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.

HES is now on WGRZ!

After almost a year of hard work, including planning, organizing, writing and filming, Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo, Inc. proudly debuted in the month of October our first television campaign, airing locally on WGRZ Channel 2. The campaign was created to show the real life effects of hearing loss, and our approach to care.

This campaign features real HES patients, and their stories of how hearing loss has affected their every day lives. Their story is followed through with HES care, and the happy outcome we strive for all of our patients to achieve.

We would like to thank the patients, John, Nanette and Missy for participating in this campaign, and for their time on the set! We would also like to thank HES’ Dr. Kristina Jackson, Dr. Alyssa Beaton, and Dr. Rebecca Witter for their time and participation as well.

The commercial can also be seen on our Facebook page and YouTube page.

Additionally, we also launched a new campaign in partnership with EarQ called “The Jim Kelly Experience.” Advertisements for this campaign can be found on Facebook, and other various on-line ads. More information on the Jim Kelly Experience can be found by going to jimkelly.earq.com.

HES Welcomes 2017 – 2018 Doctoral Residents

Please join us in welcoming our incoming 2017-2018 Doctoral Residents, Kim Dahar, Yugandhar Ramakrishna, and Caitlyn Potter.

Kim will work out of the Amherst office. You may recognize her as she has spent past semesters during her graduate work at HES. She is a native of Fairport, New York and studied Communicative Disorders and Sciences at Northwestern University and SUNY Buffalo. She will be receiving her Doctorate in Audiology from the University at Buffalo in May 2018.

Yugandhar will work at the Orchard Park and Tonawanda offices. He is currently studying at UB for dual degrees; his Au.D. in Audiology and a Ph.D. in Communication Disorders and Sciences. In 2010, Yugandhar received his Bachelors in Audiology and Speech Language Pathology (BASLP) from the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Hearing Handicapped in Hyderabad, India. He then worked as a clinical Audiologist and Speech Therapist at the PES Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, and as a Clinical Audiologist for Andhra Pradesh State Government in India, before coming to the United States.

Caitlyn, a native of Dryden, New York, studied Communicative Disorders and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, before pursuing her Doctorate in Audiology at UB. She will be graduating in May 2018, and she hopes to research and assist with implementing Pediatric and Adult Oncology Ototoxic Monitoring Protocols in Western New York for cancer patients.

L to R:  Kim, Yugandhar and Caitlyn

Meet the Audiologist: Dr. Jill Bernstein

People ask me all the time how I chose the field of audiology and I had a recent experience with a patient that reinforced exactly why I chose this field. Most people don’t know this but, before I was an audiologist, I spent four years working as a Nursing Home Administrator in Pennsylvania and Westchester County in downstate New York. To prepare for that career I obtained my Masters in Health Policy and Management from Harvard University.

After graduation, while most of my classmates were taking high paying jobs at fancy consulting firms or going to work in government think tanks, I took a position in a 538 bed nursing home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was one of the most humbling and educational experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to get to know some amazing residents who had lead extraordinary lives prior to the decline in their health. I kept these residents in mind with everything I did to ensure their home was as clean, safe, and as satisfying as it could be. After a few years, I realized that, while I enjoyed developing personal relationships with the residents, being a Nursing Home Administrator was not going to be a long term career choice for me and looked to move on to something different.

I spent a long time investigating other options before I chose Audiology. For me, it was the perfect mix of working with technology and people. I didn’t want to give up the joy and satisfaction I received from the personal relationships I developed with my residents and audiology has allowed me to continue to do that.

I came to the University at Buffalo to get my Doctorate in Clinical Audiology and had planned to leave Buffalo as soon as I finished. Instead, I had the opportunity to do a summer rotation at Hearing Evaluation Services (HES), which lead to me completing my residency here. Here I am 11 years later! Coming from a non-profit, mission-driven organizational background, HES was just the right fit for how I believe people should be treated. In my years at HES, I’ve developed some wonderful relationships with my patients and their families. Along with my clinical responsibilities, I also oversee our Resident Training program. Selecting the best Residents for our practice involves looking beyond their clinical skills and at their motivation for why they do this work. One of the things I tell them during their orientation is to always think about how they would want their mother or father to be taken care of. If you always keep this question in your mind, you will always do right by your patient. Everyone at HES, from the front office staff, audiologists, and even the billing office live by this motto. It’s one of the things that really separates us from other audiology practices, but especially from large, retail dispensing outlets or “big box” stores.

