HES Announces hiring of Dr. Christine Pleban

Hearing Evaluation Services (“HES”) of Buffalo is pleased to announce the hiring of Orchard Park resident, Dr. Christine Pleban, as an Audiologist at the 4063 North Buffalo Road location.

Dr. Pleban received her B.S. in Communicative Disorders and Sciences from SUNY Geneseo in 2003 and her Doctorate in Audiology from the University at Buffalo in 2007.  She specializes in working with adult and pediatric populations and has extensive expertise in audiometric assessments, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.

Dr. Pleban focuses on patient counseling, education and quality of life improvements and joins HES after practicing at Ken-Ton Hearing. In addition to seeing patients at the Orchard Park location, she also sees patients at Fox Run and has seen community residents for hearing screenings at the Orchard Park Senior Center.  As a resident of Orchard Park, Dr. Pleban looks forward to immersing herself as a hearing health advocate in her local community.

In addition to her work at HES, Dr. Pleban is the Board President for the not-for-profit after school program, Just for Kids, and is a member of the American Academy of Audiology.

Hearing Evaluation Services is one of the largest freestanding, non-profit audiology practices in the country with locations in Amherst, Williamsville, Orchard Park and Tonawanda. HES offers evaluations, treatments, and solutions for those with hearing loss, balance disorders, and tinnitus. Since its inception in 1981, HES has upheld the highest standards of ethics and aims to not only treat but to educate individuals about the impacts of untreated hearing loss including cognitive decline, social isolation and depression.  To learn more about HES, visit www.HESofBuffalo.org.

HES Welcomes Tony Caligiuri!

Tony Caligiuri, a longtime radio personality at WBEN, is famously known as the producer of the Sandy Beach Show. Tony came to HES in the Fall of 2018 after finally getting fed up with his hearing loss and bothersome tinnitus.

His hearing difficulties were affecting both his home and work life as well as his recreational activities. Tony is passionate about his family and community and didn’t want his relationships to continue to be negatively affected by his hearing loss. Tony was fit with hearing aids to address both his hearing and tinnitus complaints and was so satisfied with his results and his experience at HES that he has become an official spokesperson for our organization.

You can listen to Tony’s story, and his continued experience of better hearing health on WBEN, 930 AM, Monday through Friday from 9 am – noon.

Five Fun Facts from our Certified Tinnitus Specialists

At Hearing Evaluation Services, our Doctors of Audiology have the expertise to manage your tinnitus and help you hear well again. HES is the only practice in Western New York to have four Doctors of Audiology who are all members of the American Tinnitus Association as well as certified by the Tinnitus Practitioners Association, making them uniquely qualified to help with tinnitus. Here are some fun facts to help you get to know our Specialists:

Nicole L. Ball, Au.D

• Joined HES in 2012.

• Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

• Bilingual.

• Studied at the University of Costa Rica and Nova Southeastern University

• Mom of Twin Boys

Alyssa Beaton, Au.D.

• Joined HES in 2015.

• Certified in Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment.

• Worked as an Audiology Assistant and completed her residency with HES

• Western New York native.

• Getting married June 2019.

Jennifer Sutton, Au.D.

• Joined HES in 2007.

• Has extensive experience in vestibular and pediatric testing.

• Specializes in non-sedated auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing for infants.

• Helps train Doctoral-level audiology students from the University at Buffalo.

• Mom of two boys and a girl.

Carolyn Yates, Au.D.

• Joined HES in 2013.

• Graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University at Buffalo.

• 2013 Recipient of the Tindle-Schupe Award for Clinical Excellence in Audiology.

• Participates in clinical research studies for Tinnitus, Dizziness, and Balance disorders.

• Proud Mom of two boxers.

Tinnitus – FAQs

Hearing Evaluation Services has developed a Tinnitus Management Program that is built off of treatment research and years of tinnitus treatment outcomes. Many patients we treat have suffered for years before seeking treatment because they didn’t know that getting help was even an option.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about tinnitus that may help you have a better understanding of this condition:

What is tinnitus? – Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus is often described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, crickets chirping, etc. It can be present constantly or occur intermittently and can fluctuate in volume or type of sound. Tinnitus is considered a symptom and not a disease.

