Navigating Hyperacusis and Disorders of Sound Tolerance in a World of Sound

By Marc Fagelson and David M. Baguley, co-editors of Hyperacusis and Disorders of Sound Intolerance: Clinical and Research Perspectives

The world we navigate is full of sound. As this brief note is being written, the sound of lawn mowers, distant traffic, and snatches of conversations accompanied by rhythmic footfalls stream through windows and doors. When we attend to sounds in the environment, it is impossible not to analyze, and evaluate, and then react. We learn to distinguish information-bearing signals from those whose spectra, we’ve learned as listeners, merit minimal attention and low priority. Some sounds are intentionally attention-grabbing—sirens, doorbells, car horns, shouting—and intended to provoke responses from hearers in the vicinity. Indeed, many alerting sounds are constructed deliberately to be as compelling, and in a sense, as annoying as possible, cutting through distractions and other sounds to demand immediate and sustained attention (Patterson, 1990; Vastfjall et al., 2012). Unfortunately, such sounds may be particularly effective, perhaps overwhelming, for a segment of the population that suffers from experiences of excessive loudness, distraction, pain, and discomfort in their presence. The book Hyperacusis and Disorders of Sound Intolerance offers historical accounts, case studies, and new findings reported by individuals whose work in research labs and clinics focuses upon this underserved population.

At present, audiologists and their patients are adept at estimating thresholds of sensitivity, for example, pure-tone air and bone conduction thresholds. However, it is more challenging in the clinic to obtain important measures of suprathreshold processing, particularly those associated with atypical loudness and sound intolerances. As a result, individuals for whom the world of sound is unusually intense, vivid, perhaps perceived as toxic, endure problems that are difficult to assess and quantify. Interventions lack a substantive evidence base to support specific management approaches. Although most audiologists and otologists know of patients for whom everyday sound evokes discomfort, distress, aversion and in some, pain, such symptoms are difficult to quantify, and management correspondingly difficult to enact. Hyperacusis and Disorders of Sound Intolerance is intended to serve our professions’ abiding and growing need to understand sound intolerance mechanisms and their measurement. If, as is likely, the prevalence of tolerance-related complaints increases and diversifies over time, then the associated challenges will require more effort, empathy, and acceptance on the part of all stakeholders.

The book acknowledges the challenges that will be encountered. Indeed, even the vocabulary used to describe such experiences is varied and imprecise, including decreased, reduced, or collapsed sound tolerance, and several different uses of the term hyperacusis. Sometimes these terms end up signifying more or less the same thing, other times, any one of the terms can be ascribed several distinct meanings. Ultimately, the usage of each of these terms varies; given such fundamental differences, as authors and co-editors Marc Fagelson and David Baguley point out, it is not surprising that data regarding the epidemiology and natural history of hyperacusis are sparse, and inconsistent where it does exist.

From the perspective of recent and emerging investigations, authors Jos Eggermont and Roland Schaette report, in respective chapters, research involving animals and humans. Studies identify physiological mechanisms of loudness and sound-provoked pain perception that remain only partially understood, but whose existence will influence efforts to improve existing assessments and interventions. A group effort from Larry Roberts, Tanit Sanchez, and Ian Bruce reminds us there is lack of translation between the auditory neuroscience and its clinical community’s application of the science that remains difficult to bridge. Don McFerran’s chapter supports this notion as it comprehensively reviews the inventory of medical diagnoses and associated conditions that have influenced, for better or worse, management of sound intolerance.

The experiences of individuals with reduced sound tolerance is heterogeneous, and can vary on a day-to-day, or hour-to-hour basis. In some individuals tolerance is modulated by emotional and psychological state, personal history of trauma or trauma associations in addition to, or interacting with, the auditory environment. Gerhard Andersson’s history of applying psychological techniques of assessment and management for this patient group provides context to the oftentimes uneasy marriage of cross-disciplinary care. Similarly, as pointed out by Melissa Papesh and her co-authors, auditory-processing changes associated with traumatic brain injury require management that challenges standard audiologic rehabilitation.

