Hearing News

Quick Guide to Hearing Health Professionals

You’re having a hearing concern but who do you call? Who do you see for a suspected hearing loss, an ear infection, or even a simple hearing test? And what do all of those letters behind their name mean anyway?

In a field where there are multiple players, sometimes it is hard to determine who you need to book an appointment with to address your specific concern. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to familiarize you with the different kinds of hearing professionals and what each of them do.

ENT

What this means: ENT stands for ear, nose and throat. These medical professionals are physicians trained in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck. You may also hear them called otolaryngologists.

Special training: ENT is the oldest medical specialty in the United States. A specialist is ready to start practicing after 15 years of college and postgraduate training, which includes medical school and five years of specialty training. The physician must also pass the American Board for Otolaryngology examination to be certified. Some even pursue a one- or two-year fellowship in one of the seven specialty areas: pediatric otolaryngology, otology/neurotology (ears and balance), allergy, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, head and neck surgery, laryngology (throat) and rhinology (nose).

What they do for your hearing: Because an ENT is a licensed medical doctor, they can perform surgery – such as cochlear implant surgery – and treat medical problems of the ear such as ear infections or earaches.

Audiologist

What this means: Audiology is the science of hearing. Audiologists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance issues.  Before the clinical doctorate became the standard clinical degree for the profession in 2007, audiologists were required to complete a master’s degree in audiology. Because the older degrees were grandfathered in, there are still many practicing audiologists today who hold a master’s degree.  Accredited audiologists will have the title of CCC-A or Au.D. following their name.

Special training: Audiologists complete many years of graduate study at an accredited college. These hearing healthcare professionals are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance problems. Because they have studied the science of hearing, they know how hearing loss happens and what the long-term effects of untreated hearing loss are on your life.

What they do for your hearing: Audiologists can diagnose and treat hearing loss in people of all ages, including newborns. Their scope of practice includes: cleaning the ear canal, installing and programming cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids, and fitting traditional hearing aids on children and adults. Audiologists are also trained in the diagnosis and treatment of balance issues.  Although they cannot perform surgery, they are trained to identify medical issues and refer these patients to an ENT.

HIS

What this means: hearing instrument specialist

Special training: These hearing healthcare professionals must be high school graduates and complete a training/apprenticeship program. Many states also require graduates to pass a state licensing exam in order to practice.

What they do for your hearing: Hearing instrument specialists conduct and analyze tests to determine the extent and nature of hearing loss, then dispense hearing instruments designed to address the symptoms. They provide education on how to use and maintain a hearing aid. HIS work only with adults.

HAS

What this means: hearing aid specialist

Special training: This is another name for a hearing instrument specialist. The nomenclature varies from state to state.

Additional certifications

Hearing healthcare professionals must be licensed by the state in which they practice. In addition to state licensure, many professionals seek additional certifications to help them deliver the best care for their patients. Here are abbreviations for some of the most recognized certifications.

BC-HIS: Board Certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences

CCC-A: Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology. This certification is awarded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

FAAA: Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. This indicates that an audiologist is a member of the Academy.

ABA: American Board of Audiology. This board certification is awarded by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

 

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“Big Box” Chains vs. Independent Practices: The Pros and Cons

“Big Box” stores and chains have become a mainstay in our modern culture because not only are the prices reasonable, but you can buy practically anything you could ever want or need within their walls. Their convenience is undeniable so it is easy to see why consumers would turn to them for everything, including their hearing health needs.

However, is it really worth the hype when it comes to hearing aids?

Before you turn to “Big Box” stores over a hearing specialist, considering what you are not receiving when you purchase hearing devices through them.

First and foremost, when you start shopping for a hearing provider, you are also shopping and ultimately adopting their business model–and their consequences. When it comes to hearing health, there are two major types of business models: the corporate model and the professional model.

