ACC doubles support over hearing aids

ACC doubles support over hearing aids

Updated at 4:11 pm today

The Accident Compensation Corporation is doubling its support for hearing aid clients.

Judith Collins.

Judith Collins.

Photo: RNZ

From Monday, ACC will significantly increase its contributions to the cost and repair of hearing loss devices and introduce new funding for ear moulds.

ACC Minister Judith Collins said it should encourage greater competition in the hearing aid market.

“ACC will now pay separately for the hearing consultation which means that clients will be able to shop around for the best price in hearing aids, rather than having to buy where they had the initial test. It’s important that clients have the option to look for the best price and service.”

Ms Collins said ACC and the Ministry of Health have worked closely with the hearing sector on the funding changes.

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‘Ringing in the Ears’ Alters Processing of Emotion

'Ringing in the Ears' Alters Processing of Emotion

More than 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, a condition that causes individuals to hear noises that are not really there.

Sounds like whooshing, train whistles, cricket noises, or whines may be heard with the severity often varying on a day to day basis.

Research has shown that tinnitus is associated with increased stress, anxiety, irritability, and depression, all of which are affiliated with the brain’s emotional processing systems.

In a new study, University of Illinois speech and hearing science professor Fatima Husain, Ph.D., investigated how the uncontrolled noises affected emotional processing with the research findings reported in the journal Brain Research.

“Obviously, when you hear annoying noises constantly that you can’t control, it may affect your emotional processing systems,” Husain said.

“But when I looked at experimental work done on tinnitus and emotional processing, especially brain imaging work, there hadn’t been much research published.”

She decided to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans to better understand how tinnitus affects the brain’s ability to process emotions. These scans show the areas of the brain that are active in response to stimulation, based upon blood flow to those areas.

Three groups of participants were used in the study: people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss and mild tinnitus; people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss without tinnitus; and a control group of age-matched people without hearing loss or tinnitus.

Each person was put in an fMRI machine and listened to a standardized set of 30 pleasant, 30 unpleasant, and 30 emotionally neutral sounds (for example, a baby laughing, a woman screaming, and a water bottle opening).

The participants pressed a button to categorize each sound as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

The tinnitus and normal-hearing groups responded more quickly to emotion-inducing sounds than to neutral sounds, while patients with hearing loss had a similar response time to each category of sound.

Over all, the tinnitus group’s reaction times were slower than the reaction times of those with normal hearing.

Activity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotional processing, was lower in the tinnitus and hearing-loss patients than in people with normal hearing.

Tinnitus patients also showed more activity than normal-hearing people in two other brain regions associated with emotion, the parahippocampus and the insula. The findings surprised Husain.

“We thought that because people with tinnitus constantly hear a bothersome, unpleasant stimulus, they would have an even higher amount of activity in the amygdala when hearing these sounds, but it was lesser,” she said.

“Because they’ve had to adjust to the sound, some plasticity in the brain has occurred. They have had to reduce this amygdala activity and reroute it to other parts of the brain because the amygdala cannot be active all the time due to this annoying sound.”

Because of the sheer number of people who suffer from tinnitus in the United States, a group that includes many combat veterans, Husain hopes her group’s future research will be able to increase tinnitus patients’ quality of life.

“It’s a communication issue and a quality-of-life issue,” she said.

“We want to know how we can get better in the clinical realm. Audiologists and clinicians are aware that tinnitus affects emotional aspects, too, and we want to make them aware that these effects are occurring so they can better help their patients.”

Source: University of Illinois

Woman with hands over her ears photo by shutterstock.




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Neuromonics Signs Reselling Agreement with AuDConnex

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Westminster, CO (PRWEB) June 25, 2014

Neuromonics, Inc., manufacturer and distributor of clinically proven tinnitus treatment devices, has signed a reseller agreement with AuDConnex.

AuDConnex will obtain special pricing, marketing and other support on all Neuromonics products for its members, according to Eula Adams, CEO of Neuromonics. The AudConnex buying group provides competitive pricing on audiology products to members, as well as training and education on practice management and advances in technology that impact the audiology industry.

