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Troubleshooting Hearing Aids & Cochlear Implants – All About YOU! Episode 24

Welcome back to the All About Audiology podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Lilach Saperstein and I’m so glad you are here for another All About You episode! If you are new around here, Welcome. Thank you for joining us. Every other episode after the main episode, I do an All About You episode where I read your comments and reviews of the show which are so appreciated. And I answer some of the questions that have been coming in on Instagram and on Facebook @allaboutaudiology podcast.

I’m going to start by reading such a lovely review from Samantha3185 who writes:

“I’m enjoying your podcast. It’s been encouraging as a parent of a deaf child to hear from professionals. It’s incredibly difficult to find unbiased research when making choices. I also personally like the perspective that deaf children can be bilingual with ASL (American Sign Language) and English, as this is what we have chosen for our son. And that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. By using both at a young age, they’ll have those skills when they get older to make those communication decisions. Thank you for putting this out there as a resource for us.”

Thank you, Samantha, for writing such a beautiful review and I’m really glad that that message resonated with you. Because from the beginning of this podcast, it’s always been my goal to give you guys the resources, the information, the things that you need so you can make the decisions that are best for you and your family. There is no “One size fits all, you have to do it my way.” “You have to go into a one language program either listening or spoken language or it’s totally deaf education and ASL. That’s it those are the only two options.” There are so many other factors involved and we’ve discussed these in previous episodes. AND we’re having some exciting interviews coming up in the next couple of episodes.

Part of my whole mission with this is to empower you that you are able to deal with whatever is going on related to hearing loss. Whether it’s a child with hearing loss or an elderly parent with hearing loss or your own journey with audiology, with whatever is going on for you in your family and your loved ones, I want you to feel empowered. And with information and understanding, comes confidence, and self-efficacy, which means that you believe you are able to do things. That you believe you are able to learn something and execute it. A very important part of the process is developing self-efficacy both as a person with hearing loss or as a caregiver or a loved one to a person with hearing loss. Many parents of young children have to go through this process where they are also dealing with the entire hearing loss, and how to take care of the devices. Hearing aids and cochlear implants and FM systems and batteries and cables and wires and all these things. They are complicated and there’s a learning curve to understand how do all these pieces fit together. So, I made a really quick troubleshooting video and you can see it over on Facebook and Instagram. But I’m going to talk a little bit about why I made that video and why it’s been received so well.

There is this feeling that any time there is something wrong, or oh no, the hearing aid isn’t working, or the cochlear implant is blinking different lights, you have to go back to the audiologist, clinic or hospital. But what I wanted to show was a couple of easy troubleshooting techniques to try out before you panic. The simple ones like making sure the battery is fully charged or making sure you have fresh zinc air batteries or you might not know if that whole pack is expired or the stickers came off or whatever the reason… So those are just some of the simple things I teach about in the video.

You don’t know how many times when I was in an audiology practice, when I was doing my residency there, people would come in with different issues. One time it would be that they needed to change the battery, and we would tell them, “the hearing aid is working just fine”, or they needed cleaning in the tubing, changing the wax guards, or any of these things. It’s hard to keep track of all this new information when your real goal in getting a device is to adapt to the sound and to have the child wear the device for many hours or have the adult acclimate to it and not reject it. So, we have all these different goals in terms of hearing but there’s also this other piece of being able to maintain and care for whatever the devices are. There’s drying kits for people who are in very humid climates or for people who sweat a lot. It’s just something that has come up a lot and I wanted to share a couple more tips in the podcast because this is the deep dive.

One of the things that is really helpful is taking videos and pictures during your audiology appointment. When you have a fitting appointment for getting hearing aids or cochlear implant mapping or activation, whatever the appointment is for, you can take videos of how the audiologist puts the hearing aid into the ear. A ten second clip and now you have the information, not only for yourself to go back to and refresh but also to share with the teachers or any other caregivers involved, like grandparents and babysitters…Whoever else is involved can also have the information first hand as if they were in the appointment. If you take a quick picture of how the cochlear implant should be sitting or how to get the coil underneath the hair in just the right spot or have a video from the actual appointment, it can be a really great tool later on to help you remember what were the different pieces and how did they fit together.

Another thing is about indicator lights in hearing aids and cochlear implants that can flash to mean different things. They can mean low battery or they can be set to signify what program the hearing aid is in or they can actually turned on by the audiologist to be on continually. We usually do this with babies and young children so their caregivers can see that the device is working and functioning before the child is able to communicate that to them themselves. Because those lights are set by the audiologist, they can mean different things. This is especially true in a classroom where you might have a number of children with different devices and all of their settings of the blinking lights are doing different things. It can be hard for the teacher and classroom staff to know what those lights mean. So, a good idea is to make sure you know before you leave the appointment what all the lights and indicators and buttons mean, what do they do, how to use the remote. If you can take a picture or just a quick note, or find in the manual, cochlear implant manual specifically, and have a little chart of what all the different lights mean, what are all the different colors, what if it’s flashing or steady, you can then paste that into your child’s notebook or have that information readily available to share with the staff at a nursing home or assisted living facility so that everyone who is involved with the care can know how to have the basic care for the devices. How to clean it, change batteries, how to know when there is really a problem. I also talk about doing a listening check when it’s possible with the hearing aid. And also, with cochlear implants, there’s like a magnet that you can put the processor on to see if the external processor is transmitting.

