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New Advances in Hearing Technology

May 1, 2013, 11:59 a.m.
(l-r) Dr. Thomas Norwood, Clinic Director Ruth Norwood and Dr. Terence Limb, owners of Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic

“I’ve been doing this for almost thirty years, and honestly, I am having more fun than ever,” says Terry Limb, Doctor of Audiology at Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic. “There are exciting new changes in hearing technology.”

New hearing devices are programmable instruments that can be accurately programmed to match individual hearing loss and sound sensitivities. So the “computer” for your ear can adjust to background noise, speaker position, and even connect wirelessly to your MP3 player, cell phone or television.

“With the new technology, we are able to tailor the technology to the individual rather than a one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Dr. Limb. “Now, when people come back for follow-up appointments, they are enthusiastic – instead of being just satisfied, they are enthusiastic!

“Background noise has always been the primary issue dealing with hearing loss. The more complex the environment, the more difficult it is to hear. Hearing in a crowded Starbucks takes more technology than a quiet room.

“Some of the new systems are able to communicate with each other – they actually work together to give your brain a better, more accurate picture. They maintain a three-dimensional spatial perception, which allows your brain to follow conversations from different directions. It is a much more natural way to listen,” he says.

Everyone processes sound differently. Just as no two fingerprints are alike and everyone’s DNA is unique, the same goes for your hearing.

The way you hear is shaped by many things, starting with the unique physiology of your ear. Hearing is also shaped by life experiences and lifestyle. A musician listening for harmonies and rhythms or a naturalist identifying bird calls in the field have different hearing preferences, even if their hearing, as measured by a medical audiogram, “looks” identical.

This uniqueness becomes especially important to people coping with hearing loss. While they all need amplification, they need to apply it in different ways, based on the unique way they live and hear

“With the new systems, we are able to test for those abilities and adjust the instruments on an individualized basis,” says Dr. Limb. “Our job is to help identify the needs of each patient and pick a system to help with that need.

“I have a number of patients who are very experienced with hearing devices. They tried the new systems and immediately recognized the difference. They suddenly had a dramatic ability to understand speech much better, even with background noise or at a distance. Historically, hearing aids were much more limited and only in the last few years has technology improved so that patients can hear without being overwhelmed by amplification. One patient said, ‘This is amazing. It doesn’t sound amplified and my voice sounds normal.’ Patients have routinely told me that the sound quality on the new instruments was so natural that they feel they have normal hearing again, not just amplified sound.”

Dr. Limb goes on to discuss some additional processes at Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic. “Verification in an accurate fit is so important. We can measure in real time what the hearing device is doing while the patient is using it and verify performance – and specifically assessing it with background noise.”

Another program at Evergreen involves auditory training exercises, which help the brain’s ability to hear through noise. “You’ve probably heard of exercises for your brain; it applies to hearing as well,” explains Dr. Limb. “It goes back to your brain’s ability to understand, even through background noise. We find that auditory training, along with the right instrument, will provide patients with the best outcome overall.”

This article is sponsored by Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic. Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic has been serving the eastside for over 35 years and has consistently led the industry in providing access to the latest technologies. For more information, visit www.everhear.com or call Redmond 425-882-4347; Bellevue 425-454-1883; Kirkland 425-899-5050. More information about Evergreen’s hearing program can be found at www.everhear.com.

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