“Agreements such as the one with AuDConnex allow more audiologists and hearing aid providers – and more consumers – to hear the good news about tinnitus relief,” says Adams. “AudConnex will serve as an essential partner to Neuromonics, delivering the miracle of tinnitus relief to more tinnitus sufferers.”

Neuromonics manufactures and distributes clinically proven, FDA-cleared medical devices to treat tinnitus, the condition often described as buzzing, ringing, hissing, humming, roaring, whistling or “ringing in the ears” that someone hears in the absence of any external sound. Globally, tinnitus affects an estimated 10-15 percent of the population. In the United States alone, more than 50 million people suffer from the condition, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Usually brought on by exposure to loud noise, tinnitus is especially significant in the military, with more than 34 percent of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from the condition.

Neuromonics products use calming, relaxing music embedded with a neural stimulus that interacts with the tinnitus perception, explains Adams. The music engages the auditory pathways to promote neural plastic changes. Over time, these changes help the brain to filter out the tinnitus perception, reducing tinnitus disturbance and providing long-term relief from symptoms. The compact devices are simple to use, function much like familiar consumer music players, and fit easily into patients’ lifestyles.

Neuromonics, Inc. (

Based in Westminster, Colo., Neuromonics, Inc., manufactures and distributes clinically proven, FDA-cleared medical devices to treat tinnitus. The patented and clinically proven Oasis, working the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment, provides long-term treatment and significant relief for those with severe tinnitus. The Haven, with the ability to program and individualize hearing profiles, is a management tool offering situational relief for tinnitus symptoms. The Sanctuary, also a management tool, works with pre-programmed profiles for on-demand relief.

With research and development beginning in the early 1990s, Neuromonics has helped thousands of tinnitus sufferers improve their quality of life and overcome the daily life challenges associated with tinnitus. Today, Neuromonics provides its devices to nearly 2,000 hearing professionals on four continents, through direct relationships and reseller partners. Neuromonics news includes segments on national media including “The Doctors” and CNN.


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Expanding services: Speech and hearing center adds audiologist

June 21, 2014

Expanding services: Speech and hearing center adds audiologist

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer

Enid News and Eagle
The Enid News and Eagle

Sat Jun 21, 2014, 10:08 PM CDT

ENID, Okla. —
A local nonprofit speech and hearing center is expanding services after hiring a new audiologist with skills not previously available in the region.

Audiologist Kim Tinius joined Hedges Regional Speech and Hearing in early April, said Carmen Ball, executive director at Hedges.

Tinius comes to Enid from a privately operated audiology and speech pathology clinic in Tulsa.

“In our clinic, I’m planning to bring in cochlear implants for patients when hearing aids are not enough,” Tinius said.

According to the National Institutes of Health website, a cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear, and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin.

An implant has a microphone to pick up sound, a speech processor to select and arrange the sounds, a transmitter and receiver/simulator to convert the sounds to electric impulses, and an electrode array to send the impulses to different areas of the auditory nerve.

Implants don’t restore normal hearing, but give a representation of sounds that can help a deaf person understand speech, the NIH website reads. They can be helpful to people who lost their hearing late in life and to young children who need to acquire speech, language and social skills. For young children, intensive therapy after the implantation is required, the NIH website reads.

An ear surgeon who can do the implant, called an otologist, is in Oklahoma City, but the extensive process of mapping the auditory nerve now can be done in Enid, Tinius said.

Another new service Tinius will bring to Hedges is work with bone-anchored hearing aids.

“It’s a device in the skull that permits the transmission of sound without an ear canal,” Tinius said.

According to a study posted on the NIH National Library of Medicine website, bone-anchored hearing aids are the most reliable hearing rehabilitation available for patients born without ear canals and unable to benefit from other hearing aids.

“I had three people who came in this week that I referred on to surgeons for that,” Tinius said.

