Program your own hearing aid? Yes you can.

SoundPoint is quite honestly an answer to my dream for you…

Truth is that over the past 35 years, I have desperately wished (and dared hope for) the day when hearing aids could be adjusted in part by you. As an audiologist, I realized long ago that the fine tuning of hearing aids is a combination of science and art. The science or objective portion involves setting the sound to your hearing loss thresholds and the art or subjective segment involves adjusting to make the sound clear, natural and “just right” to your ears.

That’s where the “Make your sound finger perfect” part comes in…

So imagine that you have already had the audiologist or clinician spend considerable time setting the sound, but you are still missing some conversation or the sound quality is a little off and hard for you to describe exactly how. Here is where SoundPoint dove tails in beautifully. At this point, you just sit comfortably in front of the computer and move your finger around the screen as the sound adjusts in real time. Many people wonder if it’s hard to do. I assure them it is not only very easy, but it is fun. Simply listen to the conversation and tap you finger when the sound seems better. You can even pick several possibilities and then compare them all before selecting your favorite.

But what are the results for people using SoundPoint?

Let me answer that in two ways. First of all, field trials showed that 45% of the hearing aid users felt the sound was better using the cliniician combined with their SoundPoint settings. In my experience about 60-70% of people have preferred the end result they reached after completing SoundPoint. Part of the beauty of this is that you have a chance to find out if the clinician-set sound was appropriate or if your extra adjustments make a real difference.

Take the captain’s seat…

My process, my belief , is I am here to listen, educate and advise.

So whether you simply want to get more information about having your hearing tested, investigate if hearing aids are right for you, or possibly want to try out SoundPoint – The process should be interactive with you playing a crucial role.

Want to know more? Two easy choices.

Call: 541.201.3201

Email: barbstreet@mac.com

Don’t take my word for it. Instead please listen to the words of a special Ashland hearing aid user…

“Barika Audiology is a well run organization. I’m impressed with Barb’s efficiency from start to finish.   Everything is explained in a clear and easily understandable way. She treated me as an individual patient and not “just one more person”.  How do you explain sound, or what you do or do not hear? Barb has a natural gift of understanding and the patience of a saint.

When I received my first hearing aid from Barb, more than 15 years ago, tears streaked down my face – I was hearing sounds I hadn’t heard in years. When I looked at Barb, she was crying too. That’s because she was on my hearing journey right along side me.

It can be difficult to explain what you hear, but with the power of the computer Barb gave me the controller and I was able to fine tune my hearing aid. Now I forget I’m wearing it and often times go to bed forgetting to take if off. It has simply become a part of me.”

~Darla Case

 Barb, do you know if SoundPoint is right for me?

Barika AudiologyLet’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I have been testing and diagnosing hearing since 1978. I’ve worked in both private practice and clinical settings. Have been around the block more times than I care to admit, and can tell you with certainty that “one size fits all” solutions don’t exist. A fact of life you and your audiologist must always keep in mind. What worked for someone with a hearing loss “exactly” like yours, or what worked for your friend who lives down the block, does not mean the same solution will be right for you. The key to success is working together to find what works best for your needs and unique perceptions.

So is SoundPoint right for you? The answer is, it depends. Everybody has a psychoacoustic reaction – how you perceive a sound and what is means to you. Your psychoacoustic signature is as unique as your fingerprint, iris, and DNA. With the advent of digital hearing aids using advanced algorithms to shape sound, psychoacoustic research has taken a more prominent role. We don’t understand why two people with seemingly identical audiometric results have such different reactions, despite having the same parameters set in their hearing aids.

SoundPoint simply acknowledges that you are the best judge of what sounds right to you. What your psychoacoustic preference is. Here’s how SoundPoint works (I’ll describe the iPad version because it is the most intuitive to use, but a monitor and mouse can be used as well).

You will start with your finger pressed to the middle of the screen. While a sound file is played, simply drag your finger in a roughly circular pattern around the starting point. Each quadrant of the screen that you slide your finger through will cause rapid-fire changes to the algorithms effecting the quality of the sounds you hear.

If you like what you hear, tap your finger on the screen, then continue moving it around as you listen. After a short period of time a pattern will appear. There will be more taps in one area than any other.

