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Offered by: John Wilson, B.S., BC-HIS – Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus Center

While the last two months have been difficult with the shutdown due to COVID-19, Blue Ribbon Hearing & Tinnitus center has continued to be available for our patients on a very limited basis to ensure they have the opportunity to experience better hearing. While we know we will see more changes to policies and procedures in the future, we will continue striving to provide the best hearing aids, with the best customer service, at the best possible price.

Going forward, our office will continue with policies and procedures designed to help protect the health of our patients. We will see patients by appointment only to ensure we have the proper time to clean and sanitize between appointments. In order to accommodate emergency situations, we keep a limited number of appointment slots open for individuals who need immediate attention on short notice. When you schedule an appointment, we will explain other applicable procedures.

Now, based on some recent experiences of my patients and colleagues around the country, I would like to share some important tips.

  • When communicating with a person with hearing loss, please be patient. Many people have become stressed and overwhelmed being together for extended periods of time. Speaking more slowly and more clearly can help. If a person does not understand what you are saying, try rephrasing as opposed to simply speaking louder. You should not disengage, say “nevermind,” or criticize an individual who asks you to repeat. Such behavior causes seen and unseen emotional and psychological stress. Be compassionate.
  • If you are wearing a mask and speaking to someone who is hard of hearing, again, be patient. The speech of anyone wearing a mask will be muffled. The clarity sounds of speech, the consonant sounds that make up the beginning and ending of words, are the sounds that are muffled most by masks. Individuals with normal hearing can struggle to understand someone wearing a mask. It may be impossible for someone with hearing loss to understand the distorted speech coming from someone wearing a mask.
  • There are special masks that are designed for those who regularly speak to individuals with hearing loss. The masks have a clear insert that allows speech cues to be seen even when the mask is on. The speaker’s words may still be muffled to the hearer, but visual speech cues can help improve understanding.
  • Wearing a mask can be very difficult with hearing aids that fit behind the ear. These problems include discomfort or soreness as well as an increased likelihood of losing a hearing aid. The loops of the mask can pull the device out of a patient’s ear and fling it. Wearing a mask that ties behind the head as opposed to looping around the ears causes fewer problems. Custom in-the-ear devices are not a problem with masks. Our latest hearing aid technology includes a feature where you can find your lost hearing aid via your smartphone app.
  • Hearing aid technology exists that can help to hear someone wearing a mask. One patient came in and was complaining about how hard it was to understand anyone wearing a mask. We used the app on his iPhone to make changes to his programming, specifically the higher frequencies muffled by the mask. After making the changes he could easily understand me through my mask. We were able to save the changes as a custom program called “Mask.” After that, anytime he was speaking to someone wearing a mask, he could simply switch to the “Mask” program.
  • The latest technology allows us to make programming changes remotely. For patients that need programming changes but who were not able to make it into the office due to quarantine or other reasons, we are able to make programming changes remotely.

Again, please be patient with others during this time. And remember to support the small local businesses that are an integral part of our community, because the greatest economic stimulus in our community comes from our customers and patients.