DB: What hearing aid features are best for physicians?
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 08 – August 2020
CP: Different physicians have different communication needs depending on their specialty and lifestyle, so as with any patient, the audiologist must work with the physician to find the right solution. The emergency department physician typically works in a noisy environment. Noise-reduction signal processing may make this environment more comfortable, but that will compromise the physician’s ability to hear speech, so this feature may need to be reduced. The directional microphone, which is a signal-processing technique that helps the hearing aid user hear what is directly in front of them, helps people hear in noise. The ED physician, however, may not want sound to the sides and rear reduced in their work environment. The audiologist will work with the ED physician to select and tune these features and may provide more than one listening program so the physician will have options depending on the listening environment.
DB: What are some advanced features in the latest generation of hearing aids?
CP: The most recent hearing aid features are focused on connectivity to cellphones so calls, music, and podcasts can transfer wirelessly to the hearing aids. The cellphone can be used as a remote control as well, allowing the user to make changes in specific listening environments. In addition, we are starting to see hearing aids that track steps and detect falls. Some hearing aids can be set to change programming based on GPS location.
DB: Could my hearing loss be related to ED noise?
CP: Whether a particular sound exposure can damage hearing is based on dose, which consists of sound level and length of exposure. If you are worried about the level of sound in your ED, you can download a free app to measure the sound level around you. Most of the available apps are reasonably accurate. OSHA suggests you should not be exposed to sound higher than 90 dB SPL (sound pressure level) for eight hours. Louder sounds are dangerous in shorter amounts of time.
Dr. Baehren is an emergency physician in Ohio.