Are you dealing with ringing in the ears? Find out what it might be.
The CDC predicts that over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. If you’ve been dealing with this issue it’s not something you should just ignore. While this problem may just be a minor annoyance for some it can also greatly impact a person’s quality of life. From the office of our Austin, TX, audiologists Dr. Paige Peterson and Dr. Taryn Shelton and our balance physical therapist Dr. Collette Rhoden, learn more about this condition, what can cause it and when you should come in for a further evaluation.
What causes tinnitus?
The most common cause of tinnitus is long-term exposure to loud noises. You might be surprised to know that many sounds that we wouldn’t exactly deem loud or damaging to our ears actually are. In fact, the majority of those with tinnitus have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss. As you might imagine, there are certain professions that can put you at risk for developing tinnitus. Some of those professions include:
- Construction workers
- Military personnel
Even a single exposure to a very loud noise could be enough to produce tinnitus. Besides loud noises, other causes of tinnitus include:
- An ear infection or blockage
- Certain medications (e.g. antibiotics; antidepressants; aspirin)
- Meniere’s disease
- Some medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure; anemia; allergies)
- TMJ disorder
- Head or neck injuries
Sometimes certain habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking or consuming caffeine can also bring on a bout of tinnitus. If you have tinnitus you may also notice that your symptoms get worse when you are tired or under stress.
How is tinnitus treated?
How our Austin hearing specialists decide to proceed with your treatment plan will depend entirely on the cause of your tinnitus. For example, if a medical condition such as high blood pressure or anemia is to blame then you will want to work with a doctor to get your condition properly managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Some medications such as anti-anxiety medication have also been known to reduce tinnitus symptoms.
If tinnitus is caused by loud-noise exposure, then you may be given a tinnitus masker, which looks similar to a hearing aid. This device will emit an ambient sound to mask the ringing in your ears. Sometimes tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is also recommended. This therapy is extremely effective but can take anywhere from 1-2 years to complete.
If you are dealing with ringing in the ears and living in Austin, TX, it’s important to have your hearing evaluated by one of our specialists as soon as possible. Call Hearing & Balance Center of Austin today to schedule a consultation with us.
Is there REALLY a difference between an Audiologist and a Hearing Aid Dealer (Audioprosthologist/ Hearing Instrument Specialist)?
In one word, YES!
It is easy to become confused about professional nomenclature regarding hearing healthcare professionals. In Central Texas and the greater Austin area, it is becoming more and more confusing by the day. Often consumers are unaware of professional and educational differences between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser. This fact has only become more of an issue as hearing aid dispensers have taken to calling themselves audioprosthologists (sounds an awful lot like audiologist doesn't it). A white coat can be purchased off of Amazon, but the education, that is earned. Often patients may obtain a hearing test or screening and purchase hearing aids without the knowledge of what sort of education or certification the provider has. Here are some of the key differences between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser.
An audiologist is a professional with either a masters or doctorate degree that specializes in diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, tinnitus and vestibular/balance disorders. Doctors of audiology complete a minimum of 8 years of schooling including undergraduate and doctoral degree. There is also a one year supervised residency that is completed prior to obtaining state licensure or certifications. Audiologists gain extensive training in anatomy and physiology of the ear and brain, psychoacoustics, amplification devices, cochlear implants, electrophysiology, and auditory rehabilitation. Audiologists also have the ability in working with all ages from new born to geriatric. Audiologists must pass a national state licensure exam and obtain continuing education requirements to maintain state licensure.
On the other hand, a hearing aid dispenser is trained in performing audiometric tests and fitting and dispensing hearing aids. The requirements to become a dispenser differ from state to state. In some states only a high school diploma and passing an exam is required prior to obtaining a state license. Other states require two years of college or post-secondary education prior to taking the exam. In Texas, only a high school diploma is required along with passing a written and practical exam. Hearing aid dispensers are typically only trained in working with adults. Many states place restrictions on their ability to dispense hearing aids to any child under the age of 18. In Texas, hearing aid dispensers are not at this time, allowed to fit children. Also, it is not within their scope of practice to treat tinnitus, and they are not able to diagnose the severity or origin of a hearing loss. Dispensers are also not qualified to recognize medical abnormalities and make appropriate referrals.
