October is National Protect Your Hearing Month, so our blog post this month will highlight hearing protection! Let’s face it. We live in a noisy world.

Did you know that after age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss in adults? While we can’t prevent getting older, we can prevent excessive noise exposure!

I always recommend my patients either avoid loud noises or wear appropriate hearing protection when loud noises are unavoidable. This is in the hopes of preventing further damage to the hair cells of the cochlea (also known as the inner ear or the hearing organ).

Excessive noise could include power tools, wood working tools, lawn mowers, firearms, motorcycles, and loud concerts.

Can’t I Just Get Those Little Disposable Ear Plugs At The Store? 

First of all, you may be thinking, isn’t at least wearing some kind of hearing protection better than no hearing protection at all? While this is certainly true to some extent, it is important to be aware that hearing protection is only as good as it is inserted.

This can be difficult to achieve with a one-size-fits-all or a one-size-fits-most concept. However, if these are all you have on hand at a moment’s notice, please watch the following video on how properly insert and remove disposable ear plugs. Hint: Hollywood NEVER gets this right!

How to use formable earplugs

Selecting appropriate hearing protection without the help of an audiologist can also be challenging! If you’ve shopped for hearing protection before, you have probably seen the noise reduction rating (NRR) listed on the package.

The higher the NRR, the more protection provided. Many people just assume the higher the NRR the better regardless of what it’s used for.

However, this is not the case! In fact, when you select an inappropriately high NRR, it can make communicating with others so difficult that people often take out their earplugs altogether. This is why I love fitting patients with custom hearing protection that is made just for their ears and for their specific noisy activity of interest!

Custom Hearing Protection? Tell Me More! 

Custom hearing protection is the best of both worlds because you get the optimal noise reduction and a comfortable fit! I sleep better at night knowing that my patients are wearing well-fit hearing protection without any cracks or crevices for sound to leak in.

There are solutions for just about any activity that you can think of… see below for some examples of our most popular types of hearing protection!

Passive hearing protection: The term “passive protection” is defined as non-electronic molds.

By using either solid earmolds or special filters, passive hearing protection provides you with the ability to hear what you want to hear while dampening excessive noise/loud sounds that could cause damage to your hearing. This is a great option for patients who are budget-conscious or who are new to hearing protection and want to start out with something simple and classic.

  • Musicians Ear Plugs are fantastic for musicians and concert-goers alike. What is wonderful about these little guys is they not only attenuate sound fairly equally across the frequency spectrum (from bass to treble), your audiologist can also select how strong the noise reduction needs to be.

  • Hocks Noise Breakers can be particularly helpful for patients that want to be able to carry on a conversation while working with power tools, riding a dirt bike, or doing car repair work. This solution uses the physics of sound to attenuate louder high frequency sounds while letting conversational speech pass through almost unaltered.

    Originally designed for military use, impulse filter ear plugs are perfect for those seeking protection from very loud impulse noise like gun shots or artillery fire. However, the unique design still allows for you to still be able to hear conversational speech.

  • While Sleep plugs aren’t necessarily hearing protection, these can also be great for quality of life (and sleep)! If you are a light sleeper or have a partner that snores incessantly, these little plugs can help block out that sound you can sleep much more soundly.

Active Hearing Protection:

You could think of this is more of a “Cadillac” or premium hearing protection option. These are either plugged into a power source, battery-powered, or rechargeable and can be great for an avid hunter or a professional (and semi-professional) musician. Both of these options come in various levels of technology depending on the patient’s needs.

  • In-Ear Monitors are for musicians or sound engineers. They provide significant hearing protection while being “plugged in” to the sound system so you can hear the perfect mix of the music coming out of the speakers. These are becoming more popular with contemporary worship bands at churches too.
  • SoundGear are the best option for the avid hunter. These protect against the very loud impulse sounds from guns while amplifying the soft sounds in the forest. They also have options for rechargeability or even Bluetooth streaming.

How Do I Start The Process To Get Custom Protection? 

If you were to schedule a hearing protection device consult with us, your audiologist would take a full case history, determine if there is a need for a baseline hearing test or hearing screening, and inquire about when you intend to use your hearing protection devices.

After selecting which hearing protection device is most suitable for you, we would complete an otoscopic examination to ensure the ear canal and eardrum look healthy.

Finally, we would obtain impressions of your ears. These impressions take a few minutes to set in each ear and then will be removed and sent off to the manufacturer with your order request.

Once your order is processed and we receive the hearing protection devices, we will schedule your fitting to ensure a good fit!

If you would like to schedule an appointment for a hearing protection consult, please call us at 256-319-4327 or submit a contact request and one of our helpful team members will call you back shortly. 

