Category: Audiology

Smart Watches

VibraQuartz Vibrating Alarm WatchDid you know that the Apple Watch is not the first vibrating watch?  Vibrating watches have been around for years as assistive devices for the hearing impaired.  They come in many forms: analog, digital, for adults, kids, etc.  Some examples can be found here at Harris Communications.

What’s great about this new technology, is that the Apple Watch works with made-for-iPhone hearing aids.  If you have already been fit with these hearing aids, or are interesting in learning about how this technology can better your quality of life, contact an audiologist today. 

Continued Office Audiology Training

IMG_0053In January, our clinicians went to an audiology summit, and returned with new skills, motivation and momentum.  Since that time, our entire office has been receiving training on audiology in general, and all of the procedures we perform and services we offer.  We started off with a summary of our summit, and an introduction to our plans for audiology training.  This meeting was in the morning, and we created a homemade breakfast burrito bar!  That post can be found here.  A few weeks later, we had a presentation covering audiology and the services we offer, over lunch with homemade pizzas.  That post can be found here.  After that presentation, our entire office received a checklist of audiology services to either observe or experience first hand.  Our staff has been so great and motivated to participate, and we have received positive feedback that they have all learned a lot.  This type of training is important, because it better enables our staff to have meaningful conversations with our patients, and offer insight and empathy.

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Today, we all gathered to observe an ABR and some hearing aid programming with our very own Randi Holmes as a patient.  We were able to hook IMG_0052our laptop up to the projector, so everyone could see the ABR and hearing aid software on the big screen.


Next week, everyone will be done with their observations, and we will all gather for a celebratory catered lunch.  We will all share what we learned from the observations, and further answer any questions.  We have such an incredible team in our office, and are so grateful for our amazing staff!





Living With Hearing Loss In The Real World

Hearing loss affects millions of people, yet only a small fraction of people who could benefit from intervention take action.  “I can get by” is often a phrase people use to avoid addressing their hearing loss.  However, digital technology has progressed incredibly in recent years, and you no longer need to just ‘get by’.  Let’s consider a real-world difficult listening situation: the airport.

It’s busy, crowded, you’re running late, and the lines are longer than you expected.  You are trying to keep track of your entire family’s boarding documents, when you think you hear an announcement notifying travelers of a gate change.  Did they say B8 or same gate?  Hear The World Foundation has a great hearing loss simulator outlining this very situation.  Click here to open the simulator in a new tab.  Adjust the volume to a comfortable level, and then listen to the same announcement  through a progression of hearing levels.


Ditch the frustration, and take action against your hearing loss.  Untreated hearing loss simply isn’t worth it.  Research shows that treating even a mild hearing loss can lead to increased quality of life.  Don’t wait for it to get worse.  Call an audiologist today for a hearing evaluation, and take control over your quality of life.


Audiology Training With Homemade Pizzas

Today we had a great office workshop.  The audiologists put on a presentation for the entire office staff, offering more education and training on what all is involved in hearing evaluations, and all of the other services we provide.  Randi headed up a homemade pizza station.  We had about 6 pizza stones going at once, with toppings ranging from spinach, pineapples, to anchovies!  We are excited about everything that was accomplished today.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day


Using a green listening stethoset today!


Collaboration Like No Other

Dr. Holmes and Randi are the perfect example of collaboration.  There aren’t many ENTs that would sit through an all day training learning about new hearing aid technology, and even program hearing aids himself for the first time!  This is one of the amazing benefits of working at a family-owned practice.  Randi and Dr. Holmes bring ENT and Audiology together in the best ways possible for our patients.  Make an appointment at our office to learn about the new technology we experienced today!

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Can you hear a microwave beep with your earbuds in?

Read the full article from the WSJ here.

How loud is too loud when using a personal audio device? Experts weigh in with specifc recommendations.

Is Your Music Too Loud? Experts Say It May Be If It Is Louder Than a Microwave’s Beep

To lessen hearing-loss risk, some experts say listen to loud music with earbuds for less than an hour a day
How loud is too loud when using a personal audio device? Experts weigh in with specifc recommendations.
How loud is too loud when using a personal audio device? Experts weigh in with specifc recommendations. PHOTO: CORBIS

Updated March 9, 2015 5:37 p.m. ET

Think twice the next time you pump up the volume on your iPhone to drown out the chatter of those neighboring commuters.