These retail outlets spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing and newspaper advertisements to draw in new customers – and it works. Tempting offers such as “Buy One Hearing Aid, Get One Free” and “Save $2000!”, are hard to pass up if you are not a savvy and experienced hearing aid user. You should always ask yourself, “How can they afford to give so much away?” The answer is that they mark things up to outrageous prices to start with. This is why I was so upset recently when I met a woman who had been taken advantage of at one of these local retail hearing aid stores. She was lured in with the promise of a free hearing test and somehow walked out with a set of $6000 hearing aids.

Did they tell her she had an insurance benefit and apply it to the cost of the aids? No. Did they tell her she was buying mid-level technology for a premium price? No. Did they mention that they sold her an older model of a hearing aid that is no longer current technology? No.

HES used to sell the same hearing aids she was wearing from them…last year…for $3500 (including service and warranties).

This woman thought she was getting a bargain. The price started out at almost $7500 and with “promotions and discounts” (including one from the “Head Manager”) they made her feel like she really got a deal.

I was outraged when the full details of this purchase came to light during my appointment with her. So, I armed my patient with all the information she needed to return those hearing aids and lodge a complaint with the New York State Consumer Protection hotline.

This experience reinforced, again, why I love what I do and where I work. You or your loved one will never be tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of like this at HES. And if it happened to you someplace else, come and see us and we will see if we can help you make it right.

Dr. Jill Bernstein, Au.D.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR HEARING AID BENEFIT OR INSURANCE PROGRAMS

Understanding the complexities of your health insurance plan can challenging, especially for patients over 65 years’ old that may have recently received information about a new “hearing aid benefit.” There are also various programs, and levels of coverage for several different kinds of insurance or benefit programs through your employer that you may or may not know you even have.

Whether you are trying to navigate a hearing aid insurance benefit program for yourself or a loved one, we are proud to offer a trusted resource, with 35+ years of experience with local insurance companies to help you understand your hearing health options.

HES 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, please give us a call at 544-6210 and we will add you to the next invitation list.

At HES, we believe in educating and empowering our patients to help them make informed and educated decisions about their hearing healthcare.

HES Honored by Quota International of Amherst

Amherst, NY – Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo was recently honored by Quota International of Amherst, at their Annual Awards Dinner on Tuesday, June 15, 2017 at Milo’s Restaurant.  HES was one of five organizations to receive the 2017 honors, which recognizes community organizations that serve Western New York.

Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo, Inc. is one of the only freestanding non-profit audiology practices in the country. Over the years, HES has provided quality hearing services at a variety of locations throughout Western New York (WNY) including downtown Buffalo, Amherst, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, and Williamsville.

Quota of Amherst, an International organization, was founded in Buffalo in 1919 and is dedicated to assisting the hearing and speech impaired as well as disadvantaged women and children. Its current members reside in locations all over Western New York.

 

Pictured above are L to R: Joy Higgins, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf ; Dr. Anne Orsene, Hearing Evaluation Services; Ronald Calandra, Hearts for the Homeless; Kathy Bucierka, Quota Club President; Gino Grasso and Tiffany Velado, Madonna of the Streets Inc. Buffalo.

COLD WEATHER AND YOUR HEARING

Protecting and preserving your hearing health is always one of our top priorities at HES. Environmental factors play a major role in the hearing health of many of our patients throughout the year.

As we enter the halfway point (hopefully) of winter in Western New York, it is a good time to remind you that cold air can also have an impact on your hearing as well.