A corporate model is a sales driven approach. Businesses with this model, such as “Big Box” retailers and corporately-owned hearing aid outlets, are focused on hearing aid sales. They demand sustained growth by “buying out the competition.” Their main goal is to push hearing aid sales and they have their eye on the bottom line and profit margins.

When you consider this strategy, it’s also important to realize the employees staffing the hearing care centers within these types of retail chains are minimally trained hearing aid dispensers more concerned with selling you on their product than they are with your individual needs. This means if you have any questions about choosing the right hearing aid for your specific type of hearing loss or lifestyle needs, you are on your own.

And as for aftercare? Forget about it.

At a “Big Box” retailer, you give the cashier money, they give you the hearing aids. End of transaction. If your hearing aid breaks or needs an adjustment or even a simple cleaning, where do you take them? These businesses may send them far away for repairs–if they even offer this service–and then what? You are left without hearing aids for weeks.

On the other hand, the professional business model has a much higher priority on the total patient experience. It assumes that customer satisfaction drives customer loyalty which in turn drives profitability and growth. This model is practiced by audiologists who are trained in an end-to-end process of patient-centered hearing care.

Audiologists can provide professional services and possess high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. Their extensive academic credentials, professional certifications, and licensures, allow audiologists to legally provide a full range of patient-centered care, a set of professional standards that include a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, a consultation to discuss treatment options, highly specialized hearing aid fitting and programming, and a process of post-fitting adjustments and counseling.

While profit is certainly important to independent audiologists, it does not dictate the patient process. Audiologists offer a wider range and selection of hearing aid devices and accessories and can guide you towards the products that would be most beneficial to you. And just because you purchase a specific type of hearing aid does not mean you are stuck with them. Independent audiologists have the flexibility to allow you to try many brands and technology levels risk-free until you find something you are completely satisfied with.

When you purchase hearing aids through an audiologist, you are also purchasing aftercare. You know exactly where to take them when they break or you need an adjustment or cleaning. Hearing aids bought from an audiologist come with a warranty–often three years or more–which includes regular cleanings, adjustments, repair and damage warranties, and hearing screenings. You also know who will be working on your devices should they need repairs. And if devices need to be sent to a manufacture for more extensive repairs, audiologists can provide you with loaners so you are never without hearing devices while yours are gone.

So what’s the bottom line?

Audiologists are focused on you as an individual and not your pocketbook. While “Big Box” advertising may seem appealing for the convenience, you are better off seeing a hearing healthcare professional to guarantee you are reaping the benefits hearing aids can bring to your life.

 

 

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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The Truth About Earwax

Earwax, that annoying goop you can’t wait to get out of your ears. It’s the stuff we obsessively dig out at the end of our showers and blame for everything we mishear. However, what is largely considered a nuisance is actually an integral part to the health of your ears.

So what is the function of earwax anyway? Earwax—or cerumen as it is medically known—is a natural secretion of the outer ear that is a sticky combination of oils, sweat, and good old-fashioned dirt mixed with dead skin cells. Knowing that, it’s easy to see why it would be revered with such disgust. But it’s the stickiness that makes it so effective.

With earwax acting as a natural barrier between the outside world and the delicate workings of your inner ear, it is able to trap potentially harmful debris—or insects—that may find its way into your ear canal. It also acts as a protective coating, keeping your ear canal lubricated. Without it, your ears might feel itchy or flaky which increases the chance of irritation or infection. The underlying message: a healthy amount of earwax is GOOD.