Tools to assess the extent and severity of loudness tolerance symptoms are crude, and in some cases may be deeply uncomfortable for the patient, as may be the case in some methods of ascertaining the threshold of loudness discomfort using sound stimulation. Because patients with sound intolerance issues express unique impairments and aversions, the need to assess the patient’s self-assessed condition accurately requires validated intake instruments that are both comprehensive and specific. Kathryn Fackrell and Derek Hoare have each collaborated on intake and evaluation forms for sound-related disorders; their chapter addresses the development and use of these essential diagnostic components. Glynnis Tidball reviews audiologic measures that, while imperfect, remain in use and that, when interpreted reasonably, provide value to an intervention’s use and monitoring.

At present, the literature offers little in the way of hard evidence regarding therapy, and which interventions might be optimal for which type of symptoms or patients. Enriching or enhancing the patient’s auditory environment supports improvements in tolerance as well as accuracy monitoring the dynamic sound world. Grant Searchfield and Caroline Selvaratnam provide suggestions for hearing aid fitting approaches and clinical results that indicate the potential benefits of appropriately-fit devices for even the least tolerant patients. Influences of sound intolerance on pediatric patients remains underreported and poorly understood, however many relevant examples and interventions may be accessed, as indicated in the chapter by Veronica Kennedy and her co-authors. Also included is a chapter by musician and music engineer Rob Littwin. His is the story of a patient who received over many years information of mixed accuracy and effectiveness from many sources as he strove to recover from a dramatic, and career-threatening change in sound tolerance. His chapter includes specific listening regimens intended to change tolerance limits through the use of measured and safe sound experiences. Mr. Littwin’s history of sound recording gives a unique perspective to his experiences as a patient and as a seeker of solutions.

Marc Fagelson
David M. Baguley

 

Patterson R.  Auditory warning sounds in the work environment. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1990;327(1241):485-92

Vastfjall D, Bergman P, Sköld A, Tajadura A, Larsson P (2012) Emotional Responses to Information and Warning Sounds. J Ergonomics 1:106. doi:10.4172/2165-7556.1000106

 

Putting Theory into Practice through Hands-On Experience

By Bre Lynn Myers, Aud, FAAA

Author of Vestibular Lab Manual, Second Edition

Putting theory into practice can be one of the largest obstacles students and clinicians face particularly when the subject matter appears complicated. Guided hands on practice is necessary in order to obtain the confidence and skill set critical to properly instruct, collect, and analyze data from each test accurately.  In addition to guided practice, it is also helpful when learning something new, to have someone who is able to explain complex ideas with everyday examples. The Vestibular Lab Manual, Second Edition does both. The text begins with an overview of a well-equipped vestibular/balance lab and suggests observation and reflection as a means to begin the appreciation of vestibular diagnostics. Every student interested in learning a skill, be it in the health care field or humanities, should have an appreciation of the “final product” before beginning to dissect each part.  Following the introductory chapters, subsequent chapters break down vestibular assessment protocols piece by piece. Each chapter provides general instructions, tips, and guidance, suitable for practice with any manufacturer’s equipment.

Learning is also more fun and less stressful when you have a friend beside of you. Chapter exercises are designed to be completed with a partner or small group in approximately one hour, allowing for each participant to serve as clinical operator and “patient.” Once students complete the “guided practice” portion of the chapter, reflection and review questions or case studies are provided to reinforce theory with practice. By setting learning objectives, providing a little background and specific goals students and clinicians can move through each chapter at their own pace, freeing up lab instructors to provide specific feedback and address questions as they arise.

From Multiculturalism to Critical Consciousness: Updated Concepts for Providing Culturally Responsive Practices at Home and Abroad

By Yvette D. Hyter, PhD, CCC-SLP

Co-Author of Culturally Responsive Practices in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

In the 1990s a new generation of faculty members in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) emerged, ready to infuse courses or to develop and teach courses focused on “multicultural content,” which was the term at the time. There were a limited number of comprehensive texts on how to employ culturally relevant practices as a speech-language pathologist. Many of the SLP faculty who were teaching courses about “multiculturalism,” or “cultural competence,” often utilized texts from other fields, such as education, nursing, or communication and rhetoric, and relied heavily on published articles in disciplines including anthropology, political science, nursing, and social work. It was not until mid-1990s that one of the more complete books on multiculturalism in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) was published (e.g., Battle, 1993, 2012). Nevertheless, as the world has become more complex and smaller as a result of global processes, new concepts and comprehensive practices that consider causal relations are required.

