Tag Archives: tips

Tips for Traveling Safely this Summer with Your Ponto

Since many of you will be traveling this summer, we want to share this updated post of tips for traveling with your Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system (BAHS). Even when not traveling, you might want to download the MRI Safety Security card just to have on hand, in case you find yourself in need of an MRI scan.

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Airport and TSA security

It is important to advise the TSA agent prior to going through the security or x-ray process that you have an implantable device. At this time, you may consider handing or showing them your MRI Safety Security card. If you don’t have a card or can’t find it, you can download the MRI Safety Card from our website. Cards are available there in different languages, along with other helpful informational materials. We recommend printing or saving the card to your phone prior to travel.

As you prepare for your trip, another great resource to check out is Oticon Medical’s Tips and Tricks section of the website.  In this section you will find information and advice on everyday activities with your Ponto system.

Additional Ponto device and abutment safety considerations

The abutment is made from titanium and safe to go through the metal detector or x-ray machine. Since titanium is weakly magnetic, the security system’s alarm will most likely not go off. However, it is still a good idea and important to let the TSA agent know ahead of time about your Ponto and implant in the event that additional screening is necessary after your initial pass through the x-ray process.

As for your Ponto processor, since it does contain a magnet, this may set off an alarm. We always recommend that when exposed to medical-strength x-ray you remove your processor to prevent damage. However, TSA screenings have low dose x-ray exposure and are safe to move through. So, if you forget to take it off there is no harm, but you may set off the alarm as the Ponto processor contains metal.

If you choose to take off your Ponto processor, simply put it in a case with the battery door open and in a TSA container for the belt screening, as you do your other carry-on items. This is safe for the processor and will not cause damage.

Items to bring on a trip with your Ponto processor

When traveling with your Ponto, you want to make sure you have packed all your equipment and extra supplies. It is a good idea to bring extra batteries, your wireless accessories, and the appropriate cables for charging them. Consider charging your accessories the night or day before you leave to ensure you can use them while traveling.

It is also important to pack your Ponto Care Kit for cleaning the abutment. Daily care of the abutment site will help guarantee you can use your Ponto BAHS throughout your travels. Abutment cleaning is especially important if you are swimming. Remember, your Ponto processor is not waterproof! If you need a new dry aid kit or Ponto Care Kit, don’t worry; contact your local Oticon Medical Customer Service department and have supplies sent directly to your home.

You can also have Ponto-related information at your fingertips by downloading the Oticon Medical Ponto Care™ App to your smartphone, so you can travel with ease and peace of mind. Remember to also store your audiologist’s or clinic’s office information in your phone or have it written in your care kit in case you have questions–or contact your local Oticon Medical office.

Finally, if you are traveling somewhere hot, you should remember not to leave your Ponto sound processor, wireless accessories, or batteries out in extreme weather elements. For example, if you leave your Ponto sound processor on the car dashboard in extreme heat, it could damage the device.

Here’s a quick checklist of the items we discussed. Enjoy your travels, wherever they may take you!

Helpful site to review prior to travel:

Disabilities and Medical Conditions | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov). Choose External Medical Devices and/or the Implants/internal medical devices for more advice.

 

What You Need to Know About Zinc-Air Batteries

Zinc-air batteries, like the ones we use in our Oticon Medical Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system, are effective and powerful, but only when used correctly. Many wearers don’t know all the in-and-outs of maximizing their battery life leading to frustratingly short spans between replacing batteries and other issues. For instance, did you know:

  • Zinc-air batteries require air exposure to function (hence the “air” in the name)
  • As soon as you remove the tab over the airholes, the battery activates. So if you pull off the tab and leave it lying around for hours, days, or longer, the battery will run out of charge before you even put it into your device
  • After you remove the tab, you should wait five minutes before inserting into your device so it fully activates and provides all the voltage of which it is capable for as long as possible
  • Sealed zinc-air batteries typically last approximately two years if stored correctly. This means keeping them at an optimal room temperature of no higher than 77º degrees F and no lower than 50º degrees F, in a dry environment. Note that storing them in the refrigerator will not extend their life—in fact, it will very likely damage them beyond usability
  • You should not carry your batteries around loose, as clanging against other metallic objects can damage them (e.g., coins, car keys, etc.)