Now you might be asking yourself, ‘what is healthy?’ And the answer is: it varies. Although most ears produce earwax, its composition depends on ethnicity, environment, age, and diet. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • There are two types of earwax—wet and dry
    • Caucasians and Africans typically have wet earwax whereas Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians usually have dry earwax
  • The color of your earwax can say a lot about you and your health
    • Adults tend to have darker, harder earwax
    • Children usually have softer, lighter earwax
    • Orange, yellow, or light brown wax is considered healthy and normal
    • The darker the wax, the older it is
    • White, flaky wax means you lack at body-odor producing chemical
  • Your body naturally regulates how much earwax to produce through your diet, hygiene, and jaw movement
    • Cleaning your ears too much can actually be harmful and can lead to excess wax production
    • Not having enough wax can also lead to a higher risk of infections or other complications
    • Excess wax production can also lead to ear blockages that can affect your ability to hear
  • Stress levels can accelerate earwax production

There are certain types of people who are more prone to excess earwax production. Some of these factors include the amount of hair in the ear canal, chronic ear infections, abnormally formed ear canals, certain skin conditions, and age.

That being said, what do you do if you feel like your ears are stuffy and you suspect wax may be the root of the problem?

Shove a cotton swab, hairpin, or sharp object in there, right? WRONG. The use of a foreign object in an attempt to clear your ear can actually push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally. Or worse, you could puncture your eardrum. Ouch!

What about ear candling? That’s safe, right? WRONG. On top of having no proven benefits, ear candling often leads to burns, wax blockages, punctured ear drums, and serious injury. You can actually burn your eardrum doing this!

So what can you do to help keep your ears healthy and clean?

  • Wash your ears with warm water. This can be done in the shower or with a wet wash cloth. This is usually enough to soften and loosen the excess wax to be naturally expelled by your ears.
  • Ask your local pharmacist about using an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit. This should only be considered if you have healthy ears free of any tubes or eardrum perforations.

But the number one thing you can do to help keep your ears clean is to visit your audiologist annually. Aside from advising you on your hearing health, they are trained to safely and effectively remove excess wax build up in your ears.

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Hearing Loss and Work Compensation: Is There a Link?

Everyone who has a hearing loss knows it can be stressful and affects nearly every aspect of your life; your day to day activities, your work environment, your relationships, not to mention your physical, mental, and emotional health. However, if you leave that hearing loss untreated it can be much more detrimental to you and, surprisingly, your pocketbook.

According to a study performed by the Better Hearing Institute, over 31 million Americans have an admitted hearing loss. Of these hard of hearing (HOH) Americans, only 37% are of retirement age, making the other 63% in our schools and work force. However, the most shocking statistic is only 23% of all HOH individuals are using hearing devices. That means over 24 million HOH Americans are not receiving treatment!

Citing the cost of hearing devices as a major deterrent, what many untreated HOH individuals fail to realize is studies have shown leaving their hearing loss unaddressed negatively impacts their annual household income by an average of $12,000/year. Over a lifetime, that can add up to a staggering $500,000 of lost potential earnings.

But why would having a hearing loss be so impactful on earnings? The answer is simple: most modern employment situations require verbal communication to be successful. Whether it be with coworkers, the public, or one’s supervisor, being able to follow and understand a conversation in person or over the phone is vital to workplace success. If any part of the communication chain is ineffective, it may influence how well a job is performed and could result in unemployment or a phenomenon known as underemployment.

Underemployment occurs when an employee is working at a job level below their skill set and capabilities. For the unaided HOH individual, this may be a direct result of their hearing loss due to mistakes made from miscommunication.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The study also showed that the use of hearing devices mitigated the effects of the hearing loss on annual income by 50%. Imagine how many extra thousands of dollars you could earn!

And the best way to get started on taking control of your hearing—and by proxy, your potential financial growth—is to see your audiologist. They can help you determine the severity of your hearing loss, analyze the nature and degree of communication interactions on the job, and provide hearing device solutions which could improve work performance and overall quality of life.

So why wait? Contact us at 303-639-5323 today to get started on the road to better hearing AND higher earning!

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Helpful Apps for the Hard of Hearing

In a world where instant communication is king and news travels at the speed of text, it can be challenging for those who are hard of hearing (HOH) to feel connected and engaged to the people around them. However, your smartphone may hold the key to improving your ability to comfortably experience everyday life situations.