Multiculturalism is a contested concept, but typically refers to including people from diverse cultural backgrounds (Malik, 2015) in program development or service delivery for example.  Multiculturalism as a concept falls short, primarily because it suggests that inclusion (or assimilation) is the principle issue. Although health care providers and educators offer and provide services to all people regardless of their cultural (or racialized class, ethnic, gender, national, or linguistic) backgrounds (e.g., inclusion), services can remain inadequate or irrelevant if we also do not consider how services might be reconceptualized or changed to meet the cultural premises of those receiving services.

Cultural competence, a concept that emerged in the 1980s (e.g., Cross, Bazron, Dennis, & Isaacs, 1989), is more useful than multiculturalism but is weighed down by preconceived notions of competence. The perception is that “competence” refers to skills or knowledge that one acquires, and that those skills can be completed or mastered (checked off), are static, and independent of context or history (Hyter & Salas-Provance, 2019; Willbergh, 2015). This perception of competence has caused many disciplines in the health professions to move away from it in favor of other terms.

Cultural responsiveness, a term coined by Ladson-Billings (1995), seems to be more accessible than multiculturalism and cultural competence. It refers to engaging in practices that are consistent with or relevant to the cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions of a person or group with whom a solution (or clinical outcome) is co-created. In this manner, responsiveness is inherently dynamic, dependent on context and shared historical memories.  Hyter (2014) has conceptualized culturally responsive practices as those that take place beyond the micro level (individual), but also at the meso (community and family) and macro levels (social structures such as economics, politics, culture, cultural institutions, and state sanctioned violence [Hyter & Salas-Provance, 2019, p. 171]). Culturally responsive practices require knowledge that is not always a part of the CSD curriculum such as critical consciousness—the ability to deconstruct one’s own social, cultural, historical, economic, and political situation and co-construct solutions to problems (Freire, 1974); dialectical thinking—the ability to synthesize conflicting perspectives; cultural humility – believing that cultural practices and perspectives different from one’s own are as valuable as one’s own  (Ortega & Faller 2011; Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998); and cultural reciprocity—understanding and using the client’s cultural beliefs to co-construct (with the client) services provided (Kalyanpur & Harry, 2012). Culturally responsive practices also require an elevation of concepts that are already inherent in CSD clinical practice such as critical thinking, critical self-awareness, and reflection.  To truly work at the level of cultural responsiveness or relevancy in the United States or abroad, as a profession, speech-language pathologists and audiologist need to adapt new vocabulary and new theoretical frameworks that will help us question the dominant premises, change the terms of public and professional debate, and address the shared problems of structurally excluded groups with interventions that acknowledge and incorporate their world view.

References

Battle, D. E. (1993). Communication disorders in multicultural populations. Boston, MA:utterworth-Heinemann

Battle, D. E. (2012). Communication disorders in multicultural and international populations. 4th edition. St. Louis, MO: Mosby

Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989) Towards a culturally competent system of care: A monograph on effective services for minority children who are severely emotionally disturbed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED330171.pdf

Friere, P. (1974). Education for critical consciousness. New York, NY: Continuum

Hyter, Y. D. (2014). A conceptual framework for responsive global engagement in communication sciences and disorders. Topics in Language Development, 34(2), 103–120.

Hyter, Y. D., & Salas-Provance, M. (2019). Culturally responsive practices in speech, language and hearing sciences. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.

Kalyanpur, M., & Harry, B. (2012). Cultural reciprocity in special education: Building family-professional relationships. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.

Malik, K. (2015). The failure of multiculturalism. Foreign Affairs, 94, 21–32.

Ortega, R. M., & Faller, K. C. (2011). Training child welfare workers from an intersectional cultural humility perspective: A paradigm shift. Child Welfare, 90(5), 27–49.

Tervalon, M., & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9(2), 117–125.

Willbergh, I. (2015). The problems of ‘competence’ and alternatives from the    Scandinavian perspective of Bildung. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(3), 334–354.

Finally, a coding and reimbursement book written specifically for audiologists, otolaryngologists, academic institutions, and staff!

By Debra Abel, AuD, editor of The Essential Guide to Coding in Audiology: Coding, Billing, and Practice Management

The Essential Guide to Coding in Audiology: Coding, Billing, and Practice Management is that necessary and essential one stop shop office resource for coding, billing, and compliance written specifically for independent audiologists and their office staffs, for otolaryngologists and their office staffs, and for academic programs, with information contained in one repository that has been historically scattered in other places. This book includes many contemporary topics including the critical tools, codes (CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS) and guidelines necessary for compliant audiology billing, reimbursement, and payment. Medicare, considered the gold standard by most commercial payers, has an entire chapter devoted to those requirements applicable to the audiologist, often an anomaly in payer policies when compared to other health care professions.

