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How to Be Somebody's Hero by Giving the Gift of Hearing

by rayovac1, December 2016

An elderly couple is fitted with hearing aids by Starkey and Rayovac Starkey Hearing Foundation and Rayovac are committed to helping people everywhere hear the vivid world they live in. We strive to empower every person who needs help — whether they are a young girl who hears her mom say, “I love you,” for the first time, a teenager who is getting a better education, a parent who can acquire a better job, or a grandparent who can regale their loved ones with wisdom from their adventures. And now you can join us. You too can be someone’s hero and give the gift of hearing.

This holiday season we’re making changing a life easier than swapping a light bulb.

Here’s how you can help.

Right now you can gift people around the world the ability to hear by purchasing specially-marked Rayovac hearing aid battery packages. For every purchase, Rayovac will donate $0.25 to the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Rayovac and Starkey have a long history of working together to help people hear and better connect with their loved ones. We’re excited to continue this effort through the Give the Gift of Hearing campaign.

Starkey partners with audiologists and local communities, domestically and internationally, to provide hearing aids and supplies to people who can't afford them. The effects of this work are widespread and transformative among people in the communities they help.  

“We hear often from people who we provide hearing aids to that before [our help] they were living in a world of isolation,” says Keith Beise, a digital media associate for the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

But after working on a hearing aid expedition in Mexico, Beise learned the help Starkey and Rayovac give quickly ends the isolation and replaces it with communication, comfort and love.

“It was my very first day that I'd ever been fitting hearing aids, and I'm helping this older gentleman while his wife is standing there next to me,” Beise recalls. “I was fitting him with the hearing aid he needed, and as I'm fitting him his wife turns to me and says (through a translator), ‘I'm so excited for my husband to hear me say 'I love him' again.’”

He says that moment really drove home how important hearing is, and how disconnected from loved ones some individuals can become without it.  

“As I turned on his hearing aid, ‘I love you’ is the first thing she said to him,” he says. “It was a really cool moment. So if you ask, ‘what does this really change in a life?’ It's a lot.”

Beise’s experiences are common among people who help Starkey on these aid missions.

He says that when a person does not hear well they tend to shy away from audible conversations. Some people are worried that they are going to be looked down upon for their hearing loss, or that people are frustrated with them because communication is a challenge. So they tend to live much more isolated lives.   Suddenly, being able to hear breaks this isolation for people and it can present incredible opportunities to enrich their lives. In 2013, Starkey studied the consequences of their help with students in Africa.

They gave hearing aids to 40 hearing-impaired students and discovered those students—who were performing in the lowest percentile of their classes—began outperforming the students who were in the highest percentile.

As for adults, Beise says Starkey gets reports from people who are able to get jobs or get better jobs because they're now able to hear.

Life is comprised of creating and sharing moments, dreams and goals with other people. Although your role in this campaign may seem small in scale, its effect is enormous. Like the old tale of a man walking the seashore before dawn and throwing starfish back into the sea, your help monumental to the affected people.

So, are you ready to change a life?

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Tips for Traveling Overseas with Hearing Aids

by rayovac18, July 2016

Wearing Hearing Aids While TravelingSummer is winding down and the final few weeks are excellent opportunities to take advantage of last-minute vacation deals. But if you’re hearing impaired, or have somebody in your family who is, then traveling—especially via plane or oversees—can be quite tricky and sometimes even stressful. The new environments, chaotic noise levels and busy schedule can easily become overwhelming if you’re not prepared. The good news is that after reading these tips you’ll be ready to handle any hearing-related situation that you might encounter while traveling.

Don’t Forget Anything

Sometimes the simplest steps are the easiest to forget, such as making a list of every hearing-related item you’ll foreseeably need during your journey and then double checking your supplies. It’s a huge pain if you realize that your extra tubing, remotes, portable chargers or hearing aid batteries got left behind. So although it’s a bit cliché, you can prevent yourself from having to make supply pit stops just by double checking that list. Plus, if you have an old pair of hearing aids, it’s smart to pack them as well for emergency situations. If you’re traveling abroad, pack the appropriate power outlet converter as well. Many countries don’t use the same voltage levels or appliance connector ports that the United States does. Here’s a useful list to check what each country uses. Now that your list is made, the items on it are packed and everything is double checked, we advise that you keep all of your hearing equipment in a carry-on bag. The rule of thumb is that checked bags can be lost, delayed or destroyed. Anything that is absolutely necessary for you to have should be kept in a carry-on bag for ease of travel.