When you think of your smartphone, you likely think of the world literally at your fingertips. But did you know there are several Android and iOS apps to assist HOH individuals find relief from conditions such as tinnitus? Or that there are others designed with speech-to-text features to ease communication barriers? And the best part is most of these apps are FREE.

The first set of apps we tested are what we considered “dictation” apps. Dictation apps are classified as those designed to transcribe spoken words into text and can be extremely valuable to those with more severe hearing loss. After extensive research, we found two apps that stood out from the pack.

Speechnotes and Dragon Dictation are speech-to-text apps created by WellSource and Nuance respectively that use voice recognition software in your phone to transcribe spoken word into text which can be read in real time. Simply have the person speak into your phone and watch the conversation unfold before your very eyes. Imagine being able to have a conversation with your favorite grandchild without the frustration of trying to understand them!

Next, we focused on apps geared towards tinnitus relief. There are several apps designed to help relieve some of the symptoms of tinnitus or “ringing in the ears.”  If you currently wear hearing aids, a good place to start is by looking to your hearing aid brand. Every major hearing aid company produces their own version of a tinnitus relief app and they are as follows: Resound Relief, Tinnitus Balance by Phonak, Starkey Relax, and Tinnitus Sound by Oticon. We found they contain anywhere from 5 to 12 basic environmental sounds you can set as background noise when your tinnitus feels overwhelming or when you want to distract from it in a quiet setting. There are also looping options, sleep timer options, and options to select situational sounds if you found a certain sound soothing in a particular setting. Oticon’s even had additional options such as breathing and muscle relaxation exercises for when sound therapy isn’t enough.

However, if you are looking for a more involved app or one with a specific sound type in mind, we suggest using either Naturespace 3D Sound from Holographic Audio Theater, LLC. Or Relax Melodies from Ipnos Software.

Naturespace 3D Sound has 6 different sound options but what sets it apart is the way in which the sound is recorded. Holographic Audio Theater, LLC uses several different microphones to record soundtracks to make it feel as though you are actually sitting by a lake at night or standing by the ocean. The sound makes you feel like you are immersed in the environment, making it a truly interesting find. On the other hand, Relax Melodies contains many of the same features as the basic apps but it offers a broader selection of sound types. With it, you can choose one or several of the 50 different sound options to create a unique track catered just to your needs. You can also tack on a “meditation” option which provides therapeutic “buzzing” or “pulsing” sounds under the soundtrack for added tinnitus relief.

Lastly, we researched sign language apps for those with severe hearing loss or anyone who may find value in learning conversational signs. The best one we found came from Everyone and was called ASL American Sign Language. This app walks you through the basics such as the alphabet, numbers, finger spelling, basic words, body and health, food signs, school signs, money signs, animal signs, question signs, country signs and more! If you would like to learn more advanced signing, you can upgrade the app to the ASL Pro Version for only $2.87.

Granted, the apps mentioned are simply the tip of the iceberg and are the ones we found the most useful but that does not mean you have to stop there. Download them and try them for yourself. We would love to hear what you have to say!

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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When a Loved One Resists Help for Their Hearing Loss

When we think of helping a loved one with hearing loss who declines use of hearing aids, we often think of how important it is to repeat ourselves, speak clearly, speak louder or interpret what others say if they cannot hear the message. But when we do these good deeds for loved ones with a hearing loss, what we don’t realize is that we’re assisting in their failure to seek help. Such well-intended efforts are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of them receiving hearing aids. Here’s why. If a loved one with a hearing loss has come to rely on your good hearing, what is the great need for them to wear hearing aids? Your co-dependent efforts must stop in order for them to grasp the magnitude of their problem. Many people with a hearing loss never realize how much communication they actually fail to understand or miss completely because you have become their ears. However, it takes only a short time for them to realize that without your help, they’re in trouble. It is through this realization that one becomes inspired to take positive action to solve their problem. Therefore, as a loving spouse or family member you must create the need for your loved one to seek treatment by no longer repeating messages and being their ears. Your ultimate goal is for them to hear independent of you. Here are some practical tips for you:

