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6 ways hearing aid technology has improved

by rayovac2, June 2016

Hearing aids have greatly improved in the last 30 years

 

Hearing aid technology has dramatically improved throughout the last 30 years. The devices have become smaller, more powerful and more technologically advanced. Today a hearing aid can restore multiple types of hearing loss for people of all ages, and perform many feats that engineers only dreamed of achieving in the 1970’s and 1980’s. By all accounts, early hearing aids are primitive when compared to today’s devices. To learn more about how hearing aids have evolved we chatted with Denis Carpenter, who has worked with Rayovac for 37 years and is now the director of technology and OEM liaison.

 

Analog Aids Turn Digital

When Denis began working on hearing aid technology, hearing aids were designed as analog devices. An analog device has the technical capability to perform one main purpose, which for older hearing aids is to take in sound and made it louder. The major downside of this raw amplification method is that the user gets flooded with extraneous background noise which drowns out what the person is trying to hear.

But in the last two decades, Denis says he has seen digital hearing aids transform the entire industry.  A digital aid receives a sound wave and then an onboard computer processes that sound into bits, which is a digital format that the device can manipulate to achieve certain results. It’s essentially computerizing sound. There are some analog ways to do accomplish this, but they are very limited in scope and effectiveness.

Manipulating Sound

Denis says the biggest game changer during his tenure is the capability for digital hearing aids to change any incoming sound. Because of this, what signals go in the devices aren't necessarily what gets transmitted to the ear.

Let’s say a woman is hearing impaired and a sound wave enters her ear. The sound is quiet and it needs to be made louder so she can hear it. Analog devices could do this, but the aids were indiscriminate toward loud sounds, too, which mean that it’s extra painful to encounter loud sounds. It’s the equivalent of somebody whispering or shouting through a megaphone. The tool amplifies the sound at the same intensity, but one is much more painful to hear than the other.

To counter this, engineers began eliminating excess background noise and figuring out how to make important sounds forefront. As the devices became more digital they can do more things, and that advancement goes right in line with chip technology. When they first started including computer chips, the technology could only perform so many processes per minute. Consequently, the original digital aids were quite crude. But every year the technology improved, and the tools got more sophisticated because they performed more processes per minute.

Improving the processing power within the aids was a crucial task because, unlike other sound-oriented devices, hearing aids must provide immediate feedback. Otherwise, the aid won’t help people keep up with a conversation.

Directional Microphones

This need for accurate, instantaneous feedback, coupled with faster and more powerful processors, meant that engineers began experimenting with how the hearing aid reacted to receiving sound from different angles, Denis says.  The result of these tests is directional microphones.

 So let's say you’re talking in a dinner conversation and you want to hear what somebody has to say. Because of background noise, even people with normal hearing can struggle with this. To counteract the ambient feedback, engineers placed directional microphones into the hearing aids. These are microphones that point toward the object you want to hear, and then 90 degrees away from the object you want to hear. Using input from the various angles, the microphones allow aids to amplify where you're pointing, and cancel out stuff on the side.

Denis says as engineers made more headway with directional microphones, they began developing devices that could isolate, amplify and dampen sounds from any direction. Originally the devices could only adequately handle sounds in front of your head, and you had to point your head toward the person you wanted to talk to. But if someone on the side says something to you, then you'd miss that.

 Nowadays the device is able to change the focus of what you're able to hear by itself, and do it nearly instantly.

Wireless Connectivity

Directional microphones altered how people hear, but the biggest hearing aid innovation in the last five years is wireless connectivity. And it’s changed the lifestyle for hearing aid users.

The wireless connectivity that’s becoming more common allows hearing aids to connect to smartphones, cars and other electronics via a 2.4 gigahertz spectrum. This lets people essentially stream phone conversations, music or the TV directly to their aid.

The other method is called near field connectivity. And the near field method is based around magnetic induction. What happens is an intermediary device, which is a meter or half-a-meter away from your ear, communicates between the hearing aid and the device it’s streaming from.

More Powerful Hearing Aid Batteries

Although Rayovac isn’t an expert on hearing aid devices, Denis and his team work closely with device manufacturers to develop hearing aid batteries that meet the required power consumption of these new innovations. 

The fully wireless 2.4 GHz system added several superb lifestyle features for hearing aid users, but those features also doubled the device’s electrical current draw. When a normal hearing aid is functioning it may run at about two milliamps. When it's running in the streaming mode with a 2.4 GHz system, the power draw goes up to about four to five mA with the additive that that power draw is consistent.

In the past you'd get short duration pulses of that power requirement, but now it's a sustained requirement. Denis says Rayovac engineers had to design a new zinc air hearing aid battery that is more powerful and more efficient under those conditions. This task came about when the company was shifting to a zero mercury battery as well, which made it quite a challenge. The zero mercury products originally had less power than mercury-containing batteries.