Experts say listening to music at high volumes using earbuds or headphones for more than an hour—and in some cases, as little as a few minutes—could put you at risk for noise-related hearing loss.

The World Health Organization in a new campaign advises limiting the use of personal audio devices to less than an hour a day, or for longer periods if kept at a volume of less than 85 decibels, roughly equivalent to the beep of a microwave.

The recommendation is based on the WHO’s review of previous studies estimating that people use personal audio devices at an average of 94 decibels, said Shelly Chadha, technical officer of the WHO department for management of noncommunicable diseases, disability, violence and injury prevention.

At 100 decibels, listening should be limited to 15 minutes. But by reducing the volume to 80 decibels or less, a person can safely listen to headphones for long as desired, said Dr. Chadha.

Apple and most other makers of personal audio devices don’t provide decibel equivalents for the volume controls on their devices. Maximum volume varies depending on products and headphones. Some experts say the most effective way to reduce the risk of hearing damage is to wear noise-canceling headphones, which block out background noise so that users can listen at lower volumes when in a noisy environment such as an airplane.

In a 2011 study published in the Journal of American Academy of Audiology, researchers evaluated output levels of audio devices and determined that a person using the white earbuds that come with Apple products and setting the volume on an iPod at maximum experiences a sound level of 102 decibels.

At that level, safe listening is limited to about five minutes, said Cory Portnuff, a clinical audiologist at the University of Colorado Hospital and a co-author of the study.

Some experts say the WHO recommendations are a bit too restrictive, and its estimate that 50% of young adults are exposed to potentially unsafe levels of sound from their personal audio devices may be an overstatement.

In a 2013 study, this one published in the International Journal of Audiology, Dr. Fligor and Dr. Portnuff found that of 24 adolescents ages 18 to 29, only 16% were listening to personal listening devices at levels that raised their risk of cumulative hearing loss.

“Volume level and listening time are inextricably combined,” said Brian Fligor, a Boston audiologist and another co-author of the 2011 and 2013 studies, as well as chief audiology officer at Lantos Technology, Inc., an audiology device company, who has published numerous studies on personal listening devices. “You can listen really loud for short periods of time safely.”

“I take my favorite song at the end of my run and I crank it to the max. But it’s only one song,” Dr. Fligor said. He recommends keeping the volume on a device no higher than 80% of maximum, or about 89 decibels, for 90 minutes of safe listening.

A 2006 laboratory study of about 100 young adults in a simulated airplane found that when listening to music or movies with regular earbuds or headphones, they listened at levels that were too loud—more than 85 decibels—more than 80% of the time, said Dr. Fligor. But when wearing headphones that blocked out background noise, people listened too loud only 20% of the time.

Noise-related hearing loss, while unusual among young adults, can still prematurely age one’s ears, Dr. Portnuff said. “It is normal to lose some hearing as we age, but overexposure to noise and music can make that happen much faster.”

Audiologists can detect early signs of hearing loss. Dr. Portnuff said warning signs include ringing in the ears and difficulty following conversations in noisy restaurants and bars. High-frequency sounds typically are lost first, resulting in difficulties in hearing things like whistles or the beep on a watch. Consonant sounds such as s’s and t’s are also harder to hear.

There is evidence that noise-related hearing loss is on the rise. A 2010 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found hearing loss in adolescents ages 12 to 19 in the U.S. grew by about a third over the previous two decades, with a 28% rise in the prevalence of high-frequency hearing loss, said Sharon Curhan, co-author of the study and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The study, which used data from a nationally representative survey, couldn’t attribute the increase specifically to noise or the use of earbuds, but high-frequency hearing loss is often associated with excessive noise exposure, Dr. Curhan said.

Genetics, diet and lifestyle also contribute to hearing loss, Dr. Curhan said. Her research has found that staying physically active, eating a healthy diet including fish twice a week and limiting the use of pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help reduce the risk of hearing loss in men and women.