The grouping of taps is your preferred “listening style”. The audiologist then locks those settings to your hearing aid. If you later change your mind, simply do the process again. It take only a few seconds to set up and use.

If you want to explore further, you can download an article written by two Starkey PhD audiologists who describe and analyze a study they did using SoundPoint (with, as I recall, only 29 patients). The pdf is available on a site for Starkey Professionals, but nothing will stop you from accessing the paper, so don’t fret about the for-professional’s-only part (no registration required).

I hope I have piqued your curiosity. SoundPoint is a nice tool, but what is most important overall is not which tool or product to use, but how well you are connecting with your family, friends, and people from all over the world.

Want to know more? Two easy choices.

Call: 541.201.3201

Email: barbstreet@mac.com


You are a hostage. Don’t despair.

It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Glenn here, husband of Barb. I’m channeling Robin Williams from the movie “Good Will Hunting”, because you need to know about something going on in the world of audiology and hearing aids. There are audiologists and dispensers alike who are plotting ways to take you hostage. But it’s not your fault that you don’t know. Apparently, this tactic is supposed to remain a State Secret.

What follows are excerpts from a discussion I am having right now with an audiologist in Portugal. Fortunately, his english is better than my portuguese. Much better. On a discussion board for hearing professionals I mentioned how I thought some audiologists in the US were abdicating their ethics in effort to make sales, which spurred this question from Joao:

Joao Ferrao

“… And please (I hope not pushing you to far) can you explain what do you mean with: “pursuing the path of taking patients      prisoner using methods designed to lock-in patients”? Thanks ;)

P.S.- Portuguese market is very different than yours. Here audiology is a newborn activity (15 years). So it’s very important for me  sharing and getting new knowledges.”

Here’s where you come in. Imagine you are Joao. Imagine you are listening to Barb, not me. I’m sure Barb would explain the situation better:

“Joao, about prisoners and lock-in. In the US there are groups of dispensers banding together to form loose “private networks”. Like a franchise, but not really. A description clear as mud and equally, as accurate. My audiologist wife Barb is a member of a form of one, but there are many – and many versions. It’s important to note that not all networks engage in the tactics below. As a matter of fact, most don’t (and for sake of clarity, the group Barb is a member of doesn’t take hostages). 

Back to the very important task of locking up prisoners, oops, patients:
A representative of a private network approaches a manufacturer. We want to feature your hearing aids. We will sell only your brand, but with the following conditions:
A. We don’t want to use your name “y”. We want to call it “x” instead.
B. Nobody else can use the name “x”. Only us.
C. We want you to change the name as seen on your fitting software to program your hearing aid “y” to display “x”, not “y”.
D. We want you to make it so only our network members can program the hearing aids named “x:” Nobody else. But we get to also program hearing aids “y” when they come through the door, too.

So beneath the outer shell, hearing aid “x” and its programming software is functionally identical to hearing aids the manufacturer sells to everybody as model “y” – except for hearing aids called “x” sold through the private network can only be programmed by network members.

In other words, a patient buys a hearing aid that people doing work in the industry knows is model “y”, but the patient isn’t informed that model “x” is actually model “y”, draped in a Hollywood-worthy costume. Patients are lead to believe they are getting an ultra-special model of hearing aid (from a major manufacturer!!!!, of course). They are not informed that if the name on the shell is removed, their hearing aid is actually model “y” that their friend down the street bought elsewhere. Patients are lead to believe their hearing aid “x” is more special than their friends hearing aid “y”, even though they are indeed identical in every manner except in costume and who can access the hearing aid to program it.

The manufacturer then continues to reinforce the ruse. A patient may be able to have their hearing aid programmed by a dispenser who is not a member of the private network (and maybe not, depending on whims and who farts), but the patient has to pay extra to get the hearing aid unlocked from the private network. So it costs the patient even more money to make hearing aid “y” into, well…. hearing aid “y”.

That, my Portuguese friend, is how you take patients prisoner.
Batteries, smoke, lies, and mirrors included.
Acts of Deception?
No charge.
Patients loss of freedom to choose?
Priceless. For the private network.
That’s what dispensers want to believe. I guess.
But I’m feeble minded. Can’t expect me to understand.
What’s REALLY going on. /gst

The problem I have with private label hearing aids is you are not being informed of restrictions you will later encounter. In essence, it’s like buying a new $32,000 Toyota Camry, then learning that you can only have your car serviced at five Toyota locations because your dealer swapped the Toyota-issued wheel covers for an aftermarket version.

