You Hear with Your Brain

Exploring the Close Relationship Between Hearing Health and Cognitive Health

What is cognition?

Cognition is the “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” (Oxford 2022). It is how we process information, develop into who we are, learn what we learn and process our surrounding environment. Cognitive function is critical to participation in activities, social gatherings and for enjoying conversation with family and friends.

What does hearing have to do with cognition?

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in research outcomes that show a connection between untreated hearing loss and accelerated cognitive decline.  One study completed by Croll et al in 2021, showed that individuals with hearing loss had lower cognitive function results than those of their peers with normal hearing. In several studies using functional imaging, there was evidence that when listening to different inputs the brain was stimulated less in individuals with hearing loss.

There are numerous theories as to how hearing loss plays a role in cognitive changes. Today we will examine two schools of thought.

The Common Cause Theory

The first theory to explore is the concept that age-related changes cause global declines. This widely researched theory suggests that neural degenerative diseases or even cardiovascular disease play a role in overall cognition. How does this theory expand to untreated hearing loss? This theory suggests that, like other health conditions, hearing loss has an impact on our overall health and cognitive abilities as we age.

The Cascade Theory

This is known as the “use it or lose it” theory (Chung, 2018). We know that hearing loss decreases auditory stimulation within the brain, and in turn this deprivation can cause cognitive decline. The idea is that auditory deprivation (i.e., hearing loss) can cause a ‘cascade’ of other issues like social isolation, depression, and the accelerated onset of dementia. Hearing loss also causes a person to have more cognitive load, meaning that individuals with hearing loss must work harder to process information. If we further explore the ‘cascade’ theory, there is hope that by treating your hearing loss sooner than later, you can slow the progression of cognitive decline.

What you can do to retain cognitive function as you age

Additional research is needed to understand more about how hearing loss impacts cognition. However, research suggests there are close ties between our hearing health and our overall health and wellness.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your hearing health and cognition stay in shape as you age:

  • Get your hearing tested annually and continue to monitor it regularly. Add your hearing to the list of health-related check-ups you schedule each year.
  • If you have a hearing loss, seek treatment from an audiologist. Early intervention and early use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices are proven to reduce the effects of hearing loss such as depression, isolation, and memory loss.
  • Use the latest technology to your advantage. Although hearing aids cannot reverse the effects of hearing loss and cognitive decline, research does show that patients who use hearing devices regularly to treat their hearing loss have a greater ability to retain their cognitive function throughout the aging process.

Talk to a hearing care professional about the many benefits of treating your hearing loss today. And if traditional hearing aids aren’t the right solution for you, we encourage you to explore a bone anchored hearing system instead.

About the Author

Author Nicole Maxam, AuD, has been an audiologist for almost 17 years and has worked with a variety of patients. Before joining the Auditory Technical Services team, she worked in the school settings and private ENT setting offering hearing aids and implantable options to her patients.

Resources

  • Campbell, Julia and Sharma, Anu. “Compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation in adults with hearing loss”, Front. Syst. Neurosci., 25 October 2013, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2013.00071
  • Crolling, Pauline, “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in the General Population: a prosceptive cohort study”, J Neurol. 2021 Mar;268(3):860-871. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-10208-8
  • “Cognition”. Lexico. Oxford University Press and Dictionary.com. Retrieved 3/25/2022
  • King, Chung. Theories on Hearing-Cognition Functions, The Hearing Journal Dec. 2018. V71.12 p10-12.
  • Naples, James, Hearing Loss may affect brain health, Harvard Health Blog, 31 Jan 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/hearing-loss-may-affect-brain-health-2020013118739
  • Tran, Yvonne, et al, “Co-occurring Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: A Dual Group-Based Trajectory Modeling Approach”, Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Dec 24;13:794787. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2021.794787. eCollection 2021

Ask the Expert Series

Audiologist Laura Rhee’s Insights on Fitting Children with Ponto Systems

We had the wonderful pleasure of talking with lead pediatric audiologist, Dr. Laura Rhee from Providence Speech and Hearing Center and CHOC of California, about her experience fitting Oticon Medical Ponto Systems.

Why do you choose to work with Oticon Medical’s Ponto family of bone conduction devices?

Dr. Rhee: “I recommend Oticon Medical bone conduction devices over other manufacturers because your devices tend to have far less feedback issues. I make very few adjustments during the fitting due to the lack of feedback. This gives my patients more access to sound without the annoyance of feedback or reduction in speech understanding.”

What do you like about the Oticon Medical Ponto fittings?