The Rayovac team solved the power issue, but the battery lifespan has fallen. Denis says that the batteries don't last as long in new digital devices as they did in analog devices.

When Denis talked with engineers 15 years ago, the size 10 battery, which is Rayovac’s smallest hearing aid battery, was being developed in coordination with Starkey to fit for an ear canal hearing aid. At the time that battery could deliver 59 mA hours. Denis says his engineers wanted the per-battery lifespan to last seven days. Today a size 10 battery delivers twice as much energy, but when you talk with engineers they want it to last three days.

Although Rayovac has doubled the energy that battery can deliver, he problem is that the batteries don't last like they used to. And that's not because the battery is poor. The root cause is that the hearing aid technology is more advanced and requires a lot more consistent power. As manufacturers add more features, the devices require more power. Once you design a battery with more power, the device engineers add more features. So it’s a lifecycle.

The Future of Batteries

The current top-of-the-line option for hearing aid batteries is the zinc air system, which is a very high energy density platform, Denis says. There are not many other systems that have more energy per size.

If you think about a watch battery, the anode and the cathode are both inside the battery itself. The zinc in the cell determines how much energy the battery can deliver. By taking the cathode and putting it on the outside of the battery, engineers can then take more zinc and put it on the inside. This method lets the zinc air system last two to three times longer than a button cell battery.

Rechargeable batteries are supposedly the next big milestone for hearing aid technology. Denis says one of the challenges engineers are facing with rechargeable batteries is making the battery small enough while still giving it enough energy to make it last a day. He says there is product that is market viable, but it’s still right on the edge, and the dilemma around size continues to be prevalent. Denis says the battery needs to be a little bit bigger than engineers really want it to be. Right now the 312 size is the number one battery being made because it's a shorter battery and manufacturers can make a thinner hearing aid with it. So designers really want to have a rechargeable battery as a 312 size. He says that rechargeable products will work pretty easily with a 13 size, but it gets very tenuous around a 312 size. Denis says he’s confident the product will come to fruition, but it still might be a while before the technology is perfected.

 

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Infographic: How Can You Prevent Hearing Loss?

by rayovac29, May 2016

Loud noise is the most common cause of hearing loss. More than 10 million people in the United States have permanent hearing loss from noises, and more than 30 million people are exposed to harmful noise levels every day. Teenagers are an especially prevalent demographic for people engaging in behaviors that cause hearing loss. Roughly 5.2 million children and adolescents aged 6–19 years old have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You might be surprised to learn how little time it takes for loud noise to temporarily or permanently damage your hearing. We partnered with Starkey to show just how easy it is to harm your hearing, and how you can prevent being in those situations.

 hearing loss from noise happens fast; here is how you can prevent it

 

If you’re concerned about being affected by loud noises, the CDC recommends that you pay attention to the following hearing damage symptoms:

  • You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears after exposure to noise.
  • You notice that you can hear people talking, but you have difficulty understanding them, after exposure to noise.
  • You experience "fullness" in your ears after leaving a noisy area.

If you’re consistently experiencing these ailments, consult an audiologist for a hearing check. Otherwise, if you’d like to learn more about your hearing health, hearing aids or hearing aid batteries, visit Rayovac’s hearing resource center.

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What Should You Know About Hearing Tests?

by rayovac15, May 2016

A hearing test can let you know if you need hearing aids

Hearing loss is among the most common medical conditions in the United States. More than 48 million of us have significant hearing troubles in one form or another. Those struggles can affect anyone — young and old alike — regardless if the loss is caused from genetics, trauma, illness, the environment or old age. If you’re concerned that you or your loved ones might have hearing loss, then it’s important to get tested by a hearing professional. A hearing professional will determine if you have hearing loss through a hearing screening, and what kind of loss you’re experiencing with a hearing evaluation. This is done by measuring your ability to hear sounds that reach the brain through the ear canal. Our bodies decipher sound by tuning into vibrational frequencies that happen in air, liquid or solid materials. These vibrations create sound waves, which have certain frequencies and amplitudes based on the speed and height of the vibrations. If a sound wave is vibrating fast, then it has a high pitch. And the height size of the sound wave dictates how loud that sound manifests. Most hearing tests use an audiometer to create specific sound waves at particular vibrations to see if and what you’re able to hear.

