Archive for the ‘Hearing Health’ Category

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Hearing Safety & The Sounds of SummerSummer is in full swing around Ottawa and throughout the Capital Region. And while we all enjoy our summer activities, it’s important to remember that some of the things that people love most can be incredibly loud.

When taking part in the activities we’ll be mentioning, stay mindful of the noise that you’re exposing yourself, or your children to. It’s all about finding a balance between having fun and protecting your hearing. Here are a few specific activities where you should keep that in mind:


Between Canada Day, the Civic Holiday and Victoria Day, us Canadians like to take advantage of basically any excuse we can to shoot off fireworks. While they provide a visual treat for our eyes, unfortunately for our ears, they can be extremely loud at close range (in the region of 150 dB or more.) At big public events like Canada Day on Parliament Hill, the noise produced by fireworks isn’t quite as concerning to the average spectator, as they’re generally set far back from the action – so the sound loses intensity as it travels. However, if you’re putting on a show in your neighbourhood or at the cottage, use caution, especially with children around. You’re usually a lot closer to the explosion, and exposure to sounds at that volume can cause short-term or long-term damage.


Many people in the capital region will be venturing to a show this summer, such as Bluesfest, or elsewhere. But even if you’re at an outdoor show, the output levels of the speakers can be dangerously loud at close distances, and potentially damaging to your ears. To keep your hearing protected, stand further back from the stage, or ideally, bring some ear plugs with you to the event.

While on the subject of music: on a sunny summer day, it’s tempting for some people to roll down the windows and turn up their car stereo. But not only is that a bad decision from a safety perspective, some car sound systems are loud enough to cause damage, given prolonged exposure.


Many people will be looking forward to getting some construction projects done around the house or at the cabin this summer. Just remember that some of the common tools of the trade, like power saws, produce very loud volumes at close range — enough to cause pain in the ears. Health Canada states that power tools can reach up to 113 dB, which given sustained exposure, can be damaging. Wear ear protection when using these sorts of tools.


Boat engines, particularly of the outboard variety, can also be quite loud at close range. This can be especially troubling with children on board – some large outboard motors can reach noise levels in the 120 dB range. Take care to limit your prolonged exposure to loud boat engines.

How loud is too loud?

If you’re not sure how loud is too loud, here’s a good benchmark: if you are within a metre of the person you are speaking with and have to shout to be heard, then the environment is too loud. Use caution in those environments, or if possible, remove yourself from the situation.

Should you feel ringing or any sort of pain in your ears after after any of these activities, do not hesitate to contact your local hearing centre to discuss.

Have fun this summer, and protect your hearing along the way!

Thanks for reading,

The Robillard Hearing Centres Team

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Hardly a week goes by without another news story that discusses how hearing loss is a growing concern for the North American public. Some sources have gone so far as to call it an “epidemic.” An aging population of baby boomers is likely playing into these numbers in the Western world.

But another concern is just how loud and noisy our day-to-day environments have become. We’re constantly inundated with noises that to some extent, just come with the territory of living life in the modern, industrialized world. While you can’t escape it, you can reduce your exposure to it – more on that later on.

But first, to give you a sense of how harmful some fairly regular noises that we’re exposed to can be, here is a useful chart (adapted from here) that breaks down some everyday sounds and noises… and when those can start damaging your hearing:

Weakest sound heard


Whisper Quiet Library at 6′


Normal conversation at 3′


Telephone dial tone


MP3 Player at 3/4ths Volume


City Traffic (inside car)


Train whistle at 500′, Truck Traffic


Jackhammer at 50′


Subway train at 200′


Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss

90 – 95dB

Hand Drill


Power mower at 3′


Snowmobile, Motorcycle


MP3 Player at Full Volume


Power saw at 3′


Amplified Rock Band Practice


Pain begins


Pneumatic riveter at 4′


World Record – Stadium Crowd Noise
(Seattle Seahawks)

138 dB

Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage – Loudest recommended exposure WITH hearing protection


Jet engine at 100′


Peak Rock Music Concert

150 dB

12 Gauge Shotgun Blast


Death of hearing tissue


Loudest sound possible




Protect Your Hearing!