 Who can help you?

After you’ve set out on your trip, the next step is to ensure that you can communicate with the staff that will be helping you. The simple way to do this is find the person who best meets your current needs, and then ask them to find you in case an auditory announcement is made. This is especially useful if you’re at the airport and your flight changes gates, departs early or is arriving late. The other option is to opt-in for email or text message alerts regarding changes to your travel itinerary. Most major airlines or train companies offer this opportunity if you order tickets online. If you’re taking the digital route, then also save the email verification you get to minimize the amount of talking and listening you’ll need to do. Otherwise, look into what hearing resources your hotel or hostel have at hand, or see if they’re able to make accommodations for you. Sometimes hotels can let staff know that you might not respond to telephone calls or knocks on the door, and that a standard alarm clock won’t suffice.

Hearing Aids During a Flight

There are no current restrictions about hearing aid devices on airplanes, even the devices with wireless technology. You’ll be able to have your device on the entire flight if you wish. However, FM assistive devices fall under the same category as cell phones and laptops, so you’ll need to keep that off to limit transmitting any radio waves. Do be aware that your hearing aids will likely pick up excess levels of noise above the wing or near the back of the plane, so if you’re able to choose your seat then you might want to pick a spot closer toward the cockpit.

Remember Your Maintenance Routines

Hearing aid users might be surprised to discover how filthy and bacteria-ridden crowded tourist spots can make their aids. While you’re moving from location to location, remember to keep your hearing aids clean by wiping them down every evening and using the appropriate maintenance routines for your specific device. And if you’re heading to a particularly sandy or dusty area, remember to protect your ears and the devices. Sand and gritty dust or saltwater are lethal to hearing aids.

Wear Your Hearing Device

Lastly, the most obvious advice: actually wear your hearing aid or cochlear implant during your trip, but especially before you walk out the door. Leaving behind a toothbrush or small trinket isn’t a huge hassle, but if you forget your hearing aids or hearing accessories the day you leave then it’s going to be a major headache that will likely hamper the overall mood of your trip. But simply wearing the aids serves as an easy way not to leave them behind. The devices don’t set off alarms at airport security, and actually wearing the device through the chaotic airport will help you better navigate and answer customs agents’ questions and hear flight announcements.

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Meet Shari Eberts, our new hearing aid blogger

by rayovac7, July 2016

Shari Eberts

Meet Shari Eberts. We love her upbeat and practical approach to living with hearing loss and are excited to share her first hand insights about living with hearing loss on Rayovac’s Hearing Aid Battery Blog.

 Shari started blogging in 2014 (check out her blog, Living With Hearing Loss) as a way to cope with her hearing loss and to connect with others trying to do the same. Her first blog post to attract attention was titled, “How to Tackle Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss.” Shari says the number of people who read and commented on her post motivated her to continue writing and to build an online community for people like herself.

  Everyday situations are Shari’s main focus. She understands how challenging daily tasks can be when you have hearing loss, so she tries to provide an upbeat approach for effectively handling those situations. But she also knows that frustration is inevitable. That’s why she wants to provide a space for people to find hope and understanding.

  “It can be tough, and sad, and isolating at times, and it’s important to acknowledge that and share those feelings,” Shari says. “But it is also critical to not let hearing loss hold you back from living life as fully as possible.”

  Shari also hopes to provide information for people who want to better understand their friends and family members living with impaired hearing. Here’s what she had to say: 

               “Be supportive of your loved one by encouraging him to seek treatment for his hearing loss rather than ignoring it. Sometimes the person with hearing loss would rather not acknowledge that they have an issue because they are embarrassed or feel there is a stigma associated with having hearing loss. It is important for family and friends to help eradicate that stigma. Do not let hearing loss become an unmentionable topic. The more it is treated as just one of the many life details that impact the family or friend group, the quicker it will be acknowledged, treated and accepted.