Online Hearing Tests

Waiting to treat hearing loss can lead to other issues.  Adults might not be able to safely operate a car or heavy machinery, hear people at work, or meaningfully converse with loved ones. Failing to treat hearing loss in children can hamper their social skills, set them back in school, and harm their cognitive and physical development. Diagnosing hearing loss is a painless experience, and it doesn’t take much time. Plus there are various online hearing tests that offer questionnaires to evaluate if visiting a hearing professional is recommended. Individuals that are interested in an easy in-home hearing screening can try those offered by the Better Hearing Institute and Healthy Hearing. Both organizations offer options that are fast, easy and offer good insight for you and your hearing professional — should you book an appointment.

Hearing Screening vs. Hearing Evaluation

If you do make the appointment then there are two different test categories your hearing professional will likely perform. The first is a hearing screening, which is a quick, cost-effective preliminary exam that checks your hearing to determine if further testing is necessary. If your screening results show that you need further testing then you move on to the second category: a hearing evaluation. This is an in-depth assessment of your hearing to investigate what type of hearing loss you have, how severe it is and what the best treatment options are.

Hearing Loss Treatment

Once your hearing professional determines what type of hearing loss you have, the next step is figuring out what treatment options are available. If your hearing loss is conductive, which happens when something stops sound from reaching your inner ear, then you often have three options: medicine, surgery or hearing aids. If you’ve been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, which is when the hearing nerve isn’t working as intended, then you’re likely looking at hearing aids or surgery. And if your audiologist says you have mixed hearing loss then your best options are medications, hearing aids or a cochlear implant. Hearing aids are among the most common solutions. The devices are highly customizable to fit whatever your needs are, and you’re able to make them as visible or invisible as you’d like. Your hearing professional will be able to recommend particular brands or features, and consult on hearing aid care.  For all you need to know about hearing aid batteries, be sure to visit our hearing aid resource center.

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10 ways to master energy efficiency and save electricity costs

by rayovac22, April 2016

 Rechargeable batteries are energy efficient, green technology

People who live in cities powered by fossil fuels, hydroelectric dams or nuclear power plants know that electricity is an expensive resource. The average household in the United States pays $114 per month on its electricity bill. But many of these households could cut those costs by using a handful of simple tricks to save power. Here are our 10 favorite energy-saving tips.

Electronics

  1. Household electronics are notorious for being energy vampires that still use electricity while they're plugged in, despite the device being turned off. Unplug electronics that aren’t in use, and consider using a surge protector or power strip to make the process easier with closely grouped devices.
  2. It’s easy to forget about unplugging a phone or tablet after it is finished charging. But many battery chargers continuously draw power, even if the device is charged or removed from the charger entirely. Be sure to remove any electronics from their chargers after charging is complete, and then unplug the charger itself. To help out, most smartphones have an alarm that you can set once the device completes charging.
  3. Unless you’re using a desktop computer for graphics-heavy video games or demanding video and photo editing, you likely don’t need the power it provides or requires. Laptops use considerably less electricity, and they’re portable. Another option is to have your computer’s inactive state always be sleep or hibernate instead of screen saver.
  4. Instead of leaving video game consoles or electronic toys in standby mode to charge their remotes and accessories, if possible use rechargeable batteries as an energy-efficient alternative. They often require less electricity to charge, and the batteries can last longer in demanding usage conditions.

Lighting

  1. Turning off lights and electronics in unoccupied rooms can obviously save electricity, and if you take this commonsense advice a step further you can create a daily schedule for family bonding. After the sun sets, encourage your family to spend a few evening hours in one central bright room. During this time all of the lights and electronics not in this room are turned off. This conserves electricity, and makes sure that you actually get to spend quality time with your family after a long work day.
  2. Using the wrong light bulb can drain electricity and provide improper wattage to a light fixture. Compact fluorescent bulbs use about one-fourth the energy of older incandescent bulbs, and they last longer. CFL bulbs come in various shapes, wattages and sizes. Another option is an LED bulb, which is more expensive upfront, but lasts longer than CFLs and uses even less energy. Be sure to double check with a light bulb guide that you’re using the best option.
  3. One often-overlooked tip is to dust your CFL light bulbs before recycling them. It might be that the bulb still has plenty of life left, but dust on the bulb is reducing its light output by up to 50 percent.

Appliances 

  1. This tip is an expensive investment, but replacing an old, traditional hot water heater with an electric or gas instantaneous version pays for itself over its lifetime, and then it continually saves you money. And that’s significant considering that the average American household spends $400 to $600 a year on heating water. Traditional water heaters lose a massive amount of electricity through standby heating, which the EPA estimates can waste $36 to $61 annually in comparison to instantaneous models.
  2. Refrigerators and freezers are notorious electricity hogs. But if you keep your freezer or fridge full they use less energy to cool empty space. If you have a bunch of vacant room, then fill a few water gallon jugs and place them strategically in empty corners. It’s relatively cheap, and water acts as an excellent insulator for the already-cold environment.
  3. If your fridge or freezer is more than a couple of years old, you’ll want to check its gaskets. The gasket is the insulation that keeps the cold air in and the warm air out, and if it’s not working properly then your appliance draws more power than normally necessary to keep things cold. You can test gasket efficiency by placing a dollar bill where the door closes, close the door and then pull the dollar bill out. If removing the bill is an easy task, then your gasket system likely needs to be replaced. Most home-improvement stores will have the necessary materials.

