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Have money left in your FSA? Spend it before it’s too late

If you are an employee with a Flexible Spending Account, you might want to double check your balance. Now may be a smart time to take care of your hearing healthcare needs, especially if you are one of the 48 million Americans1 with hearing loss. You can use your FSA for hearing aids, and if you hurry, you can still purchase with this year’s funds.

Why are FSAs important?

Many employers offer a Flexible Spending Account2 (FSA) as part of their benefits package. Sometimes referred to as a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement, an FSA is an account in which you place pre-tax dollars to cover medical expenses. FSAs save you money by allowing you to withhold pre-tax money from your pay, up to $2,600 per year.

Who can you buy for, and what does it cover?

These funds can be used for yourself, your spouse and your dependents throughout the calendar year. They can be used for:

  • Copayments
  • Deductibles
  • Medical and dental costs
  • Some medicines
  • Other health-related spending, including hearing aids

Why the urgency? Because FSA is “use it or lose it!”

Although you can spend the money on a wide array of medical services, medicines and medical expenses, unfortunately, it is “use it or lose it” money. You must spend the money within the calendar year. Although some programs have a grace period, others require you to spend all dollars by December 31st.

Can I use my FSA spending on my parents’ hearing aids?

Maybe, but only if you claim them as dependents on your tax return. Even if your parents live with you, they may not be your dependents, and therefore you cannot use FSA monies toward their healthcare. The same applies for your children. If you claim them on your taxes, you can cover certain medical expenses using FSA funds.

Looking ahead

Thinking about 2018? If your benefits package offers an FSA program, remember to elect to contribute funds next year. Check your employer’s open enrollment dates. If they are still open and you haven’t taken advantage of this tax savings, it may be the right option for you. Also, if you change jobs, you may be allowed to join outside of the enrollment period.

Don’t have a flexible spending program? We have options, too

Even if you don’t have this option, there are ways to keep hearing aids affordable. CareCredit® is a financing program for health-related costs that may help you pay over time.

Contact us for more information on hearing healthcare

Hearing healthcare is vital to your well-being. Find out if you are a candidate for hearing aids with our free hearing assessment*. Call Oviatt at 888-342-4734 to learn more.

Posted by Admin

Veterans and Hearing Loss

Returning home from duty, veterans face many challenges, especially those who have served in combat zones. Among them, is hearing loss – ranking among the most prevalent health issues for recently returning and former soldiers. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 933,000 veterans have received compensation for hearing loss and 1.3 million veterans are receiving disability benefits for tinnitus. Beyond hearing loss and tinnitus, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) affects a high number of veterans who were exposed to blasts. APD impacts the brain’s ability to understand speech despite the sufferer being able to register sounds normally. While injuries to the ear or brain may cause physical damage, a communication breakdown with loved ones may be the greatest casualty of hearing loss.

Special risks for soldiers’ hearing

No matter where they train or deploy, soldiers face environmental factors that can be harmful to hearing. BioMed Central’s Military Medical Researchers looked at which environments were the loudest and biggest threat to noise-induced hearing loss. They found that the impact of noise on hearing in the military varies among the branches of service.

Yet almost every soldier, sailor, airman or marine will be exposed to very high levels of noise from:

  • Weapons – shotguns, rifles, pistols, grenades and anti-tank weapons
  • Armored vehicles
  • Engine rooms and carrier decks of navy vessels
  • Helicopters, fighter planes, transport aircraft and various jets
  • Jet propulsion fuel

For some, a single explosion with sounds exceeding 140 dB can cause irreparable damage instantly. This sort of acoustic harm to the ears results in permanent hearing loss.

For others, longstanding exposure to dangerous levels of noise can contribute to ear damage over time. Chronic exposure to high sound levels may lead to changes that soldiers don’t notice immediately.