Dr. Rhee: “I really like how easy the Ponto devices are to fit. Typically, I don’t have to make many adjustments to programming. At my clinic, we pre-program sound processors to make fittings go smoothly. We counsel families about daily use, how to clean and handle the sound processor and accessories during a demonstration or consultation appointment. Pre-programming the sound processors frees up time for us to spend counseling the families, improving our clinical efficiency, and providing valuable information to the family without being rushed.”

What are some challenges you or your patients face with Oticon Medical Ponto fittings?

Dr. Rhee: “The hardest part of a new fitting is the softband. It’s important to have it (the softband) tight enough to get a good fitting but this can become uncomfortable or may need to be adjusted throughout the day. Very young children will often grab and pull the band off throughout the day requiring parents or caregivers to replace and reposition often I tell parents it’s important to maintain a consistent wearing schedule each day because it will help children adapt to the softband and provide consistent access to sound, which is crucial for developing language”.

What advice do you give parents that are just starting this journey with their child?

Dr. Rhee: “Use the processor all waking hours to stimulate auditory connections within the brain. If you don’t use the auditory nerve or pathway, your brain will reuse those neural connections for other senses. Keep your brain working using the processor consistently to help reduce listening fatigue and foster speech development.”

Final thoughts on reducing feedback in bone conduction hearing devices

One of the key takeaways from our discussion was the importance of reducing feedback (aka ‘whistling’ or ‘whining’ noise) that occurs when amplified sound is reflected from the head, reaches the microphone, and is re-amplified. If feedback is not eliminated by an anti-feedback system, it becomes audible to the user and others around them. With Oticon Medical’s OpenSound Optimizer™ (OSO), you aren’t compromising gain or volume due to feedback. This is especially important when working with pediatric patients, who are often in a car seat, highchair, or lying on their backs during playtime. And Oticon Medical’s OpenSound Optimizer does just that—prevents feedback and provides stable gain so that users can get the most out of their devices without compromising speech understanding.[1]

Helpful links for parents of Ponto wearers

Here are some links that may be helpful for parents who are in the process of getting their child an Oticon Medical bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) or families of children that are new to wearing a Ponto BAHS processor.

About our expert: Dr. Laura Rhee

Dr. Rhee obtained her audiology degree from San Diego State University and University of California San Diego and has been at Providence since 2014. She works with a wide variety of pediatric patients (zero to 21), including children with craniofacial disorders. She has treated children with atresia, Treacher Collins and other syndromes related to hearing loss.

[1] BC109 Study (Data on file)

A Nurse’s Journey to Better Hearing with Ponto 5 Mini

NICU nurse Christina shares her experience recovering from acoustic neuroma and finding the right treatment for her resulting single-sided deafness.

After my first medical mission trip to Guatemala in 2020, I came back to the states with a global pandemic starting and a constellation of symptoms that seemed to be getting worse that my doctor could not explain. It would not be until January of 2021 that I would learn a small brain tumor was responsible for my debilitating symptoms.

I was terrified and worried for my family. I am a single mom of two small children. My kids depend on me, and I am the sole income for my household. My job as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse requires full use of all my senses and this tumor was going to take my hearing, balance, and possibly more. I was worried about what my life would look like, not to mention the possibility of losing my life to the tumor itself.

In May of 2021, I flew from Atlanta, Georgia to California to have surgery with the specialists at University of California San Diego to remove the vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) that was growing on my cranial nerve. My recovery was hard, and unfortunately, they were not able to save my hearing. I was now completely deaf in one ear. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t hear in loud places. I had a strange feeling that there was just a huge black hole next to my deaf side. The doctors call it a head shadow, but it was more like a black hole to me.

Challenges of finding the right single-sided deafness treatment

Once I had physically recovered from surgery, my doctor back home wanted me to get a hearing device to use, and get used to, before returning to my work as a nurse. I initially got a loaner BiCROS hearing aid to try out from the hospital. Slowly, the black hole disappeared, but I was still concerned. Having to don so much gear to protect us and our patients from the Covid-19 virus, I worried my hearing aids would get in the way. I have to take masks on and off and put on sterile attire to enter surgical suites and found I would often get my hearing aids caught in my hair or in the straps of masks. I also had to remove one to be able to use my stethoscope. I knew there had to be something better.

My work in the NICU involves caring for the most vulnerable of all patients. Some weigh only 600g! A mistake can be devastating. I need to be able to hear the orders from providers, the heartbeat and lung sounds of my patients, and communicate with parents efficiently.

One of the first things we do when we get to work is receive a report from another nurse, which can be very stressful because of all the normal noises around us and the sound of everyone else giving reports at the same time. I also attend high-risk deliveries and codes, which are highly stressful and do not allow for any mistakes to be made. Communication needs to be clear and precise. Meanwhile, I still had difficulty hearing at work with my BiCROS—the amount of noise from alarms, vents, oxygen tanks, etc. would get scrambled into what I was trying to hear.