 

It is also important to learn the best ways to communicate with your friend or loved one who has hearing loss. Ask them how YOU can help them hear their best and then do those things regularly. This could include things like facing them when you speak, keeping your mouth uncovered, letting them have the seat against the wall, making sure the area is well lit and that background noise is at a minimum.”

 Read below for our Q&A with Shari where she shares some of her other goals and interests. And make sure to check back regularly with the Rayovac HAB blog for more awesome insights and useful information from Shari Eberts – and be sure to check out Shari’s blog, Living With Hearing Loss.

  You also have a yoga blog – why did you decide to start writing on that topic?

I absolutely love yoga, particularly Bikram yoga. Not only are the physical benefits of yoga important, the mental benefits are also numerous. Yoga at its best, combines physical postures with a philosophy of patience and self-acceptance, which can come in very handy when dealing with the day-to-day frustrations of hearing loss. I know it does for me. I enjoy writing about my experiences with yoga and interacting with others who share this same interest.

 If you could travel to any place, where would you go?

I would love to have the opportunity to see all Seven Wonders of the World. I would also like to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. I think traveling is the best way to experience firsthand how connected we all are with one another. I particularly enjoy seeing and learning about ancient architecture and artifacts. I also love hiking and viewing wildlife in its natural surroundings, like in Costa Rica. I would also love to visit the Galapagos Islands one day. 

 What are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about my children. Because my hearing loss is genetic, I may have passed it onto them. Since my loss is adult-onset, we will not know for at least 10 years. My hearing loss advocacy work stems from my hope that I can help make the world a more hearing loss-friendly place should they ever experience hearing loss themselves.

 What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my advocacy work for people with hearing loss. I sit on the national board of Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the largest advocacy organization for consumers with hearing loss. HLAA seeks to enable people with hearing loss to live life fully and without compromise. This mission aligns well with the work I am doing on my blog. I am also proud of the work I did as Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation, where I helped launch the innovative and collaborative Hearing Restoration Project research consortium. The consortium’s mission is to find a biological way to restore hearing.

 

 

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The Beginner's Guide to Your Child’s Hearing Loss

by rayovac2, June 2016

Child with hearing loss plays in a lake

Sarah, a 7-year-old girl with braided, shoulder-length brown hair sits in the back of her second grade classroom. Her teacher is lecturing on homophones. Taped on the whiteboard are pictures of watermelons that range from big to small. Sarah slightly tilts her head to focus on her teacher’s spelling lesson, but it’s no use; a few moments later her face glasses over in a bored haze and she begins scribbling in her notebook. The teacher, seeing that Sarah isn’t paying attention, calls on her to answer which use of “than” or “then” is correct. Sarah doesn’t respond until a classmate nudges her, but by then it’s too late—the teacher puts Sarah in timeout for being insubordinate.

 Later in the afternoon the teacher questions Sarah about the incident and learns that Sarah couldn’t hear the lecture. A quick audiology test at the nurse’s office shows Sarah has unilateral hearing loss.

Sarah is imaginary, but nearly 15 percent of real boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 19 have measurable hearing loss in at least one ear. And more than 48 million Americans have significant hearing loss, making it among the most prevalent medical conditions in the United States.

We live in a hearing world. Whether you’re tuning in to a bird’s beautiful melodic chirp, or tuning out a teacher’s English lesson, our ability to hear empowers us to interact with our environment. Sound also affects our cognitive and physical development.

This entire scenario can be overwhelming and scary if you’re a parent whose child has recently been excluded from the important sensory experience hearing offers. And that swimming feeling of ‘what now’ is okay. As a parent, there are a lot of steps you can take if you suspect your child is struggling to hear, or if they’ve recently been diagnosed with hearing loss.

So let’s dive in into The Beginner’s Guide to Your Child’s Hearing Loss.  

