A Scientific, Neuro-Cognitive Approach to Correcting For Hearing Impairment
Dr. Magilen has developed a unique battery of diagnostic tests to assess the variables affecting a person’s ability to comprehend speech in the “real world.” The diagnostic tests are used to customize the hearing-aid settings to the client’s specific “sensory-cognitive profile.” This means that the hearing aid is not used merely to amplify sound. It is also used to shape sound in a special way that enables the listener to process speech more quickly with less mental effort and in a broader range of acoustic environments than what would occur with conventionally fitted aids. Such sound shaping helps listeners understand speech even in the most challenging environments.
The need for objective measurement of sound in the ear canal for hearing aid fitting is so important that Dr. Magilen developed and patented unique instrumentation. This is only one of the ways in which Dr. Magilen goes to extraordinary lengths to provide the best possible fit.
In order to provide the client with a “realistic expectation” of their optimal hearing experience, our Hearing Engineering specialists first demonstrates the optimum settings for a variety of environments using a broad range of voices and listening situations. The goal is to provide the client with a concrete illustration of:
- the best speech quality obtainable
- the most natural sound quality achievable
- the best possible separation of a speaker’s WORDS from background noise
Our Hearing Engineering specialists also demonstrates hearing aid improvement through comparable conditions of use. This demonstration serves as a baseline to compare the true efficacy of a hearing aid of any model, price, size or features.
Just as a sound engineer can tune his or her equipment for concert hall performances or a studio recording, today’s digital hearing aids can be precisely tuned and optimized for the client’s specific needs.
Walnut Creek Hearing Aid Center’s proprietary technology allows the aids to improve speech comprehension by 300% for the “typical” listener in noisy situations when compared to the traditional audiological tuning procedures. Better comprehension enables the brain to process speech easier, faster and better, resulting in cognitive performance superior to what would occur without it.
A progressive disorder like a hearing impairment requires delicate care. An aging and changing ear/brain system requires at least as much follow-up testing and services as in dentistry and optometry; however, hearing aids do not require frequent replacement like eyeglass lenses. They simply require re-engineering of the fitting. Typically, clients replace their hearing aids after 5-10 years. This is why the Walnut Creek Hearing Aid Center includes on-going support over the devices’ lifetime. The concept is that the client receives the long-term professional support they need to keep them hearing their best.
Discovery of an individual’s optimal capabilities begins with a hearing assessment evaluation. It can change that person’s life.
Dr. Gil’s Hearing-In-Noise Test
Well-tuned directional microphones in hearing aids are the most effective feature to help you understand people in noisy places. Here’s how you can test them:
- Go with a friend to any noisy restaurant. Sit at a normal distance (about 4-6 feet) across from each other. Close your eyes.
- With a voice slightly louder than the surrounding noise, have your friend ask you questions or ask you to repeat simple sentences. You should be able to accurately understand your friend’s speech.
- Next, look over your shoulder and have your friend say other questions or ask other sentences.
- You should have great difficulty understanding your friend when you look over your shoulder. If it doesn’t seem like your friend moved at least twice as far away from you as he or she is sitting, the directional microphones in your hearing aids are not helping you in noise.
- Today’s hearing aids are able to deliver whispered speech in moderately noisy places, and a significantly separated speaker’s voice at a loud party, even for people with severe hearing loss.
- If you did not understand your friend when their voice was slightly louder than the noise and/or if your friend did not become unintelligible when you looked over your shoulder, you need to learn more about the capabilities of your hearing aids or more about your hearing impairment.
Dr. Gil’s Whisper Hearing Test
Here’s a simple test you can do at home to determine the effectiveness of your hearing aids.
Start by adjusting your hearing aid to your normal hearing position.
1. In a quiet room, ask a friend or spouse to sit about 5 feet away from you. Close your eyes and have them whisper a question or a sentence for you to repeat. You should easily be able to hear them. Failing the whisper test means that you are definitely not getting the sound you need to hear the soft parts of speech. If you didn’t hear the whisper, your hearing loss may need to be corrected.
2. If you were able to hear the whisper, next, test the loudness settings of your hearing aid. Ask your friend to make some very loud sounds. Have them shout, bang dishes together, clap loudly and vigorously shake a newspaper page.
Today’s hearing aids are easily able to deliver whispered sound even for people with severe hearing loss. That level of hearing correction can be accomplished without distorting the naturalness or loudness of other sounds.
If you HEAR the whisper, but do not UNDERSTAND the whispered sentence, then you need to learn more about your hearing impairment.
Otoscopic ExamOne of our skilled technicians will look in your ear using an otoscope, a magnifying lens with a light. They are looking to make sure that your external ear, ear canal, and eardrum are clean and free of debris or earwax, and that everything looks normal.
Understanding Your Hearing Test
The Pure Tone Audiogram
When you get a standard hearing test, you generally take at least two tests. One test results in a graph called a Pure Tone Audiogram. The other results in a percent correct score, the Speech Discrimination test.
The vertical scale is in decibels of hearing loss. You can think of it like the earthquake Richter scale if you think of the numbers without the zeros (i.e.: 40 dB is like an earthquake of 4, and 70 dB is like an earthquake of 7). An earthquake of 4 is mild, while an earthquake of 7 is severe.
The horizontal scale is in frequencies. You can think of it like the keys on a piano. On the left side are the bass tones and to the right are the higher pitched tones.
Now, look at the two lines, your test results. Generally, the line through the red circles corresponds to the right ear and through the blue X’s corresponds to the left ear.
The hearing loss at each tone can be described with words like: normal (0-20 dB), mild (30-40 dB), moderate (50-60dB), severe (70 dB) or profound (80+ dB).
Hearing a whisper: Nearly everyone with hearing loss down to 70-80 dB should be able to hear themselves whisper with today’s hearing aids. If your hearing loss is at the moderate level you should be hearing the whispers of others as easily as a person your age with normal hearing.
The Speech Discrimination Test
The results of this test are recorded as a “%” on your hearing test form. The number is the percent of words you repeated back to the audiometrist correctly.
Normal speech discrimination is 100%, mild 85-95%, moderate 70-80%, poor 60-70%, very poor 40-50%, below 35% very severely impaired.
Understanding a Whisper: If your speech discrimination scores are above 70% you should be able to understand a whisper wearing hearing aids, even with a moderate level of background noise, without needing to see the speaker’s face. At 60-70% you will probably need to see the speaker’s face. Below 50%, you will hear, but have great difficulty understanding the whisper.