I had heard about bone anchored devices but was hesitant to go into surgery again, so I worked with the BiCROS system for three months. After doing some research, I decided the bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) would be a better choice for me and had heard many good things about the new Oticon Medical Ponto™ device, the Ponto 5 Mini. It was the newest device available, and its small size led me to believe it would work better for my needs. I also really liked the idea of putting it on in the morning and just not having to think about it for the rest of the day.

I scheduled my abutment placement. I did have concerns about my sensitive skin and having a reaction, but the Oticon Medical representatives were wonderful and answered all my questions and concerns. The placement itself was super easy, and I recovered really quickly. I even ran my first half-marathon two weeks after the placement of my abutment!

A new world of sound with Ponto 5 Mini

Getting my processor was amazing. I could hear so much more and clearer, but sound was strange at first—it was tinny, and difficult to sort out sounds. I thought maybe I had made a mistake and I got really down. Sometimes I would just turn my device off, but I had read somewhere that you need to constantly wear your device so that your brain can integrate the new sounds. So I used the theory of practice makes perfect and just continued to provide opportunities for my brain to sort out the sounds I was hearing.

I like the fact that with Bluetooth® compatibility, I can just connect to my devices and not have to juggle with a hearing aid and earbuds. They also are making stethoscopes that can connect directly via Bluetooth to my Ponto. I actually am able to listen better to my patients than my hearing counterparts at times.

I have to put surgical caps on to enter surgical suites, and the small size helps make this process a lot easier. I use the OpenSound Navigator™ feature a lot in the loud NICU especially when I am working the night shift. When I get tired, it is harder to sort out sounds, and this really helps during those times.

My hair nicely covers the processor so no one can see it. It’s not that I necessarily want to hide it, I just don’t want to give anyone any reason to question my abilities. On the other hand, if I want to share, I am able to, and sometimes showing a patient that you have a disability like they do and showing it as a super-power or special ability gives them an opportunity to see themselves in a different light.

I was really surprised how little I have to worry about feedback thanks to the OpenSound Optimizer.™ I was told that it would be a big issue, especially while wearing hats, but as long as the hat or surgical cap is loose-fitting, I really don’t have any problems.

It took almost two months, but I remember one day actually forgetting that I had my Ponto 5 Mini on and that I was deaf on one side. Something had clicked. Earlier, I had told the organizer of the medical mission trips that I would not be able to go this year because I was not sure I could help anyone due to my hearing loss. After that day though, I called him up and said, “Sign me up, I’m ready.” I have now completed my second medical mission trip to Guatemala personally helping hundreds of patients—none of whom had a clue that I once struggled with hearing.

I am the cool bionic mom to my kids! They are 10 and 12 and like to talk to their mom at the same time especially when they are excited about something. My Ponto 5 Mini helps me sort out their voices and hear what they are saying even when they talk over each other.

I want someone deciding whether to get a Ponto bone anchored hearing system to know that it takes time to adjust to your device. It’s not a magic button. Like anything, it takes practice and patience. The brain is amazing, and we are fortunate to have this technology. Just don’t give up!

#

This video was taken eight months post-craniotomy and two months post-BAHS implantation. My 10-year-old wanted to rock climb for his birthday, so of course I had to show them all up. I don’t wear the safety connection device, mostly because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. In the beginning of the video you can see where the rope hit the Ponto and it fell (not sure how high that is) a long, long way down. You can hear my kid’s Dad saying, “Something fell off” and my mom saying, “It’s her processor.”

Christina goes rock climbing with Ponto 5 Mini.

 Thank God there were pads underneath! I got down and clipped my processor back on and it works fine. Also, I’m an old lady so don’t judge my climbing skills (hey, I went higher than all the 10-year-olds!)

Ready to try a Ponto 5 Mini? Find a clinic near you!

Enjoying Music with Ponto

“Where words fail, music speaks.” —  Hans Christian Anderson

 Think of a favorite memory that involves music.

Perhaps it was when you attended an outdoor concert on a beautiful summer day with family and friends. Or that moment when you blasted your favorite song on the car radio with the windows down. What is it about hearing a certain song that can transport you back to a happy day in your life? Undoubtedly, music touches our hearts and minds in a way that few things can.

If you are someone with a hearing loss, music may sound different to you than it used to. Certain notes might sound flat. The lyrics of a song might be more difficult to identify. You might long to hear certain instruments in the orchestra again. Losing a connection to music is another hidden challenge presented by hearing loss presents.

In today’s world, hearing device users are fortunate to have access to technology that can make listening to music more enjoyable. If you use a Ponto™ device, let’s look at a few ways that your hearing care professional can optimize your processor to help make music sound better to you.