If you find yourself in need of more batteries, you can order them directly from us! Please contact our Customer Service Team at 888.277.8014 (Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm ET) or send an email request to [email protected] anytime. Make sure you include your Ponto model (Ponto 4, Ponto 5 Mini, Ponto 5 SP) in your email so we send you the correct battery size for your device.

Members of Oticon Medical Friends can also order online via the Online Shop. Click here to register: Register to Use Online Shop

Hearing Tips to Make Sure Everyone Enjoys the Holidays

It’s that time of year again, when you join family and friends to celebrate the holidays. But if you are hard of hearing, it might be a challenge to enjoy the hustle and bustle fully. A noisy dinner conversation can leave you exhausted by the effort spent trying to understand what everyone is saying.

With that in mind, we’d like to share some tips to help make communication easier and the season more enjoyable for everyone regardless of hearing ability. We encourage you to share these with your loved ones, so that they know how to make you feel fully included this season, and all year ’round.

Face the person to whom you are speaking

Ensure that someone with hearing loss can see your face. The visual cues will help them understand any words they might have missed.

Minimize background noise

Turn off the TV during mealtime. Lower the volume on any music playing in the background or turn it off entirely.

Make sure the room is well-lit

This makes it easier for the hard-of-hearing person to read lips and see facial expressions and body language around the room.

Get the individual’s attention before speaking

Say the name of the person to whom you are speaking first or gently tap their arm. Once you have their attention, begin speaking and you are likelier to be heard and understood.

Speak slowly and clearly

Annunciate each word and don’t speak so quickly that your words all run together.

Don’t just repeat – rephrase 

If the person you are speaking to says, “What?” or otherwise indicates they didn’t hear what you said, don’t just repeat the same thing more loudly, try saying it a different way. Typically, the issue the person has understanding you is not volume, but clarity.

Oticon Medical’s OpenSound Navigator can make hearing easier

Oticon Medical has developed OpenSound Navigator™ as a method of noise reduction and it can help you participate more fully in conversations around your holiday dinner table. In this situation, you want to hear the conversation, regardless of its direction. OpenSound Navigator seamlessly adjusts to your environment and reduces the effort it takes to hear.

Talk to your audiologist about creating a program in your Ponto™ 5 Mini or Ponto 5 SuperPower sound processor that utilizes OpenSound Navigator and enjoy the difference it makes this season. Additionally, you can hand a paired ConnectClip™ to a friend or relative across the table. Their voice can be streamed directly into your Ponto 5 device from up to 65 feet away!

            Oticon Medical wishes you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!

Traveling with Your Ponto Bone Anchored Hearing System

Since we are in the midst of the busiest travel season of the year again, it seems like a good time to reshare this blog post. Even when not traveling, you might want to download the MRI Safety Security card just to have on hand, in case you ever find yourself in need of an MRI scan.

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As the holiday season begins, so does the opportunity for travel. If you are traveling this season, here are a few things to consider if you have a Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system (BAHS).

Airport and TSA security

It is important to advise the TSA agent prior to going through the security or x-ray process that you have an implantable device. At this time, you may consider handing or showing them your MRI Safety Security card. If you don’t have a card or can’t find it, you can download the MRI Safety Card from our website. Cards are available there in different languages, along with other helpful informational materials. We recommend printing or saving the card to your phone prior to travel.

As you prepare for your trip, another great resource to check out is Oticon Medical’s Tips and Tricks section of the website.  In this section you will find information and advice on everyday activities with your Ponto system.

Additional Ponto device and abutment safety considerations

The abutment is made from titanium and safe to go through the metal detector or x-ray machine. Since titanium is weakly magnetic, the security system’s alarm will most likely not go off. However, it is still a good idea and important to let the TSA agent know ahead of time about your Ponto and implant in the event that additional screening is necessary after your initial pass through the x-ray process.

As for your Ponto processor, since it does contain a magnet, this may set off an alarm. We always recommend that when exposed to medical-strength x-ray you remove your processor to prevent damage. However, TSA screenings have low dose x-ray exposure and are safe to move through. So, if you forget to take it off there is no harm, but you may set off the alarm as the Ponto processor contains metal.

If you choose to take off your Ponto processor, simply put it in a case with the battery door open and in a TSA container for the belt screening, as you do your other carry-on items. This is safe for the processor and will not cause damage.