 

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Rayovac’s Unforgettable Disney Vacation Sweepstakes Winner: The Gibby Family!

by rayovac8, April 2016

Amy Gibby has been selected as the winner for Rayovac’s Unforgettable Vacation Sweepstakes. Gibby, her husband and their two older children will enjoy a three-night, four-day WALT DISNEY WORLD ® Resort vacation in April. Rayovac®, the official battery of the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort and the DISNEYLAND® Resort held an online sweepstakes for its fans as a way to show its appreciation to all of its loyal customers. 

“I was so excited when I got the news I was literally shaking,” says Gibby. “We have never been able to take our kids on a vacation so this is a dream come true.” To share the special news with her children, Gibby created a scavenger hunt for her kids filled with fun clues that led them to the final Disney trip reveal. 

“We wanted to give back to the customers who mean so much to us,” says Colleen Orani, Director of Marketing, Rayovac. “Our partnership with Disney allowed us to offer an incredible experience to a very deserving person who will be able to enjoy a trip of a lifetime with her family.” 

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3 simple spring cleaning tips to help keep you healthy

by rayovac6, April 2016

 A child sneezing from allergies that spring cleaning can cure

In many areas of the world, spring cleaning is a necessary step in preparing our homes to weather the transition from winter into spring and summer. The process keeps our homes—and by extension us—healthy and safe. If you live in an environment where winter is synonymous with freezing temperatures, frequent snowfall and a nearly-constant overcast sky, you’ve likely already planned out a few weekends to tackle the necessary renovation projects.

With all of the tasks ahead of you, it’s easy to get bogged down while cleaning out the winter muck and mire. And that fluster makes it even easier to overlook important chores. But if you use our spring cleaning tips, your family can power through these tasks without forgetting the smaller chores that keep you all healthy and safe.

Snuff Out Allergens

Allergies are unanimously awful, and spring weather plays a big role in how affluent allergens will be while winter’s icy grip thaws. But what’s inside your home also affects how susceptible you are to having a runny nose, scratchy eyes or a sneezing fit.  

Household allergens commonly appear in three forms: dust, dust mites and hair.

Dust mites are a particularly prevalent allergen that can also cause asthma. The tiny creatures love to nestle into your mattress, bedding, carpets and drapes, and then deposit their exoskeletons and feces, which contribute to allergic reactions. The Mayo Clinic recommends washing your bedding and mattress cover in hot water that is at least 130 F (54.4 C) to kill any dust mites and remove their allergens. They advise that if your bedding can't be washed hot, then put the items in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130 F (54.4 C) to kill the mites. Then wash and dry the bedding to remove any allergens.

Otherwise, snuffing out prevalent allergens happens during most of your routine spring cleaning tasks. Be sure to thoroughly wash and shampoo any carpets (or replace the carpet with hardwood or tile), wash the flooring and walls, dust, and remove whatever hair (pet or human) that you find.  

Keep the Lights On

Cold temperatures zap away battery effectiveness and longevity. It’s why you shouldn’t leave a battery in the fridge. And winter acts like a giant refrigerator for your outside equipment. Motion detectors are often a victim of the cold, so while you’re replacing any dim or burnt out light bulbs be sure to also change the batteries powering any motion detectors you use. And if you have flashlights in the garage or basement that don’t get used often, we recommend putting a fresh set of rechargeable batteries in those, too. It’s never fun to have a spring storm power outage and discover your flashlights are dim or dead because you skipped recharging or changing the batteries for a few years.

Protection through Detection

The dream-shattering blare of a smoke or carbon monoxide detector can destroy a good night’s rest. It’s an unfortunate event that happens to most of us at some point on our lives, but if you check or replace the alarm’s lithium battery during spring cleaning then the night of unrest is entirely avoidable. Keeping on top of detector functionality is crucial to your family’s safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association, about two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in houses where the smoke detectors were not working or don’t exist. The NFPA recommends testing every alarm in your home and replacing the smoke detector battery each spring.

While you’re testing the smoke detectors, double check the expiration date of your carbon monoxide alarms and replace them if necessary. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports about 170 people die in the United States each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. A simple test could save you and your family. 

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