Why veterans should address hearing loss

Many people associate hearing loss with the elderly. However people of all ages can lose their hearing – especially if they have had extraordinary exposure to noise. This is one instance when silence isn’t golden. Hearing well means communicating well. Think about it, if you can’t listen:

  • How can you engage with your loved ones completely?
  • Can you understand your colleagues or customers or participate fully in the workplace?
  • How can you really enjoy your favorite music, movies or television? Sure, closed captioning or subtitles may help but it’s not the same as hearing the intonation in voices.

Unlike the loss of sight, hearing impairment is usually more gradual. You may miss bits and pieces of sentences, but you think that your brain can fill in the missing information. Yet sometimes, the brain guesses wrong. You may believe you comprehended the information when you actually misunderstood it! This can lead to needless conflict and unpleasant rounds of “he said – she said.”

Stylish options for veterans

For hearing aids, design matters! If you have a hearing deficit, these devices may provide a vital service to your well-being just like eyeglasses aid your vision. As with glasses, you want hearing aids to fit well while looking great. Today’s models come in many colors and styles so we can be sure to match you with the right device for your individual needs.

Hearing loss is nothing be ashamed of and hide. But if you choose to, we offer many discrete hearing aids that are hardly recognizable to the naked eye. Whether you wish to wear a stylish mini-computer that sits subtly behind your ear or you hide your hearing aids in the ear canal, there are plenty of options.

Thank you for your service! Now, take time to focus on your needs now!

At Oviatt we offer free hearing assessments* for veterans and non-vets alike. If you have concerns about your hearing or that of a loved one, we are happy to discuss your options with you. Make an appointment today to get started.

Posted by Admin

Preparing for holiday gatherings with hearing loss

Whether you are preparing to host an event this coming holiday season or are attending an impromptu gathering of friends, this is an important time to catch up with loved ones. But what if hearing loss poses a challenge for communicating?

When people gather it can be noisy. Especially if many people are speaking at the same time. Add in holiday music, restaurant chatter or a football game on in the background, and even people with excellent hearing may have trouble understanding a conversation with someone standing next to them.

If you follow these tips, it may be easier to catch up with loved ones and enjoy their company.

Pick a good place to hear at holiday events

Whether you are in a home or a restaurant, try to position yourself in a space with less background noise. Follow these tips:

  • Flooring and walls – Carpeting, tablecloths and drapery help to absorb noise.
  • Pick the right room – In a home, try to avoid the kitchen or areas near the TV. If you are in a restaurant, ask for a seat away from the kitchen or bar.
  • Avoid the amplifiers – Although you can’t always get away from blaring music, try to be as far from speakers as possible. Corners or booths can provide some relief.
  • Try for 1:1 conversations – If you really want to catch every word, there is nothing wrong with finding a quieter spot in the hallway, or even outside for one-on-one conversations.

Arrive early to choose the best seat in the house

When choosing your seat, try to be where you can see people’s faces – that way you can pick up on facial cues. Try to sit where there is good lighting. If one ear is stronger than the other, offer the person you wish to speak to the seat on your strong side. You can also ask a relative or friend to help you fill in the gaps if you miss part of the conversation.

Don’t be shy about your hearing loss this holiday season

In noisy situations there is no reason to hide your hearing loss. While it may be easier to pretend that you can hear, nodding along with the others, this is not fair to you (or to the person speaking). If you feel you missed out, there is nothing wrong with asking for a recap afterward.

You can also let people know you are missing some of the conversation with simple visual cues like placing your hand to your ear. This won’t disrupt the flow of conversations but will signal to the speaker to speak up or slow down.

Sometimes a simple reminder for relatives to speak slower works wonders.

Noticed changes in your hearing? There’s still time to get help

Although planning may be underway, the holiday season is still a few weeks away. If you are worried about hearing at Thanksgiving, holiday parties or other gatherings, there’s time to have a no-obligation hearing assessment* to see if hearing aids are an option for you. A hearing specialist can also give you tips on communicating with loved ones. If you are concerned about a loved one’s hearing, offer to bring them for an appointment. We encourage caregivers, friends and family to join our patients for the first appointment.