Ask your audiologist to make you a music program

Music is very different than speech. Music contains volume and pitch changes that don’t occur in conversational speech. A challenge for bone anchored hearing aid users is that, while their devices are designed to emphasize speech, those same pitch and volume enhancements needed to understand speech can interfere with music enjoyment.

A music program is designed to allow the hearing device to accept a wider range of frequencies and lessen noise reduction. In the Ponto 5 Mini, your clinician has access to a preset music program with settings that are guided by the latest research into listening to music through hearing devices. You can access your music program using the Oticon ON™ app paired to your smartphone by selecting it when listening to music. If you are a Ponto 3 SuperPower patient, your audiologist can create a music program that can be accessed with your Oticon Medical Streamer. If you haven’t tested a music program yet, ask your audiologist to create one for you at your next visit and listen to the difference.

Use your wireless accessories to stream music directly to your Ponto family device

Ponto hearing device users are fortunate to have access to a wealth of accessories that can help them enjoy music. Let’s talk about how you might use these wireless accessories. 

The ConnectClip

The ConnectClip™ is a multi-function accessory that is compatible with our Ponto 4 and Ponto 5 Mini devices. The ConnectClip is easily paired to your Ponto and a smartphone. You can use it to stream music from your favorite Spotify™ or Apple® Music playlist directly to your device. The music volume can be adjusted right on the ConnectClip for a hands-free listening experience.

The EduMic

The EduMic™ is widely known as a wireless accessory with educational benefits for pediatric patients. It is a one-to-many device that is capable of so much, including accepting a streaming signal from an FM transmitter in educational settings. But did you know that you can also use EduMic in “jack mode” to listen to music? If you want to enjoy music from a laptop or a wireless speaker that has a jack cable plug-in, you can plug in your EduMic and stream the audio directly to a Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini. The EduMic is shipped with the 3.5 mm jack cable required, so no need to shop for anything extra. As an added bonus, the EduMic is currently offered as one of the free accessory options for patients placing a new Ponto 5 Mini order.

The Oticon Medical Streamer

For our Ponto 3 SuperPower patients, you can use your connected Oticon Medical Streamer to link to a music system, either wirelessly using Bluetooth®, or a 3.5 mm jack cable if you prefer to plug in. Worn around the patient’s neck, the Oticon Medical Streamer also offers patients an entirely hands-free music listening experience in either mode.

Take note of assistive devices available to hearing device users

Many theaters and concert halls have a telecoil loop system that allows audio to be transmitted to a hearing device using the telecoil.  A loop system uses electromagnetic energy to transmit the audio from the venue to its patrons with hearing loss. Our Ponto 3 SuperPower patients can access their telecoil with the use of the Oticon Medical Streamer. The telecoil in the streamer picks up the electromagnetic energy that is transmitted from the loop system in the room, allowing the user to access the audio from the stage directly in their device. Simply pressing the “AUX” button on the lower right side of the streamer for two seconds will activate the telecoil feature.  If you are a Ponto 5 Mini patient using the EduMic, you can use its telecoil mode to stream the telecoil signal from a theater or music venue. The next time you are seeing a concert or a play in a live theater, be sure to ask whether it is “looped”.

Enjoy music with your Ponto bone anchored hearing system

Thanks to the advanced technology in Oticon Medical devices and wireless accessories, bone anchored hearing device users have more options than ever when it comes to music enjoyment. Be sure to visit your audiologist to learn more about how you can take advantage of the options available to you.

About the author

Courtney Smith, M.A., CCC/A, is the Clinical Trainer for Oticon Medical. She in in her 19th year of practicing audiology. She has practiced in private practice and university hospital settings in Las Vegas, NV. She completed her training at the University of Iowa in 2003.

Ponto 5 Mini Informational Webinar

Are you thinking of upgrading your current processor? Do you want to learn more about Ponto 5 Mini? Now is your chance!​

We are excited to share this upcoming informational opportunity with you!

We cordially invite you to join us for an exciting Ponto 5 Mini™ informational webinar on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. This one-hour webinar, co-hosted by Oticon Medical Clinical Audiologist Carissa Moeggenberg, MA, CCC-A and Ponto 5 Mini Product Manager Michael Piskosz, MS, will introduce you to the features and benefits of our latest process, the Ponto 5 Mini, and discuss how this new technology could benefit you, our valued bone anchored hearing system wearers. We will also review how to initiate the insurance verification process for an upgrade, and what you should expect during this process, plus you’ll hear from one of our Ponto 5 Mini wearers directly about their experiences wearing the device so far.