How to protect yourself? Ask.

Before signing a purchase contract, ask your audiologist these questions:

  • Who manufacturers the hearing aid model being recommended? It should be a major name… Phonak, Starkey, Oticon, ReSound, Widex, Sonic Innovations or Siemens. If the audiologist answers with any other name, ask the question again. Press the issue. If you can’t get a clear answer of which major manufacturer makes the hearing aid, save yourself grief and choose another audiologist to work with.
  • Where can I get my hearing aids serviced? This part may be a bit tricky, because the answer can easily be misleading. What matters is whether you can take your hearing aids to any audiologist who dispenses [fill in brand name listed above], and it can be programmed without being charged a fee to “unlock” the hearing aid. Having flexibility is important if you move, travel, or simply wish to see another audiologist. I don’t care how many locations an audiologist cites as having access to because they are a member of a “special” group, none have locations everywhere and agreements to service hearing aids sold by “sister” clinics are notoriously unreliable. The closest group to having nationwide coverage is Costco (Kirkland-branded aids are locked) and Beltone (also locked). After that….. it’s spotty at best.
  • Ask your audiologist to show you the web page of the recommended hearing aid on the major manufacturers site (all start with the company name… phonak.com, starkey.com, oticon.com, etc.). If the audiologist doesn’t type in what you expect, you are probably being shown the private labeled version, not the official page created by the manufacturer for their product. A red flag if there ever was one. Nothing wrong with showing you both, though.
  • If you live in Southern Oregon (where Barb is located) call or email Barb with your questions. Yeah, this recommendation runs the danger of coming across as self serving but Barb and I are most concerned with you knowing what you are getting into before you buy. We know the brand names of quite a few hearing aids in the locked-in category and if we don’t, Barb or I will do the research for you gratis. Consider it a public service.
Remember as you go through the process, the goal you set for yourself – not to just hear, but to enjoy life.
Note: As you can surmise, I have no love of private-labeled hearing aids or for the process of locking you in as patient. I believe these developments are a disservice to you. However, I also believe you are smart enough to decide what is best for you as long as you know the benefits and pitfalls beforehand.
P.S. I posted this without Barb’s prior approval, and will probably get kicked in the you-know-what for doing it. Oh well, had that happen playing volleyball often enough so what Barb does shouldn’t be as bad. Anyway, I’ll get her to make additions and modifications as she sees fit. In the meantime (and the hereafter), have a ball.

Just five minutes and 21 seconds of your time. Worth every second.

Watch this video if you want to have a feel good moment. It’s a touching love story. I won’t say anything more, don’t want to give away the plot. Other than, the subject is near and dear to me.

Video provided by the Jubilee Project. Music by New Heights. I wish I had a fraction of this singer and musicians talent.
Check them out. Both are doing good work, from the heart.


First Impression: Lyric hearing aid

The Lyric holds a one-of-a-kind position in the world of hearing aids. It is certainly one of the most discreet hearing aids ever built. As I write this, Starkey is the only other manufacturer with anything even remotely similar (I’ll have a review of that model near the end of May). The Lyric has generated a lot of press coverage, which is unusual for a hearing aid. There are also conflicting claims to be found about the comfort and performance of Lyric hearing aids. Here are insights of what I have discovered thus far, as I learn along with you.

What to really like.

Most striking is how comprehensive and thorough the Lyric fitting protocol is. Nobody else does it as well. Why do I mention this first? Because it is a key factor to your satisfaction both initially, and throughout the years ahead. I’ll bet you have heard people say “I tried hearing aids once, but they didn’t work.” That’s not too surprising, considering there have been tremendous advances in hearing aid technology, but there has been scarce improvement in methods to help audiologists select the best aid for you. An audiologist’s intuition can work wonders in many ways (that’s why you want to choose a really good one), but intuition is not very good at selecting the perfect instrument for your needs. The Lyric protocol is quite a leap forward in this regard.

