Cleaning audiometer headsets

no spray (2)

By: James J. Jerome, Senior Occupational Audiologist

While conducting an annual hearing conservation plant visit for one of my customers, I ran into a situation of what NOT to do when cleaning an audiometer headset.

Before conducting a calibration, I always perform a listening check. I clean the headset jacks at all three connection points (starting from the back of the audiometer), and listen to a 1000 Hz continuous tone to ensure that the earphones are producing an uninterrupted tone when the earphone cords are flexed. In this case, all was well. After setting up my calibration equipment and mounting the first earphone onto the coupler, I noticed that the output was off by 2-3 dB for all of the frequencies. This is highly irregular for any audiometer. Fortunately, I was able to adjust the output and bring it up to ANSI specifications…until I got to 6000 Hz. As much as I tried, I was not able to adjust the output beyond a certain point. I ended up telling the customer what I found and said that the audiometer was going to have to be sent in for repairs (if necessary) and calibration.

Out of curiosity, I decided to call the manufacturer with the thought that there might be something I missed or that there might be a “field fix.” After telling my point of contact the problem I found, he stated that, in the course of cleaning the headset, any liquid that gets on the diaphragm of the earphone (past the black grid) can over time “clog” the diaphragm and affect the output of the audiometer. He stated that this affects the output particularly at 6000 and 8000 Hz. The only fix for this would be to replace the earphones and recalibrate the unit. Cost. . .several hundred dollars!

After my phone call, I asked the customer if she cleans the headset regularly. She said that the headset is cleaned after each use. When asked how she cleans the headset, she stated that she takes a can of aerosol disinfectant, and sprays the entire headset. That was my “AHA” moment! I relayed to her the conversation I had with the manufacturer and what she was going to have to do.


From the WPI Support Desk

oscar  mi300

One of the most common calls WPI Customer Support receives relates to Audiometric Daily Calibration failures.  90% of the time the culprit is a weak battery.  We recommend changing the Alkaline battery at least once a month if you test frequently.  If testing is infrequent, then always start with a fresh battery for your daily calibrations.  Remember, nothing makes a Calibrator happier than a FULL Battery!

Please Recycle used Batteries.




Puritan Bennett Spirometers no longer supported; how about a rebate?

spiro 2 spiro 1

The Workplace Applications software support desk will no longer provide technical support for the Puritan Bennett line of spirometers.  As of September 1, 2015, any Puritan Bennett spirometer issues with the Workplace Applications spirometry module will not be supported.  The reasons are many, some of these models of spirometers are no longer manufactured and parts are becoming difficult to come by.  In addition, the communication setup is archaic (switch box) compared to new spirometers with a USB connection.

Now some good news- NDD spirometers are still offering a $100 rebate and a free box of spirettes with the return of an old spirometer (any model) to NDD after a new NDD spirometer purchase.

This link details the rebate.

Here are the NDD Spirometers.

Contact us for a formal quote on a new NDD Workplace Applications compatible spirometer at




Already Gone


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 38-42. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.20062015.38

Though undetectable with testing, hearing decline begins when we’re in our 40s and 50s. What causes this change, and how can clinicians advise clients who notice the difference and struggle with it in everyday listening situations?

Janet Koehnke, PhD, CCC-A; Jennifer Lister, PhD, CCC-A; Ilse Wambacq, PhD

Forty-two-year-old Kelly comes to see you because she is having trouble understanding her friends in social situations, like outings to restaurants or clubs. She knows her hearing is normal and says she seems to have this problem only in situations where there are multiple conversations, background noise or music. Kelly is concerned because she’s now avoiding social events with challenging listening environments.

Sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for us, as audiologists, to see people in their 40s and 50s who complain of difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. Yet when we conduct a complete audiometric evaluation on these clients, we often find normal pure-tone and speech thresholds and excellent word recognition in quiet. So what is the source of these clients’ hearing challenges?

A growing number of studies suggest that while clients’ hearing may be normal, their complex auditory processing at a central level is not what it was when they were in their 20s and 30s (see sources below). Some of the explanations for these declines include impaired temporal processing and binaural/spatial processing, which are thought to be mediated, at least in part, at the level of the auditory brainstem. In addition, there is clear evidence for age-related changes in cognitive processing in middle-aged people.

How do these changes affect the ability to understand speech in degraded listening conditions, locate sound sources, and, in general, communicate in everyday listening situations? Not surprisingly, research suggests there is not a simple answer to this question (see sources below). Nonetheless, certain auditory-processing challenges likely contribute to these hearing difficulties. Though typically not a debilitating decline, it is one audiologists and speech-language pathologists need to watch for in middle-aged clients, so that they can offer support, as needed.

See full article here.

Protecting Our Protectors


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 22-24. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20062015.22
An audiologist is on a mission to create the ideal hearing protection for firefighters—and to convince them to use it.

Shelley D. Hutchins

Name: Kathleen A. Romero, AuD, CCC-A

Title: Owner, Audiology Associates

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico


Sirens scream as the truck roars down the road. Inside a burning building, a woman’s cries are barely audible in the thundering fire.