As you would when making any medical decision, choosing the most qualified professional to handle your health care is the most important. Moving forward with addressing your hearing healthcare needs is no small matter. Fitting a device is not as easy as pushing a button, and it is critical to your success to make sure that you receive the correct rehabilitation, validation and follow-up to ensure your success.
Next time you plan on getting your ears checked, make sure you ask if your provider is a licensed and experienced audiologist.
If you or a loved one have concerns about your hearing, tinnitus or balance function please call (512) 258-2300 to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors of audiology today.
September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month #FightTheFall
It's no secret that the Boomer's are aging out. In general, we live a much more active life longer than generations that came before us. And that means that we most definitely need to take fall prevention seriously. Healthcare in the United States is volitie, and as services/reimbursements become more limited taking a proactive approach, rahter than a reacitve approach is definitey the prudent thing to do.
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury
- Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
- Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
- More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
- In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
- Falls are preventable.
A little known fact is that every year Medicare has a set value of Physical Therapy (PT) dollars that you have. Use them or not, they are there. Take the time to invest in your health and independance, before the fall happens.
To learn more visit: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
Since it happens slowly over a long period of time, you may not realize you have hearing loss until it has progressed to an advanced state. Luckily, your audiologist can help you fully understand your options for hearing aids, how hearing loss can affect your daily life, and how you can overcome this diagnosis and take back your life. Find out more about your hearing aid options with Dr. Paige Peterson and Dr. Taryn Shelton at Hearing & Balance Center of Austin in Austin, TX.
Do I need a hearing aid?
There are some subtle yet common ways to tell if you are suffering from hearing loss. If you feel as though those around you mumble or if your housemates often tell you the TV or radio is very loud but you feel as though it is at a normal level, you may have hearing loss. Having difficulty hearing others, especially in a crowded place like a restaurant, or struggling to understand the other end of a phone conversation can also indicate hearing loss. If you begin to notice these instances occurring frequently, you should consult with your doctor to talk about your hearing aid options.
Hearing Aid Options in Austin, TX
- Behind-the-Ear: BTE hearing aids fit inside the ear and wrap up and around the backside of the outer ear. These common hearing aids are affordable and readily available.
- In-the-Ear: ITE hearing aids have smaller components, allowing them to fit into the ear without wrapping up the back of the ear. These aids are smaller and more compact, making them less noticeable at first glance.
- In-the-Canal: ITC hearing aids rest in the ear canal itself, almost completely out of sight to others and unnoticeable to those around you.
- Completely-in-Canal: CIC hearing aids fit completely in the canal with no visible parts on the outside of the ear.
If you think you can benefit from a hearing aid, your doctor can help you determine the best style and fit for you. For more information on hearing aids or your options, please contact Audiologists Dr. Paige Peterson and Dr. Taryn Shelton at Hearing and Balance Center of Austin in Austin, TX. Call 512-258-2300 to schedule your appointment with your audiologist today!
Signia Hearing Instruments (aka Siemens for those who have been around a long time) has released Styletto. A sleek, rechargeale hearing aid that reminds us of something that Steve Jobs would have debuted with a lazer show as it came up out of the stage to a fanfare of trumpets. It makes you want to bust out your iPhone and color coordiante with your Apple watch, head phones and maybe even your fashion jewelry. But as the dust settles, what is left?
So Is The Styletto a Hearing Aid?
Yup. Every inch of this is in fact an amplification device. It has Signia's new Nx chipset (which in all reality is one of the more novel things to come out of the hearing aid world in awhile). It's slim design and lack of buttons make this look more like an accessory than a hearing aid, so I can see where the confusion is coming from. It is significantly thinner and a skosh longer than a normal hearing aid. Like with everything it has Pros and Cons, but at the end of the day it's all about what you NEED. So let's see what makes Signia’s Syletto stand out.
Styletto’s Slim Design and Rechargability
While the industry standard in rechargability uses either a lithium ion, rechargeable interchangeable or zinc-air button battery, Styletto is the first to use the slim-pin design. This is what allows the aid to be much thinner (think the diameter of a regular water straw) than your typical hearing aid. To accomplish this slimmer design, the device itself is in fact longer than your typical hearing aid. It has a brushed metal plate that faces outward from the ear without any push buttons or on ear manipulations. Don’t worry, you can still change your volume and programs from the phone app OR the little key fob remote control (this has a name, but right now it has left me).
