Tinnitus Woes

Tinnitus Image from www.audioclinic.com

Tinnitus or Ringing in your ears can be an annoyance or a disability. I’ve had patients describe it in many ways. While I always treat it seriously, it often reminds me of taking my car to the mechanic and with growing embarrassment, watching the spreading of an amused grin on the technician’s face as I try and reproduce the sounds my car is making.

Trust me though, I know that Tinnitus can be more than an annoyance. I have it myself. It was one of the original reasons I started wearing hearing aids. My husband has it also and there are times that we argue about who’s Tinnitus is louder and whether he’s actually hearing mine instead of his. And as funny as that sounds, while the majority of Tinnitus is an internal sound not directly associated with your ears, some of it has a physical source that can actually be heard by others.

Image from New York Times Well Blog

While there isn’t a cure for Tinnitus yet, there are ways to manage it. If you pay attention to your diet, you may find that your Tinnitus is adversely affected by foods and drugs. Alcohol, Aspirin and Caffiene are all known to affect Tinnitus. Also foods like Salt and Saturated Fats. Even stress can add to the effect in some people. I can attest that some of those things will affect the volume of my Tinnitus.

So, while a change in diet may help, there is no actual cure at this time. Depending on the severity, hearing aids implementing masking technology can help, but even that’s not a 100% cure. Come and see me and we can discuss solutions that might be helpful for your situation. For other sources to read up on Tinnitus, try this article by Audio Clinic and this article at True Sound. You can also check out the American Tinnitus Association. You’re not alone if you are a sufferer.

In closing, just because I’m telling you the condition is common, it’s not necessarily something you should ignore. Tinnitus can be the precursor to Vestibular Disorders, TMJ, Tumors and conditions such as Meniere’s Disease. Get it checked out to make sure it’s just annoying and not something worse you need to address.

If you want to  learn more, check out the links above. But if you start Google searching, beware of spurious claims for cures.

Link to New York Times Well Blog here


Those of you that know me, know I’m down to the wire in my preparations for RAGBRAI. (And for those of you that want to know more about this year’s RAGBRAI, follow the link here.)  I’m known to procrastinate in my training, but this year has been a little worse than usual. I’m not much for cold weather riding, so I didn’t get started as soon as I would have liked. Then I came down with a cold over Memorial Day weekend which turned into Pneumonia. It’s hard to ride a bike when you can’t breathe, so I lost almost four weeks to illness. I felt like I was back starting from scratch when I got back out after that.

I’m back on the saddle now though and putting in a few more miles each weekend. This weekend I took advantage of the holiday and got in about 100 miles. I rode around Ancilla College on Saturday, put in about 60 miles on the Nickle Plate Trail out of Rochester on Sunday and got another 25 miles in around Lake Maxinkuckee on the 4th. I’ve only got about three weeks to go though before I hit the road on the 21st  for Lansing, Iowa. They usually recommend getting in about 600 miles of training before RAGBRAI, but I’m going to be hard pressed to get that total this year.

If you’re interested in following me, I’ll have Kevin post some updates and pictures that week. Stop by and wish me luck before then! Plan your hearing aid breakdowns to be simple the week of July 24th. Sandy will be holding the fort down all on her own.

Lions Club Presentation

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to the Culver Lions Club. There were lots of familiar faces which makes that easier. They were pleased to introduce me to the ones I didn’t know. I grew up in Leiters Ford, moving to Culver when I started high school. Leiters Ford was part of the Culver Community School System, so Culver has always been somewhat “home”.

They fed me a nice meal and then I spoke about various things I do and the differences between a Doctor of Audiology and a hearing aid dealer. It was well received and I got lots of good questions. I found out afterwards that there was another audiologist in the group, though she isn’t practicing. Probably best I found that out afterwards! Ha! Sometimes speaking in front of your peers can be daunting… Hopefully I got good marks!

I have given presentations like this to other groups, generally in nursing homes and senior centers. I appreciate the opportunity to educate them about their quality of life options. If you belong to a group that needs a speaker, please don’t hesitate to ask! I can taylor my presentation to your interests and time constraints. In the case of the Lions Club, they were a natural fit. The Lions often help with hearing aid exchanges and other assistance.


Hearing Loss Affects Friends and Family

Resound.com has an excellent page on how hearing loss affects your friends and family. You can find it here.

A quote from the website that I witness almost daily is, “The older we get, the more likely we are to experience a hearing loss. In fact, more than 5% of the world’s population experience some degree of hearing loss. Oddly enough, the person with hearing loss is often the last one to realize. This why I try and ask new patients to bring friends or family along to their visits. This provides positive reinforcement and outside validation that the hearing aids are making a difference… (Some people don’t trust their own ears!)

There is a link within the Friends and Family page to another page discussing smart hearing. More and more people are telling me how impressed they are with the new technologies that link their hearing aids to their electronics, such as smart phones and smart watches. As I previously discussed here, smart apps, Multi Mics and TV streamers can further enhances the advantages of adding hearing aids to your life.

Hearing aids are much smarter than they used to be. Smart technology can allow the aids to change between pre-programmed settings on their own, adapting to the situation at hand. Some clients choose upgrades just because they want their hearing aid experience to be completely hands free.

Check out the page at Resound.com. Please give me a call with questions. I currently use some of the smart technology in my personal life so I can give you the scoop on how it works!

