Are Your Hearing Aids Surviving Social Distancing?

Mine are getting a workout. And the batteries are showing it.

I have an Oticon Made for iPhone hearing aid, which means that whatever I hear via the phone is channeled by Bluetooth to my hearing aid. This is wonderful!

I can hear phone conversations, I can listen to podcasts, I can watch and hear online classes, I can watch a YouTube video with sound. Recorded books go through the Bluetooth to my hearing aid. So does the audio of a meditation app, like Calm.

eastern-bluebird-c-dorrie-holmes-320
It’s spring! Can you hear the birds?

I also use the phone and bluetooth when I am following an online exercise class. I use my laptop for visuals and phone for audibles. I connect to the class on both devices and then press “play” on both simultaneously. That way the video is on my laptop, the audio is in my ear.

The main problem is that all this use drains the battery at a significantly faster rate than a hearing aid battery without using Bluetooth. This is true with standard disposable batteries as well as rechargeable ones. Here’s a fairly technical discussion of battery capacity with both disposable and rechargeable batteries.

I actually have only one hearing aid, and it’s doing all the work. I have a cochlear implant in my other ear, so if I wanted to connect directly to the implant as well I’d need to stream through a second device like a Roger Pen. If anyone has tried this, I’d love to hear if it works. Do the two assistive devices sync properly? The four steps it would take to sign on to yoga class on both phone and laptop, using both Roger and Oticon bluetooth, does seem a little absurd. One ear is fine.

I also have a clip-on mini mike, useful for a socially distanced conversation with a masked person on a park bench, and this also drains the battery. I just ordered a ten-pack of batteries.

The hearing aid itself is suffering wear and tear for other reasons.

I always wear a mask when I go out, which is frequently  — because I live in an apartment (no back yard) and I have a dog. Dogs need to go out at least a couple of times a day. The mask loops fit over my ears. Unfortunately it’s already crowded behind my ears, with my hearing aid earpiece in one and c.i. earpiece in the other. I also wear glasses, which take up even more behind-the-ear space. The mask tends to dislodge the c.i. earpiece, so I have to wear a hat or a wide headband to keep it in place. Somehow the hearing aid manages to get tangled in the mask.

The second damaging element is dirt. I make sure the wax guards are clean but the vent – a tiny duct that lets in just enough air to make the aid more comfortable – is clogged with wax. I can’t remember how I used to keep it clean but now the audiologist says the only solution is denture floss. She’s mailing me some. If were able to go into her office, she told me, she could vacuum it out. I wonder if I can get a special hearing-aid attachment for my Electrolux.

I wasn’t sure how to reach the audiologist but I finally emailed her. It turns out she can do much of her work through telemedicine. And good news from the CMS: Medicare and Medicaid will now cover any tele-audiology visits that would ordinarily be covered by an office visit. I’ll write about this when I know more about how it works.

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Smart Hearing is a guide to everything about hearing loss. Shouting Won’t Help is my personal story of loss and renewal. Both are available in paperback and on Kindle. Available only at Amazon.com unless you can persuade your local bookstore to order one for you.

25 thoughts on “Are Your Hearing Aids Surviving Social Distancing?

  1. Thanks, Katherine, always relevant and helpful information! I make my own masks and have similar trouble with the elastic ones, The ones that tie work better for me because they don’t get tangled with my hearing aids. I find that if I tie the top tie just under the base of my skull where it meets my neck, it doesn’t slip.

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  2. Thanks Katherine. It actually helps to hear someone else put a voice to many of the same concerns I have daily. I also have a HA on the right side and a CI on the left. These devices “communicate” with each other and provide a binaural experience across the board – even with the telephone via tele-coil.

    I use a ComPilot to stream Blue Tooth material from my iPhone, TV and clip-on RemoteMic.

    My battery problems are quite different. My rechargeable on my CI can last from 12 to 15 hours. A larger one can last more than a whole day but due to its size it gets knocked off easily so I carry extras all the time. The replaceable in my HA can last a week.

    Along comes the coronavirus. Suddenly everyone is wearing a mask and I am shocked to find out just how visual my hearing is. I had no idea just how much information vision provided toward understanding. Of course I knew I was doing some lip reading but when that was suddenly taken away the game was changed!

    I have the same mechanical issues with the ear loops on my face mask. I seldom remove the mask without removing something else.

    The wax issue is a perpetual problem for us all. For me it seems to come and go. I have a box of cleaners called Nanoclean. (888/749-0550) Each piece has a rather stiff end that can snake through the air vent and tube with a fuzzy section in the middle that when pulled through cleans the vent/tube.

    I am not yet clear as to how tele-audiology will or can work. Usually there are adjustments that must be made and unless there is some “installation” on my end I am at a loss to see how that would work. I would welcome such an arrangement however as I am a 2+ hour bus or train ride to my audiologist.

    Thanks again Katherine. I apologize for being so wordy.