As mentioned, its small size is attractive. This thing really is invisible. While I’m sure the tiny size will be appreciated, there are substantial acoustic benefits as well. Our ears are well-designed collectors of sound. They sort and define what we hear. Unfortunately, most hearing aids alter that natural ability to the point that an audiologist must add significant additional correction to compensate for what the hearing aid takes away. Because Lyric sits deep in the canal, your natural hearing abilities are retained and very little compensation is necessary. Your audiologist can instead focus on helping you hear better. (That’s the really fun part.)

Lyric has programmable analog amplification, and I like that. This seems an odd comment to make in a world that is rapidly going digital, but there are still situations where an analog circuit is a better choice and I believe this is one of those cases. A lot of people seem to agree. According to stats provided by InSound Medical, 90% of those who try Lyric think it sounds better than their previous aid. Because the speaker is so close to the eardrum, you need less power plus you get better correction for your hearing loss. The result is natural sound quality and a long battery life. That’s a good combination.

The Lyric is designed to be replaced about four to five times a year, and the replacement process is fast – ten to fifteen minutes per visit. This means you will never have to wait days or weeks for your hearing aid to come back from repair. That alone is good, but the part that really impressed me is this: When improvements are made, whether it be to comfort, size or performance, you will always get the latests developments at no additional charge. Wow. I love that idea.

Adding to my “Like It” list is how wonderfully simple the Lyric is to operate and wear. It’s as close to set it and forget it as there is (for a few months!). You will not have to change batteries. There is a volume control, which has recently become an endangered species. I know the majority of my patients want a volume control, so this feature is a welcome surprise. My thought is if a hearing aid has a volume control, you can choose whether to use it or not.

What’s not so great.

There are three areas of concern that I noticed. First, if you have a severe hearing loss or worse, you’re out of luck. Maybe someday that will change.

The second area of concern regards how a Lyric fits into the ear canal, and this concern actually has two components. Your ear canal has to be of the proper diameter and shape. Though soft and pliable, a Lyric doesn’t fit everyone. My other concern centers around reports of people who experience ear soreness. It appears this complaint, while frequent with the first version, seems to have all but disappeared after InSound made changes to the flanges that keep the aid in place. Knowing that soothes my concern a great deal.

The last “not so great” applies only if you are an avid swimmer. The Lyric is water resistant, not water proof. Shower with it and there’s no problem unless you angle your head to fill your ear with water. If you like baths, don’t do a Julia Roberts-like, Pretty Woman head dunk unless you like to spend money foolishly. Soapy water and bubbles do nasty things to hearing aids. For swimmers, you need to seal your ear canal so water can’t get in. Don’t worry though, there are products that will do this.

And the verdict is……

Keeping in mind that your opinion and thoughts are what really matter, here’s my take. The Lyric seems to be a remarkable, solid product for those whose hearing loss, ear size and lifestyle fit within the confines that InSound Medical has painstakingly created. The ease of use, good sound quality and performance are what initially got my attention, and is why I’m really excited about this. In a short time I’ll know even better if there are other points worth mentioning, and I’ll update my thoughts here when I learn more. In the meantime, feel free to ask me your questions and add your comments.

Wait. Didn’t you forget something?

You can go to the Lyric website to find all kinds of testimonials about how great the comfort is, how simple it is to use, and about the nice sound quality. Every large manufacturer, including InSound Medical, has teams of researchers who ask people these types of questions every day, and I have no reason to question the accuracy of the claims made by individuals. Yet because I have absolutely no way of knowing beforehand what your experience will be like, I feel better just pointing out that people’s reactions vary. What is most important is how well something works for you. Please remember that I’ll listen to you and take your observations very seriously. They are my roadmap and bible when working with you.

Thank you for your and interest, and patience! I appreciate both, and truly look forward to meeting you.


Top-rated hearing tests you can do at home.

Hearing Test Shoot-Out

Choosing the best on-line hearing test was easier than expected. Most use some variation of the “If you hear the beep, raise your hand” style of test. Unfortunately, a tone test doesn’t perform well when done on the web. There are too many variables involved, so test results are rarely better than a wild guess. Even worse, regardless of results there will often be a plug for you to go see an audiologist. More than a bit cheesy!

I did, however, find a couple sites using what is called “speech-in-noise” testing. This type is better because it removes the worst variables that lead to questionable results. The fact that this method reasonably replicates real world situations that can make hearing difficulties apparent is, well, more than just icing on the cake.