The basic tools don’t end there. With an increase in commercial insurance third-party payers and third-party administrators, those payers often don’t speak the same language as the audiologist, which can lead to confusion and heartburn. Kim Cavitt, AuD, a nationally known audiology coding and reimbursement expert, offers a chapter on insurance that includes a glossary of terms and processes for negotiating if you choose to successfully incorporate these commercial payers into your practice. Stephanie Sjoblad, AuD, a pioneer and expert in successful itemization for hearing aid services in her university clinic that functions as a private practice, brings over 10 years of how-to’s to successfully itemize in your own practice. For those practices considering a transition to this process, this chapter will be a major guiding force. Kim Pollock, another nationally known coding and reimbursement consultant, offers a chapter on managing your revenue, something not usually provided specifically to audiologists in a written format, by one of the most knowledgeable sources who has performed audits and risk management for otolaryngology/audiology practices for many years. The final contributor, Doug Lewis, PhD, JD, MBA, an audiologist with significant credentials, has a chapter on the federal regulations that impact the practice of audiology, a compendium of all those requirements essential to maintaining compliance while offering services. Finally, the concluding chapter is a checklist of the fundamentals and the components needed when one considers and establishes a private practice.

Apart from the chapter devoted to revenue, each data-driven chapter on coding, reimbursement, and compliance, was written by audiologists for audiologists, unprecedented at the time of publication. This is a necessary resource for every audiology office and academic program!

Meet the Author Sessions at ASHA 2017 Convention

MEET THE AUTHORS AT ASHA!

SCHEDULE:

Thursday, November 9

11:00 – 12:00 pm: Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin and Priya James, co-authors of Comprehensive Intervention for Children With Developmental Delays and Disorders (10 book set)

1:00 – 2:00 pm: Wendy Papir-Bernstein, author of The Practioner’s Path in Speech-Language Pathology: The Art of School-Based Practice

2:00 – 3:00 pm: Raymond H. Hull, editor of Communication Disorders in Aging

3:00 – 4:00 pm: Françoise Brosseau-Lapré, co-author of Developmental Phonological Disorders: Foundations of Clinical Practice, Second Edition
Friday, November 10

10:00 – 11:00 am: Debra Abel, editor of The Essential Guide to Coding in Audiology: Coding, Billing, and Practice Management

11:00 – 12:00 pm: Erna Alant, author of Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Engagement and Participation

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Anthony DiLollo, co-author of Clinical Decision Making in Fluency Disorders, Fourth Edition

1:00 – 2:00 pm: Margaret Lehman Blake, author of The Right Hemisphere and Disorders of Cognition and Communication: Theory and Clinical Practice

Saturday, November 11

10:00 – 11:00 am: Christina Gildersleeve-Neumann, co-author of Phonetic Science for Clinical Practice (textbook and workbook)

11:00 – 11:30 am: Ryan W. McCreery and Elizabeth A. Walker, co-authors of Pediatric Amplification: Enhancing Auditory Access

Book excerpt – James Jerger: A Life in Audiology

The following excerpt is from the autobiography, James Jerger: A Life in Audiology

American Academy of Audiology

The AAA is now in its 28th year. Younger members may not appreciate what it has meant to our profession. Before the Academy was launched in 1988 we were the step-children of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, commonly abbreviated as ASHA. We followed their code of ethics, accepted their certification programs, attended their conventions, and published in their journals. How this came about was essentially an accident of history. Most of the earliest audiologists were people originally trained in speech science and speech pathology. As such, ASHA was their natural home and they were comfortable within its ranks. Raymond Carhart’s doctoral dissertation, for example, concerned a model of the human larynx.  But as younger people became audiologists they did not share the common bond with speech science and speech pathology so typical of their mentors. As the field of audiology grew, some of the younger members began to ask whether we might not be better served by creating our own national professional organization. Expressing this view, however, met with stern disapproval. Our elders insisted that fragmentation must never happen, that we must always remain one profession because you could not separate hearing from speech and language; they were all part of the unique process we call “human communication.”  I always thought this argument specious. For example, you cannot separate the brain from the foot: they are both part of the whole body, but there are quite distinct medical specialties to treat their disorders. Certainly the more you know about language and speech the better, but that doesn’t mandate that you belong to their professional organization.