Iola Canning, team leader at the office of ENTs Dr. Jerome Dilling, Jr. and Dr. Edward Barns, said Dilling can perform cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aid implants locally.

Tinius also is adept at vestibular and balance testing.

“Vestibular loss is commonly associated with meningitis, cytomegalovirus, inner ear anomalies and connexin 26 mutations, among other conditions,” reads the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website.

Tinius was drawn to the field of audiology after her son, Nate, was born. Nate, 14, has a cochlear implant.

“I come from a background of that,” Tinius said. “I am able to counsel parents on making decisions for their family’s situation.”

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Final Word: “Best Practices” ≠ “Good-enough Practices”

Hearing Review July 2014

By Dennis Van Vliet, AuD

Best Practices. What does the term mean, and who decides what are the best practices, or the standard of care? With respect to hearing aids, there are published standards offered by professional organizations and other stakeholders. My experience with these efforts is that a group of experienced clinicians, researchers, and educators meet and develop a series of recommendations. These are offered to the professional community for peer review, and eventually published. The published standards typically are not too specific so that the document can outlive new technology and protocols that may emerge in the time following the release of the document.

The standards typically include language that the practitioner should act ethically, not harm anyone, and use the best available evidence for guidance in the approach we take clinically. The lack of specificity gives us some freedom to develop our own unique approach to patients.

What we see and hear in clinics and offices is that clinicians are typically following guidelines and what they learned in their training, with a number of common elements. Practitioners typically follow a similar path when attempting best practices, and include most of the following:

  • Evaluation. A basic need for understanding the type and extent of a patient’s hearing loss is an evaluation performed within the scope of practice of the clinician. The evaluation typically includes procedures to identify and need for medical referral, along with measures to help with any subsequent hearing aid fitting.
  • Rehabilitation-specific history with respect to the needs and concerns of the patient. Treatment plans are designed using the unique needs of the patient as a guide to develop specific recommendations to address those needs. A careful interview with the patient and any significant others helps uncover those needs.
  • Form factor and technology selection. When the treatment plan includes hearing aids or similar devices, the selection of the technology and the form factor of the hearing aids are a key part of the rehabilitation plan. The fact that form factor and technology choice have matured well beyond the small, medium, and large choices of a decade or more ago suggests that there is room for careful best practice guidelines when approaching these clinical decisions.
  • Fitting using appropriate methodology to achieve audibility, comfort, and performance goals. As technology has improved, giving us the capability to make more extensive adjustments compared to the 1970s—when earmold drilling and lamb’s wool in the tubing were the go-to methods—we have had to adapt our skill sets and approach to fitting. Then, as now, audibility and comfort are important, but today there are other important factors to consider that affect performance.
  • Verification and validation. There’s a good deal of angst about verification and validation. Most of us report relying on a subjective response rather than following the commonly discussed best practices of objective verification of the fitting, and using a standardized validation method. That is a discussion subject for another time. I will only say that the fitting screen of your programming computer is only an estimate of what is happening in our patients’ ears. Accuracy is dependent upon acoustic parameters, which are affected by the earmold depth, residual cavity size, venting, as well as the information we enter into the computer, such as receiver gain or, in the case of a behind-the-ear (BTE) product, whether it is a thin tube or #13 tube fitting. The data on the fitting screen should be viewed as only an estimate of the signal delivered to the ear and not true verification. Similarly, payment in full for hearing aids and assurance that everything is “fine” is not validation.
  • Rehabilitation plan including coaching on behavioral changes to optimize communication, auditory skills training, and global lifestyle changes to encourage wellness and cognitive capacity. Currently, we may talk about this, but I see little evidence that we are successful in getting patients to actively engage in these efforts.
  • Ongoing follow-up and support. I think we all offer long-term support, but what are our goals, and how do we direct the follow-up to ensure optimal outcomes for our patients?

