HES Expands TEAM OF AUDIOLOGISTS

Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo is pleased to welcome Jennifer Baumann, Au.D., Jenna Hendler, Au.D, and Cherise S. Keane, Au.D. to the expanding Audiologist team.

Dr. Baumann graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2017 and has been a practicing Audiologist for four years, working in Syracuse, NY and Buffalo, NY. She specializes in personalized audiological care and tinnitus management.

Dr. Hendler is a familiar face at HES, as she recently completed her Audiology residency with HES earlier this year. Dr. Hendler graduated from the University at Buffalo and is a certified Lyric provider. She also has a special focus on tinnitus evaluation and management.

She is the recipient of the Wanda Frey Joiner Award for exhibiting excellence in academic and clinical studies in audiology, and also attended a clinical observation at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in London, UK in 2019.

She is originally from Clarence, NY, where she currently resides with her husband, and her dog, Rocky.

Dr. Keane has been an Audiologist for 10 years, graduating from the University at Buffalo in 2011. Dr. Keane actually completed her Audiology residency at HES in 2010, and we are so glad to have her back.

She specializes in diagnostic audiometric assessment and treatment, amplification, Bluetooth-integrated hearing technologies, custom hearing protection, and counseling.

Dr. Keane is originally from Buffalo, NY, and after spending some time in Chester County, PA, she returned to Buffalo to be closer to family. She currently resides in Lancaster, NY with her husband and children.

Dr. Jennifer Baumann

Dr. Jenna Hendler

Dr. Cherise S. Keane

HES Celebrates 40th Year

Last month, Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo hit a milestone by celebrating its 40th year as an organization.

HES was founded in 1981 by Audiologist, Tom White, shortly after the America Speech-Language and Hearing Association granted audiologists the ability to dispense hearing aids.

HES established an important professional model of leading with a counseling, non-commissioned approach in order to truly fit the patient with the best hearing aid based on their needs – vs. pushing a “sale.”

Over the years, HES has dramatically expanded its range of audiological services, including tinnitus management, ototoxic management, cochlear implants, as well as an extensive dizziness and balance program in partnership with DENT Neurologic Institute.

A MESSAGE FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DR. ANNE ORSENE

Dear Friends of HES,

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you what a challenging year 2020 had been for all. Trying to balance the safety of both our patients and staff, while continuing to provide the ever-so-important hearing health care was certainly a challenge for me.

With that being said, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to all that helped us get through the year.

I am very proud of our staff’s ability to adapt during the pandemic. From tele-visits, curb-site visits, and increased sanitation efforts on our already strict protocols was certainly not easy.  In the beginning, especially during a lot of the unknowns, so many of our staff members came in and continued to provide care for our patients the best they possibly could. I am forever grateful for your resistance this past year.

We understand that many of our patients fall into a vulnerable category when it comes to their ability to fight the virus. I would like to thank our patients for trusting us to implement the best safety and sanitation protocols possible, while also adjusting to changing schedules, changes to check-in, among many other things.

I am also glad that you continued to make your hearing healthcare a priority, as good hearing is more important than ever – especially if you tended to be more isolated than normal this past year.

We are continuing to make great strides in providing the best health and safety measures possible.

I am also pleased to announce that we will be dramatically increasing our “virtual visits” program this spring. Virtual visits will allow our patients to continue receiving proper care – as safely as possible. We are also hoping that this will enable our patients to receive care from their favorite HES Audiologist, even if they are traveling or spending some time in a hospital or rehabilitation-type facility. We can help you no matter where you are in the world!

Further information about this new feature will be launched in early Spring.

Please never hesitate to contact us by calling 716-833-4488 or by visiting HESofBuffalo.org. I wish you all a wonderful 2021…and remember…It’s Good to Hear!

Get to Know: Valerie Schmidt

As a non-profit organization, Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo aims to not only provide top-notch hearing healthcare but also to be a valuable resource to all of our patients about the entire process of learning about and treating hearing loss.

Valerie Schmidt is our on-staff Insurance Specialist, and the person who can help you with any and all questions regarding your hearing health benefits through your insurance program.