Types of Hearing Loss

Your child’s audiologist can best tell you what type of hearing issue your kid has, the likely causes and if the loss is mild or profound. But here are the basics. 

Hearing loss happens in three places:

  1. The outer ear, which is composed of the external ear, the ear canal and the ear drum.
  2.  The middle ear, with the ear drum and three small ossicles bones.
  3.  The inner ear, which houses the snail-shaped cochlea, semicircular canals that help with balance and nerves that are attached to the brain.  

There are four ways people experience hearing loss within these three sections:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss: This happens when something stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear, such as a physical deformity, wax, an ear infection, excess fluid or allergies. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgery, and sometimes less-serious problems like allergies or the flu can resolve themselves. 
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A sensorineural loss occurs when the inner ear or hearing nerve isn’t working properly. This can result from exposure to loud noise, trauma, an infection, autoimmune disease, familial hearing loss, or even aging. Sometimes hearing aids or surgery can help restore partial hearing, but depending on the causes it’s possible that the person’s hearing is permanently lost.
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss: Somebody has mixed hearing loss if they have lost hearing from conductive and sensorineural sources. Depending on the root causes, the mixed hearing might be treatable with medications, hearing aids, or a cochlear implant.
  4.  Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder: This type of hearing loss is when sound enters the ear normally, but the brain can’t understand the sound itself. People with ANSD also struggle with speech perception alongside their hearing loss. ANSD is a relatively recent diagnosis, and the causes and treatment options are still being researched.

 

Hearing Tests and Diagnosis

Newborns traditionally receive hearing tests before leaving the hospital, and all babies should have a hearing test no later than 1-month-old, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Any child that doesn’t pass the initial hearing test should get a full hearing diagnostic before becoming 3-months-old.

Afterward, your child will probably have their hearing tested again at about 2-years-old, between ages 4 and 5, and then several times throughout their grade school career.

The most common test is painless and uses an audiometer where your child raises their hand upon hearing a specific sound.

Hearing Loss Symptoms

Figuring out if your child has hearing loss ranges from easy to very difficult, and a lot of it depends on your parenting style, your school district and who your kid is.

Outside of audiology exams at school or a family physician, you’ll typically discover your child has a hearing issue when their behavior changes, says Dr. Eve Leinonen, a clinical audiologist and the owner of Affordable Hearing Solutions in Naperville, Ill.

“Maybe in the past their child did really well in school … and now they're struggling to do their homework or pay attention to some things,” she says. “Usually one of the first things that I recommend is to have their hearing checked.”

Other potential hearing-related behavioral issues you might notice include:

  • Difficulty understanding what people are saying
  • Speaking at a different level or tone than their peers
  • Consistently not replying when you call their name
  • Responding to a different question than what you asked
  • Listens to music or the TV louder than what’s normal or healthy
  • Recent academic problems, especially after being moved  to a different spot in the classroom
  • Exhibits a noticeable articulation delay when responding to a question
  • Complains about ear pain or inconsistent noise levels
  • They switch ears frequently while talking on the phone
  • They say “huh?” or “what?” when they’re obviously paying attention

 

Dr. Leinonen says that issues like these can be caused by simple blockages like fluid in the ears or wax buildup, but they can also be indicative of more alarming hearing problems. She recommends that parents who notice these behaviors commonly occurring talk to their child and ask if they can hear O.K. If any red flags rise, then take your kid to an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Teaching Children about Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be a scary thing for kids and adults alike. And Dr. Leinonen says how old a child is often determines how they’ll react to the diagnoses and ensuing life changes. The most common questions between children and their parents are why they have hearing loss and what caused it. Answering those questions can be tricky, but audiologists like Dr. Leinonen use anatomic models and pictures to describe all the different parts of the ear, and show where things might not be working properly.

Once children grow up to pre-teen and teenagers, they become more nervous and surprised about their hearing loss and tend to ask more questions—especially if the loss isn’t the cause of trauma, Dr. Leinonen says. But overall, most kids seem to go with the flow.

Hearing Loss and School

Depending on the type of hearing loss your child is facing, their audiologist might contact your kid’s school to figure out what resources the school has at hand. If it is hearing loss that needs amplification, you’ll want to get these resources in place before being able to hear and follow subjects in school becomes an issue for your child, Dr. Leinonen says.

