Dale Johnson: First conversation of 2020 with Dr. Sandra Miller from Complete Hearing in Lincoln. It’s The Conversation Starts Here on KFOR FM 103.3, 1240 AM. Happy New Year, Dr. Miller.
Dr. Miller: Happy New Year. 2020 is here. I just have to tell you, I don’t know that I like holidays in the middle of the week, because now I’ve had two Mondays and then I don’t really even know what day it is today. So I’m glad I showed up.
Dale Johnson: I’ve had a calendar in front of me more in the last week and a half than I ever have. But it’s the time of year now where we look back.
Dr. Miller: It is time to look back.
Dale Johnson: And we look forward. So we’re going to look back at 2019 the predictions going in or that hearing aids are going to move forward with wearability, health technology, multifunctional communication devices. So we’ll look back and see if these predictions came true in 2019. And you say a lot of them they did.
Dr. Miller: They did. I think my favorite thing about being involved with oral rehabilitation in regards to hearing aids is technology’s constantly changing. And that just means hearing aids are really tied to computers because they’re just like your smartphone and your laptop computer. They can do some amazing things. So one of the big things that has come out recently is rechargeability. This is not a new concept. I’ve been dispensing devices for 25 years and would tell you whenever they would come out with this, I’d go, “Oh no, this is not going to work.” But this is great technology. Now, similar to your lithium ion battery that you have in your cell phone, works in the same concept. So when this came back out again, I’m always a little skeptical when new technology comes out, is this going to work? And definitely this is working. And I would tell you the pros to having a rechargeable instrument is it’s so easy, just for the fact that no people don’t have to think about having batteries anymore.
Dr. Miller: At night, when I take my devices off, they go into the charger, in the morning, I put them on, I don’t have to carry batteries with me. Awesome. And my patients’ concerns who do have concerns of, what if the charge goes out during the day? We’re not seeing that at all. When the hearing aids come off the charger, we’re typically seeing a charge last 20, 24 hours. People don’t wear their devices 20, 24 hours, but we’re seeing the charge just last through the day, so not really an issue with that, which is great. For our patients who have dexterity issues, batteries are tiny, small, and so this has really been a huge advancement for those patients who just can pop them in the charger at night and take them back out and not have to worry about changing the batteries. Been great for our patients who have memory issues, I forgot to change my batteries. So this is not an issue anymore. If we put them in the charger at night and the light turns on, we know they’re charged and in the morning, they’re ready to go.
Dale Johnson: Do you see the day when all batteries are rechargeable for hearing devices?
Dr. Miller: I would tell you I think it’s going to definitely go that direction. I would tell you the only cons to having a rechargeable instrument is I have many patients who travel and now you’re carrying another charger with you. Is that a con? I don’t really know, but I do have patients who travel to places that don’t have electricity. Hey, I’m going to be out camping for a week or I’m going to be in a place where I’m not going to have access to plug this in, what do I do? So we come up with other strategies. “Oh hey, there’s an extended battery pack we can plug into the bottom of your charger, bring one of those charging bricks with you.” I mean there’s ways around it and I also have patients who are very traditional. They want control. They still want to be able to change their battery as needed and that’s okay too.
Dr. Miller: I don’t think it’s ever going to fully go away, but it’s definitely out there right now. Rechargeability for us in our office is really taking a huge step forward and the majority of our patients are being fit with hearing aids that are rechargeable.
Dale Johnson: On the five things that were accomplished in 2019 I see health and wellness monitors.
Dr. Miller: Oh my goodness.
Dale Johnson: What is that?
Dr. Miller: What is that? A couple of different things. If you want to think about that we have our smartwatches to monitor our heart rate and our pedometers and all those wonderful things. So hearing aids are really placed in a really great location for not only tracking your steps, yes, but they’re also tracking something called brain engagement. Really? What does that mean? Because that’s what I thought too. What we find is the more engaged you are every day, the better off you are in terms of your overall health. So we find that when you’re lonely, you’re not engaged with others, having conversation that your risk for heart disease goes up, your risk for depression goes up. So believe it or not, they have healthables. They call them or hearables, that means that they’ll check every day, how much brain engagement have you had today? How often have you been in quiet versus being engaged in conversation? It’s a new thing. I think it’s very interesting. But just to track not only your physical health but your engagement and brain engagement and overall health, I think it’s very interesting, the concepts very interesting.