Valerie joined our team in 2013 with several years of experience in medical billing, consulting and auditing.  She continually grows her knowledge through continuing education as a Certified Medical Billing Specialist.

As the lead presenter of our complimentary insurance seminars, Valerie has been a key resource in helping patients better understand their insurance benefits and navigate the very confusing world of hearing health insurance.  She also handles all messages from our website for our special “Ask the Insurance Specialist” feature found on our home page.

If you have questions about your specific insurance program or would simply like to have a better understanding of hearing health insurance, we invite you to attend one of our complimentary insurance seminars, ask us through our website feature, or call our insurance line!

Meet the Audiologist: Carolyn Yates, AuD, Tinnitus Specialist

Audiology as a profession offers the opportunity to help patients in a variety of areas related to hearing and balance. I entered the field of audiology in 2013 without a specific focus in mind, armed only with the intention of helping people. Through my studies at the University at Buffalo and clinical training in Western New York, it quickly became clear that working with patients affected by tinnitus would be a rewarding part of my day-to-day practice.

There was an interesting trend in the vast majority of the tinnitus patients I saw: They had been previously told that nothing can be done for tinnitus. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There IS help for tinnitus! Tinnitus is often a complex symptom and is different for every patient that walks through the door. It requires us to think outside the box in order to find the best solutions for managing tinnitus in a way that works for each patient individually. It is important to get to the root of what is causing the tinnitus, whether it’s underlying hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbance or, more often than not, a combination of factors.

For the majority of patients, we are able to get their tinnitus to a point where it is no longer having a significant impact on their day-to-day life. I remember one patient in particular who came to HES with bothersome tinnitus. She had not been able to sleep for weeks and was having difficulty concentrating at work because the tinnitus was so loud and bothersome. She sat across from me in tears during her appointment because she had reached a point where she could no longer manage her tinnitus on her own. We reviewed her results and discovered that she had hearing loss in addition to the tinnitus. I ended up programming a set of devices, which are hearing aids that also have features built in to help manage tinnitus. As soon as she had the devices on her ears, she began to cry. She told me she could no longer hear her tinnitus at all and that it was the first time it had been quiet for her in years. This patient continues to use her devices on a daily basis and has successfully been able to manage her tinnitus and get back to enjoying her life, family and friends.

This patient represents just one of the many tinnitus success stories I have had the pleasure of being a part of at HES. Our comprehensive Tinnitus Program is designed to help patients who have tinnitus of all severity levels. In the past several years, there has been more and more research focused on tinnitus with the hope of finding better clinical practices for managing tinnitus.

As audiologists, we have many more tools to help patients with tinnitus than we did even five years ago thanks to new advancements in research and technology. The more audiologists understand about the underlying mechanisms of tinnitus, the better we are able to care for our patients. Remember, when it comes to tinnitus, no one has to just “live with it”. HES is the best place to go for help. The Certified Tinnitus Specialists have the knowledge and training to assist in finding the right combination of tools to help you take back control over your tinnitus, and your life!

Guatemala Mission Trip 2018

Dr. Bernstein, along with a group of doctors, nurses, and other volunteers, visited the rural villages of El Aguacate and Monjas in the Jalapa region of south east Guatemala. Dr. Bernstein cleaned ears, tested hearing, and fit hearing aids for nearly 100 villagers ranging in age from two to 94 years old. As a whole, in just four days, the entire team of healthcare providers helped over 2,200 residents!

One of the first patients seen in El Aguacate was Humberto. Humberto got the full treatment that day. First, wax that was completely plugging both his ears was removed. He could hear a little better but it was obvious he was still struggling. A hearing test showed a significant hearing loss and so Humberto received a hearing aid that day. He and his wife were so grateful for how much easier it was for him to hear. He was excited to get back home and talk to his children and grandchildren.