Items to bring on a trip with your Ponto processor

When traveling with your Ponto, you want to make sure you have packed all your equipment and extra supplies. It is a good idea to bring extra batteries, your wireless accessories, and the appropriate cables for charging them. Consider charging your accessories the night or day before you leave to ensure you can use them while traveling.

It is also important to pack your Ponto Care Kit for cleaning the abutment. Daily care of the abutment site will help guarantee you can use your Ponto BAHS throughout your travels. Abutment cleaning is especially important if you are swimming. Remember, your Ponto processor is not waterproof! If you need a new dry aid kit or Ponto Care Kit, don’t worry; simply register with  Oticon Medical Friends to order from the Online Store and have supplies sent directly to your home.

You can also have Ponto-related information at your fingertips by downloading the Oticon Medical Ponto Care™ App to your smartphone, so you can travel with ease and peace of mind. Remember to also store your audiologist’s or clinic’s office information in your phone or have it written in your care kit in case you have questions. You can also contact Oticon Medical Auditory Technical Services for any questions regarding your Ponto sound processor.  We are available Monday – Friday, 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time.

Finally, if you are traveling somewhere very warm or cold, you should remember not to leave your Ponto sound processor, wireless accessories, or batteries out in extreme weather elements. For example, if you leave your Ponto sound processor on the car dashboard in extreme heat, it could damage the device. Also, if the batteries are left in extremely cold temperatures, they might freeze and have a shorter lifespan.

Oticon Medical wishes you and your loved ones a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

Here’s a quick checklist of the items we discussed. Enjoy your travels, wherever they may take you!

  • MRI safety/security card
  • Extra batteries
  • Carrying case
  • Wireless accessories
  • Charging cables for accessories
  • Ponto Care Kit
  • Your audiologist’s office contact information
  • Oticon Medical Contact Information: 888-277-8014 or [email protected]
  • Download our Oticon Medical Ponto Care App

Helpful site to review prior to travel:

Disabilities and Medical Conditions | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov)

(Choose External Medical Devices and/or the Implants/internal medical devices for more advice.)

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.

Protecting Your Hearing and How to Maintain Good Hearing Health

Sounds are everywhere and often louds sounds are signs of a good time. But how do we participate in the fun while also protecting our hearing now and for the future?

Beyond Independence Day, July is a month filled with fireworks displays. It is important for us to think about not only the loud booms we hear from fireworks, but noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a broader epidemic.

Variables in noise-induced hearing loss

NIHL can be caused by long-term exposure to loud sounds, or in some cases, short, loud blasts. This type of hearing loss can be transient or persistent. The hearing loss may present itself immediately or it may take many years to show up on a hearing test. And while it often happens to both ears, it could affect just one ear. While NIHL can present itself in many different forms and may be the result of many different types of exposures, it is almost always preventable.

What kinds of sounds can damage our hearing?

Sound is measured in units called decibels. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, sounds softer than 70 dBA are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, sounds that are at or above 85 dBA can[1].

An intense one-time exposure to a loud sound, such an explosion or a jet engine, can cause a sudden change in hearing. Whereas slow exposure to loud sounds over time, such as a loud work environment, loud music, and loud recreational activities, may also cause hearing loss.

Noises are more likely to cause damage if they are 85 dBA for a few hours, 100 dBA for 14 minutes or longer, or 110 dBA for 2 minutes. This is a startling realization when we consider some examples of sounds that may be louder than we think!

  • Movie theater: 74-104 dBA
  • Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80-110 dBA
  • Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts: 94-110 dBA
  • Sirens: 110-129 dBA
  • Fireworks show: 140-160 dBA

According to Noisy Planet, if the noise causes you to yell to be able to hear yourself, the noise hurts your ears, or your ears are ringing during or after the noise exposure, chances are it is too loud[2].

Why do loud sounds cause hearing loss?

You may be aware that there are three parts to the ear: the outer (the part we can see plus the ear canal), the middle (where the three smallest bones in our body are), and the inner (where thousands of tiny hair cells live). Those little hair cells, the stereocilia, are responsible for stimulating the hearing nerve, which then tells our brains what we hear. This video from the National Institutes of Health further explains how the ear works.

When we expose the stereocilia to noise, they eventually die off. When those hair cells die off, there is nothing left to stimulate the nerve anymore. Interestingly, in the case of noise exposure, this often impacts your hearing at 4000 Hz on a hearing test first before you notice a change in the rest of your hearing.