Dr. Miller: So then you can set goals for yourself, was I engaged today and is that good for my brain? Absolutely. So that’s kind of where health and wellness has kind of gone with that portion of it. I think it’s very interesting when you think about that. I think of health and wellness even being the fact we can tie this into the next thing that kind of was not necessarily new but in more advanced as we can now connect your devices to your smart phone. We can connect them to your television, we can connect them to any device that you’d like to have Bluetooth connected, which is amazing. I think the pros to that is, “Oh my goodness. Imagine now that you can hear the phone call in both ears, hands-free, corrected for your hearing loss.” And my patients who say, “I don’t think I really need that.” Once they experience it, they go, “Oh, this is really cool. I really like that.”
Dr. Miller: There’s apps for everything. We’ve talked a little bit about that before, but now we have apps for just your hearing aid itself. You can go in and geo-tag different environments. That means, “Hey, we go to the venue every Friday night and I really struggle there, but I can set a certain program specifically for that environment,” or “I can open up my app and go to the tab that lets me adjust clarity or comfort or more speech or less noise,” and it lets the patient really be in control. I think that’s a very good thing for some patients. It can be overwhelming for other patients. Most of my patients say to me, “I just want to put it on and wear it and let it do the work for me,” which I think is the ultimate goal of any device, but the ability to have control and have that ability to kind of fine tune it to you even when you’re out and about is pretty neat.
Dale Johnson: Do you consider hearing loss or impairment a disability?
Dr. Miller: I would say yes. In terms of imagine that it is… You are no longer able when you have hearing loss to be engaged fully, right? And there’s an inability to have optimum communication definitely when that happens, and so when we have… You’re thinking, “Yes, we put a prosthetic device on your ear called a hearing aid,” and so when that is implied, yes, absolutely. I think that we can overcome this very easily by being able to put something on you that’s going to help you in all those environments that we’re looking to improve.
Dale Johnson: So to have a change in your body. This is a great time to have that change because in my case, I have Bluetooth, I have app capabilities.
Dr. Miller: Isn’t that amazing?
Dale Johnson: I have monitoring capabilities to tell me how many slopes or how many feet or steps of slope. I also have fall damping to where it allows me to control balance and I see that fall detectors come up as one of the monitoring capabilities for a hearing aid. Go there for a second.
Dr. Miller: Currently one of our manufacturers, Starkey, came out with the Livio AI for artificially intelligent. What’s so great about this is, is that, say that you fall and it’s going to be… It has all these indicators to let them know if you’ve truly fallen and what it can do is it can send a notification up to three different people who you have designated as your emergency contact. So the really neat thing about this is, if you have a fall risk at your house, maybe it might be mom, dad, or a sibling or you’re the caretaker and you just need to know if this is happening, it can actually send you a text message that says so-and-so has fallen.
Dr. Miller: So it’s another way to be connected through technology. I think it’s a great thing. I think, I always say that one of the cons is going to be, “Hey, your mom or dad or whoever the significant other is that you’re trying to track their falls has to have a smartphone.” But you think about some of the technology that we have today, it’s pretty easy to be able to get that accomplished for the security purpose of knowing that this may have happened. So fall detection is very interesting to me too. I think it’s such a great addition to putting that caregiver’s mind at ease.
Dale Johnson: So much more than a hearing device.
Dr. Miller: So much more than a hearing device.
Dale Johnson: Language translation.
Dr. Miller: Oh my goodness.
Dale Johnson: How does that work.