All of these sounds are common in the lives of firefighters. They have to discern those muffled cries and other subtler sounds like creaks from the shifting building or a fire’s change in intensity, while also subjecting their ears to blaring sirens and other loud and potentially damaging sounds.

That’s why it’s so important to protect their ability to hear, says audiologist Kathleen Romero, who’s made this issue a focus of her work in her Albuquerque-based private audiology practice. She launched her office a few years ago in the usual way—drumming up patients through word-of-mouth. Her surprising specialty developed through one of those word-of-mouth patients.

Even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high hearing loss.

Her then-receptionist, now partner, is married to a firefighter who referred several of his buddies. Romero quickly learned that even young members of this profession, which relies so heavily on deciphering different noises, experience abnormally high rates of hearing loss.

“I immediately wondered why they weren’t wearing their hearing protection,” Romero says. “They all receive disposable foam ear plugs, which work if they’re actually used, and used correctly, but patients kept telling me they didn’t wear them.”

See full article here.

Brain Cells May Press ‘Pause’ When Hearing


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.20062015.16

Brain cells may be able to “wait” to determine what we hear, according to new research on gerbils at the Laboratory for Auditory Neurophysiology in Leuven, Belgium.

Human ears locate sounds in space by accounting for differences in intensity and timing between signals that reach our two ears. Cells in the brainstem, which receive electrical pulses from the auditory nerve when the cochlea hears sound, are “hyper-specialized” to respond to certain time differences, according to the lab’s Philip X. Joris, who worked with lead author Tom P. Franken on the study, published in Nature Neuroscience.

“For example, one cell may respond to sounds right in front of us, which reach both ears at the same time, while another cell may respond to sounds to our side, which reach the ears with a time difference of half a millisecond,” Joris says. “Depending on which cell is active, we know where the sound source is in space. But how cells compute this time difference has been a matter of conjecture because it is exceedingly difficult to study these cells in the brainstem.”

Click here for full article.

Military-Specific Hearing Test Could Better Determine Combat Readiness


The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20062015.14

For soldiers on the battlefield, the words “Medic!” and “Hold fire!” and references to location are among their top hearing priorities, according to new research in Noise and Health.

The study, led by Hannah Semeraro of the United Kingdom’s University of Southampton, is a step in the creation of a new type of hearing test that gauges a soldier’s ability to perform effectively in combat situations. The researchers asked 79 British military personnel to rank 17 sounds and commands (identified in a previous study) based on importance, regularity and the number of soldiers who hear them.

More than 4,000 British troops had hearing loss as of November 2013, according to the Ministry of Defence. In the United States, hearing health is also a large military issue, with the Department of Veterans Affairs citing hearing loss and tinnitus as two of the most common injuries among troops.

The study’s results identify nine mission-critical auditory tasks, including accurately hearing commands in a casualty situation, grid references, directions, fire-control orders, and “stop” commands and briefings; locating firing points; and identifying the type of weapon being fired.

See full article here.

Reducing the Risk of Hearing Disorders Among Musicians


DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-184  June 2015

Musicians and others involved in the music industry are at risk of developing permanent hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other hearing disorders from exposure to loud sounds. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examines the risks associated with music exposure and provides recommendations to protect their hearing.

See entire article here.

Listen Up! Noises Can Damage Your Hearing


Sounds surround us. We enjoy many of them—like music, birdsong, and conversations with friends. But loud or long-lasting noises—from motors, power tools, and even headphones—can permanently damage your hearing. Take steps to protect your ears from harmful noises.

Loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. An estimated 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 already have irreversible hearing loss caused by loud sounds. And up to 16% of teens have hearing loss that may have been caused by loud noise.

“Noise damage can begin at any age, and it tends to accumulate over time. That’s why avoiding excess noise is so critical,” says Dr. Gordon Hughes, a clinical trials director and ear, nose, and throat specialist at NIH. “Hearing loss caused by noise is completely preventable.”

See the rest of the story here.


A billion at risk for hearing loss from exposure to loud music


Sandee LaMotte, special to CNN
Updated 12:20 PM ET, Fri March 6, 2015
(CNN)—”Hey dude — can you turn your music down?”

If anyone says this to you while you’re wearing your earbuds, take note: You are probably endangering your hearing.

More than one billion teens and young adults are at risk of losing their hearing, according to WHO (that’s the World Health Organization, not the rock band).

It’s not just old folks who suffer hearing loss. Just by listening to music at what you probably think is a normal level, or hanging out in loud bars, nightclubs and music and sporting events, you can permanently damage your hearing.

By analyzing listening habits of 12- to 35-year-olds in wealthier countries around the world, WHO found nearly 50% of those studied listen to unsafe sound levels on personal audio devices and about 40% are exposed to damaging levels of music and noise at entertainment venues.

It doesn’t take much time to damage your hearing at a sports bar or nightclub. According to the WHO, “exposure to noise levels of 100 dB, which is typical in such venues, is safe for no more than 15 minutes.”

See entire article here.