For your convenience, we are offering this webinar at two different times:

  • 12pm Eastern Standard Time
  • 7pm Eastern Standard Time

To register for your preferred time, please use this Ponto 5 Mini informational webinar registration link. We hope to see you at one of the sessions, and encourage you to share this opportunity with anyone in your family, friends, or community network who might benefit from our latest bone anchored hearing technology!

In the meantime, please visit our website for more information about the Ponto 5 Mini.

Auditory Rehabilitation: The Importance of Developing your Listening Skills

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your quality of life. For some people it can impact social interactions, work environment, and even activities that you used to find to be relaxing and enjoyable. The purpose of this blog post is to help you to understand that you are not alone in this journey. Depending on the type and degree of hearing loss you experience, bone anchored hearing systems along with aural rehabilitation, may help you to reduce your listening effort.

Learning to listen

Did you know that we listen with our brains rather than our ears? If you are someone experiencing hearing loss, your brain may not be getting the auditory stimulation it needs to be able to understand and comprehend speech information. Therefore, the first step in learning to listen is to make sure your brain is getting access to the sound it needs. The best way to ensure this is to work with your hearing healthcare professional to determine the type and degree of hearing loss you have and how to best treat it.

Sometimes we need more

Of course, many different factors influence outcomes with your hearing devices. One of those factors could be that your brain needs to re-learn how to listen and understand. Just like your hip might need rehabilitation if you hurt it, your brain may need some listening rehabilitation to reduce listening fatigue and improve overall understanding. We call this aural rehabilitation. You may also hear it referred to as “AR”.

What is aural rehabilitation?

Aural rehabilitation allows individuals experiencing hearing loss to learn how to use their technology and other resources to improve speech understanding, listening effort, and overall communication. According to Arthur Boothroyd[1], there are four components of aural rehabilitation:

  1. Sensory management: Treatment of the hearing loss.
  2. Instruction: Learning how to use your devices to best serve you in many different listening environments.
  3. Perceptual training: Learning how to listen and process sound through targeted therapy either provided in-person or via virtual platform.
  4. Counseling: Understanding realistic expectations.

The goal of aural rehabilitation is to improve quality of life by teaching the listener (you) how to reduce listening effort.  By reducing listening effort, you can experience improved listening stamina and even improvements in understanding when listening in different environments.

What are some benefits to doing aural rehabilitation?

Let’s face it, we are all busy. We have errands to run, kids to pick up, grandkids to play with, and Netflix® to binge! So, why put in the effort? Aural rehabilitation has been proven to improve listening outcomes from a reduction in the perception of hearing difficulties to an improvement in quality-of-life. Aural rehab can really help you to get the most out of your hearing technology.

When is the best time to start aural rehabilitation?

While research indicates that aural rehabilitation provides the most benefit within the first three months post device fit (Dornhoffer et al, 2021)[2], some form of aural rehabilitation can be beneficial to all individuals with hearing loss at any point during their hearing healthcare journey. The best time to start is now!

There are many ways in which you can pursue the different forms of aural rehabilitation. In addition to in-person therapy sessions, AR includes the use of any assistive technologies or accessories, support from friends and family, as well as training tools to help you to feel more confident no matter the listening environment. Some of these training methods include in-person therapy sessions, online training materials provided by various manufacturers, and even different phone applications that can support your hearing and listening journey. The best way for you to have an experience tailored to your needs is to discuss these therapy options with your hearing healthcare professional, so that they can determine the best ways to ensure that you have the resources you need to be successful.

About the author‌

Alicia Wooten, Au.D. CCC-A is a Senior Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She specializes in implantable hearing devices and has a strong passion for aural rehabilitation and its impact on patient outcomes.

[1] Boothroyd, A. (2007). Adult Aural Rehabilitation: What Is It and Does It Work? Trends in Amplification, 11(2), 63-71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1084713807301073

[2] Dornhoffer, J. R., Reddy, P., Ma, C., Schvartz-Leyzac, K. C., Dubno, J. R., & McRackan, T. R. (2021). Use of Auditory Training and Its Influence on Early Cochlear Implant Outcomes in Adults. Otology & Neurotology43(2), e165–e173. https://doi.org/10.1097/mao.0000000000003417

 

Exploring A Bone Conduction Solution for Better Hearing

Six Tips to Consider

Congratulations on making an appointment with a hearing care professional (HCP)! This is an important step in your bone conduction hearing journey. If you’re a bit anxious or concerned about the appointment, check out these six tips to help you feel more prepared and confident. (And remember, you’ve already done the hard part.)