The last two patients seen this year in Monjas turned out to be siblings, Fernando and Rosalina, with a family history of hearing loss. Neither one had ever had the opportunity to use a hearing aid and Rosalina’s daughter, Ana, who accompanied them always had to shout to be heard. This was their first opportunity to see an audiologist and both Fernando and Rosalina were fit with a hearing aid that day. Ana was incredibly helpful in making sure that her mother and uncle were able to put the hearing aid on properly and will continue to help them when they return home. As one of the only freestanding non-profit and non-commissioned audiology practices in the United States, HES is proud to share our values and passion for hearing. Between the Dr. Ann Stadelmaier Hearing Aid Fund, which supports better hearing for local Western New Yorkers, and our commitment to this mission trip abroad, HES will remain committed to providing our care locally and internationally. Donations for our local Dr. Ann Stadelmaier Hearing Aid Fund are always gladly accepted at any HES office.

Spinning: The Industry Causing Hearing Loss in Young People

As the cold weather takes hold in Western New York, our workouts are driven indoors to gyms, heated swimming pools, and spinning studios.  Dr. Witter offers an opinion article on what is sure to be a contributor to hearing loss in young people with the rising popularity of exercise classes offering high calorie workouts paired with music at dangerously loud levels.

“The one good thing about music – when it hits you, you feel no pain.”  Truer words have never been spoken by American jam band O.A.R.’s lead singer, Marc Roberge.  Music takes us to another place.  It’s an escape from where we are in the moment, which comes in handy when we’re pushing our quads to 110 RPM’s on the spin bike.  A lover all athletic endeavors myself; I am the guiltiest of the guilty when it comes to abusing my ears with that oh-so-feel-good music to carry me through my long workouts.  That is, before I knew better (read: before I became an audiologist)…

If you’re in those spin classes telling yourself it’s not that loud, think again.  Unless you’re sitting there with a noise level dosimeter taking sound pressure level measurements (you’re not), don’t use your subjective barometer for what’s too loud.  We naturally habituate to loudness so it’s no wonder we don’t think twice – once we get a few minutes into the class, our ears have habituated to the volume and we don’t feel as bothered as when it first starts.

I’ve also noticed that almost all spinning studios offer hearing protection which is so great to see.  However, what percentage of people are actually taking and using those earplugs during class?  Not many.  The reason?  Hearing loss isn’t a problem… until it’s a problem.  You know what’s fun?  Being fit and feeling good about how we look.  You know what’s not fun?  Hearing aids in your 30’s.

We all know someone who suffers from hearing loss – it could be a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle.  We stand by and watch this debilitating thing happen to the people we love and do nothing to mitigate it or make behavioral changes to prevent it from happening to us.  We all know that anything in excess is never good.  The problem with loud music is that it generally doesn’t cause you to feel any physical pain when it’s too loud.  Most of us bumble along through our young lives, unknowingly abusing our ears, until one day we’re at a noisy social event and we can’t understand anyone.  Then from that moment (let’s call this moment “awareness”) we do nothing… for years. I’m not kidding.  According to the Center for Hearing and Communication people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before they decide to proactively address a hearing problem.

Here are a couple of opinions on why people don’t care until it’s too late:

  1. The antiquated stereotypes surrounding hearing loss (i.e. The “It’s not that big of a deal” mentality)
  2. The reluctance of our society to accept hearing healthcare as a major priority
  3. Baseline hearing tests are not always routinely recommended by healthcare providers

Hearing loss happens slowly, and believe me it will sneak up on you.  The decisions you’re making right now about how much you’re exposing your ears to will directly shape what your life looks like later.  That means how sharp we remain mentally, and for how long, as well as maintaining our social relationships as we age.  No one wants to think about these things, but it will happen to you.  Make the change now.  Just reach for the earplugs.  Your future self will thank you.

There is an app you can download called Decibel X, to get an idea of the sound level in your studio, as well as an exposure chart which lets you know how much noise is safe, and for how long, before permanent hearing damage occurs:

 

Hearing healthcare is at the heart of what I do as an audiologist.  If you would like a consultation on how you can improve the acoustics of your studio (or restaurant, or classroom, or Church, etc.) for a better and safer experience for your clients, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Help a Neighbor Hear Better

The staff at HES is committed to improving lives through personal and honest hearing healthcare. We believe that everyone has the right to hear well so they can fully engage in, and enjoy their life.