Seth Schwartz, an otologist and director of the Listen for Life Center, a comprehensive hearing-health clinic at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, said mechanical trauma to the inner ear caused by even a short exposure to an extremely loud noise, such as a jet engine, can result in hearing loss. In such instances, both the sensory cells of hearing and the structural cells that support them can be damaged.

Some noise-related hearing loss can be temporary, which is why experts recommend taking 15 to 20 minute breaks when listening on headphones to allow the ear to recover, Dr. Schwartz said.

Exposure to lower but still dangerous levels of noise for longer durations can damage the sensory cells of hearing and can be permanent.

Dr. Fligor recommends over-the-counter earplugs for people who regularly attend loud concerts and sporting events. He recommends custom-fitted earplugs or custom in-ear monitors for patients in the music industry.

RJ Jaczko, a 15-year-old high-school sophomore in Wellesley, Mass., is one of Dr. Fligor’s patients. A drummer, DJ and concertgoer, RJ hasn’t experienced hearing loss, but began seeing an audiologist because his father, Rob Jaczko, a recording engineer and record producer, and chairman of the music production and engineering department at Berklee College of Music, began suffering from tinnitus, or ringing ears.

Now, RJ says he wears earplugs to concerts, and whenever he drums or DJs. “They’re very helpful,” he says. He also keeps an eye on the volume on his iPhone. “I never listen to it that loud,” he said. “I started making a conscious effort once my dad explained to me how his ears got to have problems and I realized how easy it was to keep it lower.”

Write to Sumathi Reddy at

How To Listen To Music Without Destroying Your Hearing

How To Listen To Music Without Destroying Your Hearing

Click on the title to link to the full article from Huffington Post.

Posted: 03/06/2015 7:33 am EST Updated: 4 hours ago

Hearing loss is practically an epidemic among young people in middle- and high-income countries — and it’s getting worse, not better. The World Health Organizationsaid last week that 1.1 billion people ages 12-35 listen to personal audio devices at “unsafe volumes,” risking permanent hearing loss. Worse, people who experience hearing loss don’t always get the help they need fast enough, and they may not recognize that their behavior is risky to begin with.

The proliferation of smartphones, which provide easy access to music-listening apps and often come packaged with earbuds, coincides with higher hearing-loss statistics. There’s basically no question that the two are related.

“Everyone’s got something in their ears these days. That constant exposure is definitely causing an increase in hearing loss statistics,” Dr. Diane Catalano, a senior audiology clinician at Duke University Medical Center, told The Huffington Post.

Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, concurred, adding that people are experiencing “severe hearing loss much earlier.”

Here are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself from permanent, noise-induced hearing loss:

Get Headphones That Fit

A whopping 86 percent of U.S. consumers age 25-34 owned smartphones in 2014, according to a recent Nielsen survey. Smartphones were also in the pockets of 85 percent of millennials (age 18-24). That’s up from 80 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in 2013.

That’s a lot of phones. The problem is, the headphones that come with these devices aren’t designed to fit perfectly into your ears, which means they let in a lot of ambient noise. People tend to crank up the volume on their devices to make up for this, Catalano said.

It’s imperative that your headphones fit correctly, so you should test out a few different kinds before buying.

Earbuds should fit snuggly in your ears and isolate sound. The good ones come with a few different tip sizes, which let you pick which size best fills your ear. There’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” You can also get a custom pair made that molds perfectly to your ears, but be very careful about not pushing them in too far.

As for over-ear headphones: They should cover your ears completely and block out ambient noise.

Give Your Ears A Rest

The World Health Organization recommends that young people limit themselves to one hour of listening per day on devices like smartphones.

“You shouldn’t have exposure to 80 decibels for longer than 60 minutes,” Hall told HuffPost. “Give yourself a rest. Let your ears recover a little bit.”

For reference, 80 decibels is equivalent to the sounds of city traffic or a garbage disposal. After several hours, this decibel level can be damaging to your ears. Consider that next time you’re pumping music through your headphones.