Tip #1: Think about what you need and want

Besides overall improved hearing, what do you want to get out of this appointment and from a Ponto bone anchored hearing system (BAHS)?  Do you have trouble hearing conversations? Do you struggle hearing in noise? Do you need hearing help at work, school, or on a smartphone? Consider writing down a list of situations in which you seem to struggle with your hearing the most. Understanding your personal needs and hearing goals will help your HCP fit a Ponto BAHS and select an accessory that works best for you.

Tip #2:  Download the Ponto Care App

The Ponto Care™ app is a mobile self-help tool that provides guidance while you are trying out a bone anchored sound processor. It allows you to get the most out of your trial and make an informed decision whether bone conduction hearing is right for you. It does that by guiding you through different listening situations in your daily life and letting you rate and comment on them. Once you have done the ratings, you can easily share them with your hearing care professional and discuss them at your next visit, whether that takes place in person or remotely.

The Ponto Care app is compatible with both iPhone® and Android™ and can be downloaded for free from the App® Store or Google Play™. The app does not require any login. For more information about the Ponto Care App and Oticon Medical visit Oticon Medical Ponto Care app.

Tip #3: Connect with other Ponto Users

Hearing what others have to say about their experience and their advice who have been in your shoes is invaluable! One easy way to get started is inside the Ponto Care app under Information. There are video and written testimonials by Ponto users that you can easily access to check out what others have to say about their Ponto experience. We can also connect you with an Oticon Medical Ponto Advocate. Simply contact Oticon Medical today or call 888-277-8014.

Another way to connect is by Following our Oticon Medical Facebook Page. Here you can chat with Ponto users, as well as read interesting posts and short articles.

Tip #4: Bring your medical records

Make a list of your medications and gather your medical records. Your HCP may allow you to fill out intake forms in advance – check their website or call the office to find out. Otherwise, ensure you bring this information to your appointment. Certain medications can cause hearing loss, and your HCP should see your full medical picture. If you have changed medications since your last appointment, let your HCP know. The medical records you will want to bring include previous hearing tests, other hearing devices worn, prior ear surgeries, and/or imaging scans of your ear.

Tip #5: Performance testing and questionnaires

It’s important to evaluate how you do with a Ponto hearing device during your trial and before any decisions are made. We encourage you to ask your HCP to evaluate your performance in noise with the Ponto sound processor Additionally, they may ask you to complete a questionnaire about your subjective feedback regarding the overall sound quality of the device. This information will help your HCP identify areas that are important for further discussion.

Tip #6: Bring a buddy

Take a trusted family member or friend along with you to your appointment. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember everything while the hearing care professional is testing your hearing and providing information. Having a friend on hand to take notes or ask follow-up questions on your behalf can be invaluable. They can also pick up on details you might miss, and help you weigh the pros and cons of various hearing solutions.

Again, congratulations on beginning your journey toward good hearing health!

About the Author

Gail Leininger, Au.D., CCC-A is an audiologist who has worked with implantable technologies for over twenty years. She is an Auditory Technical Specialist for Oticon Medical.

Ponto Care™ app compatibility

System and software requirements: Apple® devices: iOS 11 or later. Android™ devices: Android OS 8.0 or later.

To download the Ponto Care™ app, go to the App Store® or Google Play™ and search for Oticon Medical or “Ponto Care”.

Data privacy

When you use the Ponto Care™ app, you have the option of emailing a document with your name, ratings, comments and app usage period (report) to your clinical personnel.

If you choose to send a report, we will temporarily store the report and the clinical personnel contact details for the sole purpose of sending the report. We will not keep any of your personal data or the clinic personnel contact details.

For further details, please see our privacy policy

 

Masked Communication for the Hard of Hearing

Better hearing during the pandemic

Imagine this scenario: You are in the grocery store paying for your groceries. The grocery store employee behind the counter is wearing a face mask and working behind a plastic shield. The person asks you a question.

You have absolutely no idea what they said.

The lip reading cues you once used to help you understand a message? Gone.

The facial expressions that once helped you when you were in a bind? Disappeared.

Do you:

  • Nod and attempt a smile under your own mask?
  • Shrug in embarrassment?
  • Ask them to repeat?
  • Answer a completely different question than the one you were asked?

If you’ve been living on this planet for the last two years, you have probably lived through some version of this experience at one point or another. Face masks have become an essential part of keeping ourselves and others safe and healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. For people also living with hearing loss, the introduction of face masks, shields, and protective glass have formed another barrier to communication, making it more difficult than ever to understand a conversation

 Strategies we can all use to communicate better in the “mask era”

While we wait for the world to get back to normal, let’s learn about some communication strategies that we can all implement to make masked communication easier during the pandemic.

Ask your audiologist to design a Mask Mode program for you.