Here is where, the road warrior - I hate changing batteries or plugging something in every night - individual is going to get excited. Like the Apple Air Pods, the Styletto’s carrying case IS THE CHARGER. Yup, you can get 3 - 4-ish charges off of the case itself. All of the spec sheets say 19 hrs of wear time. If your day takes you to a dinner meeting, after hours happ-hour or all night sales schmooze-a-thon, putting the devices in the case for 30 min will get you an extra 5 hours of run time. So think, driving in the car to get to your meeting, or sitting in the salon getting your hair done, put the Styletto in the case, and presto, 5 more hours of play time. The case fits easily in your purse or pocket and can be recharged using an external power bank. So if you REALLY had to, you could honestly not plug anything into a wall for about a week if needed. This is honestly, from my perspective the best feature about this hearing aid.
Does Syletto Have Direct Connectivity to iPhone or Android via BlueTooth?
Sadly, no. With everything in technology, there is a give and take with everything. Getting the slim design, cool charging capabilities AND Signia’s Nx chip came with a price, direct connectivity. I would hope in the next 3-5 years that will happen, but right now that is not an option. You CAN in fact have a program built into the aid where you can have the phone calls go into both ears. BUT to do this you have to either go to the app and change programs before you call, OR once you pick up the call say “Oh, can you please wait?” And then go to the app, change programs and go. Now this will work with landline OR phone, so that is something. For those who need the hands free streaming, this won’t be the hearing aid for you. But for those with the mild-moderate hearing loss, where this isn’t a problem, working in an office where phone calls aren’t part of your every day, this is still a viable option.
Because it does not connect via BlueTooth, changes to volume and programs are made via a high frequency tonal signal. This is standard within the hearing industry and is of no surprise here.
Does the Styletto use Signia’s New Own Voice Processing (OVP)?
Why yes, yes it does. Hinting to how long I’ve been in this industry, every now an again Siemens (now Signia) comes out with something that truly changes how the hearing aid world functions. When their e2e (ear to ear) processing started back in the day, I can remember being in Topeka, KS at the VA Medical Center thinking “Holy ____, this just changed the game.” This my friends is one of those times. Outside of hearing conversation in noise & hearing the television, the complaint I hear the most is “my voice is too loud” or “I don’t like the echo in my voice.” This is due to a few things, and I won’t bore you with the physics (if you really want to know, call me or make and appointment and we’ll have a chat) but Signia has developed within their algorithm an ability to genuinely combat this. You may not get streaming, but you DO get Own Voice Processing, and that isn’t bad.
Tele-Audiology To the Rescue
As you may know, I have quite a background in Telehealth, it’s kinda my passion, which is why we have a Tele-Audiology clinic at the hearing & Balance Center of Austin. Of the main six manufacturers only a few have the capability of functioning in a tele clinic. Signia’s first instance for this delivery model was limited, but effective. With Telecare 3.0 they have stepped up the game, and Syletto comes equipped with this capability.
So Is There Anything You Don’t Like About the Syletto?
Actually, yes. From an audiological standpoint I really don’t like the fact that the receiver is not interchangeable. You read that correctly. The component that goes from the hearing aid to the speaker in your ear is part of the whole thing. Part of the beauty of a RIC (receiver in the canal) is that if anything happens to the receiver (moisture, you need to change the receiver, change length, someone breaks it) you can just change it right then and there like a LEGO block. Believe me I do this a lot. You can’t do that with Syletto. Now, Signia has come up with this quick replacement system. That sounds good, but environmentally I’m not a fan and it seems like a huge waste.
Overall, I think that this is a solid, out-of-the-box solution. I think this has the possibility of being and accessory and moving us past the stigma associated with hearing loss. This is NOT grandma’s hearing aid. But let’s be real here, I like to look into the future, and what Signia has done here is create something that they can market test and then I think, de-feature for the OTC classification that will drop in 2020. OTC aids will be for mild to moderate loss, like the Styletto, which honestly is a brilliant idea. For the mild to moderate hearing loss crowd, this is really something to look into.
To find out more, or to see if Syletto is a fit for you, call (512) 258-2300 to schedule an appointment with our Audiology staff today.
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