Unfortunately, there are many individuals in our community with hearing loss who do not pursue hearing aids because they cannot afford them. As a non-profit organization, HES has developed a fund to help these individuals with hearing loss in financial need achieve their goal of better hearing. If you know anyone who may benefit from this fund, please let them know that we are here to help.

The process is simple. They can either simply call our office and request an application OR go on our website at HESofBuffalo.org and download the application for the Dr. Ann Stadelmaier Hearing Aid Fund. With your help we are hoping to reach out to and help more individuals in our community.

Thank you for spreading the word about this fund that has helped over 250 people hear better right here in WNY.

Alas, Earwax!

What is earwax?

Earwax, also called cerumen, is a waxy substance produced by glands in your ear canal. It looks different in different people, typically ranging in color from light orange to dark brown. Some people secrete large amounts of earwax, some hardly produce earwax at all. Although it may seem counterintuitive, earwax plays a very important role in keeping your ears clean.

Why does the body produce earwax?

The ear produces earwax as a method of self-cleaning; it protects the ear from dust, dirt, and other debris. Debris that travels into the ear is enveloped in earwax and is gradually carried out of the ear through chewing, talking, and other jaw motion.

Why do I build up more earwax now that I wear hearing aids?

Although a hearing aid helps you hear better, the ear considers your hearing aid to be a “foreign object”. The ear attempts to move the hearing aid out of the ear by building up earwax, just as it does with dirt and debris. Hearing aid users often have more issues with wax buildup, or cerumen impaction, because the natural motion of the earwax is disrupted because it is blocked by the hearing aid.

How do I know if I have a cerumen impaction?

Common symptoms of cerumen impaction are:

• Fullness in the ear, earache, or a sensation that the ear is plugged

• Increased difficulty hearing

• Odor, discharge, or itching

• Ringing, buzzing, or crackling sounds in the ear

• Coughing

• Feedback (whistling sound) from hearing aids

Q-tips are a no-no!

Nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ears! Cotton swabs (or Q-tips) were invented as a tool to clean hard-to-reach places, like the ear canal. However, we do not recommend using cotton swabs in your ear canal as they can push wax deeper into your ear canal and cause a cerumen impaction or perforation of your eardrum!

Can my hearing aid be affected by earwax?

Absolutely! In fact, this is one of the most common reasons why a hearing aid may sound weak, whistle (or give feedback), or sound like it is not working at all. Hearing aids come in a variety of styles, but all hearing aids have one thing in common – the amplified sound is projected into your ear canal. If the spot where the sound comes out of the hearing aid is blocked with wax, the hearing aid may sound weak or dead. Routine cleaning and maintenance of the hearing aid is the key for preventing this problem. If you are having difficulty cleaning your hearing aids or suspect your hearing aids may be plugged with wax, please call our office to schedule a clean and check appointment.

If you have any questions about how to manage earwax, would like tips on how to clean your hearing aids, or would like to schedule an appointment for cerumen removal, call our office

Understanding your Hearing Aid Benefit

Recently, many of our patients have told us that their health insurance company has called or sent letters describing a new hearing aid benefit they offer. This is great news, however this change in hearing healthcare can be confusing.

The good news is that you can still come to us. Please call and we can explain exactly what your new benefit entitles you to. We have a variety of options to meet or exceed nearly every health insurance plan’s benefit.

Not quite ready for new hearing aids yet? That’s OK. We will be having a number of Insurance Benefit Seminars before and during the health insurance open enrollment period to help you better understand your options and make the right insurance selection for your hearing needs.

If you are interested in attending one of our popular Insurance Benefit Seminars or speaking with our Insurance Specialist about your specific plan, please give us a call at 544-6210.

Remember, it starts with a question. No matter what program you have, we can help you understand the full extent of your program, and the options. As a non-profit organization, this is one of the proud services we can offer to help you get the best result for your health and your dollar.

1 2