some tips that could help bring a little comfort during that challenging healing process. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Grace in Bloomington asks, “How can I reduce the pain for my child when they get an ear infection?” And that can be hard. Kids can’t always tell you exactly what hurts or where, and so there are some home things you can do to help them. And you may just have to run through the list and see what works. So some of the things you can try are over-the-counter pain relievers, which you want to be careful about, depending on the age of your child. Always follow the directions and if you’re not sure, be sure to ask your pediatrician on that. Simpler things like warm or cold compresses might work better, depending on which feels better to your child. So, an ice pack…and you probably don’t want to put it directly on the skin. Put something over it to create a barrier between the pack and the skin. You can use a heating pad so you can control the temperature, or sometimes taking a wash cloth and getting it damp and warming it up in the microwave, that steam, allowing that to travel into the canal can be very soothing for an inflamed ear as well. Kind of in combination with those things, a gentle massage around the ear or down the neck, which is where people tend to report that it hurts the most, you can kinda rub and, with the heat or the cold, and maybe get some relief in that way. And the last thing you could try is having them sleep elevated, or with the ear that is in pain up, to relieve pressure from being placed on it. But sleeping upright, or elevated a little bit, if the ear is trying to drain, if there’s fluid and you’re trying to drain, being in that upright position can help that gravity take effect and hopefully clear that canal, the middle-ear space, a little bit faster. If you try those at-home things and they don’t seem to be working, you’re gonna want to reach back out to your pediatrician and let them know that it’s not getting any better, and you may need to come in for a visit, or be referred to an ENT if it’s a persistent issue, just to see if you can get a better handle on it. 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: What are some tips for talking to aging parents?

Have you noticed your aging parents are starting to have trouble hearing? It can be a touchy subject, and no one wants to “nag,” but at the same time, hearing issues can have a profound impact on their health and quality of life, so ignoring it doesn’t seem like a good option either. What should you do? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. shares her advice on having these difficult conversations. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac locations. 

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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. Kenneth in Bloomington asks, “What are some tips and recommendations for talking to my reluctant aging parents about getting their hearing checked?” Kenneth, that’s a great question. Now normally when I have a patient who is asking me about a family member, and wanting to get them in but the family member doesn’t want to come in, I stress that it’s just a hearing test. Coming in for a hearing test is really pretty easy. It’s painless, so that’s an added bonus, and it’s pretty quick. It’s gonna take 20-30 minutes to do the testing, and then you’ll have the results immediately after. So it’s really an informational session, is what I try to stress. It never hurts just to get a baseline of where your hearing is at that moment. Once you find out, you know. And then we can monitor if there are any changes in your hearing down the road, we’ll be able to have that documented. The other thing to consider is coming in for the hearing test doesn’t mean you’re gonna leave with hearing aids that day. It doesn’t even mean necessarily that you need hearing aids. But if you do, then we can talk as much or as little as you’d like about hearing aid information. In fact, we do have patients who come in occasionally just for the hearing test. Just to find out where their hearing is, and there are some patients who don’t need hearing devices at that exact time. We’re starting to see that more and more, actually, because really we recommend probably at age 50 to start coming in for just a baseline. So we are seeing more patients coming in earlier, just to get an idea of where their hearing is, and then we have a system where we can call them or touch base with them in a few years just to check in on if they’d like to get back in to test it again and see if there’ve been any changes. So, we recommend if you’re gonna get into that dangerous territory of talking about hearing with your parents, it may be easier just to talk to them about coming in for a hearing test and not get into too much information about “you need hearing aids” or that conversation yet. Just say, “Hey, why don’t you go get a hearing test, see where your hearing is.” And then once you’re here, we can talk to them a little more about what type of devices they may need, if any. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Sara Hanley from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: What is tone deafness?