How accurate are the recomended tests? If you follow the directions (not hard to do, mostly) and are honest with yourself (a biggie!) I would consider them to be pretty good. Just keep in mind your results will not indicate if one ear is worse than the other, but instead represents the sum of the hearing you have. Yes, I am aware that point makes me sound like I am a nit-picky audiologist. Humor me, it is an important point to consider.
So now that you know my hearing test biases, onward to the results….

Here’s an interesting tidbit. A few people called shortly after we posted this page and asked if headphones are necessary for these tests. The quick answer is no. It is better to use headphones if you have them, but a set of speakers hooked to your computer will work nearly as well. It is more important that you make sure “distractions” are minimized. Turn off TV’s or radios that you can hear. Wait until the heater or air conditioning has done its thing and is silent. Stuff noisy animals in the closet and tie the kids to a chimney on your neighbor’s house. Just kidding about the animals and kids. The point is, do these tests when the room you are in is really quiet.

Rated best: Hear-It.org

This site is run by an international, non-profit and non-commercial group that is based in Brussels, Belgium. They get their funding from a wide range of industry groups but in a refreshingly nice twist, they make it a point not to endorse any manufacturers or dispensers. In addition to having the most accurate and easy to use hearing screening, you will find an impressive range of useful information about hearing. What’s best, they don’t encourage you to hand over your identity, or urge you to immediately run out and buy something hearing related. in short, they treat you like you are an adult and have a brain. How refreshing.

Hearing test link: http://hear-it.org/page.dsp?forside=yes&area=1185

Web Site link: http://hear-it.org/index.dsp

Second Place: Hear-The-World.com

This site is run by a Swiss manufacturer of hearing aids, called Phonak. You may recognize the name if you watched the Tour de France. Until the recent economic meltdown, they sponsored a race team. Without the sponsorship to pay for, maybe hearing aid prices will drop soon. Don’t hold your breath.

Like Hear-It.org, the test they offer is speech in noise. The test procedure is prettier to look at than Hear-It’s, but is slightly more clumsy to use. Not hard to get through, though. This site, too, has a wealth of information about hearing but it leans more towards corporate-speak in presentation. Apparently Phonak has been invaded by the “You gotta go social!” crowd, as this site is set up to encourage interactive discourse (for lack of a better term) with Phonak, the company. The hearing test doesn’t require a sign up process, but other sections do and that will likely lead to your getting mail from Phonak. As always, your choice. Forewarned is forearmed.

Hearing test link: http://www.hear-the-world.com/en/recognize-hearing-loss/online-hearing-test.html

Web Site link: http://www.hear-the-world.com/

Interesting Alternative: University of New South Wales, School of Physics

If you want to discover your inner geek, this test is right up your alley. It’s a tone test. A BIG tone test. A COMPLICATED tone test. It’s a freaking MONSTER. Got you scared yet? I know that I panned this type of test, but this one from the University of New South Wales School of Physics caught my eye for some reason and is best of breed. Worth doing if you can muck your way through it. I suspect that’s a big if for many people.

What doesn’t it do? It has the same shortcomings all tone tests have – a lousy baseline that makes it of limited value. But here is what it HAS that the others don’t: Loudness Contouring. That’s a fancy way of saying the test goes through discrete frequencies from 30Hz to 16,000Hz! So while you won’t get a good baseline (always important in tone testing) you will be able to see which frequencies you hear better than others. Speech tests don’t touch on this aspect, so there is merit to trying this one. (Don’t worry if you decide to give up part way through, your computer won’t explode and your dog will still love you.)

Quick start hint (for this test only): Turn up your speakers. Way up. Then start clicking the boxes at the bottom of the graph in the 1K column and work your way up until you barely hear the tone. Then do each adjacent column the same way. You should start on the lower side of the scale in each column, because if you have a hearing loss (especially at 1K) you could give yourself an unexpected jolt at other frequencies. The warnings on the page are there for good reason. Once you are done, and if you wish, save a copy of the graph and email it to me (the link is below). We can discuss what the results mean. (P.S. I’ll lose your email address once we are done, unless you ask othewise.)

Hearing test link: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html

As always, feel free to call, write, or email me if you have questions. I love helping people to hear better, and love hearing from you. Yes, you!


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