Wireless, in this context, means that your hearing aids have a feature that creates a direct wireless connection to media sound sources like your television, stereo, computer or phone. With wireless, you get the sound you want to hear streamed right into your ears at the volume most comfortable for you. Other people in the room use the television remote control to set the volume they prefer. There are several types of wireless technology available in hearing aids today:

Near-field magnetic induction (NFMI) systems use Bluetooth® technology to stream audio from the transmitting device to an intermediary relay device worn around your neck, which in turn transmits to your hearing aids. NFMI was the first wireless technology; the transmission range is limited to 3-5 feet and there can be a sound delay with the device.
900 MHz Radio-Frequency (RF) systems use an antenna to transmit to your hearing aids. You plug a small transmitting device into your television's "audio out" jack; the transmitter streams the audio directly to your hearing aids. The range is greater than with NFMI systems – about 20-30 feet from the television or stereo. RF systems do not require a relay device worn around your neck. RF systems on the 900 MHz band support long-distance audio streaming as well as reliable communication between both hearing aids for binaural, or ear-to-ear, processing. In effect, your hearing aids are able to share information with each other to improve sound management in many situations. The transmission device can stream audio to more than one hearing aid wearer at a time.

2.4 GHz band Radio-Frequency systems transmit on the 2.4 GHz band, a frequency commonly used by many home electronics such as computer networks, garage door openers and wireless phones. These systems also support long-distance audio streaming, although there is some debate about whether users experience interference from the household devices mentioned above. The 2.4 GHz platform does not support ear-to-ear processing.
An FM system is used with hearing aids or stand-alone to give additional assistance in difficult listening situations such as in background noise, when trying to listen at too much distance from the source of sound or in a reverberant (echo-prone) hall or room. The receiver part may be incorporated into the hearing aid, or attached by a cable, or worn around the neck like a hearing loop. The transmitter part is held by the person speaking or close to the sound that you wish to pick up – eg plugged into a TV socket or audio device. When someone speaks into the transmitter’s microphone, the voice is transmitted by radio waves without interference from other noise. FM thus helps understanding in noisy situations. 

This is a common challenge for many people with implants and even people with hearing aids. One gentleman who lived in a remote community literally had no-one within 100kms of his home. He trained himself to listen with his cochlear implant by watching a ten minute clip from a DVD with subtitles over and over. The clip he chose had dialogue with little or no sound effects or background music. Then when he felt he knew the text fairly well, he would watch it again without the sub-titles. He would often watch the same clip 20-30 times. Another way is to listen to “Talking Books”, where the text is read aloud. It helps to have the written text available. Also, the speed of the verbal text may be a bit fast. There is a company called People Learn Production (formerly called Narkaling Inc.) who produce audio books for people learning English as a second language (see www.peoplelearn.com. au). These start off at 40 words per minute right up to stories read at 160 words per minute. This range is ideal for people with cochlear implants as they develop their skills. In WA (and other states?) these Audio Books are available at most local libraries or can be requested. Ask your Audiologist which reading speed would be suitable for you. The implant companies are very aware of providing listening materials and interactive listening practice online. Hopefully the sound quality on your computer is good enough to give you a clear signal. (You can plug directly into your laptop using your audio cable, but do not plug the cable into mains operated equipment).

Med-El (www.medel.com/us/show4/ index/id/255/titel/SoundScape) has produced the SoundScape interactive listening program. I recommend: Telling Tales • Oceans and Continents and • Sentence Matrix • Although the first two are designed for children and teenagers, they are worthwhile for all ages. Advanced Bionics has interactive listening programs at: www. advancedbionics.com/CMS/Rehab- Education/The-Listening-Room/. You can register online for The Listening Room to practise interactive listening, speech tracking and listening to telephone tones (though the tones are for phones used in the USA). This website is especially useful if you have access to an ipod or MP3 player with visual controls, as you can download listening practice activities. Cochlear Ltd. have many links on their website to online listening exercises www.cochlear.com/au/ nucleus-support/websites-listening-practice#teens, as does the Cochlear Awareness Network at www.c-a-network.com/rehab.php

Other websites:

www.manythings.org/pp/ offers • practice with minimal pairs (words the same except for one sound eg “Pain” versus “Pen”) that fine-tunes your ability to discriminate one sound from another. (The North American speaker may make things slightly harder, initially.)

www.nlm.nih.gov/ • medlineplus/tutorial.html teaches you about various medical conditions while you listen and you can also read along to the text if you miss any words (Not suitable for hypochondriacs!)

University of California • Professor Robert Sweetow offers the Neurotone LACE Listening Program (DVD and web-based) www.neurotone.com with dozens of exercises that some hearing aid clinics in the US include in their packages.

Radio Reading Services is a great listening practice service available in many parts of Australia which actually originated to cater for the vision impaired. They read articles 24 hours every day from newspapers, magazines and broadcast overnight programs received by satellite from the BBC. With few exceptions, everyone can improve their listening comprehension through practice. Your audiologist will be most impressed, and you might well be entertained!

Ones we know about: 2RPH Newcastle & Lower Hunter • 100.5 FM; Sydney 100.5 FM or • Sydney 1224 AM •

For a 2RPH program guide visit www. 2rph.org.au or request a leaflet via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: (02) 9518 8811 or write to: 7/184 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037. 

Listening is something that takes mental energy for anyone who has relied on lipreading. It would be just as difficult and tiring for someone who has suddenly gone almost completely deaf trying to communicate mostly by lipreading! We can also compare the process with swimming. Nobody can swim for you. Most of us get quite tired after a little bit of swimming, but with consistent training it becomes easier. The trick is to break down the process into manageable chunks. Make it fun, rather than a chore. Try using audiobooks plus the actual book for simultaneous reading - like training wheels on a bike. Make it fun by choosing a story that will captivate you and you will almost forget that your hearing is getting the listening practice it needs. Talk to your audiologist about it. Audiobooks plus their corresponding books can be expensive, so start easy by borrowing from your local or regional library. You can also download free audiobooks online such as www.booksshouldbefree. com. Your auditory a ention and concentration will gradually strengthen, so that you can look forward to hearing more naturally and without so much effort over time regardless of your age! 

Static electricity is present in many everyday situations such as putting on or removing clothes over the head and getting out of a vehicle. While electrostatic charge has the potential to damage electronic circuits, Cochlear implants and speech processors have had many improvements in recent generations of technology to protect against such an event. As a precaution, you should touch something conductive like a metal door handle before the CI system contacts any object or person. Prior to engaging in activities that create extreme electrostatic charge (eg, children playing on plastic slides), the sound processor and headset should be removed. Rubber material such as a gymnastic mat is more conductive, especially if enriched with carbon material, so there is less potential for electrostatic discharge (ESD). It is important to remember that implants incorporate ESD protective circuitry and provide a high degree of protection against damage. Seek advice about your generation of technology from your clinician if you are concerned, however there is no specific risk with artificial turf. 

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