As you can see, there are a lot of common activities that can be problematic. Here are some simple things you can do to try and avoid damage:

  • DO NOT crank your mp3 player to the maximum volume. Ever been sitting near a person and you can make out virtually every word of the song they’re listening to? That’s probably a good sign that they have their volume too loud.
  • DO wear ear plugs if working with power tools. Same goes for attending a concert, even if it’s not a rollicking rock band you’re seeing. We often underestimate the effect that the sustained loudness is having on us, until we leave the venue and realize our ears won’t stop ringing.
  • DO NOT use cotton swabs to clean your ears. This isn’t related to environmental noise, but it’s a common thing that people do. Often, you’ll just end up pushing wax further down into your ear canal.
  • DO ask people to turn the volume down in public. Don’t worry about what people might think. If you’re at a restaurant, or somewhere like a health club, politely ask a manager if it would be possible to reduce the volume slightly. If you have to yell to be heard from the person sitting across from you, it’s probably too loud.
  • DO NOT hesitate to come see us at the first inkling you have that your hearing might be declining. The sooner we can assess the situation, the sooner we can improve it.
Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

History of Hearing Aids

With a wide range of options available for the hard-of-hearing and hearing-impaired, and an ever-improving understanding of therapies and treatment options for common afflictions like tinnitus, the audiology profession has come a long, long way over the past few centuries. It hasn’t always been this way. In this blog, we thought we’d look back at the history of the hearing aid, and how we got to this point.

The invention of the telephone, in the 19th century, set into motion the technology that would eventually give us what we know as modern hearing aids. But the idea of devices to assist the hearing impaired stretches back much further, and makes for a bit of an interesting history lesson.


The predecessor to what we now refer to as hearing aids were called ear trumpets. The first of these instruments was described in writings around 1650, and by the late 1700s, they were increasingly put into practical use.  In 1800, Frederick C. Rein of London began manufacturing ear trumpets, and his company continued to do so long after his death, into the 1960s. The main issues with ear trumpets were that they could be cumbersome, and drew attention to the user’s disability. The development of new technologies would soon relegate ear trumpets to the scrap heap of history.


The invention of the telephone opened up a new world of possibilities for assistive hearing devices. Even still, the early models that took advantage of the new-found ability to electronically amplify sounds were not incredibly practical – they were large and often very heavy, requiring a headphone to be run from a large box that would be carried around the user’s neck. While it was a start, it was still somewhat impractical — and quite conspicuous.


From that point on, technology has enabled the miniaturization of hearing aids, as well as improved functionality. Transistor-based hearing aids replaced vacuum-tube-powered models in the 1950s, although the technology was still somewhat problematic for a time. The development of multi-channel hearing aids, offering the user the ability to choose the appropriate frequency for their listening environment, was a major breakthrough during the 1970s. And the development of microprocessors and the integration of digital technology has led us to today, where many hearing aids are virtually impossible to notice, and there’s a greater variety of helpful options than ever for the hearing-impaired.


Ever since inventors and companies started to manufacture devices to help the hard-of-hearing, they’ve been used by some pretty well-known people over the years…

  • Ludwig Van Beethoven made use of a hearing trumpet; he began to lose his hearing ability around 1800, and was almost completely deaf during the final years of his life.
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has worn in-canal aids since 1997. But he’s not the only 20th century president affected by hearing loss: Ronald Reagan was also fitted for hearing aids while in power at the Oval Office.
  • Pete Townshend, the legendary guitarist and main songwriter for the band The Who, suffered significant as a result of his penchant for playing his electric guitar incredibly loud (his band once held the record for ‘loudest concert ever.’) Townshend, now 69, wears aids in both ears.
  • Sticking with the music theme, 80s rocker Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News wears hearing aids in both ears, suffering from significant hearing loss as well as tinnitus.
  • Former Oscar winner and famous Holywood actress Jodie Foster has been seen wearing hearing aids before.
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

