Tinnitus, or ringing (also commonly described as buzzing/chirping sounds) in the ears, can be a very debilitating problem. Unfortunately, tinnitus treatments are often complex and costly. One of the best, most cost-effective tinnitus treatments involves the use of hearing aids. In many cases, hearing aids are a “kill two birds with one stone” approach, and are helpful in both the correction of hearing loss and the reduction of tinnitus.
Below is a summary of a retrospective review of 70 patients with hearing loss and chronic tinnitus, courtesy of the American Academy of Audiology. The authors found that hearing aids can be a very effective treatment for tinnitus, and we agree. In fact, some of our most successful hearing aid patients initially began using hearing aids as a tool to help their tinnitus, only to later discover the added advantage of better hearing.
Hearing Aids as Tinnitus Therapy
McNeill et al (2012) report that “hearing aids have become common therapeutic tools in the audiological management of tinnitus.” They note that hearing aids are used in tandem with counseling and hearing aids serve as an important part of treatments, such as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (Jastreboff and Jastreboff, 2000).
McNeill and colleagues performed a retrospective study of 70 patients (48 males, 22 female, mean age 55 years). Each patient had hearing loss and a primary or secondary complaint of “bothersome chronic tinnitus.” Of note, while wearing hearing aids (Oticon, Phonak or Widex) 26 patients reported their tinnitus was totally masked, 28 reported partial masking (i.e., 77 percent, or 54 of 70 reported partial or total masking) and 16 reported no masking. Tinnitus pitch masking revealed (on average) a perceived pitch of 6900 Hz. Of note, for the group that did not achieve masking (n=16, see above)they reported a mean tinnitus pitch perceived at 8000 Hz (the average perceived tinnitus pitch for the partial masking group was 7,600 Hz and for the total masking group was 5,400 Hz). The authors note the patients who had the most tinnitus relief via their hearing aid fittings had tinnitus matching results within the frequency range of the hearing aids.
McNeill et al report that their results indicate hearing aid fittings may be useful in the management of tinnitus because hearing aids reduce the audibility of tinnitus and hearing aids improve the patient’s reaction to tinnitus. The authors recommend hearing aid fittings to treat tinnitus in patients with hearing loss. Further, they note the best results are obtained when the patient has good low-frequency hearing, a strong reaction to their tinnitus and when the tinnitus pitch is perceived to be (i.e., matched) within the fitting range of the hearing aid.
Living in Florida can get pretty humid, especially in the summer months. Hearing aid users are frequently worried about sweat, rain, and moisture accumulation in their new hearing aid. Well, now there is a solution! Siemens has introduced its first waterproof and dustproof hearing aid: The Aquaris. The device is capable of working as deep as three feet under water and can be connected to their Minitek Bluetooth system. This allows the user to listen to bluetooth-streamed music while swimming, showering, or exercising. JHBI is a provider of Siemens instruments. Give us a call to learn more about this new and exciting product.
One of the most valuable purchases that you may make this year is a pair of new hearing aids. Hearing aids will allow you to reconnect with loved ones and participate in daily activities that you once enjoyed but may be shying away from.
Digital hearing aids are precision instruments, and are sensitive to dust, dirt, moisture, cerumen, hairspray, and other daily influences. Fortunately, there are a few simple care and maintenance steps that when followed regularly can keep your hearing aid sounding and performing optimally. Here are a number of helpful suggestions that you can do at home.
Handle with care
When removing your hearing aid from its packaging, stand over soft ground so that if it falls, it falls onto a soft surface and not a hard floor.
Try to never expose your hearing aid to high heat such as leaving it in your car.
When cleaning your hearing aid, don’t use alcohol or chemical solvents. We suggest the use of baby wipes or Audiowipes instead.
Apply hair care and styling products before you insert your hearing aid. Hair gels and hairspray can clog the components and can sometimes affect the exterior plastic, too.
Protect it from moisture
The digital circuitry in your hearing aid is particularly sensitive to moisture.
Take your hearing aid out before swimming or showering (unless it is a waterproof hearing aid).
Remove the hearing aid before going to sleep, and store it in a clean, dry place.
Before you insert your hearing aid, clean and dry your ears as best as possible.
One of the most common causes of hearing aids having to be returned for service is the buildup of moisture; an inexpensive hearing aid dehumidifier can prevent this, and thus prolong its life.
To use a hearing aid dehumidifier, which removes any accumulation of moisture, remove the batteries from the unit before storing the hearing aid in the dehumidifier overnight.
Remove excessive ear wax from your hearing aid
Becoming clogged with ear wax is the second most common reason that hearing aids require service.
Upon removing your hearing aid, wipe away ear wax using a soft cloth.
Clean any ear wax from the receiver and microphone areas of the device, using a cleaning brush.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging people with diabetes to get their hearing tested, and is offering a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at www.hearingcheck.org so anyone can determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.
Audiologist Jacqueline Olson’s No. 1 rule — no crying in her office — got broken a lot Thursday afternoon. That’s what happens when you change a life, the way she and her colleagues were changing the life of 26-year-old Samuel Ochenehi.
Ochenehi was in his first year of medical school seven years ago in his native Nigeria when, following hospitalization for typhoid fever, he went deaf. He finished medical school but learned to his dismay that his hearing loss was going to prevent him from being admitted to a residency program.
