Although face masks are a problem for people with hearing loss, I want to emphasize our audiology clinic fully supports face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19. Yet, face masks create a barrier in communication for individuals with hearing loss. Masks conceal crucial visual cues that many hard of hearing people use to understand speech.

Communication Is More Than Words

Understanding what someone is saying and how they are saying it not only comes from the tone of voice they use but the facial expressions they produce when they are saying it. It’s true – whether we are heard of hearing or not, facial expressions provide much-needed context to a conversation.

But when someone does has difficulty hearing, facial expressions take on added importance.

They help that listener fill in the proverbial blanks left by the words they couldn’t make out.  We’ve had patients tell us how frustrating it is that masks suddenly eliminated their ability to see facial expressions. Some had not even realized how dependent they had become on seeing facial expression until now.

Face Masks Prevent Lip-Reading

Interpreting facial expressions isn’t the only way our eyes can help us compensate for hearing loss. When someone is struggling with their hearing, lip-reading provides some much-needed back-up. Since traditional face masks cover the mouth and make it impossible to lip-read, many hard-of-hearing individuals fear to become isolated from their community in such a difficult crisis. They need a solution to keep them connected to others.

What Did That Masked Person Say?

Even those of us with normal hearing can have difficulty understanding what a mask-wearer is saying. Masks muffle words. In particular, masks often block the high-pitched sounds that allow us to understand certain consonants. High-pitched sounds are typically the sounds that are most difficult to understand when a hearing loss first occurs.

Clear Face Masks

Face masks that have a clear panel are starting to come into the marketplace. It’s been amazing to see such a vast global awareness of the issues cause by face masks, and these things are becoming mainstream.

Clear masks solve a few of the issues experienced in understanding speech as they bring back essential visual cues. For some, these masks help but still don’t solve the problem entirely; these masks still obscure part of the face. At times, we’re not going to see enough of the face to interpret facial expressions accurately. When transparent masks fog up, lip-reading becomes a challenge as well as the addition to muffled sound.

Finding a Long-Term Solution

Perhaps you or someone you know has recently come to terms with a newly discovered hearing loss and need to find a long-term solution. Since masks have increased our dependence on our ears, we’ve had people in the same situation contact our clinic in search of a solution. Some of these new patients tell us how stressful it is to deal with the challenges masks have brought. You may be able to relate to their feelings. Please know we’re here for you.

At our clinic, we can perform a hearing evaluation and recommend the best treatment options for you.

If you or a loved one has been struggling or complaining that others are mumbling, contact us to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment.

To protect you, other patients, and our staff, we have safety protocols in place for in-person appointments.

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Dr. Jan Liles

Dr. Liles earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo and her master’s degree from the University of Alabama. From 1991 to 2001, she worked with two ENT medical practices and initiated one of the first newborn hearing screening programs in the state. In 2002, she was awarded a doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida. Dr. Liles and her longtime best friend, Dr. Sheehy, founded Alabama Hearing Associates in January 2002.
    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.