If you’ve watched any amount of television in the past five years, you’ve likely seen the commercials. Starting in the $10 to 20 price range, there are a number of products that promise to allow you to hear like never before: snoop on a conversation across the room, or watch TV comfortably while your partner’s asleep. But as Dr. Mark Ross notes in this informative piece , these consumer products should not be called hearing aids – and an authority no less than the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates medical products in the United States, agrees.


Easily Mistakable

In a posting from 2009 on its website, the FDA details some of the differences between hearing aids, and this somewhat-new type of consumer product, which they refer to as Personal Sound Amplification Products.

“While these personal sound amplifiers may help people hear things that are at low volume or at a distance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to ensure that consumers don’t mistake them—or use them as substitutes—for approved hearing aids,” the FDA posting reads.

This is a concern that many in the audiology profession share – that the new wave of sleekly-marketed PSAPs will potentially lead some people to purchase them instead of hearing aids. After all, they’re readily available, they’re relatively cheap (but still varied enough in price to give the perception of varying quality), and perhaps most appealingly, they’re marketed as a cool, ‘techy’ way for “normal hearing” people to enhance communication. Some PSAPs are even built to resemble the Bluetooth wireless headsets that have become ubiquitous in recent years.

Garnering Buzz

These devices are certainly well-marketed and are definitely garnering attention. Just a few months back, the New York Times reported on the rise of PSAPs in an article entitled “Just Don’t Call them Hearing Aids”:

They are not considered medical devices like the ones overseen by the Food and Drug Administration and dispensed by professionals to aid those with impaired hearing. Rather, they are over-the-counter systems cleared by the F.D.A. for occasional use in situations when speech and other sounds are hard to discern — say, in a noisy restaurant or while bird-watching.

“The market is proliferating with lots of devices not necessarily made for impaired hearing, but for someone who wants a boost in certain challenging conditions like lectures,” said Neil J. DiSarno, chief staff officer for audiology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Dr. DiSarno is among the many audiologists who strongly urge people to see a physician first, in order to rule out medical causes of hearing loss, which could vary from earwax to a tumor, rather than self-diagnosis.

Proper Assessment & Diagnosis is Crucial

Dr. DiSarno is not alone in his advice. The rise of PSAPs makes many in the profession worried that people will go out on their own without proper diagnosis for their hearing issues, and end up paying for it in the long run, as Dr. Ross notes in his article:

“The important question to ask is whether PSAPs can actually improve the hearing performance of people with hearing loss (ignoring the marketing deception that they are designed for normally hearing people,” he writes. “The answer is, to a certain extent, probably yes. And to be fair, many of the consumer comments posted on some PCAP internet sites are basically positive. But then, compared to no hearing device at all, it doesn’t take much sound amplification for someone to hear a bit better. A cupped hand behind the ear will do it for someone with a mild hearing loss.”

Dr. Ross goes on to cite two medical studies that looked at the performance of very low-range, ‘over the counter’ devices. These are often the devices that are the most well-marketed in the general public. The study Ross discusses found that with the devices on the low-end of the spectrum (purchase price $10 to $73) all had similar issues:

The results indicate some systematic problems with the low-range group: All of them tended to provide too much amplification (gain) in the lower frequencies and too little gain above about 1000-2000 Hz (the more important frequencies for understanding speech).   Listening to such a system could give users an illusion of hearing better, while in actual fact their comprehension of speech would still be rather limited (though perhaps superior to nothing at all).