Researchers have done studies that have helped us understand how a mask impedes speech understanding and ways that audiologists can alleviate that situation. We know that certain face masks can reduce high frequency sounds by as much as 5-15 dB. Fortunately, advances in bone anchored hearing aid technology have made this problem easier than ever to solve. An audiologist can go into the software and create a specialized “Mask Mode” program for their patients that emphasizes the high frequency sounds that masking tends to reduce, adding emphasis to certain speech cues that are important for clarity and understanding. A Ponto™ patient can even name the program in the Connectline™ app or the Oticon ON™ app “Mask Program” and go to that program setting with a quick press of  the button when in need of a clarity boost.

Talk to your audiologist about designing a Mask Mode program for you to improve your communication performance during the pandemic.

Check your mask.

Studies show that certain types of face masks make hearing more difficult. Research out of the University of Illinois shows that single-use surgical masks and KN95 respirator masks both dampened sound the least (approximately 5 dB) compared to cloth masks. The disposable mask or KN95 mask will allow more high frequency information through, thus improving speech clarity. You may consider selecting a disposable face mask if you will be communicating with someone who has a hearing loss.

Consider a clear mask.

A clear mask is a type of mask with a clear window in front of your mouth. These masks make hearing and understanding speech easier because they provide access to visual cues and allow access to lip reading. Several companies are currently making high quality clear masks that are available for purchase. Try a quick Google search and you will find many options for places to purchase this type of protective face mask.

Advocate for yourself.

If you are someone with a hearing loss, don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are speaking to someone wearing a face mask and you don’t catch the full message, try saying something like, “I’m sorry, can you rephrase that? I have a hearing loss and I’m having difficulty understanding what you’re saying.” The person you are conversing with will understand your situation and gain empathy. They will have a chance to shift their communication style to one that suits you better, whether by speaking more slowly and clearly, raising their vocal effort slightly, or reducing noise in the room to improve your chances  of understanding them successfully.

Additional communications strategies to try.

If you are having difficulty understanding someone, your first instinct might be to say, “What?” or “Huh?”. Repeated use of these words can make dialogue frustrating. Instead, try to ask your communication partner to rephrase their message. Here are a few examples:

  • “Can you add more detail for me?”
  • “I heard you say _______ but didn’t quite catch the rest. Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Can you say that sentence in a different way?”
  • “I heard you say ________. Can you elaborate on that point a bit more?”

Using these ideas for gathering more information will help the conversation flow and give you more opportunities to understand the message.

Online resources for bone anchored hearing support

Connecting with other Ponto users online can help provide you with support as you face the many challenges that the pandemic brings to daily life.

Oticon Medical Ponto Users | Facebook

Our Ponto Users Facebook group is an excellent tool for communication and collaboration with other Ponto users. During this time of pandemic isolation, remember that Oticon Medical has an expansive network of bone anchored hearing system users who are ready to share resources and discussion.

Oticon Medical BAHS Users Support Group | Facebook

Our BAHS support group is another useful way to connect to other bone anchored device users to discuss tips, stories, and ways to get the most out of your device.

Patient helpline (oticonmedical.com)

If you have a clinical question but you aren’t able to make it in to see your audiologist, Oticon Medical’s patient support team is available to answer any question you might have. Use the link above to access a wealth of knowledge from our support team, or call (888) 277-8014 during the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

About the Author

Courtney Smith is the Clinical Trainer at Oticon Medical. She practiced audiology in both medical and private practice settings in Las Vegas, NV. She has experience working with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bone anchored solutions for adults and pediatrics. She completed her training at the University of Iowa in 2003.

IFTTT: How Ponto Users Benefit from If This Then That

When you see the acronym IFTTT, don’t be alarmed or intimidated. It stands for If This Then That. It is a great way to connect your apps and notifications in one spot, which is why Oticon Medical has joined the revolution and incorporated it into our Ponto™ bone anchored hearing systems, starting with the Ponto 4 and now the Ponto 5 Mini. This expanding internet-based cloud service enables you to link together a range of products and solutions that otherwise have nothing to do with each other.

Currently, there are between 400 and 500 products and services that have a channel on IFTTT. It is free to the user while companies pay to be part of the ecosystem. “Applets” are the key to making the connections happen and have been created to provide little pieces of automated instructions that both user and company can create. Not to worry—the app is designed to walk you through connecting your devices to the Oticon ON™ app and allows you to customize your Ponto notifications to your liking.

Why are we talking about IFTTT?

The IFTTT protocol allows notifications to be sent to your Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini processor. However, there are some requirements. The first one we already mentioned—you need to have a Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini processor that directly connects to the Oticon ON app with an internet connection. This of course requires you to have a smartphone with the Oticon ON app, which can be found in the Apple App Store® or Google Play™ Store. When you are connected with an Apple iPhone® 5 or newer model, the notification will be sent directly to your Ponto processor. This is considered the Play text to speech process in the applets. If you would like to connect with your Android™ device, you would need a ConnectClip™ in order for the notifications to be sent to your Ponto processor.