Your headphone volume shouldn’t get louder than about 80 decibels, which is more or less what the sound of loud traffic is like.

Turn Your Smartphone Down

Smartphones don’t always do such a great job telling you if you’re listening at perilously loud volumes.

“There’s really no reason that any of these devices should go up as far as they do,” Catalano said.

On iPhones, Catalano said not to go above two-thirds of the volume bar.

Listening to music on an iPhone? This volume is probably a little bit too loud to be perfectly safe.

In 2013, the European Union mandated a volume limit on all personal audio devices — including smartphones — capping them at 85 decibels. The rule meant that people playing music apps like Spotify would have to bypass a warning to listen any louder.

There’s no such requirement in the United States, but many Android phones do include a warning when you try to turn your volume to an unsafe level. iPhones let you set a volume limit in the device’s settings.

But what good is a “no trespassing” sign next to an open door?

Some smartphones, like the HTC One M8 used to capture this screenshot, have volume warnings. Experts say that more should.

Get Earplugs

Even when you’re not listening to headphones, your hearing could still be damaged in super-loud settings. Rock concerts, loud bars, sporting events, the subway, traffic jams and construction sites are all risky environments. Consider wearing earplugs to protect your ears if you know you’re going to be somewhere loud for a long period of time.

V-MODA, a premium headphone maker, produces a line of $20 earplugs calledFaders VIP, which the company says will block out sound up to 20 decibels. They’re made to look like high-end earbuds, so you won’t look dopey walking down the street with them on. Like the best earbuds, they come with multiple tip sizes so you can make sure they fit correctly.
V-MODA’s Faders VIP earplugs come in three different colors and include four sizes for different ears

“I had a hearing loss scare,” Val Kolton, V-MODA’s CEO, told HuffPost of his decision to manufacture earplugs. Kolton was used to a life around loud music, but his woes actually came from custom earplugs that pushed debris too far into his ear, thus creating temporary hearing loss.

“I had never had an ear wax problem, but it pushed it so far up that it was creating a rock,” Kolton said.

The (gross, yet important) lesson: Never push anything that far into your ear. Doing so can cause a variety of health problems, including hearing loss.

Get Screened

You know not to listen to music too loud. You know to wear earplugs. Now you need to make sure your ears stay healthy.

Catalano and Hall both say people need to get screened for hearing loss from their health care providers.

“It should become something that’s more thought about on the primary care level,” Hall said.

Adults should try to get a hearing test every five or 10 years, according to Catalano. And even then, Catalano said that many people find out they’ve got hearing loss, but actually wait a few years for it to get worse before they actually do something about it.

As she put it to HuffPost: “The sooner we can get them assistance, the better.”

Reflecting on a phone call

It is never easy to hear that one of your patients has passed away.  We received a call from a patient’s son today notifying us that his father had passed away.  He was specifically calling to thank us for the service we provided during the last year of his father’s life.  He notes that our whole office served them, and he was talking about coming to see us until the very end.  Calls like this, while heartbreaking in nature, really exemplify why we work so hard to do what we do.  We make an effort to really make connections with our patients, and build relationships.  We are sending peaceful thoughts to our patient, and his family, and want to say thank you to all of our patients who choose us to serve them.

Tinnitus on TV

Are you watching the new season of #HouseOfCards?  One of the main characters is experiencing some major tinnitus.  (Don’t worry, we won’t spoil anything!)  It seems to have started in conjunction with severe head trauma, and increases with stress.  It also seems to be having affects on sleep, focus, ability to do work, and causing severe distress.

This character could probably benefit from seeing an audiologist.  Due to his severe head trauma, it would be wise to have a comprehensive hearing evaluation, and to have a tinnitus evaluation as well.  This could lead to some counseling on tinnitus management strategies, and possibly getting fit with noise masker or hearing aid if needed.  This character is on his cell phone a lot, so he could even get a device that allowed him to stream his phone calls in addition to tinnitus masking noise straight to his ears, wirelessly.

Do you suffer from tinnitus?  Relief is out there.  Call 919-782-9003 today to make an appointment for a comprehensive evaluation, and to develop a customized solution to suit your needs.