Smart phone image borrowed from Resound.com

Wireless Technology for Hearing Aids

I had a long time client come in to purchase new hearing aids this week. This was his first experience with the new wireless technology. He went from skeptical to blown away when I showed him how to link his hearing aids to his iPhone through the Native Hearing Aid app. He was particularly impressed when I called his phone from the other room and the conversation streamed directly through his hearing aids!

The link can do a lot of things. (See the screen capture from my phone on the right.) It can allow you to adjust your volume on each aid or switch between programs. It can allow you to use your phone as a microphone (Live Listen) in noisy situations. (It doesn’t do as well as the dedicated Multi Mic, but it can definitely help.) It shows you your battery life on each aid. Very cool stuff. If you use additional accessories with your aids, such as the Multi Mic or the TV Streamer, they can be controlled here as well.

There are also other free apps that you can download onto your iPhone to get more control of the hearing aid features, such as the ReSound Smart app which, among other things, can help you find your lost hearing aids; and the ReSound Relief app which is an app to help manage your tinnitus.

The technology continues to advance. I’ll be attending the American Academy of Audiology conference (The National Convention is in Indianapolis this year! Yea!) where I’ll get to see and experience some of the cutting edge technologies that will be coming out in next couple of years. Make an appointment to see me. I’d love to tell you about the latest technology advances.

If they can make self-driving cars…

I had a patient come in the other day and ask me, “If they can make self-driving cars, why can’t they perfect hearing aids?” 

<sigh> Well, first, this, from QZ.com regarding Tesla’s autopilot cars:

The NHSTA’s findings were generally favorable to Tesla’s testing procedures, attention to safety measures, and success reducing the number of traffic incidents involving Tesla vehicles. Investigators analyzing Tesla’s mileage and airbag deployment data from 2014 to 2016 for vehicles outfitted with Autopilot software found crash rates dropped by about 40% in that time frame. After the installation of autosteer technology in the Autopilot package, crash rates dropped from 1.3 per million miles in 2014 to 0.8 in 2016—significantly lower than the US average of 1.85 crashes per million miles.

Crashed Tesla S picture from QZ.com article quoted above

No doubt a 40% drop in accident rates is wonderful, but it’s not 100%. I would say they haven’t perfected  the self-driving car yet. And neither have they perfected hearing aids… or are they likely to do so…

Hearing loss can be attributed to a wide gamut of causes ranging from congenital to causal. There are times that there are more than one issue occurring simultaneously. A hearing aid is an instrument to compensate for these issues. It is not a cure for the underlying problem. We’ll have to wait for biomedical scientists may find a way to repair the underlying problems, but for now hearing aids are equivalent to a crutch. But what an ever-improving crutch they are! The advances in recent years are phenomenal.

If you’re a long time user, you may remember what hearing aids used to be. Possibly you remember the hearing aids your grandparents wore. The amount of technology in each hearing aid has increased exponentially while simultaneously the size of the hearing aid has decreased to where they are light, comfortable and nearly invisible… sometimes even to me and trust me, I’m always looking at people’s ears! Ha!

That said, it doesn’t mean the advances are through. And there’s the possibility that future advances might make hearing aids a choice of enhancement for people with normal hearing. Sunglasses have become a fashion statement. Will hearing aids someday reach that same level of acceptance? Many of the hearing aids I sell today offer features such as phone connectivity, streaming music and streaming TV. I can link to a Multi Mic and enhance a hearing aid user’s ability to hear at parties, restaurants and presentations. Again, quoting Quartz, a company called Doppler Labs is working on computerized earbuds that can live translate languages. Star Trek’s Universal Translator is one step closer to reality! Will we someday be wearing the equivalent of Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home to answer all our questions right in our ears? That future may not be that far off. At that point, having the latest and greatest hearing aid might be something to brag about!


The Importance of a Sound Booth

Sound Booth being installed at Berger Audiology

Sound Booth being installed at Berger Audiology

One of the things I wanted to do when I started my own practice was upgrade to the best equipment to serve my patients. I did my research and invested in some of the best equipment on the market. In this post, I thought I would talk a bit about the importance of having your hearing tested in a sound booth, also know as an Audiometric test booth.

As you can see to the right, during installation, our booth was bolted to the concrete floor and isolated from the adjacent walls. The booth is double wall thickness with a sealed door and a separate ventilation system to isolate outside sound and distraction.

Patients tell me that the experience is completely different from what they have had with headphone-only testing. The experience is much more immersive and allows them to better concentrate on the testing.

Our booth is also set up with a built in computer monitor allowing me to show test results interactively immediately upon completion. This provides immediate feedback on the test, and for returning patients, the software has overlay capabilities that let me show graphic comparisons of current tests against previous tests. This allows the patient to see any changes in their hearing over time and gives me the opportunity to explain these changes..

Testing Booth Installation Being Completed at Berger Audiology

Testing Booth Installation Being Completed at Berger Audiology

I still use a portable audiometer for hearing screenings and you may have received a hearing screening from me at one of the Senior Expos or at another venue. While these are valuable first looks, they are nothing compared to the in depth information we can gather together through a complete hearing test in the booth at our office.

Come visit me so I can show you this and some of the other state of the art equipment I have to make sure your audiology experience is the best it can be. I look forward to the opportunity to showing you what a full service Audiology office can offer.

Dr. Rebecca Berger