July 25, 2010

"I Can Stream Netflix to My Ears!"

Audiologists will tell you to expect three to five years out of a set of hearing aids for a child. We are at 2 1/2 years and I'm already antsy to trial new models. I've never loved her "new" aids, mainly because I feel they gave her just slight improvements over her previous set. However, Hadley reported better hearing, and I really thought that, with a little fine-tuning, we would eventually find the sweet spot. Yup, I'm still waiting.

Over the last six months, we've been hearing "What?" and "I didn't hear you!" more and more throughout the day. Booth tests still showed Hadley's regular, consistent results, so I've been wondering what else could be the cause: the head cold that never went away; speedier and more complex language; loud brothers; a bad batch of batteries. Despite doing more listening activities with her (AVT never goes away), the struggle continues. Hadley is weeks away from entering third grade, when the brunt of teaching and learning turns auditory. I'm worried that we haven't done enough.

A booth test last week showed a decrease in Hadley's word recognition and, before I could ask, Hadley's (wonderful) audiologist asked if we'd consider trying a new aid. YES!!! After practically stalking Phonak's and Siemen's websites for months, lurking on listservs, and scrolling through conference websites, I've been thinking about new technology and wondering if I'm crazy to consider dropping the equivalent of a family trip to Disney (airfare included!). I love when the professionals validate my wishful thinking!

Convincing Hadley was another thing. "I love my purple aids!"; "I chose these aids myself!"; "I don't want any other aids ever!". I finally let slip a little bit of information that I had hoarded: we can buy an adaptor that will wirelessly stream an iPod directly to her aids. Right now, if she's not plugging it into the stereo directly, she either listens to a Nano with its built-in speaker (like it's 1985!) or winds the earbuds around the top of her hearing aids (functional, but not pretty). She stopped dead in her tracks while her eyes truly opened like saucers.

"Mom. Does it work with TV?"

"The computer?"

"It streams stuff to my aids?"
"Well, yes."

"So...I can stream Netflix to my ears!!!"

Not that there was any doubt, but Hadley is a true child of the 21st century. I happily agreed that yes, she could stream the audio from a Netflix movie that she watched on TV directly to her aids, relieving her of the "chore" of turning the volume from 35 (what seems to be normal listening volume on our system) to 40 (what usually works best for Hadley). Ever since, Hadley has talked about how she can't wait to demo a new set of aids. So excited, in fact, that she talked at length today to her 100-year-old great-grandmother about how she could stream sound to these new aids. Talk about a generation gap! (I described it as listening to the radio...close enough?)

So we wait...this time for the call that tells us to pick up a loaner set to demo for a few weeks. The timing is perfect, as Hadley has Ecology and Camp Invention coming up in August (how lucky are those kids?!). Awesome audiologist? Check. Ideal testing conditions? Double check. Eager recipient? Triple check. Now, if only Phonak would start offering casings in green (Hadley's favorite color), I could declare all out perfection.

I'm not sure who is more excited to start testing aids, Hadley or me. I'm trying not to get my hopes too high up...but it would be so nice for her to start third grade knowing that the seemingly simple art of listening and hearing wasn't going to be so hard. And, seriously, how cool would it be to stream Netflix to your ears?


  1. hope the demoing of the new aids goes smoothly!

  2. Very cool! I hope the new aids work better for Hadley. Keep us posted!


  3. I have a Bluetooth streamer for my Oticon aids and it is awesome. Hadley is going to have so much fun!

  4. 4) Oticon and Phonak both have Kiddie programs which repackage the hearing aids with different colors, print patterns, patient & parent literature, yada yada yada... But, the innards are the same.

    Some companies, including Phonak, also use slightly different "pediatric" software in their NOAH-compatible modules, for audiologists who don't follow Best Practices, and take the shortcut of .NOT. using a probe microphone to verify the fitting is matching the prescription, using stored statistical analysis of ear canal frequency response (which varies widely) based on age. Good dispensers & audiologists (including Beltone & Miracle Ear franchises) use probe microphones to measure the actual frequency response on all fittings. Put another way, it makes no difference to use either pediatric or adult fitting software when the dispenser or audiologist is following Best Practices.

    If your audiologist doesn't, find another -- There are plenty in the Boston area.

    5) Green is a good color, and can be carried through the hearing aid case, the tinted earmold tubing, and the fluorescent green tinted silicone earmold material. Several weeks ago, I saw a very dark skinned African-American teenager who had this combination with her hair pulled back, and it was stunning. That being said, the most important thing for Hadley is to hear the very best under all conditions. Karen McGrane went through this trying to get the best hearing aid for herself, as she really needed connectivity: Go to her blog and read her series of reviews.

    Along these lines are several important notes on which brands & styles are a good choice:

    1) The receiver-in-canal design should be used when possible, as it provides better sound quality as it's pointed directly at the tympanic membrane (eardrum) for better high frequency response. Also, it saves the cost of earmolds, though the receivers occasionally need replacing. All manufacturers have RIC designs;

    2) Depending on the shape of Hadley's audiogram -- Flat, sloping, or ski-slope (rapid drop) -- high frequency transposition developed by AVR/Sonovation and copied by Widex and Phonak (they call it Sound Recover) may give Hadley additional benefit; though some experts have doubts due to poor speech discrimination in noise. If you scan in and send me a copy of Hadley's audiogram (you can post it here, on Facebook, or email it to me at Dan@Snip.Net ), I'll take a look at it and make suggestions on which way to go, as that will impact greatly on the choice; and whether she'll benefit from high frequency transposition;

    3) Hadley can have high frequency transposition, reliability, and/or Bluetooth connectivity -- Pick any two.

    Oticon: Reliability and connectivity;
    Phonak: High frequency shifting and connectivity;
    Widex: High frequency shifting and reliability