How to Choose a Hearing Healthcare Provider

If you are new to hearing care or the hearing loss community, you may have a few questions. One of the most popular questions is: “What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser?” For starters, both help people get hearing aids, so it’s easy to understand why the difference is not so clear all of the time.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

Hearing aid dealers must meet very basic requirements to receive a license that allows them to do a basic test for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults. While there is some variance between states, most states require a high school diploma prior to taking a licensing exam to become a hearing aid dispenser. Some states require a course prior to the licensing exam, and some require a valid student dispenser certificate prior to taking the licensing exam. Hearing aid dispensers are not doctors and have limits on the testing and treatment they are allowed to provide to a patient.

Audiologists

Audiologists are highly trained healthcare professionals. As a matter of fact, audiologists are the only professionals who are university trained and licensed to specifically identify, evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing disorders. Audiologists are required to obtain a doctorate degree, pass a national exam and do a one-year externship under a licensed audiologist before they can become licensed to practice.

Audiologists use specialized equipment and procedures to accurately test for hearing loss. The audiologist is trained to inspect the eardrum with an otoscope, to perform cerumen (ear wax) removal, conduct audiologic tests, and check for medically-related hearing problems. Audiologists can advise about whether hearing aids are recommended, provide the necessary fitting services and a continuum of detailed follow-up, including verification of the hearing aid fit and programming, counseling, and instruction. Audiologists are licensed to work with all ages, from infant to geriatric.

In addition to hearing disorders, audiologists are able to assess and treat balance system dysfunctions, and are also trained in the treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (aversion to loud sounds). They are also experts in hearing loss prevention, providing counseling and resources to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. They also monitor hearing and balance disorders that may result from the administration of ototoxic medications.

Hopefully this description will help when it is time to choose a hearing healthcare provider. Contact Berger Audiology today to schedule your hearing exam and see what Dr. Berger can do for you and your hearing.

Hearing Loss triggers personality changes

I ran across this article in the December 7th Pilot News and thought it was worth sharing. You can find it on Drs. Oz & Roizen’s website here.

I thought it was worth sharing because I see this issue so often. Many times it is something recognized by a spouse or other family members when the person experiencing the hearing loss isn’t even aware of the change. As stated previously here, hearing loss can even contribute to the likelihood of divorce.

If this is a problem you or a family member is experiencing, let me try and help! We can determine if hearing loss is a contributing factor, and if so, discuss a myriad of potential solutions to make life better for everyone involved..

Article from the Pilot News, December 7th, 2017

Can Hearing Loss Ruin Your Marriage?

I ran across an interesting article on helpingmehear.com. I thought it was worth sharing. Here’s an excerpt:

“Statistics show that there is a fourfold increase in the divorce rate of couples where one partner has severe hearing loss, as compared to couples where there is no loss or only mild hearing loss. But even mild hearing loss can make you miss or confuse sounds so that you end up not fully hearing what your partner just said. This missed conversation can eventually lead you to withdraw from interactions rather than deal with the frustration. That leads to an overall decline in your quality of life, and it can destroy your marriage.”

You can find the entire article here.

So many times, it’s the spouse that prompts a visit for a hearing test. While I joke about “spousal hearing loss” being the first thing to happen, it’s true that your spouse may often be the first one to notice the problem and is often the one most affected by it. If you find yourself asking your spouse to repeat themselves or just flat don’t hear what they are saying, come see me! Odds are I can help with that.

 

How do I explain this differently???

I had a deer hunter in the office the other day. We did a hearing test. I showed him his audiogram with its peaks and valleys.There’s a strong likelihood that his hearing loss is due to his hunting hobby. Shotgun blasts next to unprotected ears are not recommended. We discussed this. We discussed hearing protection.

He purchased new hearing aids. He was thrilled with the results and then commented, “I bet I’ll be able to hear the deer rustling through the leaves again with these! Can’t wait until deer season to try them out!”

Ugh! How do I explain it differently? Having a hearing loss doesn’t make you immune to additional loss! That is unless you have pushed it to where you’re completely deaf…

Like the guy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wearing his hearing aids, there are times I’ll counsel you against wearing hearing aids too.

IMS Observations

My husband, Kevin, was at an Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) event the other day and I’ve trained (educated) him to look for hearing aids and hearing protection. Ha! He said there were multiple places where you could get ear plugs and most of them included some kind of marketing connection.  Hmmmm… something for me to think about.

Hearing Aids at IMS? Not during a race!!!

He snapped a picture of the gentleman to the right, watching a race with his hearing aids on.Yeah, this is an example of one of those few times I recommend NOT wearing your hearing aid!!! Even with an existing hearing loss, you should be wearing ear protection. You could be damaging ranges of hearing where you were previously adequate.

But then he also saw this cute “Pit Crew”. He spoke to their mother before taking the picture. They got recommendations from their audiologist for the proper headphones for this application. The set the baby on the left is wearing is a hand-me-down from her older sister, so they’re old hands at this. Getting used to them at a young age not only helps make them acceptable, but also starts a life-time habit of hearing protection. Will this prevent them from ever wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say since there are so many potential causes including just advanced age, but it definitely gives them a leg up on others.

Kevin is becoming my #1 salesperson. He actually ran into someone else from Plymouth there and in the conversation on hearing conservation, he found out that he was a hunter and had been stymied trying to find fitted hearing protection for gun use. I can do that! Kevin gave him my card, so I’m looking forward to meeting this gentleman. I’m sure I can make his situation better.

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

The Destinies of Those Who Signed…

The Destinies of Those Who Signed (click to Enlarge)

We see the romanticized portraits of those who signed the Declaration of Independence and really don’t consider what they risked to bring us the liberties that we enjoy.  They might well shudder with rage to see how easily we consider giving up those rights when it seems expedient to us.

Take a look at the excerpt (upper right) which lists some of the lessor known patriots who were signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the not so pleasant fates they met after signing the document that marked the birth of our nation.  Some lost their lives, some lost the lives of their families and some lost fortunes, all of which they pledged to the cause of Independence.

As July 4th rolls around on the calendar, all Americans should be cognizant of the sacrifices of the past as well as the sacrifices of those currently serving in our military to protect the rights and liberties we enjoy.  It did not end with declaring independence.  No, our independence had to be forcibly taken and now, just as they did then, we need to cherish it and fight to maintain it.

The except in the captioned box is taken from an essay on the signers of the Declaration of Independence by Rush H. Limbaugh Jr., distributed by the Federalist Magazine.

Printed with Permission from the Easterday Construction Blog

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!

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