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Dr. Susan Sheehy

Dr. Sheehy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in audiology at the University of Alabama before beginning her career as a clinical audiologist in Huntsville. In 2005, she received her doctorate in audiology from Salus University. Dr. Sheehy is one of a specialized subset of audiologists certified in tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). By appointment from the governor, she has served as a member and chairperson of the Alabama Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.

    ALL INCLUSIVE PLAN

    $6,790

    Comprehensive 5-Year treatment plan with premium technology

    If you want premium “out of this world” technology and the highest level of service and expert support, our All-Inclusive treatment plan is the right investment for you.

    The All-Inclusive treatment plan offers long-term value for your on-the-go lifestyle, providing everything you need to connect with family and friends for years to come.

    Includes:

    • Stellar hearing devices from top manufacturer (rechargeable option available)

    • Wireless accessory included at no charge

    • Comprehensive Annual Visit including hearing assessment, hearing device adjustment, and 19-Point preventative maintenance valutaion

    • Bi-annual hearing aid software update and reprogramming

    • Same day diagnosis and in-office repair during weekdays for devices dropped off before 3:00 p.m.

    • 5-Year full-service repair warranty

    • Unlimited remote hearing aid adjustments

    • 100% moisture removal by Redux and cleaning

    • Hearing aid supplies (stock receivers, batteries, domes and filters)

    • $1000 contribution towards purchase of upgraded technology within 48 months

    • 3-Year replacement warranty for loss or damage (no deductible)

    • Dedicated team of hearing care experts at your service

    • Unlimited teleaudiology appointments

    • Access to our “speed of light” repair specialists

    Schedule Appointment

    Choose Your Level of Technology

    A Comprehensive12-Step Functional Hearing Assessment

    If you struggle to understand conversations in social situations, restaurants, or other noisy environments, you do not need to schedule a basic hearing test. You certainly don’t need to schedule a “free” hearing screening or online hearing test.

    You need to schedule a “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment at Alabama Hearing Associates!

    Hearing Technology with a Methodical Plan

    Our community understands better than most what can be achieved when you combine technology with human intelligence and persistence. It is much the same with hearing technology.

    The latest hearing aid technology is incredibly powerful, offering stellar sound quality and performance. Wireless connections allow phone calls, music and television to stream directly to your hearing aids for exceptional clarity.

    But hearing aids do not fit and program themselves! For best outcomes, you also need the human touch and expertise provided by our Doctors of Audiology.

    How do I know my new hearing aids are working properly?

    Without verifying that the hearing aid is working correctly from the start, all of the other steps in the hearing aid fitting process are useless. The most sensitive quality control measure is something called Electroacoustic Analysis. We complete EAA on every new set of hearing aids, before delivery of repaired devices, and on an annual basis.

    What Is Real-Ear Measurement?

    Real-ear measurement (REM) is how an audiologist knows that hearing aids are working the way they should in each patient’s ears.

    Ears are as unique as a fingerprint. Because of this, every ear will collect sounds differently.

    Even if I had two patients with the exact same hearing loss and hearing aids, there’s almost no chance the hearing aids would be programmed the same way.

    Orientation, Counseling, and Follow-up

    Dr. Cliff (the creator of the Best Practice Pro Network) said it best:

    “Having a detailed orientation can dramatically improve how much success you have with hearing treatment.  Counseling & Follow-up care can also ensure that you have success for years to come.  Regular visits to a hearing care provider who spends the time to discuss treatment related information and who will maintain your devices is extremely important.”

    During the orientation, your provider will give you the tools you need to be a successful hearing aid user. Everyone has different learning styles and we want to make sure whatever works best for you is what’s used. After the 75 day adjustment period, routine checkups are necessary to maintain the hearing aids and to ensure optimal hearing healthcare. 

    Real World Adjustments

    Your hearing loss didn't occur overnight, so it will take some time to adjust to the hearing aids. Your patience and persistence will be well worth it.

    Wireless Connections

    Most hearing aids automatically come with wireless streaming from smartphones and it has been a lifesaver for those that are working remotely and spending hours on teleconferences. As for other wireless accessories, the two most popular solutions are a small microphone used in less-than-ideal listening environments and a TV streamer that streams the TV’s sound directly into your ears—which can be a lifesaver when watching British TV shows or during football season. If your audiologist believes they would be beneficial for you, they will discuss your options and demonstrate the device in the office.

    Assessing Outcomes

    To ensure the most success with your hearing devices, we measure the benefits of amplification at the end of your adjustment period—some of the surveys and tests included in the “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment will be repeated to evaluate progress, quality of life, and patient satisfaction with the hearing aids.