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Coping with hearing loss and high school: advancements in hearing devices can help make those high school years more enjoyable.

High school can be a bumpy road for teenagers, especially since most teenagers are trying to fit in and start to define their own individuality and future. Besides navigating through a host of college prep classes and hoping to make the grade for their college of choice, they are meeting new people, enjoying proms, taking on more athletic sports, and dealing with the often difficult transition of going from being a kid to developing into a well-rounded young adult.

Now imagine if your teenager has hearing loss. Besides not being able to hear their instructors or friends as well as their classmates, self image problems can be magnified if they need to wear hearing aids. Traditional hearing aids, which are more commonly associated as something a teenager's grandparents would wear, can invite taunting or bullying for young adults at school. For some, the embarrassment of wearing a visible hearing device means that they would rather do without a device and, therefore, wouldn't be able to hear as well.

If their eyesight needed help instead of their hearing, they could easily switch from glasses to contacts for a more discreet look. But what if instead of wearing a cumbersome hearing aid, they could have an invisible hearing aid that's similar to wearing contacts? When the soft contact lens was introduced to mainstream users, they quickly became prescribed more often than rigid lenses, mainly due to their immediate comfort and invisible nature. Just like contact lenses, extended wear hearing devices are emerging as a way for teens to hear better in a discreet, private way that withstands their active lifestyle.

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Take Dagny Helander (pictured), a freshman at D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School in Denver, Colorado, who has been wearing a Lyric extended wear hearing device for the past year. This device is placed deep in the ear canal, making it totally invisible. "Wearing a hearing device that's invisible has pretty much changed my life," says Dagny. She's had hearing loss since birth and previously wore behind-the-ear hearing aids. With an extended wear hearing device she feels more confident, and her new confidence is helping her to excel in her piano and cello playing.

These advancements in extended wear hearing devices, which are 100 percent invisible, are allowing many teenagers to enjoy natural sound quality. The hearing device uses the outer ear to naturally direct sound into the ear canal without the need for multiple channels or settings. The device is comfortably placed in the ear canal by a trained hearing professional during a routine office visit. The device can be worn 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to four months at a time. Individual replacement needs may vary. You can adjust the settings and volume of your device as needed, as well as turn the device on and off.

Designed to be worn continuously for 120 days of use, there are no batteries for teenagers to change, no maintenance is needed, and no daily insertion or removal is required. Teenagers need to visit their hearing professional to replace the device when the amplification decreases or it ceases to function. The Lyric, for example, is sold on a subscription basis, meaning wearers purchase a year's worth of devices at a time and receive the latest hearing technology currently available during each replacement office visit.

An extended hearing device allows teenagers and older adults as well, to engage in their regular daily activities, such as exercising, showering, talking on the phone, and sleeping, without the daily hassles of a traditional hearing aid. Plus, teenagers are often even more active than older users of hearing aids, enjoying sports and other athletic pursuits.

Wearing an extended hearing device lets Dagny enjoy her tandem bike rides with her father--often on 500-mile treks--even more. Without a behind-the-ear hearing aid, Dagny can now wear sunglasses and her bike helmet more comfortably. Before, she couldn't use the two-way wireless device that she uses to communicate with her father while pedaling, plus the whistle often associated with a traditional hearing aid isn't an issue anymore when she's cycling fast or going downhill.

Whether a teenager has mild or moderately-severe hearing loss, he or she may be a candidate for better hearing without anyone ever knowing they are even wearing a hearing device. Much like wearing contact lenses instead of wearing glasses, more and more teenagers will be looking to extended wear hearing aids. Thanks to being 100 percent invisible, many teenagers can enjoy their high school years with better hearing and without a noticeable hearing aid.

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Title Annotation:May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Report
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:767
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