I may have asked enough questions in the list above to stimulate some introspection. If you take the time to do that, let me offer some more questions for consideration. When I ask myself what has changed in the past few years in hearing aid offerings that may change how we approach hearing aid fittings, I can think of two critical areas: 1) Wireless connectivity, and 2) The refinement of noise reduction capabilities in hearing aids.

Wireless has a high tech appeal, and brings easy-to-demonstrate benefits to specific life activities, such as telephone communication and television or video enjoyment. Do we have a protocol for selection and setup of wireless systems? Are we following up to see that patients are using them? If they are not, why not? Do we ask if the patient has a pacemaker device? We should ask that question, to ensure that we select a system that will not interfere with a pacemaker.

van vliet author box

I discussed noise reduction in last month’s Final Word. We should be developing and implementing protocols for deployment of noise reduction to ensure comfort and performance—not simply allowing defaults to dictate our fittings.

The Final Word? Best practices are in place to help guide us to provide excellent care for our patients. As we look at our daily practice, we need to remember that they are called “Best Practices” not “Good-enough Practices.”

Original citation for this article: Van Vliet D. “Best practices” ≠ “good-enough practices”. Hearing Review. 2014;21(7):50.

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New drug could cure tinnitus, say scientists

At least one in 10 British adults has tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ear – and 600,000 suffer so badly that their quality of life is blighted.

Tinnitus is caused by nerve damage in the inner ear and can be the result of exposure to loud music, an ear infection or even a cold.

Now researchers at the University of Western Australia have found guinea pigs given tinnitus by exposure to loud noise appeared to be cured by a drug called furosemide.

It works by lowering activity of the auditory nerve, reducing neural hyperactivity in a specific part of the brain that processes sound.

Dr Helmy Mulders, who led the research, said: “Studies in human tinnitus sufferers are still needed to confirm our results but lowering the activity of the auditory nerve may be a promising approach.”

The study was funded by the charity Action on Hearing Loss.

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Dear Abby: People with hearing loss can find support online –

Dear Abby: As the executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, I suggest that “Mortified at the Dinner Table” (March 2), who wrote about her in-laws’ poor hearing even with hearing aids, connect with one of our 200-plus local HLAA chapters at These member-led groups offer emotional support, camaraderie, communication strategies and techniques for living with hearing loss, both for people who have the loss as well as their families and friends. Most chapters also share information about assistive listening devices that link via a telecoil found in most modern hearing aids that could greatly enhance her in-laws’ hearing around the dinner table.

“Mortified” also might want to accompany her in-laws to a hearing aid evaluation visit at an audiologist’s office to learn more about their particular hearing difficulties. There is more to correcting hearing loss than buying hearing aids. Some users benefit from assistive listening devices or from listening training that can be done at home with a personal computer.

By joining HLAA, “Mortified” can receive Hearing Loss Magazine and get the latest information about hearing loss and how to live well with it.

– Anna Gilmore Hall

Dear Ms. Hall: Thank you. Any reader with hearing loss should check out the HLAA website for a more detailed description of the services it provides. Read on:

Dear Abby: Many people who wear hearing aids find noisy environments problematic. As people age, their ability to understand can be difficult even with hearing aids. As a practicing audiologist, I recommend the following to my patients to help make communication easier.

– Test hearing annually so hearing aids can be reprogrammed to current hearing levels if necessary.

– Follow up with the audiologist for regular hearing aid maintenance and care.

– In restaurants, ask to be seated away from high noise level areas; preferential seating may help.

– Reserve confidential discussions for another time and location, which would make them easier for people with hearing loss to understand.

– Audiologist in Pennsylvania

Dear Abby: My 91-year-old mother is hard of hearing. I take her out to dinner once a week. I don’t worry about what people around us are thinking. It doesn’t matter what she wants to talk about. I’m just glad she’s able to get out and converse with others. The conversations at tables near us are sometimes so obnoxious that I’m gald my mother can’t hear them.

People are normally very courteous about helping me with her, and many have told me they wished their parents were still alive and able to have dinner with them.

– Judy in Arizona

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

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