Here are three important things to look out for with the cold weather relative to your hearing:

  • Increased risk of ear infections:
    • Cold temperatures limit the circulation in your ear – which can play a major role in causing ear infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic ear infections are one of the primary causes of hearing loss. Additionally, having the common cold (which means more fluid in the middle ear space) in conjunction with poor circulation is the perfect combination to affect your hearing! If you can’t differentiate between a decline in your hearing due to these factors versus a problem with your hearing aid, please call us and we can help get your problem taken care of sooner than later.
  • Risk of “Surfers Ear”:
    • Exostosis (commonly known as ‘Surfers Ear’) occurs when cold and wet environments cause abnormal bone outgrowth to form inside the ear canal, blocking the passage and impeding hearing. Early symptoms of exostosis include frequent ear infections, or trapped water inside the ear. If you or someone you know has a job that requires them to work outside a lot during the winter months – it is extra important to be aware of these symptoms.
  • Damage to Hearing Aids
    • If you wear a hearing aid that utilizes a battery, it is important to know that exposure to cold air can affect the battery life of your devices (just as it can affect the life of any device with batteries in the cold air). Additionally, condensation from wet and cold environments can cause breakdown and corrosion which could potentially damage the device.

The solution is simple. Protect your ears from the cold when you are outdoors! From hats, ear muffs, or other protective head gear. Additionally, never go without hearing protection, even if you think it is just for a short amount of time (We’re looking at you unlucky ones who have to run the snow blower after Lake Erie dumps snow on us!). If you think your hearing devices or hearing may have been affected by the cold weather, please contact our office for help on what to do.

Powerful Moments: Rebecca Witter, AuD

As an Audiologist, my days often bring powerful moments of realization when I let a patient hear what they’ve been missing for so many years.  Hearing loss is a slow, insidious process and year to year we don’t notice the shifts in our hearing until one day we grow so frustrated that we seek help.

I am grateful for the number of patients I have been able to reach and educate about this important health concern over the years.  When a patient “gets it”, they are so much more likely to re-engage in life and live it to the fullest.

“Vince” has been a patient at HES for many years.  When I switched from our Orchard Park office to our Amherst office, he came with me even though it added an extra 40 minutes to his drive from his home in Holland, NY.  Vince is one of those guys who oozes humility and kindness.  Business owner, husband, father, and easily one of my most favorite patients I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Vince is a self-made man but he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s lost without his hearing aids.  An otherwise healthy active 68-year old who relies on me to keep him connected to the things he loves most in life – his friends and family.

It wasn’t until recently that his reliance on me was illustrated in a way that I’ll never forget.  I opened an email from “Vince’s” daughter a few weeks ago.  I had never met “Sarah” before; only heard about her through “Vince” who spoke so proudly of her.  She told me that “Vince” had been admitted to Buffalo General Hospital and that they had to remove his permanently-worn hearing aids to do some imaging scans.  Because “Vince” wears a style of hearing aids that are called extended-wear, that means I place them deep in his ear canals and they stay there for 4-6 weeks before he returns to me for a new set.  “Sarah” had asked me if I could make a bedside call and replace his hearing aids at Buffalo General.  “Vince” had been diagnosed with stage four liver cancer.  He and his family received this diagnosis, but “Vince” had no idea what was happening to him because he simply wasn’t able to communicate with his doctors and his family during this critical time.  He laid in his hospital bed all weekend until Sarah thought to reach out and ask if I could come to his aid.

I went to his room that day and I’ll never forget the two looks on his face – the one before I put his hearing aids back in and the one after.  I mentioned “powerful moments” earlier referring to patients’ reactions to hearing well again for the first time.  This time the powerful moment was all my own.  “Vince” came back to life when those devices went in his ears.  He spoke first to his daughter and there was a collective sigh of relief among all of us.  The gratitude in his eyes when he looked up at me was all-consuming.

I did what I could to hold back my tears, but eventually we all let them fall down our faces.  I stopped looking at my patient that day as a patient.  I saw my own father in that moment and it deepened my purpose as an audiologist.

I left the hospital not knowing if I’d ever seen “Vince” again.  His prognosis isn’t strong, but I am hopeful that God won’t take this man from his family yet.  Whatever the outcome, “Vince” has left an impression on my heart that I will carry with me forever.

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