Let your hearing aids help you

Sometimes the most obvious strategy is the best solution. If you have hearing aids, wear them. Plus, if you forget them and have trouble following along, it may frustrate your family. The newest hearing aids have technical advancements designed for complex hearing environments, where noise is coming from multiple sources. Newer devices make it easier to hear what you want to hear, even in the situations with multiple people speaking.

For best results, try various settings in advance to see which works best for you in noisy environments. If this isn’t enough, you may also want to consider the extra help of a discreet clip-on microphone. If you would like help with your hearing aids’ settings or perhaps reprogramming them, stop in.

It’s your holiday too, so enjoy it!

If you have new hearing aids, go easy on yourself. Take short breaks to give your brain a rest and re-energize when you feel fatigue setting in. If conversation at the table is challenging, focus on the people nearest you. If a group is too noisy or fast-paced, try a smaller and quieter group to join. Social events are for your enjoyment – not a test of your stamina.

Don’t let hearing loss keep you from enjoying the people and things you love. Locate your closest hearing professional and make an appointment with Oviatt.

Posted by Admin

How to Keep Your Ears Clean

What is earwax – and how can I safely clean it?

First of all, earwax is natural and necessary – our ears evolved that way for a reason.

Earwax acts as a natural lubricant that protects the sensitive skin in the ear canal. It also creates a natural barrier that prevents dirt and foreign objects from reaching the eardrum.

What’s more, earwax is a key component of the ear’s self-cleaning mechanism. As skin inside the ear canal grows outwards, it carries earwax with it. During this process earwax captures dirt and dead skin, this all naturally exits the ear together with the wax.

If you find it annoying, chewing and yawning also help to move the wax outwards along your ear canal.

Tips on cleaning ears safely

Remember—we need earwax as protection for the eardrum. So, you shouldn’t clean it too much. It just isn’t necessary. It is safe to wipe away visible excess earwax using a wet cloth. But do not use swabs to remove wax (or anything else) from your ears.

Do you know the saying, “don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear?” It’s true. You shouldn’t stick anything in your ear canal. While many people may think are safe to clean your ear, Q-tips™ or Cotton Buds™ are definitely a bad idea for wax removal! Why not?

  • They can scratch and inflame the sensitive skin inside the ear canal, leaving it open to infections.
  • They also can push debris farther in the ear canal, rather than drawing it outward.
  • Swabs are not suitable to remove anything from the ear.

If you think you have a blockage in your ear canal, have a foreign object in the ear or think you are experiencing excessive wax, consult a hearing care expert for specialist cleaning.

How should I clean my children’s ears?

The same way you clean your own ears: minimally and without sticking anything into the ear. Although some companies market cotton swabs for children’s use, or even designed not to go far into the ear canal, these are still abrasive, so we don’t recommend them. Our professionals recommend you use a wet cloth to wipe out earwax only from the outer part of the ear.

Can wax block your ears?

Ironically, yes. Often when people try to clean their ears by sticking things in them to clean them, they actually push the wax inwards and create a blockage. Pushing the wax too far in the canal can force it beyond where the skin grows outwards, so it gets stuck. Eventually, this wax can become compacted, leading to hearing loss.

Addressing excessive earwax

In general, our ears produce the appropriate amount of wax to stay clean. However, some people do experience excessive earwax. Over-cleaning can cause this, as the ear produces more wax that it needs in an effort to re-establish an appropriate amount. Sometimes, however, medical conditions can cause the ear to produce too much wax. If you feel you have too much wax, please come see us and we will assess them and help you clean them.

Earwax and hearing aids

Sometimes, hearing aids may contribute to the perception that people have too much earwax, as they sit in the ear canal and prevent it coming out naturally. Most hearing aids have wax filters for this purpose which need to be changed regularly.

Get a professional’s help

At Oviatt Hearing & Balance we can teach you safe methods for handling earwax in the ear and on your hearing device. We serve people across the region. To schedule an appointment, call 888-342-4734.

Posted by Admin

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