How can we protect our hearing from loud sounds?

First and foremost, turn them down. If you cannot control the volume, remove yourself from the environment. If you must be around the sound, wear hearing protective earplugs or earmuffs. It is also helpful to have regular hearing tests to ensure that you are aware of your hearing health status. Finally, make others aware of how loud sounds are. Sure, we all like a good time, but if you are attending a loud concert, bring extra earplugs for your friends.

We at Oticon Medical encourage you to have a good time celebrating throughout the summer, but please remember to protect your hearing during this year’s fireworks shows, at concerts, and other loud events!

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 supporting individuals with hearing loss.

References

[1] NIH (2018). Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. [online] NIDCD. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss

[2] It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing. (n.d.). How Loud Is Too Loud? [online] Available at: https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/publications/how-loud-is-too-loud#:~:text=Here%20are%20some%20rules%20of%20thumb%20to%20tell

Humidity Issues and How to Combat Them

As the summer months arrive, so does the hot, humid weather. You may want to consider how this can affect the function of your Ponto™ processor.

Your processor is vulnerable to environmental changes like increased humidity in the air or condensation caused by moving between air-conditioned interiors and extreme heat outside.  While the Ponto 5 family of processors have an IP rating of 57 when the battery is in the processor, it is still important to consider ways to minimize exposure or combat the effects of moisture.

Warning signs of moisture issues include the following:

  • Your processor’s sounds are distorted or staticky
  • Your processor works intermittently or cuts in and out
  • You see corrosion in the battery compartment or around the battery
  • You feel that your batteries are not lasting as long as they normally do

 Can you help prevent moisture issues?

You can start by developing good processor cleaning and care habits. If the processor comes into contact with sweat, rain, or moisture, wipe it with a clean, dry cloth. The Ponto Care™ app, available for iPhone® and Android™ users, provides helpful information on the proper care and maintenance of your device. For example, avoid storing your processor in the bathroom where it could be affected by humidity from showers or baths.

How can I help reduce moisture that may be in my Ponto?

Drying systems are an easy and effective way to reduce moisture that may accumulate in your processor due to normal usage, rain, or living in areas with high humidity.

There are two main types of systems. The first is considered passive; this uses desiccant, much like the packs that you find in vitamin bottles. These are typically called, “jar dryers” and contain the desiccant beads that can be “recharged” by putting them in the oven or microwave. You simply put the processor in the jar without a battery and close the lid. Jar dryers are great for travel, camping or when you do not want to use electricity.

The second type is an active dehumidifier. This type also has a desiccant pack or puck but adds in a fan to circulate air. These “box dryer” systems can also have a UV-C light that acts as a germicide. Box dryers more aggressively reduce moisture from your Ponto processor. Again, you can put your processor in the dryer without a battery and turn the dryer on. The box dryer will typically run through a cycle that lasts between 6-8 hours. You can feel comfortable using these types of drying systems every night and as your storage case overnight.

Use your bone anchored hearing system all summer long

Wherever your adventures take you this summer, make sure your Ponto processor keeps up with you by following some simple care and maintenance steps. With a little care and common sense, you can continue enjoying the sounds you love regardless of the season.

About the author

Nicole Maxam, AuD CCC-A is part of the Auditory Technical Services team at Oticon Medical. She has been an audiologist for over 17 years and has experience with providing patients with hearing aids and implantable solutions.

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.

The Holidays are for Hearing

Families are gathering. Holidays plans are made. You are heading out on a road trip to see the grandkids. The house is bustling with the sounds of the holidays. Children are laughing, and the dinner conversations are lively. It’s time to join with your family around a festive holiday table to celebrate the season and the start of a new year.

For people with hearing loss, these joyous moments can also bring a host of challenges. A noisy dinner conversation can leave a person with hearing loss feeling tired from the effort they have to spend to understand the message. The dinner table is noisy and voices sound muffled from a distance. Important conversations are missed. These challenges can cause isolation and exhaustion for someone with hearing loss.

Oticon Medical has focused on these challenging situations to present patients with device programming and accessory options that improve communication and quality of life. Our accessories, paired with good communication practices, can positively impact interactions with users of our product portfolio. Here are some communication strategies that we can all practice throughout the holidays that will help make communication easier and the season more enjoyable for people with hearing loss.