How to get started?

Once you have those connections established to the ON app, you will need to set up an IFTTT account. This can easily be done by downloading the app and following the prompts. You can use an email account or your AppleID® account to start. Again, the best part is that it is free!

What do you do once you have established the account?

An applet can be chosen on the app or created for an If This…Then That connection. This will allow you to receive notification from different internet-enabled devices. For instance, if you have a video doorbell, the process will work as follows:

  • Someone rings the internet-connected doorbell
  • A message to IFTTT is triggered via the internet
  • IFTTT sends a message to your Oticon ON app on the smartphone
  • The ON App triggers the voice message picked by the Ponto 4 or 5 Mini (in this case, “someone is at the front door”)

To set this up, you would begin by creating the “If This,” which would be your video doorbell. You may choose a trigger, such as motion or a new ring of the doorbell detected. Once selected, you would then select a “Then That,” which in this case would probably be the Oticon ON app’s Play text to speech (note: works with the direct streaming to iPhone, but Android users can also take advantage of this feature when using the ConnectClip.). Once finished, the notification would go directly to your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini processor.

Another great way to utilize this technology would be when the Oticon ON app detects your battery is low. This is especially helpful for parents of young wearers, because the app could have a preset instruction to ping the IFTTT network when your child has a low battery. The IFTTT network could then look at the created instruction or applet and automatically send you, a teacher, or a babysitter a text message wherever you or they might be.

What can IFTTT connect?

There are hundreds of app and smart devices for which you can create IFTTT applets—the possibilities are endless. For instance, having an internet-connected sound processor means being able to turn on a kitchen appliance when turning on your device (coffee, anyone?) in the morning or your house lights based on GPS information.

How will my information be used?

This process runs through your Oticon ON app; therefore, all the data is yours. IFTTT does not store or use your information. You will be asked to log into your internet-enabled device when creating the applets in IFTTT. However, there is no storage of data, because it is simply a messaging device connecting the system together.

For more privacy information, please refer to the Oticon ON app privacy policy (Oticon.com), Privacy policy – IFTTT, and Oticon Medical privacy-policy.

Now you are ready to connect your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini to any internet-enabled device with IFTTT and the Oticon ON app!

About the author

Nicole Maxam, AuD, CCC-A serves as an Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She has been an audiologist for over 16 years with experience in implantable technologies.

Enjoying Life with the New Ponto 5 Mini

Sandi Arcus is a Dispensing Audiologist in Nevada. Born with single-sided deafness (SSD), she has always had a passion for helping others who are hard of hearing. She started her career in Pennsylvania as an audiologist in a busy ENT office, then in private practice. She currently works at an audiology clinic in Henderson, NV. Sandi holds a Master of Science degree in Audiology from Bloomsburg University, is a Fellow with the American Academy of Audiology, and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

As both an expert in hearing health and someone with first-hand experience in hearing loss, Sandi kindly offered to share her opinion about her new PontoTM 5 Mini bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) from Oticon Medical.

Sandi Arcus Tests Out Ponto 5 Mini

I decided to upgrade from my previous Ponto processor, because I’m always curious about new technology and fascinated by small instruments making big improvements in sound quality. I’ve been particularly impressed by the following Ponto 5 Mini features:

  • With the OpenSound Navigator™, I can hear speech better in a noisy restaurant, car, and wind. There is a noted improvement from the previous model.
  • I never had too much of a feedback issue, but now with the OpenSound Optimizer™, it’s even less. Now that I think about it, I haven’t heard any feedback!
  • The RemoteCare option is a great tool for follow-up care. Very convenient.

While the previous model already did a great job of making it easier to hear and understand speech in noisy environments,  I’ve noted that with Ponto 5 Mini, it takes less effort to hear speech in difficult listening situations, which means less frustration.

The Ponto 5 Mini definitely supports my busy life!!  It’s small yet powerful!!! I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and people around me notice that as well. It makes me feel that I am doing the very best that I can do to hear the very best that I can hear! I feel more confident going into difficult listening situations.  I’m less concerned and anxious that I will miss something.

If someone is considering whether to get their first Ponto 5 Mini or upgrading from their current BAHS, I want to tell you that you don’t know what you are missing until you try it. It’s the little sounds that I thought I was hearing “well enough”—it became more apparent that I had not been hearing them “well enough” after all. It enhances the sounds around me enough to sound closer to “normal” and greatly reduces my listening effort. Give Ponto 5 Mini a try!