Does your singing voice make people cringe? Can you not carry a tune? Maybe you’re a little tone deaf. But…what is that? And is it related to hearing loss? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares her thoughts.  Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Kayla in Bloomington asks, “What does it mean to be tone deaf? Are there hearing devices that can treat or prevent it?” Well, sometimes tone deafness and hearing loss at certain frequencies do get confused. So someone who is tone deaf is someone who can’t clearly distinguish the pitch of musical notes. Or some people joke that the person just can’t carry a tune when they’re singing. It’s not actually a hearing problem though, it’s more a perception issue. Some people who have hearing loss at certain frequencies might confuse this term. They might be not able to hear certain pitches as well, and in that case, hearing aids CAN help because they help fill in the missing parts and help them hear those frequencies better. That would help music to sound more natural to that person. So if they don’t hear certain frequencies as well, and actually have a hearing loss at those frequencies, hearing aids can help them appreciate music and hear it more clearly. Tone deafness is a little bit more of a mystery as to why it occurs, but it’s not related to hearing loss generally, so we can help you determine, with a hearing test, if you’re not hearing certain frequencies as well. But we can’t necessarily help you become a better singer. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Stacy Chalmers from Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we’re ‘hear’ for you.

Q: Is vertigo related to hearing?

Ever felt like you’re spinning? Or like the world is spinning around you? Maybe you’ve heard of vertigo, but can it be related to your hearing? Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. offers some helpful insight. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. Ryan in Bloomington asks, “Is vertigo related to hearing? How do I know if I have it, and what should I do?” That’s a great question Ryan. Vertigo is the sensation of spinning without movement. You could feel like you’re spinning, or the world’s spinning around you. You will know if you have it, just from how you feel. You can have normal hearing and still have vertigo. People with hearing loss don’t necessarily have vertigo. They can be related. Vertigo is not a disease itself; it’s a symptom of another condition. It can be related to problems in the inner ear. It can be related to other medical issues. It can be related to pathologies in the inner ear. It can be related to issues in the brain. It can be related to medications. It’s often listed as a side effect with different medications. If you are having frequent episodes of vertigo, or prolonged episodes, it is something that you should discuss with your doctor. So if you have that feeling of spinning, you could have vertigo. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will effect your hearing, but it could. And it is definitely worth getting it checked out with your 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. Thank you so much for your continued partnership to help BNA!

Q: Are ear infections contagious?

You know the common cold can be contagious, but what about an ear infection? If someone else has one, can you catch it from them? If you have one, could you accidentally pass it to someone else? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. answers that question, and offers some tips to help you avoid the risks of transmission. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with us at either our Bloomington or Pontiac 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. George in Normal asks, “Are ear infections contagious?” In the general sense, you cannot give an ear infection to someone else. But the germs that cause an ear infection CAN be transmitted from person to person. If you have an ear infection, it is important to continue to use preventative measures so that you don’t spread the germs that caused your infection to other people, and we’re all familiar with those now. Distancing. Covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Hand washing. Those types of things. There are two types of ear infections that people can have: an outer ear infection, and a middle ear infection. And they are what they say they are. The outer ear is the ear canal gets infected, and the middle ear is the space behind the ear dum where it gets inflamed and retains fluid, that sort of thing. So with an outer ear infection, you’re gonna want to refrain from sharing headphones and earbuds and that sort of thing. And if you’re a hearing aid wearer, you’ll want to make sure you talk to either your doctor or audiologist about a disinfectant that’s safe to use on your hearing aids so you’re not continuing to reintroduce the bacteria into your ear. Or possibly transfer that bacteria from one hearing aid to the other hearing aid, and then put that hearing aid in, and cause a problem on the other side. So, general hygiene is very important when you have an ear infection, but it isn’t necessarily something you can directly transmit from you to another person. 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: Why do kids keep getting ear infections?

Have you noticed that some kids seem to get ear infections more frequently than other kids? Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. offers a helpful explainer on why ear infections seem to happen more in children. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at bnaudiology.com/ihearyou

