Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are $20 "Hearing Aids" a Good Bargain?

By Candace Kukino, Au.D., Director of Audiology at Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center (HSDC) 


Image: in-ear personal sound amplification product

There is a new trend we will be seeing more and more of in the stores, newspapers, and advertisements: inexpensive personal sound amplification products being sold at your local drugstore. One of the reasons you'll see more ads and products focused on hearing amplification is because we are entering the retirement age of the huge Baby Boomer population (people born between 1946-1964), many of whom are not adequately prepared financially for retirement and who may be living longer but are less healthy. These health problems are red flags for acquired hearing loss and/or tinnitus. Also, just as vision tends to change with age so can hearing. This is often a gradual change over a period of years, and often the person who is hard of hearing does not realize it.

We know that quality hearing aids have always been and continue to be expensive, ranging from a little less than $1000 to over $4000 each depending on the level of technology, services included in the cost, and location of the clinic. For example, we have a client who feels that the cost of traveling to Seattle from New York is a better value than being fit with hearing aids by an audiologist in Manhattan.  She bases the value on the quality of hearing aid fitting, sound quality, our customer service, and overall satisfaction of care we provide here at HSDC versus her experiences in Manhattan.

So why not just save money and purchase your "hearing aids" at Walmart or Walgreen's? Because these Personal Sound Amplification Products (“PSAPs”) are NOT hearing aids. They are merely amplifiers. Both hearing aids and PSAPs contain a microphone, amplifier and speaker; beyond that, they are very different. The FDA guidelines specifically say that PSAPs are “not intended to compensate for impaired hearing.” These are a few additional points about the difference outlined in a the FDA article “Know the Difference”:
Only hearing aids are intended to make up for impaired hearing.
Buy a personal sound amplifier only after ruling out hearing loss as a reason for getting [a PSAP].
Choosing a PSAP as a substitute for a hearing aid can lead to more damage to your hearing
PSAPs are not intended to make up for impaired hearing. Instead, they are intended for non-hearing-impaired consumers to amplify sounds in the environment for a number of reasons, such as for recreational activities.

Basically, PSAPs take sound and amplify it, just like turning up the volume on your radio. Period. This is the equivalent of using a magnifying glass to see rather than getting your left and right eyes tested separately with clinical equipment, getting a prescription for eyeglass lenses or contacts by an optometrist, and being fitted with them by a trained optician. Even basic hearing aids are extremely sophisticated computers. They analyze and modify sound with the goal of reducing background or unwanted sounds and improving a person’s ability to understand what people are saying.

Now that you've got the facts, you’ll see why these sound amplifiers are not equivalent to hearing aids. If you know anyone who does have hearing aids and is not satisfied with the way they sound, encourage them to contact their audiologist for programming adjustments and make sure they are getting updated hearing tests at least every two years. This will ensure the hearing aids are programmed to their current hearing status. Everyone hears differently and lives in different sound environments. All hearing aids need to be programmed and re-programmed according to the individual.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Holiday AT Buying Guide


It’s getting close to that time of year! The Washington Assistive Technology Act Program and the Washington Access Fund will present a free webinar on Nov. 21st to learn about adaptive gizmos, gadgets, and practical ideas that make great gifts for people of all ages this holiday season. We will review both low-tech, cost effective devices, to more high-tech and expensive gadgets. The webinar will include a range of mainstream devices (items that may not be specifically designed as AT), and actual AT products. WATAP's AT Specialists will explore devices for people with a range of functional needs and abilities that will make great small gift ideas, to fabulously wrapped presents. Please join WATAP and the Access Fund on November 21st, from 10:00am-11:30am for a gift guide webinar on assistive technology.

Do you have suggestions for AT gifts this holiday season? Visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wa.assistivetech) to post suggestions you would like to see shared in the webinar.

Visit this link to register for this free webinar: https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/gabyd/199981, or call 800 214-8731. Once you have registered, we will provide you with a link to attend the webinar, and call-in information.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are You a New WATAP Advisory Council Member?

Graphic: Washington Assistive Technology Act LogoWe're recruiting new members for our consumer majority Advisory Council! Would you like to be a part of visioning program activities and partnerships for assistive technology service deployment in Washington State? If you use assistive technology or are parent of assistive technology user learn more about the council and how to apply.

We look forward to hearing from you!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Webinar - AT for Sports and Recreation rescheduled for September!

Please join the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP) and the Washington Access Fund for a free webinar on AT for Sports and Recreation on Thursday, September 26th from 11:00am to 12:30pm.

Seattle Adaptive Sports provides sports and recreation for youth and adults with physical disabilities throughout Western Washington. Learn about opportunities available for team and individual sports for individuals with disabilities in your neighborhood, Washington and across the country including where or how to get equipment; earn a college sports scholarships and become an elite Paralympian.
Seattle Adaptive Sports Logo

Visit this link to register for this free webinar: https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/gabyd/199981, or call 800 214-8731. Once you have registered, we will provide you with a link to attend the webinar and call-in information. This webinar will be captioned.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Assistive Technology and Low Vision Open House

Assistive Technology for Low Vision

When: Tuesday October 8, 2013 from 11 am – 7 pm

Where: Department of Services for the Blind (DSB)
3411 South Alaska St
Seattle WA 98118
(free parking available on site)

Ever wondered what kind of technology is available for a person who is blind or has low vision? Well here’s your chance to find out! The Dept. of Services for the Blind is opening its doors to their Seattle Assistive Technology and Low Vision labs to provide you with a hands-on experience. Come try out a wide range of tools, devices and technology to see what’s out there. Staff will be on site to answer your questions so you can get the most out of your experience. Representatives from the WA Assistive Technology Act Program (http://watap.org/) and WA Access Fund (http://www.washingtonaccessfund.org/) will also be present to provide information about their services.

Please RSVP to: Nancy Eckert (206) 906-5512 or nancy.eckert@dsb.wa.gov

*refreshments will be served

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Webinar - AT for Sports and Recreation

Please join the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP) and the Washington Access Fund for a free webinar on AT for Sports and Recreation on Thursday, August 22nd from noon to 1:30pm.

Seattle Adaptive Sports provides sports and recreation for youth and adults with physical disabilities throughout Western Washington. Learn about opportunities available for team and individual sports for individuals with disabilities in your neighborhood, Washington and across the country including where or how to get equipment; earn a college sports scholarships and become an elite Paralympian.
Seattle Adaptive Sports Logo
Visit this link to register for this free webinar: https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/gabyd/199981, or call 800 214-8731. Once you have registered, we will provide you with a link to attend the webinar and call-in information. This webinar will be captioned.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Job Accommodation Request Survey

Individuals aged 55 or older and in need of job accommodations are being sought for a study by researchers at the Florida State University.

You are invited to share your perceptions of factors related to accommodation requests by answering a few questions about yourself, your organization (if applicable), and your abilities and emotions in the process. This survey will take about 20-30 minutes.

The first 100 participants completing the survey will have a 1-in-4 chance of winning a $25 gift certificate; the rest of the respondents completing the survey will have a 1-in-4 chance of winning a $10 gift certificate. Moreover, you will be assisting service providers and employers to learn more about how to improve the job accommodation process for older workers, considering the fast trend in the aging workforce. The survey can be accessed through the following link: https://fsu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_eCZp9L0mXe40N0h

If you have any questions about the research study or need an alternative survey format, please contact Dr. Shengli Dong by e-mail at workplace_accommodation@fsu.edu.