What causes tinnitus? – The biological mechanism of tinnitus is still unknown; however, current research suggests it is a result of the brain’s reaction to a change within the auditory system. Roughly 90% of people who experience tinnitus have an underlying hearing loss. It can also occur temporarily because of ear wax that is plugging the ears, ear infections, exposure to loud sounds or as a side effect of certain medications. Tinnitus is also associated with other non-auditory conditions such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder as well as head or neck injuries.

Is there a cure for Tinnitus? – Tinnitus that is the result of certain ear-related issues (including impacted ear wax and conductive hearing loss) will typically diminish once the underlying medical issue is resolved. Tinnitus that is related to permanent hearing loss is not generally curable but it is often manageable using sound therapy and counseling techniques so that is no longer bothersome. Our Tinnitus Management Program is extremely successful. Over 85% of patients reported a reduction in how bothersome their tinnitus was in just six weeks.

What options are available to help patients better manage their tinnitus? – The certified tinnitus specialists at Hearing Evaluation Services are trained in various aspects of Sound Therapy and work with patients to develop an individualized tinnitus management plan.

Current management options include:

• Hearing Devices

• Masking Devices

• Neuromonics™ Devices

• Combination Devices

• Counseling

• Stress and Sleep Management

If you are experiencing bothersome tinnitus, please call our office today to set up an appointment with one of our specialists.

Major Milestone achieved for Dr. Ann E. Stadelmaier Hearing Aid Fund

Dr. Ann E. Stadelmaier

Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo (HES) is pleased to announce that they have now fit over 300 people in Western New York in financial need with a brand new digital hearing aid through the Dr. Ann E. Stadelmaier Hearing Aid Fund!

HES established this fund in memory of their former Executive Director, Dr. Ann E. Stadelmaier who passed away in 2006 after a long battle with cancer. Since its inception, the fund has been generously supported by 45 local Lions Clubs who donate to offset the costs of running the fund. Our staff is extremely proud of the Dr. Ann E. Stadelmaier fund, which has helped so many individuals in Western New York hear better. These members of our local community could not have afforded to do so without the help of the fund.

We would like to thank our local Lions Clubs for their continued support.  As a non-profit organization, HES is dedicated to helping all people hear better and looks forward to continuing to help more individuals in WNY.

The fund provides hearing assistance to individuals in  need who cannot otherwise afford these services in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.

If you are interested in learning more about the fund or making a donation to help sustain it, please visit our website at HESofBuffalo.org or call our office at (716) 833-4488. 

It’s ‘Good to Hear’ us on the radio!

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new radio campaign on WHTT 104.1 FM.  In addition to advertising on a new station, we also have a new series of commercials airing that  feature our wide array of programs and services.

We have also re-launched our television campaign on WGRZ – Channel 2!  In addition to highlighting the stories of our patients, John and Nanette, we have added a commercial about Missy from Youngstown, and her beautiful journey of enjoying life again!  We would like to once again thank John, Nanette and Missy for their help with our campaign, and letting Western New York know that – It’s Good to Hear!

Hearing Insurance Programs – FAQs

There are so many different kinds of insurance programs out there, many of which seem to change year to year.  If you are confused, you’re not alone!  We have asked the HES Insurance Specialist, Valerie Schmidt to share with us some frequently asked questions she receives when it comes to insurance – and some helpful answers:

What does insurance typically cover?

Nearly all insurances cover baseline hearing tests. There is no minimum age requirement.  Other diagnostic tests are typically covered as well.  This would include balance or dizziness tests or more extensive hearing testing, if necessary.  There are also several different ways that insurance companies support hearing aids but there is a wide variety of ways they go about it.  It all depends on your insurance program.

Are Hearing Aids covered by Insurance?

There are a wide variety of programs for hearing aids, depending on the individual insurance company and specific insurance policy. Some companies allocate a certain amount they will contribute towards hearing aids.  Others participate with hearing aid discount programs, but unfortunately these programs can be extremely limiting in the type of device a patient can receive with very limited choices.  Many patients will also use their flex dollars towards their hearing aids or use it to upgrade to a more advanced device than what their insurance covered.

What is the difference between a hearing aid benefit and a hearing aid discount program?