In any event, opponents of fragmentation failed to appreciate that ASHA itself began as the American Academy of Speech Correction (AASC) by fragmenting off from the National Association of Teachers of Speech (NATS) in 1925. NATS in turn was formed by splitting off from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 1914.

In 1958 I was elected to ASHA’s executive board. At one of our meetings, I suggested that we consider setting up special interest groups that would lend some separate identity to various clearly distinguishable groups within the organization. There was much shoe shuffling, and some support from the aphasia people, but little general willingness to pursue the topic. A fellow board member, one of the revered elder statesman in audiology, came over to me as the meeting broke up, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Jim, it will never happen. They are afraid we will split off.”  Actually the idea of special interest groups within ASHA did eventually happen, but only after we had formed AAA.

Nothing much transpired for the next few decades, but matters came to a head at the 1987 ASHA convention in New Orleans. Rick Talbot had organized a session on “future trends in audiology.” There were five of us on the panel: Jay Hall, George Osborne, Charles Berlin, Lucille Beck and me. Each presented a thoughtful glimpse at what the future might hold in their particular area. I was the last speaker and my message was simple. I said, “I think it is time for audiologists to form their own professional organization” The response from the audience shocked me. There was a deafening roar of approval, which I truly had not expected. I think that everyone on that stage was also amazed.

Back in Houston I asked colleague Brad Stach what he thought of the idea. He was leery at first, but came around when I drew an analogy with an umbrella organization like the American Medical Association, under which each medical specialty had its own organization, its own publication and its own convention. In retrospect the analogy is not quite apt, but it convinced Brad to take up the cause. We put together a list of 35 audiologists that we considered leaders in their respective areas and sent each one a letter of invitation to come to Houston for a two-day meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a new organization “of, by, and for” audiologists. Only one invitee declined. The rest arrived, at his/her own expense, ready to consider the idea.

We met in the ballroom of a hotel just across Fannin street from the Methodist Hospital. The first morning was chaotic. It was difficult to believe that the group could ever agree on anything. By the end of the second day, however, there was general consensus that the effort at least ought to be attempted. In 2009 I wrote, in my book Audiology in the USA, the following:

 “The first year of the Academy’s existence, 1988, was an uncertain time. The founders were not at all sure that their efforts would succeed. They knew what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to go, but recognized, with some trepidation, the formidable forces arrayed against them. The primary concern was, of course, the ASHA.  It already counted, at that time, more than 8000 audiologists among its roughly 60,000 members, and was not disposed to view this defection in a collegial manner.”

If I were to rewrite that last sentence today, I would undoubtedly use more colorful language, so I had better not try. That passage does illustrate, however, what I perceived to be the most important reason to break away from ASHA. Speech pathologists outnumbered audiologists in the ratio of about 8:1. But, profession-wise, speech pathology is, and perhaps always will be, based on an educational model, whereas audiology is based on more of a medical model. At that time the bulk of speech pathologists worked as therapists in the public schools of America. They worked primarily with children. Most held only the bachelor’s degree.  Our profession, on the other hand, is more like a medical model. Most of us are engaged in clinical services, either in private practice, or in medical environments. At the time we started the Academy, most audiologists held the master’s degree, and there was already pressure to upgrade to the doctoral level, which we have since accomplished with the AuD degree (a move, incidentally, with which ASHA did not initially share our enthusiasm.) Many of us felt that we would never be able to achieve the much-desired doctoral level degree until we were free of dominance by ASHA.

HEARING AID FITTINGS TODAY vs YESTERDAY; IS IT BETTER?

Compression did not begin with digital hearing aids

By Theodore H. Venema, PhD
Author of Compression for Clinicians: A Compass for Hearing Aid Fittings, Third Edition

My career in this field began in 1987 as a new audiologist at The Canadian Hearing Society in Toronto. All hearing aids were analog and provided linear gain, although a few compression circuits floated around too. These used output limiting compression, with its high knee-point and high compression ratio. The knee-point was adjustable, which in turn adjusted the maximum power output (MPO). It was a way to limit the MPO without the use of “peak clipping,” which caused distortion.