Dr. Miller: It’s really tied to your smartphone as well. I was at a recent meeting where they were showing how this works and the gentleman’s walking down the street and essentially he’s in a different foreign country and he wants to go in and buy some flowers and so he opens his translator, right, his language translator and translates right through the hearing aids as well. So it tied to your smartphone in that same concept, but even to be walking down the street and say, “Where’s the nearest flower shop?” And it goes right through the phone and translates right into the hearing aids. So I know, I think the same thing. I go, “Who came up with this idea?” And then the great thing-
Puts me back in my chair, it’s so amazing.
Dr. Miller: I know and you think about what’s going to happen because it’s only going to get more sophisticated and really to help us live full lives, so that’s what we’re after to make sure people are fully engaged and how do we do that to the best of our capability and making it easy. I think that’s the one thing where you are seeing more and more people… Everybody has a smartphone and then you are seeing… We used to see our patients, they say, “Oh I have a flip phone, but my family wants me to have the smart phone,” and even if we have the smart phone for the capability of remote control or FaceTime, we even have now remote programming where I can load settings up to the cloud and they can download them.
Dr. Miller: I mean you think about some of the really significant things we can now do with technology is amazing. But I don’t want patients to get overwhelmed, right? I have patients who, I always say to them… I caution them when I give them an app or I give them something new like this. My goal for you first and foremost is to say this is a new device. Let’s get used to this first. Depending on how tech savvy you are, we’re going to take it one step at a time to introduce things to you. Because some of my patients say, “That’s great. I don’t know that I’ll use it, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.” So every patient has a different level of comfortability with it and I think once they experience what it can do more than are apt to take advantage of it.
Dale Johnson: So devices with less technology are still available?
Dr. Miller: Oh, absolutely.
Dale Johnson: They haven’t become obsolete.
Dr. Miller: No.
Dale Johnson: With new technology taking over. My folks always had a flip phone. Never bought a computer.
Dr. Miller: Yes.
Dale Johnson: And they were happy that way.
Dr. Miller: Some of us would be happier that way too, I think.
Dale Johnson: There are people that want their hearing aids to be flip phones.
Dr. Miller: Exactly.
Dale Johnson: That level of technology.
Dr. Miller: Exactly. And a lot of times there are some features that we just don’t even turn on. That just means your device may have this capability, but it’s something you may not use, and that’s okay. I think technology as it goes forward, is just going to continue to have these features in them and yes we can order devices that don’t.
Dale Johnson: And what do you see in 2020?
Dr. Miller: I think 2020, the hearing aid industry is definitely going towards the level of tying hearing to overall health. So you’re going to see more health related things tied to devices themselves, that you can get not only a hearing device but it has these other health features in them that you may find in other devices that you’d have to use in addition. They’re going to be incorporating those into hearing aids themselves. I see that. I typically will see too that they’re just… They continue to… They spend millions of dollars on research. How can we make this the most effective possible hearing device for lifestyle and brand engagement and making sure that we’re meeting the need of the patient? So I just see it going more towards the health side, gearing, hearing aids more towards this is actually about your overall health and how does that tie into the rest of your life. Not just for hearing but other things as well.
Dale Johnson: Because it’s connected or connecting to the brain.
Dr. Miller: Exactly.
Dale Johnson: The brain is the smartphone.
Dr. Miller: The brain is the smartphone.
Dale Johnson: Of the body.
Dr. Miller: Of the body.
Dale Johnson: Yeah. Thank you very much.
Dr. Miller: You’re welcome.
Dale Johnson: How could someone get a hold of you at Complete Hearing?
Dr. Miller: A great way to find us is to look us up online at complete-hearing.com. You’ll find some great resources there. We are located at 72nd and Pioneers. You’re more than welcome just come in and stop and say hello. And of course our phone number will be on the website as well. So lots of ways to reach us and a great way to find resources again is on our website.
Dale Johnson: While you’re there, complete-hearing.com they can listen to us.
Dr. Miller: They can.
Dale Johnson: We were there. We were around in 2019, here on the radio, talking about your hearing health. Dr. Sandra Miller from Complete Hearing. Join us every Saturday morning for The Conversation Starts Here.