• Stop repeating yourself! Explain that you are on a “Hearing Help Quest”—one that involves your loved one by allowing him or her the opportunity to realize the significance of their hearing loss. Do not stop helping though. All you do is preface what you repeat by saying each time, “Hearing Help!” or some other identifier. In a short amount of time, your loved ones will realize how often you say this. In turn, they will come to realize how often they depend on you. (This suggestion is only for a loved one who resists the idea of getting any help).

• Stop raising your voice (then complaining you’re hoarse).

• Stop being the messenger by carrying the communication load for the family. Do not tell your loved one “He said” and “She said” when he or she needs to be responsible for getting this information directly from the source.

• Do not engage in conversation from another room as tempting as this is and as convenient as it appears. This sets up your communication process for failure.

• Create a telephone need. This means for you to stop being the interpreter on the telephone.

Allow your loved one to struggle in order to recognize how much help he or she needs. We’re looking for motivation (to hear) from your loved one—not you.

Richard Carmen, Au.D. – Auricle Ink Publishers, Sedona, Arizona. From: www.betterhearing.org

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Five Tips for Surviving the Holidays with Hearing Loss

Holiday gatherings can be a frustrating time for those with hearing loss. A few tips will help you prepare for this Holiday Season and make it more enjoyable for you and yours.

 1. Make those around you aware of your hearing loss.

While this is hard for many of us, the old saying goes; a hearing loss is more noticeable than a hearing aid. People know even if you don’t tell them. Be up front about it and it will take the pressure off.

 2. Keep the music down.

Background music during the holidays can be wonderful but if too loud it can create a lot of background noise that is difficult for all.

 3. Take a break.

Trying to hear in a lively atmosphere can take a physical toll. Even those without hearing loss find it difficult in noisy environments. Take a break every now and then and give yourself a rest.

 4. Dinner parties can be more difficult because of so many people around the same table.

Try and sit next to those who you find it easier to hear and communicate with.  Good conversations get passed around the table.

 5. Make sure you have enough fresh batteries.

Change your battery before you leave for a big event or party so that you don’t have to worry about your hearing aid dying at an inopportune time.

Happy Holidays and Happy Hearing from New Leaf Hearing!

 

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Enjoy Those Precious Holiday Moments

If you have a family member or friend with hearing loss, the holidays bring unique challenges. While many people look forward all year to family gatherings and holiday parties, those with hearing loss may feel apprehensive or anxious.

One of the first signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing in noisy environments. It can be especially difficult to understand speech over background noise like dinner music or a football game on TV. This is due to high-tone, nerve-type hearing loss that affects consonant sounds (necessary to understand words) that are in high frequencies.

It can be confusing because in quiet environments, a person may be able to hear and understand speech just fine. But add background noise, and he or she may only hear a low drone and miss the high-frequency sounds of speech.

“Just Getting By” Means Missing Out

It’s estimated that 10% of the U.S. population has hearing loss. Many don’t know they have a hearing problem or are reluctant to seek help. They may feel embarrassed or think they can “just get by” without treatment. But that means asking others to constantly repeat them- selves, feeling left out of conversations and not fully participating in festivities that could create cherished memories. Neglecting hearing health can lead to increased feelings of isolation and even depression.

Many people experience depression during the holiday season for a variety of reasons, including health problems. Adults who suffer from untreated hearing loss are more likely to report feelings of depression and anxiety than those whose hearing loss has been treated.*

How to Offer Support and Encouragement

Family members and friends can encourage those with hearing loss to do something about it. Here are some suggestions:

Let them know they are not alone.

One in six baby boomers (ages 41 – 59) have a hearing problem, and one in 14 Generation X-ers (ages 29 – 40) already have hearing loss.**

Discuss advancements in technology.