Wide dynamic range compression (WDRC) entered the scene with a cannonball splash right around 1990. The action of the outer hair cells (OHCs) was now understood by clinicians as being distinct from that of the inner hair cells (IHCs). As we all know today, the OHCs enable the IHCs to sense soft incoming sounds below around 50 dB SPL. WDRC was thus seen as a rather “intellectual” type of compression, in that it electronically sought to imitate the role of the OHCs. With its low knee-point and a low compression ratio, the focus of WDRC is to elevate the “floor” of hearing sensitivity, rather than to limit the MPO or “ceiling” of loudness tolerance. It is no coincidence that otoacoustic emissions—also known to arise from the action of the OHCs—suddenly emerged as part of clinical practice.

Compression in today’s digital hearing aids hasn’t really changed all that much from then. We continue to use both output limiting compression and WDRC. The point here is that the analog hearing aids of that time (late 1980s, early 1990s) used either one type of compression or another. Clinicians had to know their compression types because their hearing selection for any client depended on this knowledge. Manufacturer fitting software did not yet exist. Today’s digital hearing aids are programmed exclusively by software. Once the audiogram is entered through Noah, the hearing aid signal processing is automatically programmed to provide whatever compression is deemed necessary. We’ve become “dumbed down,” because we no longer have to know how to apply the compression. The manufacturer fitting software takes care of all that!

The cables, the cables, the cables…

The emergence of the cables actually began in the very late 1980s, with the first “programmable” analog hearing aids. A cable from a computer (or more often a handheld programming device) was plugged into a socket on the faceplate of an ITE or on the backside of a BTE. Adjustments were made via this “digital screwdriver.” This seemed like a really “cool” alternative to manually adjusting hearing aid settings by trimmers, trim pots, potentiometers, whatever they were called. We simply turned these clockwise or counterclockwise, in order to raise or lower the MPO, gain, low-cut, high-cut, etc. I used to laugh that if the original settings were somehow lost, one could simply set all the trimmers halfway; that way, one could maximally be only half-wrong.

Back to the cables, it is truly amazing just how many different ones exist, even for the product lineup of any one manufacturer! This issue is not at all new, and I am not the  first to complain about that. I must admit to feeling a little odd though, when hanging a weird looking hook around the client’s neck with cables connected to the hearing aids positioned in the client’s ears. The next step is to sit in front of the computer, hoping and praying the manufacturer’s fitting software will read the hearing aids.

Manufacturer fitting software, fitting software, fitting software…

Fitting software emerged at the end of the analog era (mid 1990s) and flourished with the advent of digital hearing aids in 1997. Of course, with each manufacturer, the fitting software is completely different. Oh, there are some similar traits among them, but the look, the feel, the labels, and also the quirks and exceptions, are different for each manufacturer.

Digital technology and software certainly do add flexibility; they also however, invite their best friend, complexity. There are so many parameters involved with fitting now: noise reduction amounts and types, directional microphones and associated polar plots, feedback suppression adjustments, linking binaural hearing aids, and don’t forget about the battery indicator beeps! It gets better; we in separate programs, make combinations of the above-said parameters, in order to specifically address various different listening situations, such as quiet, conversations, and traffic.

Has anyone seen ANSI? Where did it Go? Sometime during the late 1990s, with the advent of digital hearing aids in 1997, ANSI slipped away. It happened in the middle of the night. Since the 1950s for hearing aids, ANSI was intended to be a measurement standard for hearing aid hardware, which consists of the microphone, amplifier, and receiver (aka speaker). Add a few capacitors, resistors, inductors (and trimmers to adjust their behaviors), and you still have nothing but analog hardware. Such was the consistency of analog hearing aids. ANSI ruled in the analog land of hardware, but now fitting software rules. Quaint concerns about OSPL90, Reference Test gain, Harmonic Distortion, and Equivalent Input Noise have almost faded from view. Today it’s all about software. Most clinicians today never bother with ANSI because they are just trying to figure out the fitting software.

The dongles and Bluetooth paraphernalia…

On a semi-annual basis, the goals and deadlines of their product management cycles dictate that manufacturers must pound out new and updated products. The cacophony of their escalating product releases has become deafening. What’s more, hearing aids now come with all kinds of dongles, Bluetooth remotes and gadgets to be used with other devices that work with the phone, television, etc. Of course, these have to be “paired” together to work with the hearing aids. Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to explain things, it does make me feel a bit like “Ted the Cable Guy.”