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I’m Dr. Sara Hanley at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and welcome to I Hear You, where the audiologists at BNA help answer your hearing-related questions. Olivia in Pontiac wants to know, “Why does my child KEEP getting ear infections?” Olivia, this is a great question, and unfortunately it’s very complicated to answer. We really don’t know why some children tend to get recurring ear infections over and over while others do not. But what we DO know is that children in general are more likely to get ear infections than adults. And that’s for two reasons: one, a child’s immune system is much less developed, so they’re more likely to get infections from a typical cold or flu virus. But #2 is there is an anatomical difference in our ears. Children have a eustachian tube -which is the channel that connects our middle ear to the back of our throat- that’s much smaller and more horizontal than in an adult. In adults, our eustachian tube kinda starts to angle downward like this, so any fluid that develops can drain back into our throats. But with children, being horizontal like that, the fluid just kinda tends to buildup in the middle ear space and get stuck there. So even though we don’t really know, or have a good reason why, some children just KEEP having that happen while others don’t, there are a lot of treatment options to help manage that, and hopefully help reduce the occurrence of the ear infections. And that’s something you’ll want to talk about with your ear, nose, and throat specialist. 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: What is an ENT Doctor?

Have you ever wondered what an ENT doctor is? And even if you know ENT stands for ear, nose, and throat, have you wondered why those three are grouped together? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. offers a brief overview. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at bnaudiology.com/ihearyou

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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. Vince in Pontiac wants to know, “What is an ENT doctor? Why are ear, nose, and throat grouped together like that?” That’s a great question that we hear a lot. An ENT doctor is also called an otolaryngologist, but ENT is much easier to remember and say. It stands for ear, nose, and throat, which are all intricately connected systems that rely on each other to function properly. The ear, nose, and throat are all located in your head and neck, and a problem in one area can result in a problem in another area. But that’s why the doctor is trained to evaluate all those different areas, and determine where the problem is and how they can help you best. They are trained medical doctors who can provide medical treatment and also perform surgery, but they can also be more specialized. For example, an otologist focuses more on the ear, and a neurotologist helps manage conditions of the brain that can cause dizziness or hearing loss. So if you’re considering whether to contact an audiologist or an ENT to address your hearing-related concerns, know that your audiologist would help steer you in the right direction first by carefully listening to your symptoms and performing tests to help determine if you need a more thorough medical evaluation from an ENT. 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 do I do if I get a bug in my ear?

What happens if a bug flies into your (or your child’s) ear…and gets in there pretty deep? Do you need to see a doctor? Odd experiences like this are more common than you’d think, so Dr. Arica Rock, Au.D. shares some helpful tips. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at bnaudiology.com/ihearyou

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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. Taylor in Pontiac wants to know, “What should I do if a bug gets in my ear? Should I go to the ER?” Great question Taylor. There are a couple things you can try at home. If the bug is still alive and moving around, you can use oil. They recommend either vegetable or mineral oil. That will help to suffocate it. And then you can use water to try to flush it out. If that’s unsuccessful, then it will be important that you see a doctor, or if you have any pain. Foreign objects in the ear unfortunately are common with kids. Things you want to avoid are using any kind of tool that you would push down in the ear, because you don’t want to push the object further. But if you do have a bug in your ear, there are things you can try at home. It’s not gonna crawl into your brain and lay eggs. You do want to address it as soon as possible, but if you’re not successful at home, give your doctor a call. Hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Arica Rock at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we are ‘hear’ for you. 

Q: How is hearing loss connected to COVID?

Is there a relationship between COVID and hearing loss? Dr. Natalie McKee, Au.D. shares what audiologists have been learning about this important topic. Watch more Q&As, then schedule your appointment with BNA at bnaudiology.com/ihearyou