So what’s the takeaway from all this? If you’re experiencing hearing problems, don’t self-diagnose, and don’t get caught up in slick marketing. Some types of products that would be defined as PSAPs can certainly be useful and recommended in certain instances; Robillard Hearing Clinic offers a variety of personal amplifiers and accessories that are ideal for certain patients.

The truly important thing is to always consult a professional hearing clinic like Robillard first, to make sure that you don’t end up gambling with your hearing.

For more information on the differences between hearing aids and PSAPs, check out this PDF from the FDA.


Thursday, April 10th, 2014

These days there are many advertisements for hearing aid solutions, you might see them on TV, on the internet and in newspapers.

You might be tempted to ask yourself: should I get my hearing aids online?

First, know that a lot of the devices sold on these sites may not technically fall under the hearing aid category. Many of these devices are often considered amplifiers, so they may not be what you’re looking for.

If you want to buy these types of hearing aids “on the cheap” you can go through one of these online resellers or for example, even go to Costco. But, in the end, how do you know you’re getting the right product to meet your needs?

Take a look at this woman’s experience as highlighted in an article from The New York Times:

Admittedly, my experience at Costco was mixed. The inexperienced hearing aid dispenser suggested a brand, Bernafon, that I was not familiar with. The sound was compressed and tinny; it never sounded or fit right and had to be remade several times. After seven or so visits, I was beginning to believe the adage “You get what you pay for” (in this case, $950).

A hearing aid is a medical device, it’s important that you get one from experienced professionals. In the long run not purchasing your hearing aid from a legitimate business — a certified hearing centre, may very well end up costing you more in the long run.

For starters, if you buy online, you won’t receive the high-quality personalized service a hearing centre provides. Audiologists and technicians that work closely with you will understand your hearing loss better than any website!

Furthermore, one of the biggest downsides to buying online is that hearing aids/amplifiers need to be mailed in for adjustments. And if this is your first time getting fitted for a hearing aid, you might not know how it ought to work properly; or you might need additional guidance. If you have questions or issues with your hearing aids, who are you going to call?

It’s important to have access to a trained audiologist that can look at the hearing aid for you and make sure it’s properly fitted to your ear and working in its optimal condition.

The price of a hearing aid is not just for the device itself, it’s for the service that comes along with knowing that you are walking out with the best hearing solution for you! To know that you will be able to feel confident that you’re not missing out on anything important! That’s priceless!






Monday, March 24th, 2014

As health care gets better the number of older citizens in North America enjoying their golden years are rising. In the US alone there are 40 million adults over the age of 65.

It’s a well-known fact that as we age our sense of balance weakens, putting older folks at risk of injuries due to falls.

Some of the most common disorders that lead to the reduction of balance, and poor motor skills in older individuals are:

• Arthritis
• Vitamin B-12 deficiency
• Diabetes
• Vestibular disorders (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and vertebrobasilar insufficiency)
• Atherosclerosis
• Cardiovascular disease

It is important for seniors to visit an audiologist that can properly identify, assess, diagnose, manage, and help in the prevention of balance disorders for all patients.

Audiologists can work together with doctors, nurses and those managing care for older populations to properly treat/address and prevent fall-related injuries.

To learn more about how audiologists can help you and the role your audiologist plays in your health, read the PDF co-written by our very own Sean Lennox, Doctor of Audiology.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Hearing aid subsidies in Canada for seniors not on income assistance unfortunately fall short in Manitoba.

cost of hearing aids in canada


Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Robillard Hearing Centres is excited to announce that JB and Julia Robillard will be traveling with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to China to deliver the gift of hearing. The team will be providing more than 6,000 hearing aids to children and adults in need.

For 10 days, Robillard Hearing Centres will help the Starkey Hearing Foundation team of audiologists and staff, deliver the gift of hearing by fitting each of the recipients with their very own custom-made hearing device.

“We are very excited to be joining the Starkey Hearing Foundation on this mission, this will be a great experience for us.” said JB Robillard. “The Foundation is bringing understanding to people around the world through hearing care. We are honoured to do our part in delivering the gift of hearing to those in need.”