Today’s digital hearing instruments are not what most people expect. They can best be compared to tiny, yet highly sophisticated sound studios – processing and reproducing sounds faithfully.

Dispel myths.

Just because someone has hearing loss, it does not mean he or she is going deaf. However, it is important to see a hearing healthcare professional to find the cause of the hearing loss and prevent it from worsening. Show them their hearing is important. Hearing loss can occur gradually – sometimes over many years. Perhaps they have forgotten how important hearing is to their quality of life. Reminiscing together about special gatherings may remind them of the times they, too, enjoyed the holiday bustle.

* Source: National Council on Aging.

** Source: Better Hearing Institute.

Happy Holidays and Happy Hearing from New Leaf Hearing Clinic!

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Hearing Aid Repair

 

If you’ve got a broken hearing aid, then you’ve come to the right place!  At New Leaf Hearing Clinic we are able to service and repair most makes and models of hearing aids.  In some cases the problem can be corrected in-house by cleaning or fine-tuning the hearing aid.  For more serious ailments, the hearing aid may need to be sent to the factory for more extensive repairs.  For a newer hearing aid, usually under 5 years old, the hearing aid is sent to the original manufacturer.  If the hearing aid is over five years old it can sometimes be more cost effective to have it repaired by a general repair lab rather than the original manufacturer.  This is somewhat akin to having your car repaired by an independent mechanic, rather than the dealer.  If your hearing aid has to be sent out for repair, when it returns it will have a one year repair warranty.  This will cover the hearing aid for any additional repairs that are needed within a one year time period.  This coverage does not protect against loss or damage beyond repair.

The average life expectancy of a digital hearing aid is five to seven years.  Hearing aids over that age are definitely still repairable, but in most cases the hearing aid user would benefit from updated digital technology.  But if you’re thinking of upgrading make sure to hang on to those old hearing aids!  Having a spare pair of hearing aids can come in handy as a back-up for emergencies, just like an old pair of glasses.

Please feel free to call and schedule an appointment if you have a question about having your hearing aid repaired, we’d be happy to take a look at it for you!

 

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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Bluetooth Connectivity, connecting you to the world!

What is Bluetooth Connectivity?

Bluetooth connectivity is technology that enables a wireless connection to mobile devices like cell phones and iPods.  It can also be used to connect to a television, a stereo, or even a computer!  Do you wear hearing aids?—Bluetooth technology comes standard in most hearing aids today.  It is easy to use and makes for a more convenient lifestyle.  It also enables you to be more connected to those around you.

How does it work and how can it help me?

Typically an additional device is needed to activate and utilize the Bluetooth technology in the hearing aids.  Such a device may be worn around the neck of the person wearing hearing aids or clipped to a lapel of a jacket.  The Bluetooth device will constantly monitor the user’s cell phone for incoming calls. When a call is received, it sends the signal directly to the hearing aids. The hearing aid user will hear the phone ringing in their ears and answer the call by simply pushing a button—they can then talk hands-free and can hear the call in both ears simultaneously.  When connected to the TV or an iPod they listen to their music or TV program through their hearing aids.  Not only is the clarity of the signal improved with a direct connection to the device, but the hearing aid user can also adjust the volume to their own preference without disturbing others.

There is also a device called a remote microphone that can be used in a large group setting, such as a meeting or a restaurant.  The hearing aid user gives a small microphone to the speaker to clip to their lapel.  The speaker’s voice is transmitted wirelessly to the hearing aids.  The hearing aid user is able to hear the speaker’s voice clearly because the hearing difficulty caused by distance and background noise has been reduced.

If you are interested in learning more about how Bluetooth connectivity can improve your hearing contact New Leaf Hearing Clinic today!

(Source: Better Hearing Institute, www.betterhearing.org)

Posted in: Arvada, Broomfield, CO, Hearing Aids, New Leaf Hearing, Tinnitus, Westminster

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