How to talk to someone with hearing loss

  • Face the person. Ensure that the person with hearing loss can see everyone’s face. The visual cues will help the person understand the words they didn’t catch.
  • Minimize background noise. Turn off the TV and reduce the volume of surrounding music or television to make communication easier.
  • Make sure the room is well-lit. A well-lit environment can make it easier for the person with hearing loss to see facial expressions, body language, and gestures from across a room.
  • Get their attention first. Get an individual’s attention by saying their name first or gently tapping their arm, and then convey your message to increase the chance that it will be heard and understood.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Annunciate your words and take your time.
  • Rephrase, don’t repeat. If something isn’t heard the first time, try rephrasing it. Instead of repeating the same sentence louder, try saying it a different way.
  • Don’t speak from another room. Minimizing distance will maximize the chance that your message will be heard and understood.
  • Speak at a normal volume. Shouting during conservation can distort the signal for the person with hearing loss and so, rather than making it easier for a hard of hearing person to understand you, it often has the opposite effect.

Useful tools for communication success

Oticon Medical’s BrainHearing™ philosophy reminds us that we hear with our brains, not just our ears. Our Ponto™ devices are equipped with special noise reduction options that operate with this philosophy in mind. The Ponto family is compatible with a variety of accessories that have streaming capabilities to help people with hearing loss communicate successfully in difficult listening environments. Let’s look at a few scenarios where Ponto users can use these tools to make communication easier in challenging situations during the holidays.

Road trips

A Ponto 5 Mini user and his wife have loaded up the RV for a holiday road trip to see their grandkids. For these two people, a conversation in the car is challenging because of road noise and the lack of visual cues as they face the road. The Ponto user can use the ConnectClip to give themselves a big advantage in this situation and allow for an enjoyable road trip full of conversation. The Ponto user’s wife can clip the ConnectClip that is paired to her husband’s Ponto 5 Mini to her lapel about 6 inches from her mouth. She presses and holds the multi-function button for a few seconds until the lights turn purple and green. This action sends her voice on a wireless journey direct to her husband’s Ponto 5 Mini, allowing for effortless conversation between the two, reducing background noise, and minimizing the effects of distance on their ability to communicate.

Watching a movie

Oticon Medical’s TV Adapter 3.0 is compatible with the entire Ponto product family. You can pair a TV Adapter to your Ponto 3 SuperPower using your Oticon Medical Streamer or to Ponto 4 or 5 Mini directly. This allows you to stream audio directly from your television to your device. You can use your streamer or the Oticon ON™ app to control the volume of the television while your family continues to listen at a level that’s comfortable for them.

Adjustments from afar

You are having difficulty hearing in noise on your holiday vacation, but it isn’t convenient for you to visit your audiologist for programming in person. What can you do? Ponto 5 Mini users can now use RemoteCare to arrange a quick telehealth appointment with their audiologist. During a scheduled RemoteCare visit, an audiologist can log into a private portal which allows them to make the adjustments that their patient needs. The program changes are uploaded to the patient’s device using Oticon’s RemoteCare app and the new settings can be used by the Ponto 5 Mini user right away. This groundbreaking technology opens a new frontier for Ponto patients.        

Family dinner

Oticon Medical has developed OpenSound Navigator™ as a method of noise reduction for those energetic conversations around your holiday dinner table. In this situation, you want to hear the conversation, regardless of its direction. OpenSound Navigator will seamlessly adjust to your environment and reduces the effort it takes to hear. Talk to your audiologist about creating a program in your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini device that utilizes OpenSound Navigator and hear the difference at the holiday dinner table this year. Additionally, you can hand a paired ConnectClip to a relative across the table and their voice can be streamed directly from up to 65 feet away.

Online resources

Oticon Medical is here to support you while you are on the go this holiday season. For product support, videos on how to pair accessories, or in-depth information about the different solutions available to you, visit Wireless Connectivity.

Should you need help from an Oticon Medical audiologist during the holiday season, please contact our Auditory Technical Services support team during the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM, Eastern time at 888-277-8014 or by email at [email protected].

            Oticon Medical wishes you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!

About the Author

Courtney Smith, M.A., CCC-A, is the Clinical Trainer at Oticon Medical, having just joined the team in October of 2021. 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.