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    • Thanks Jerry, this is all very interesting. Thanks for the cleaner tip! I too have been amazed at how much I have lost in the way of hearing without being able to read lips. It’s even more frustrating because the only place i see people these days is outdoors. I’d love to be able to use Otter for captions but it doesn’t work if you don’t have wifi, which is immensely frustrating! I used to have the Phonak Link, which worked with the AB cochlear implant. But I hear so much better with the Oticon that it was worth the switch. I also had endless trouble with the Roger. Some part was always not working and of course it was impossible for me to tell which part exactly was not working.
      Thanks for so much good info.

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  3. This really seems too difficult. I have a CI on one side and a HA on the other. Cochlear Americas CI and Resound HA. They both had to be paired to my iphone by the audi when I got the HA. The Iphone is my remote. Also have a mini mic that I can plug through an audio cable into my tablet or desktop. Two devices are not needed for audio and video. Have never had any syncing issues and the sound is amazingly good. Can the Roger Pen be plugged into your laptop or desktop and stream to your devices? I have 2 apps on my Iphone – one for each device. I can choose either to stream to both devices or just to one – my choice. I can also use my mini mic plugged into a TV if I have the proper cable – that’s usually the question – what plugs does the TV have and what do I need to adapt for the mini mic. I have not been thrilled with the CI alone, but I just got the new HA in February and I’ve really gained a ton of good sound.
    I am streaming more than ever right now. Can’t tell if that’s affecting the HA because it’s too new to compare. Use rechargeable in CI and plug them in every night as usual.
    Definitely no empty space behind ears with reading glasses and CI/HA and sunglasses on the top of my head!

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    • Can you make a house call? Maybe you could help me figure this out!
      One problem, as I mentioned to Jerry just below, is that I have an AB CI and an Oticon hearing aid. The Oticon is so much better for me that I gave up the Phonak that synced with the c.i.

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  4. I would love to make a house call but of course we can’t – we are both in hot spot states.
    I think this is a problem with all of us CI/HA people. We are given these wonderful forms of technology that do great things. But there is very little help making them all work together. My audi is great, but there have been times I told her how to make something work. Sometimes I just get tired of trying to figure it all out!!
    As expensive as the Roger Pen is, I would go to them with your question. They should be conversant in connecting all types of devices together, that is if they wish to sell more of them.
    Good luck and stay safe….

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  5. All good comments – pointing out how challenging it has become to master assistive listening, as is so important to those of us with profound hearing loss. I, too, have a CI (AB version) and a HA (the companion Link from Phonak).

    I’ve not touched my Roger pen because it is my go-to device for listening in noise – but, alas, can’t go to any noisy meetings or restaurants these days.

    But I’m using my ComPilot Bluetooth streamer extensively. And yes, it shortens the hours I get from my rechargeable batteries.

    Best is I’m getting excellent – and binaural – Bluetooth sound from Zoom on my laptop. It helps overcome the lack of captioning. Boo on Zoom.

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    • Zoom does have captioning if the person who arranges the meeting has a corporate account. Also Google Meet has captioning. I use it from a .org address. I’m not sure if you can use it from a .com address. But the captions are pretty good and they’re free. I and others I know also use Otter or Live Transcribe with the laptop for things that aren’t captioned.

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      • I use Google Meet. Needed to get a Google domaine for $12. Captions are excellent and always available for whoever needs them. Plus Google Meet recently announced free signup, though that’s probably only for a short time.

        Your Roger docking station will transmit TV audio if you connect it to the audio out on your TV. You then should receive the signal just as you would when holding the pen. Only problem is if you don’t have an audio amplifier for your TV with two audio outputs your Roger will be the only sound source heard when connected. Not good for couples.

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      • Two things — I use Google Meet too. The captions are pretty good. I’m not sure what a Google domain is and how you get it, and I imagine some readers probably aren’t either. Can you explain?
        The TV problem — I’m the only one who can hear it if we’re watching and I’m using the Roger — is not insignificant!

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  6. Thank you for sharing this.with the hearing loss community. I admire your technical expertise.Diane Sussman

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  7. Just a note about the comment above. We bought a new TV a couple years ago – the salesman told us it had a regular audio out but it didn’t.
    What we learned is that there is also an optical audio out. We had to buy a new cable so that worked with the TV streamer I had. At first, we had the issue with only me hearing the audio – my husband heard nothing. I contacted the manufacturer – Samsung – and there was a setting that would allow the optical cable to be connected and the sound come out of the speakers as well. Was able to do this through chat thank goodness.
    Almost all devices we have now have an Accessibility section in the settings – we need to learn how to use them. Of course, no one to teach us……

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  8. Thanks so much for this. I second just about everyone has said.
    – hard to understand if I can’t see lips.
    – Behind the ear face masks don’t work.
    – Hard to hear consonants when someone is speaking with a mask on.
    I wear two Cochlear CI’s N6’s, which means that I need to use an intermediary device to connect to my iPhone. The new N7 works directly with the phone. I can plug my mini-mic into my devices to hear audio, but that doesn’t work if my wife and I want to watch a movie or play together. Movies usually are CC’d. Plays are not, however.
    It helps me to place my mini-mic next to the speaker so that we can both hear.

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  9. Hi Roger, You comment made me sign with despair and also laugh. Why can’t this be simpler? Why are we all figuring out these jerry-rigged solutions on our own!! Why can’t we watch TV with our spouses and figure out a system where we both can hear??????

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