Then he met DougGreen, a Jacksonville neurotologist, who is founder and president of the Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute. Green, who also founded Hearing Help for Africa, regularly does medical missionary work at Evangel Hospital in Jos, Nigeria, where Ochenehi lives.
Green considered both Ochenehi and 19-year-old Emmanuel Odido, who lost his hearing at two as a result of meningitis, good candidates for cochlear implants. Both had sustained damage to the cilia, hairlike cells inside the ear that receive sound, which the cochlea translates into electrical signals. The implant takes over that function.
But because of sectarian violence in Nigeria and a lack of adequate medical facilities there, Green decided the best approach was to bring the two young men to Jacksonville.
“I kept having to postpone the trip because bombs kept going off, ” Green said. “It was easier to bring them here.”
In October, Ochenehi and Odido flew to Jacksonville and moved into an apartment Green rented for them. Green did surgery on Odido Oct. 16 and on Ochenehi on Oct. 23, implanting in each a device beneath the skin. A second piece fits over the ear, with a magnet that attaches to the implanted device linking them. Normally, the procedure costs about $50,000. But Green waived his surgical fees, and MED-EL Corp. donated the cochlear implants.
During the time they’ve spent in Jacksonville, Ochenehi and Odido have grown close to many of the people who work at the institute.
“They’re incredibly gracious people, ” Green said. “It’s really fun for me and for my office to be a part of this.”
“It’s been so awesome to see him blossom, ” Olson said of Ochenehi.
Thursday, Olson did tests to check how well Ochenehi was hearing and then made adjustments, creating four different hearing programs Ochenehi can switch to using a remote control. Ochenehi had been having trouble hearing male voices clearly but the adjustments seemed to solve that problem. Following the adjustments, Olson did a second round of tests.
“You’re in the normal range, ” she told Ochenehi,
“Wow, ” he responded.
Knowing what was coming next, Olson reminded Ochenehi about her “no crying” rule. Then she gave him the stethoscope Doug and Kelley Green had bought for him, a stethoscope that can be connected directly to the external earpiece.
As he put on the earpiece, Olson began crying. As he listened to the heartbeat of Allison Jeffries, the institute’s front office manager who has been den mother to Ochenehi and Odido during their visit, Jeffries started crying. As he listened to his own heartbeat, Ochenehi started crying, laying his head on his hands on Olson’s desk.
He looked up briefly, reproaching Olson: “You shouldn’t have made me cry.”
Then, placing his hands together as if in prayer, he closed his eyes and cried some more.
With damp tissues littering the desk — audiology extern Lindsay Oldham, assisting Olson, was also in tears — Jeffries lightened the mood by promising Ochenehi his favovite American meal, Bono’s babyback ribs and French fries.
“French fries, that’s my favorite, ” Ochenehi said with a grin.
Jeffries placed a call to Nigeria, where it was early evening. Ochenehi’s father answered and she handed Ochenehi the phone. For the first time in seven years, he heard his father’s voice.
That led to more tears and more damp tissues. Ochenehi told his father he’d be flying home soon, leaving Jacksonville on Thanksgiving Day so he can resume his medical education.
Odido will stay longer in Jacksonville while he works with a speech therapist. He lost his hearing as a young child and so is having difficulty with speech, having communicated all his life with sign language.
Leaving will be hard, Ochenehi said.
“It’s becoming difficult to say goodbye, ” he said. “They taught me what it means to care for people. I think this has been one of the best periods of my life. I don’t want to wake up from this dream.”
But he’s decided he has a mission to perform in Nigeria and he’s chosen a medical specialty he wants to pursue in order to fulfill that mission.
“I’ve decided to go for ENT [ears, nose and throat], ” he said. “This has been a life-changing experience for me. … I hope one day I’ll be able to put a smile on a child’s face like they did for me.”
Charlie Patton, writer for The Florida Times Union, wrote a front page article about the Cochlear Implant surgery that was recently performed by Dr. J. Douglas Green. This amazing story was published on November 19th and is titled “Sound procedure brings pure joy”. Read the Full Story here.
What is it like to not hear splashing of water when swimming or not be able to participate fully in Marco Polo with your friends at a pool party? Imagine hearing only silence. For Rachel, a 12 year old bilateral cochlear implant recipient and JHBI patient, situations such as these could not be experienced or fully enjoyed.
Rachel lost her hearing completely at age 5 years and quickly received a cochlear implant to each ear. Since her surgeries, Rachel uses her cochlear implant external sound processors to hear again. She has excelled in school and has even learned to play the violin. Rachel’s original sound processors were water resistant but not waterproof, and she could not use them while swimming or bathing and could not hear to communicate in these situations.
In March 2012, Rachel’s cochlear implant manufacturer, Advanced Bionics, released the first completely waterproof sound processor, the Neptune. When Rachel and her family learned of this new processor option, she immediately “had to have it”. After the Neptune was fit to her right ear, she immediately raced home and went swimming in her back yard.
Share with Rachel and her parents as she uses her new external cochlear implant Neptuneprocessor to enjoy swimming and hearing underwater for the first time.
The Bionic Ear Association is sponsoring an event in our area on December 8, 2012. Click here if you’re interested in trying or learning more about the Neptune processor while enjoying a guided boat tour of the St. Johns River!
A small study by the House Research Institute revealed that 72% of teens reported reduced hearing after attending a three-hour show. This type of hearing loss typically disappears within 48 hours, but if it occurs repeatedly, permanent hearing loss can develop, the study authors noted.