Clients commonly come back to the office with bags containing unused cords, boxes, television streaming devices, and dongles. It can be quite difficult to get elderly people to make sense of it all! Bottom line: Clinicians today are still constantly “putting out fires,” much like they always did in the past.

Epilogue

It’s obvious that hearing aids today are far better than the squealing, beige “banana-shaped” BTEs of yesterday. The disappointing thing, however, is that the rate of client satisfaction has not risen at the same rate as hearing aid development and complexity. The unwanted byproduct from complexity is confusion, felt by both clinicians and clients.

We have made amazing strides in technology, digital algorithms, and features. The downside is that it has all come at a cost, literally and figuratively, to clients and clinicians. With all the recent progress, I’m not sure clinicians feel that fittings are easier today than they used to be. I also do not believe the monetary cost of hearing aids compared to eyeglasses is at all well understood by clients. Is anyone really surprised at the recent emergence of (and governmental support for) an alternative, namely, those low-cost personal sound amplification products, also known as PSAPs?

Talking Hearing Aids with Brian Taylor and H. Gustav Mueller

Brian_TaylorGus_Mueller TaylorMueller_2e_FDHA2E

Fitting and Dispensing Hearing Aids, a popular introductory textbook, has just been published in its second edition in September. We managed to listen in to a conversation between its two authors, Brian Taylor and H. Gustav Mueller, who were exchanging some thoughts regarding their new 2nd Edition.

BT:  You know Gus, when we wrote the first edition of this book, I remember us talking about the fact that there seemed to a fair number of professionals who maybe weren’t following Best Practice when they were fitting hearing aids.  We thought that it might simply be because they didn’t exactly know what was called for in Best Practice, or maybe it never had been laid out for them in an orderly manner.

HGM:  And we thought a book like ours might help . . .

BT:  Right.  Do you think it did?

HGM:  I’d certainly like to think so.  We sold a lot of copies, so that’s a good start!  But honestly, when I travel around, I don’t see as much change over the past five years as I thought might happen.  Let’s take pre-fitting testing for instance.  We have some great speech-in-noise tests available for clinical use like the QuickSIN, the BKB-SIN and the WIN.  We talked about all of these in the book, provided step-by-step guidelines, yet I just don’t really see an uptake—for some reason, audiologists and hearing instrument specialists seem to have a love affair with monosyllables in quiet, which really have little use for the fitting of hearing aids.

BT:  Maybe we’re expecting things to happen too fast.  I think it’s good we expanded that section on pre-fitting speech recognition testing in the current book—hopefully more readers will take notice.  And as you know Gus, I’ve always been a fan of the ANL.  I just saw that there has been over 40 articles published on that test in the past 12 years!  That’s another easy-to-do test, and it really provides information that you cannot learn by doing speech recognition testing.

HGM:  Part of Best Practice is picking the right technology for the right person.  I recall you spent a lot of time researching all the new technology that has come out in recent years for this 2nd Edition.

BT:  Things change pretty fast in that area.  I think we’ve added some great new sections on wireless connectivity, frequency lowering, and audio data transfer between hearing aids. Like the first edition, rather than getting into the intricate technical details of various features, we focus on how this technology benefits the patient. For example, in the chapter that covers wireless connectivity and audio data transfer between hearing aids, we write about how these new features enhance benefit in background noise, and how candidates are identified.

HGM:  And, of course, verification of the fitting is critical.  The best hearing aid in the world is no better than a PSAP if it’s programmed wrong.  I think our new section on speechmapping will be extremely helpful for people who are just getting started using probe-mic measures.  As we described, recent research clearly has shown that you can’t simply rely on what you see simulated on the software fitting screen.  As, of course, all those special features that you talked about, such as frequency lowering, need to be verified in the real ear too!

With all that said, however, we also know that verification alone is not enough to demonstrate to patients, their families, and even third-party payers that a new set of hearing aids is worth the investment—so, we can’t forget about outcome measures.

BT: Yes, Gus, it seems there are always a couple of new outcome measures to talk about. With all of the recent research on the impact of untreated hearing loss on other conditions, like cognitive function, social isolation, and overall mental health, we added a section on validated self-reports to measure the impact hearing aid use may have on these common conditions.  Even if you’re not inclined to measure those types of downstream outcomes, we added more detail on using the International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids (IOI-HA). As you know, many audiologists and hearing instrument specialists neglect to conduct any outcome measures. We cover the reasons this is a bad idea, and suggest, if you are only going to use one measure, it ought to be the IOI-HA.