Starkey Hearing Foundation’s China mission is just one of the many missions that are conducted throughout the year to deliver the gift of hearing around the world. As a member of President Clinton’s Global Initiative, Starkey Hearing Foundation has pledged to fit one million hearing aids by the end of the decade.

Photo of Bill Clinton and JB Robillard

Bill Clinton President World Initiative for Hearing

For more Information about Starkey Hearing Foundation, visit


Friday, May 27th, 2011

Wider use of hearing aids may curb Alzheimer’s, American study finds

Reuters February 16, 2011

People who are hard of hearing have increased odds of developing dementia as they age, fuelling hopes that wider use of hearing aids might stem the rise of dementia, according to a U.S. study.

The study of more than 600 men and women by Johns Hopkins University surgeon Frank Lin and colleagues showed that the worse the participants’ hearing, the greater their dementia risk.

“Does it mean you will develop dementia if your hearing is impaired? Absolutely not,” Lin said, noting that while a small study from the 1980s found similar results, this study was the first one to follow people over time.

“But is your risk increased? You betcha.”

With funding from the National Institute on Aging, Lin and his colleagues followed more than 600 men and women aged 36 to 90 over an average of 12 years. All had a hearing test done at the start of the study, but none had dementia at that point.

Overall, nine per cent of the participants developed some kind of dementia during the study, which was published in the Archives of Neurology. The most common form was Alzheimer’s disease.

Those with mild hearing loss had nearly twice the chance of developing dementia compared to people with normal hearing, even after ruling out the influence of age and other factors.

The risk increased three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for severe impairment, the study found.

Lin noted that the reasons for the link are unclear, saying there were three possibilities, such as hearing loss and dementia sharing a common, unknown cause.

Another possibility is that elderly people who are hard of hearing may have extra difficulties coping with declining mental function, or that the social isolation and loneliness caused by declining hearing could also fuel the dementia.

Should these last two be the case, Lin added, there could be a significant impact on public health and health-care spending.

“Treating hearing loss is not going to hurt you, except perhaps your wallet,” Lin said, noting that he is currently running a trial to see if treating hearing loss would delay the onset of dementia.

“We really need to begin studying what the exact mechanism is. And we need to begin studying whether hearing aids could have an effect on the onset of dementia.”

Read more:

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Born with two, use the two! At Robillard Hearing Centres we suggest the use of binaural amplification over the use of monaural amplification. Like using glasses instead of a monocle to correct your eyes. Using two hearing aids instead of a single aid will help maintain the natural use and function of both ears working together.

When sound is directed into the canal, hitting the eardrum, exciting your auditory nerve, your brain is able to process and understand where the sound is coming from. If you have the same hearing loss in both ears but only amplify one side, you’re not able to stimulate both nerves; therefore, not allowing your brain to comprehend the direction of signal.

 If you only corrected one eye, you would find depth an issue. If you only stimulated one ear, you would have difficulty with localization of different sounds. Another risk of stimulating one ear over two is loss in neural stimulation between the brain and ear, what we call auditory deprivation. By amplifying only one side, when two ears have a hearing loss, the non-amplified ear will become lazy and over time harder to fit with prescribed amplification.  A monaural fitting is less effective with speech in noise, communication between ears, and balance between the ears; this is due to auditory deprivation.

Another benefit would be increasing speech understanding/ intelligibility. When wearing two aids versus one, you would notice wearing two aids results in clearer speech with average listening situations. When using two ears with proper amplification, clients will also notice about 10dB more in natural volume. If we speak at about 55dB, while ambient room noise is 40dB, 10dB is a significant difference. Balance is key for a fuller sound and proper neural stimulation.

We carry a variety of hearing aids that suit binaural use, working together to create a comfortable amplified sound for those in need. Please contact our offices with any questions or for more information.

 Cat Kasko