A hearing aid benefit is money paid by the insurance company to pay all or part of the cost of any hearing aid the patient chooses. It is similar to how insurance companies cover costs towards eye glasses. A hearing aid discount program gives the patient access to hearing aids at a reduced price that the patient pays for entirely.  The insurance company pays nothing.  These discount programs often have a very limited selection available with limited services included.

Can I use flex dollars towards hearing aids?

Yes! Flex dollars can be used towards hearing devices and any custom ear mold offered through Hearing Evaluation Services.  Many patients use this as a way to upgrade from their basic insurance contribution to get a hearing device with some of the newest technological features – such as Bluetooth connectivity, functional smart phone apps, and rechargeable batteries.

What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to insurance coverage?

Unfortunately, some people think that access to discounted hearing aids is the same as an insurance benefit. It’s not. Since the insurance company does not actually contribute to the cost of the hearing aids, the patient pays the whole bill.  Additionally, many of these plans try to limit where patients can go to get their hearing aids and they work with high pressure sales companies.  When you come to HES, we will check your insurance and make sure you know all your options, we honor your insurance benefits or discounts, and we never use high pressure tactics.

If you have any questions about your insurance program, we encourage you to call Valerie Schmidt at 716-833-4488, or you can attend one of our upcoming complimentary insurance seminars.

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!

Advancements in Hearing Aid Technology

One of the biggest challenges we face with our patients is getting them to overcome the stigma that is still, unfortunately, attached to hearing aids. On average, people wait about seven years from the time they first notice their hearing issues before they take the next step to get the appropriate corrective device.

People have the false perception that hearing aids signify old age or disability; both are untrue. People are also concerned about having big, bulky devices on their ears or no longer being able to do some of the things they enjoy; also untrue.

In fact, we almost always see patients who wish they had acted sooner because they had no idea about the technological advancement and miniaturization of hearing aids through the years. Here is just a little reminder of some of the new technology you may see:

Smartphone and Bluetooth Compatibility

Almost all hearing aids today have built-in Bluetooth technology.  This allows the user to hear phone calls directly through their hearing aids and stream music, movies, or other forms of entertainment from their smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth devices.

Rechargeable Batteries

Many hearing aids now offer the convenience of rechargeable batteries.  No more dead batteries at inopportune moments or fumbling with insertion of fresh batteries.  Many existing hearing aid models can be converted to be compatible with rechargeable batteries so ask your audiologist if you are interested in this option.

Automatic Program Changes

Hearing devices have built-in technology that is sophisticated enough to recognize what kind of listening situation you are in. Is quiet? Are there other people taking around you?  Is there music playing? The hearing devices are constantly taking an “acoustic snapshot” of your listening environment and instantly making adjustments in order to help you hear speech better in whatever situation you are in and as you transition through different environments during the course of your day.

Occlusion Reduction

Often times when a patient is first fit with hearing devices, they will notice their own voice is more pronounced than when they were are wearing the hearing aids.  Hearing devices are able to help correct for this occlusion effect until you are able to naturally acclimate to it on your own.

Feedback Reduction (Whistling)

A hearing aid should not whistle or buzz.  If it does, there is usually ear wax blocking sound from getting into the ear canal properly or the hearing aid is not fit properly causing sound to leak out of the ear.  This is called “feedback.” Feedback reduction technology allows the hearing aid to detect when feedback is happening and eliminates it until you can have the problem evaluated by one of our audiologists.

Wind Noise Reduction

Wind noise can be bothersome for a hearing aid user, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors.  Golfers, gardeners, and runners/walkers can all benefit from this feature, which automatically recognizes and suppresses wind noise when you’re spending time outdoors.

Lyric Hearing System (Invisible Hearing Aids)

Hearing Evaluation Services (HES) is proud to be one of the select providers to offer Lyric. Lyric is the world’s first and only 100% invisible hearing aid that can be worn 24/7 for up to four months.

Unlike many other hearing aids, Lyric is positioned completely inside the ear canal, so it uses your ear’s natural anatomy to funnel sound to your eardrum. This unique design and placement helps provide an exceptionally natural sound quality.

If you would like to learn more about any of devices that have these technologies, or even try a free demo, please visit HESofBuffalo.org, or call us today for an appointment.

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.

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