HGM:  And you know, some people suggested that it was a little silly for us to use our chapter themes of country music, movies, wine tasting, baseball, and all the others, but I’m glad we kept that going in this 2nd Edition.

BT:  Me too.  Who said you can’t have fun and learn about hearing aid fitting at the same time?  After all, it’s worked all these years for the two of us!

 

Book Review: Auditory Verbal Therapy: For Young Children with Hearing loss and Their Families, and the Practitioners Who Guide Them

AVT book - artwork -v8

Reviewed by Estelle Roberts, Speech-Language Therapist, Jhb Cochlear Implant Programme, Johannesburg, South Africa

Advances in technology have increasingly cast a spotlight on the possibilities for children with hearing loss, however severe, to learn to listen and use spoken language as their preferred mode of communication.   Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) has gained prominence as the intervention of choice for these families and their practitioners.  Auditory Verbal Therapy: For Young Children with Hearing loss and Their Families, and the Practitioners Who Guide Them provides a current, comprehensive and evidence-based text with appeal for a broad spectrum of professionals. The editors’ global experience reflects in, and influences the text, as does the work of 29 contributors, all international experts in their fields.

This is a substantive book:  seventeen chapters spanning 600 pages.  While this might initially seem daunting, the text makes for absorbing reading.  Much of the information is presented to encourage a fresh look at familiar topics. Throughout the text, the latest thinking and research is applied to AVT. In Chapter 2, hearing and listening are naturally paired with thinking and its accompanying research.  In Chapter 8, extensive and relevant information covering auditory processing, speech, language, emergent literacy and play is linked to developmental scales to provide diagnostic guidelines for practitioners.  Chapter 9 explores emergent literacy and provides compelling data that highlights the importance of early and effective access to sound for infants with hearing loss.  Very topically, it includes a balanced perspective on digital literacy.  For students and practitioners seeking practical knowledge in skill development, there are a number of ‘How to…’ chapters that have the potential to be used as ‘templates’ for acquiring skills or refining professional practice.

Unlike most texts, where the emphasis is directed at a particular group of practitioners, this inclusive text speaks to a broader audience within the field.  The material presented in chapters 4 – 7, covering audiology, hearing aids, implantable hearing technologies and assistive and access technologies, balances the next chapters, which provide greater depth for Auditory Verbal practitioners in particular. This balance between depth and breadth creates a must-have reference for the broader professional community interacting with cochlear implants.

The final chapter presents the voices of families from twelve countries as they reflect on their journeys with their children with hearing loss. Their reports, told from this powerful perspective, bear touching and convincing testimony to the global reach of AVT.

The lay-out of the book contributes to an ease of understanding that would be appreciated by parents, students and others not wholly familiar with the field.  Generous spacing, bulleting and frequently highlighted sub-sections creates a navigable reading experience and serves as a useful reference for those who prefer to use the text as a ‘dip-in’ resource.

Given its broad appeal to professionals and families, its presentation of extensive current, researched information and practical application to AVT, as well as its easy navigability, this resource may well replace existing texts to become the favoured ‘go-to’ resource for practitioners, students, families and the broader CI community seeking exploration and guidance in the field of AVT.

Plural Supports Student Research Forum Awards at AudiologyNOW!

Each year, five recipients present their research findings at AudiologyNOW! and receive a $500 award from the Foundation as sponsored by Plural. We congratulate this year’s very deserving award recipients.

SRF Group Photo

Messages from the award recipients:

“It was a great honor and privilege to be selected and given the opportunity to present my research project and represent the University of North Texas in the Student Research Forum. From applying to presenting, the experience was full of nervousness. However, the possibility of presenting the research that I devoted so much time to in the last 3 years on a national stage was something I could not pass up. I am so very appreciative to the Foundation and Plural Publishing for allowing five students the opportunity to gain experience in public speaking and share the work that is so meaningful to them. I enjoyed meeting the four other students involved, Dr. Samuel Atcherson from the University of Arkansas, and other representatives from audiology programs and the Academy.  It would not have been possible for me to be selected without the hard work and dedication of my mentor, Dr. Amyn Amlani. The experience could not have been more perfect and I am appreciative for the award.”

Kyle Harber | Au.D. Student | University of North Texas

Continue reading