A lot of school districts also have a district audiologist and speech pathologist. This isn’t necessarily somebody involved with special education, but rather somebody who is in charge of making sure that your child has everything they need to succeed in the classroom.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  mandates that all public school districts and schools must have access to a hearing assistive technology system, like an FM device or other amplification system. In the case of amplification, the FM device synchs with your child’s hearing aid to ensure that they hear the teacher at a consistent level, regardless of where they’re seated in the classroom.

If amplification isn’t needed, your audiologist will make sure your child sits in the front of the room so they can hear everything that's going on. Plus some districts come up with an individualized plan depending on the type of hearing loss, and what specific services your child needs.  

Hearing Aids

The key to getting children to accept their hearing aids is to make the process exciting, fun and educational, Dr. Leinonen says. “We don't want the child to feel like there is something wrong with them; instead they should feel like they have something really cool to show everybody else.”

And showing off their hearing devices is a skill kids excel at.

Some manufacturers with a pediatric product line have the devices in fun, vibrant colors. If the kids need an ear mold, then an audiologist can swirl different colors into the mold and add glitter or other sparkly materials. And most of Dr. Leinonen’s pediatric patients are exuberant about designing a colorful device that’s completely unique to them and their personality.

“What I love about the kids is that they don't really care about hiding [the hearing aid,]” Dr. Leinonen says. “Whereas a lot of adults want the aids to be discrete; they don't want anybody to know.”

As for the devices themselves, Dr. Leinonen recommends parents look at hearing aids manufactured by brands with dedicated pediatric options that meet your child’s needs. Several manufacturers also have pediatric kits, which include educational materials for kids and parents alike. A few brands even throw in troubleshooting tools for parents, which often include a battery tester, cleaning brushes, an air puffer, drying capsules and a listening tube.

Kid’s hearing aids function essentially the same as an adult’s aid. But there are a few added safety measures like tamper-proof battery doors and a water-resistant treatment. Some models also have LED indicators to notify parents if the hearing aid battery is low or if a volume control has been hit.

Dr. Leinonen recommends that children always get a molded over-the-ear hearing aid, rather than a customized option that adult’s often opt-in for. That’s because your kid’s ears continue growing and changing, and within six months to a year the custom aid might not fit any longer.

Education Prevents Bullying

Children have a tendency to be cruel to each other; whether they’re intending to or not. And because your child has a hearing problem, and possibly a visible hearing device, they can become targets for bullies or uncouth questions. It’s a hard situation for some kids, parents and teachers alike to handle. But Dr. Leinonen says she finds if her patients go into social settings excited and educated, then they typically don’t have any problems.

But kids tend to get nervous about that first encounter, and it can stymy their enthusiasm.

“I have one little girl in particular who was really, really excited — at first. The device going to be her own thing; and I found that it was a really great way to approach it, especially for a 7-year-old,” Dr. Leinonen says. “But as we got closer to it, and when she came in for a fitting, her mom outright told me that her daughter is really nervous because she's afraid that kids are going to think that she's different or she's weird.”

The solution Dr. Leinonen employs, and recommends for parents as well, is to get exited alongside your child about their device. Make it something fun to show their friends, and teach them how to teach their peers about the hearing aid.

“So I told her that it really comes down to that if kids give you a hard time, or if children are making fun, it's just because they don't understand it,” she says. “So take it out; show them how cool it is. Show them all the really neat things you can do with it, and how it lets you hear them better.”

Communication, education and intrapersonal empathy are methods of preventing or stopping bullying. And if your child has a hearing issue, then all three aspects are crucial. Dr. Leinonen recommends that you prepare your child enough to understand the types of questions or comments their friends or classmates will have, and how to answer them with a fun, respectful attitude. She says once all the kids know what’s going on, the questions and bullying seems to disappear and your kid’s friends will think the hearing aid devices are cool.

So as long as your keep the situation very light and fun, the kids are going to be more accepting of it — especially as they get older.

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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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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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