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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. Brooke in Pontiac asks, “Is there a relationship between COVID and hearing loss?” The virus has been found to travel to the ear when you have a COVID infection, and that can cause sudden onset problems or problems that develop throughout the infection. Those would translate to stuffiness, congestion, and fluid buildup in the middle ear which would be a conductive hearing loss that usually can be treated, to more severe types of hearing loss that involve the nerve or the inner ear organ called the cochlea. Those, sometimes, are tending to be more permanent and sudden changes that people are reporting. Those hearing losses are best addressed as soon as possible when you notice them, so that we can evaluate the etiology, or the source, of that, and try to treat it as best as possible. Time is usually of the essence with sudden changes. People have also reported sudden onset tinnitus or ringing, or changes in their ringing, where maybe they used to have it for intermittent periods of time, but now they have it all the time. Or they had it and it was very quiet, and now it’s very loud. So those types of changes are something to be concerned about, as well as balance disturbances. People have been reporting dizziness or feeling off on their equilibrium. And those are also sometimes difficult and take some time to treat in the long run. So this is a good time to mention that if you haven’t had a baseline hearing test, that’s what baseline hearing tests are good for. If you’re NOT having a problem, you go in and get a reading, so that if something DOES suddenly pop up, we can compare it to what you had before and know, and not just have to guess about what changed. So the virus has been shown to travel to the ear. The way it’s presented has changed a little bit with the mutations. If you’re noticing a change in your hearing and balance with a COVID infection, it is important to mention it as one of your symptoms to your doctor or audiologist so that can be looked into further and treated with your other symptoms. So I hope that helped! If you have more questions, let us know. I’m Dr. Natalie McKee at Bloomington-Normal Audiology, and we are ‘hear’ for you.

Q: What is the brain's role in hearing?

How does hearing actually work? What’s going on between your ears that helps you understand all those sounds? While your ears get all the publicity, Dr. Sara Hanley, Au.D. explains why it’s really your brain doing most of the hearing.

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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. Nicole in Bloomington asks, “What part of the brain controls hearing?” That’s a great question Nicole. The part of the brain that controls hearing is called the auditory cortex, and that is within the temporal lobe. There is a temporal lobe and an auditory cortex in each hemisphere of the brain, so when the sound signal goes up from our ears to the brain, the ear actually send the signal up to the same side of the brain, and then a signal over to the other side of the brain. Each auditory cortex is receiving a lot of information from each ear, and then that auditory cortex has to process, interpret, and store the information from each ear and each sound. So it’s figuring out which sounds are what, which sounds to focus on, and also which sounds to suppress as background noise. So really our ears are doing a little bit of the work, getting the sound to our brains, but our brain is actually doing most of the hearing. 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: How do you relieve ear pressure on airplanes?

If you’ve ever flown, the sudden pressure build-up in your ears can turn takeoff and landing into an uncomfortable experience. Is there anything you can do about that? Dr. Stacy Chalmers, Au.D. shares some helpful tips, and words of caution, about relieving ear pressure on airplanes.

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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. Whitney in Bloomington asks, “What is the best way to relieve ear pressure on an airplane? I’ve seen advice such as chewing gum, and holding your nose then trying to blow, but what is safe and effective?” Ahh, the dreaded ear pressure on an airplane. The good news is, there are ways to help prevent it. So what IS happening when you get that pressure built-up in your ears on an airplane? Well basically the quick changes in altitude are sometimes too sudden for your eustachian tube to adapt to those changes in pressure and try to keep the pressure equalized. So that often results in the feeling of being “plugged-up,” or like you have something stuck in your ears, and you want to clear that pressure or “pop” your ears. Some of the easier solutions for that are, in fact, chewing gum. That CAN be very helpful. Also sucking on candy, or yawning, or swallowing. All of those get your jaw moving, help your eustachian tube open up, and equalize the pressure. So one of the more popular things people try to do is hold their nose and try to blow. That’s called the Valsalva maneuver, and that can be effective for some people. You just have to be careful you’re not blowing too forcefully, and certain people should NOT use that maneuver. So it’s good to check with your doctor and get some instruction on how to do it safely before you try that method. If there are known allergy or sinus issues, you could talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possibly using a decongestant or a nasal spray to help clean out some of that pressure or congestion BEFORE you fly. There’s also a product called Earplanes that not everyone has heard of, but it can be very helpful. It’s a soft silicon ear plug, and it comes in different sizes, and it helps with a little ceramic filter built-in to slow down those pressure changes. So it can make the takeoff and landing more comfortable, and there’s also built-in hearing protection too. So it can reduce the cabin noise that can be bothersome at those times also. So yes, chewing gum can help. Holding your nose and blowing can also sometimes help but just be careful. And then there are several other methods that can help you relieve that pressure when you’re flying. 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 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, read about Over the Counter (OTC) devices, 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 or Over the Counter (OTC) hearing devices. 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 Chalmer s 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.