So, there are different troubleshooting things that can go on. The important thing is not necessarily to know everything, that’s what the professionals are there for, to help you. But to have a feeling that you aren’t helpless and a feeling of not being completely overwhelmed with all the technical aspects so that you can focus on what’s really important. So that you can focus on communicating, connecting, being included and including your loved ones in your life. So that’s really the goal of all of this. We hear reports from parents that their child wants the hearing aids right when they wake up and they right away go to them and point to them and ask for it, or that they are hesitant to take it off at the end of the day. These are signs that a child is showing us that they are benefiting from the hearing aid or cochlear implant, and that they understand it’s helping them. That switch when that understanding comes about is really a wonderful stage to be in and it puts all of the difficulties of the beginning stages into fruition when the user themselves appreciates using it.

And I’ll just share a very small anecdote of my very darling grandmother. I went with her to her audiology appointment to get her fitted with hearing aids, a long time coming for her. After a couple of days, she calls me and tells me, “It’s so robotic, it’s annoying and I don’t like the sounds. My shoes are making noise. During the lecture, it was distracting me…” She was having the typical reactions of starting to use hearing aids. But I told her over the phone, “Listen, let’s do a test where I’m going to talk to you over the phone with the hearing aids and then without the hearing aids and you tell me if there is difference in my voice.” When we did that, she said, “OH, actually that is clearer. Actually, I’m not straining to have the phone near my ear.” This is just a tiny illustration of when sometimes it needs to be shown or demonstrated to the patient, why this is helping them or how they can focus on the parts that are benefiting them and of course over time she has become more used to them and feels much more confident with them and feels like she hears more and is more involved.

The next piece of news that I put out this week was a video made specifically for all of you students out there, SLPs, AUDs, all of you guys in grad school, it is not easy. We have a whole episode about that where we talked about speech pathology and audiology graduate programs and how taxing those are and how intense they are, but also how much you come out knowing. So, many of you on Instagram have asked me this question, at least five of you in the last two weeks. I’ve received questions from grad students asking me, “Do you have any tips for dealing with how many responsibilities you have in graduate school, while wanting to have a life and be healthy and take care of all the things in your life, family and friends and socializing and self-care and doing well in grad school?” There is a little visual demonstration in there so I do think it’s better suited for video but I will share that top tip that I have over there and it might be a surprise to you that the answer to how to balance tons and tons of things in your life is to cut corners.

I know that might surprise you but really this is the truth. There is no possibility of doing everything all the time, every day and being able to stay on top of all your responsibilities. It’s just impossible. There isn’t enough time and there aren’t enough resources to be able to do that. So, you’re going to have to cut corners. But the trick is, when you cut corners, you don’t cut the same corner every time. Let’s say I have a week and during this week, I have to skip an assignment, the assignment won’t be ready on time, I have other priorities and it’s going to be late. So, I’m going to lose a few points on that assignment for handing it in late. And later that week, I wake up super late, I’m going to be late to class, so instead of taking the bus which is going to cost me $2.50, I’m going to take an uber that’s going to cost me $15. So, one time of doing this, okay fine. I had this unexpected expense but I came on time to class. A couple days later, you have a friend that you scheduled to meet for lunch, but again you missed that assignment so now you’re going to skip lunch and cancelling with your friend. Every time you feel these things happening, you missed an assignment, woke up too late to take the cheaper transportation option, I had to cancel on a friend, but it’s okay. You’re cutting the corners that make your life run. The thing is that you can’t miss all of the assignments in the class or else you are going to fail. And you can’t take an uber every single day, you have to figure out a way to go to sleep earlier, do whatever you need to do so that it doesn’t become a pattern where you aren’t cutting the same corner every single time. Because you’re going to have to pay a few hundred dollars on Ubers in a couple weeks if you aren’t taking the bus. Or if you keep cancelling on that friend and neglect that whole relationship over and over again that’s where the problems come.

So that was my tip and that’s what was in my video. You can go see how I explain it with little cutouts of a circle, triangle and a square, it’s very cute. Hahaha.

So, I hope you guys are enjoying the podcast. We have some exciting episodes coming up. Interviews with cochlear implant audiologists and more on that topic. And an interview with someone who is a very big advocate of Auditory Verbal Therapy. I think all of these conversations are things that you guys are interested in and I’m doing my best to get this information into your hands so you can feel empowered and so that you know you are making the right decisions. Once you have all the information, you analyze it through the lens of your family, your location and your family structure and all the things that come into play for yourself or your child or your loved one. That’s what this podcast is all about.

Come and join me over on the Facebook Group All About Audiology. Thank you so much for listening. I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein and this is the All About Audiology podcast.

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