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Telephones are ubiquitous in our world. There is no escape from them. For folks with hearing loss they present a huge challenge. But…. there are some really good new tricks that can be used to help.

Under normal conversational condition, talkers look at each other and a person with a hearing loss receives a huge benefit from seeing the talker. The brain gets information from both ears and both eyes and combines visual and auditory cues, allowing the listener to follow a conversation with greater ease. But with a phone, not only are the visual cues missing but the auditory signal goes only to one ear and frequently is noisy and distorted, resulting in a very difficult situation for the person with a hearing problem. Hearing aids can help but not always as much as we would like.

Current technology provides 2 new ways to substantially improve telephone performance with hearing aids.

The first is the delivery of the phone signal to both ears by streaming wirelessly. Some hearing aids stream directly into the hearing aid while others have a streamer that interfaces between the hearing aid and the phone. Jespersen and Kirkwood, researchers out of Resounds Denmark lab, have shown that speech understanding on the phone improves by 7-9%, even for people with normal hearing, when both ears receive the telephone signal.

The second technology is the use of Facetime with the iPhone or Skype on a computer. Both of these allow the listener to see the talker and get the benefit of combining auditory and visual cues. The word “thin”, “fin” and “kin” may all sound like “in” with auditory cues alone, but with the addition of visual cues, the correct word is easily understood. Try saying them while looking in a mirror and you will see the importance of visual information! Jespersen and Kirkwood found an improvement of 23-37% in understanding when listeners used Facetime.

Combining the two can increase understanding 30-46% and make the dreaded telephone your friend again!

If you, your friends or loved ones would like to experience this technology, call for an appointment. We would be happy to demonstrate it to you.

- Associates In Hearing HealthCare
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