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!

HES Welcomes 2018-2019 Doctoral Residents

Join us in welcoming our incoming 2018- 2019 Doctoral Residents, Heidi Ludwig, Eileen Clark, and Shannon McKinney:

Eileen Clark is a native of Rockford, Michigan where she attended Central Michigan University to study Communication Sciences and Disorders; she is currently attending graduate school there as well.

She will graduate in May 2019, hoping to pursue her interest in electrophysiology and vestibular assessment.

Eileen’s interest in Audiology began when she was required to take audiology classes for her intended field of speech-language pathologist. She soon discovered that her interest was in the audiology classes. She is now a member of the Student Academy of Audiology.

Outside of her Audiology work, she grew up as a competitive dancer and still enjoys tap and ballet in her free time. She also enjoys time outside and exploring the local neighborhood.


Heidi Ludwig, a native of Toronto, Ontario, attended Brock University to study Speech and Language Sciences.  She later received the Communicative Disorders Assistant (CDA) certification from Georgian College.

She will be graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019, where she then hopes to provide the best patient-focused care to audiological and vestibular patients, as an Audiologist, striving to address all future patient concerns.

Heidi is experienced as a VNG technician where she assisted the assessment of vestibular disorders and working as a cochlear implant technician. She is also certified as a speechreading instructor through the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

Heidi is very interested in vestibular, cochlear implants, and patient-focused aural rehabilitation groups, and enjoys working in audiology, aiming to acquire her Doctorate in the field.

Outside of her Audiological work, Heidi enjoys learning and teaching others as much as she can. During her graduate studies she was chosen to be the teacher of perspective audiology students.


Shannon McKinney, originally from Clinton, New Jersey, attended Bloomsburg University where she received her Bachelors of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology while minoring in Psychology and concentrating in Aging Studies and Gerontology.

She will be graduating in May 2019 from East Tennessee State University and hopes to work as a military audiologist to provide hearing healthcare for active duty and veteran populations. She also plans to service those that do not have access to personalized healthcare and audiologic services through mission trips and philanthropic pursuits.

Shannon enjoys studying Aural Rehabilitation and Tinnitus Management and plans to help improve patients communication through these studies. She has also presented research involving the development of a Speech and Noise measure that could be implemented for patient use.

Outside of her study in Audiology, Shannon enjoys being outdoors, hiking, painting, and listening to music.

“I chose audiology because it allows me to work in a caring profession that puts the patient and their personal goals/challenges at the center focus.  I want to encourage patients that there are always options to improve hearing, communication, and quality of life.” – Shannon Mckinney


HES Introduces New, Centralized Phone System

We are happy to announce the launch of a brand new phone system at Hearing Evaluation Services. With this new system, we are able to provide you with an improved experience whenever you call our office.

We now have one single centralized number– (716)833-4488. With this centralized number, we are hoping to dramatically reduce any wait or hold times when you call, while also allowing us to give you the time and attention you need on the phone.

Another change you may notice is that any one of our Patient Care Coordinators may answer your call – regardless of their office location. With this change, we thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce you to all of our outstanding Patient Care Coordinators and office support staff who you may speak with on the phone.

Cindy – Cindy has been with HES since 2005 and is the primary PCC at our Orchard Park office.

Janet – Janet has been with HES since 2013 and is the primary PCC at our Tonawanda office.

Tracy – Tracy has been with HES since 2014 and is the primary PCC at our Amherst office.

Tiffany – Tiffany has been with HES since 2017 and is the primary PCC at our Williamsville office.

Kristen – Kristen has been with HES since 2010. In addition to supervising the PCCs, Kristen also schedules tinnitus and ototoxic monitoring appointments.

Stephanie – Stephanie has been with HES since 2016. Stephanie assists on projects and schedules tinnitus and ototoxic monitoring appointments.

Michele – Michele has been with HES since 2015. Michele is a back-up PCC and processes hearing aid benefit claims.

Valerie – Valerie has been with HES since 2013.  Valerie is the Insurance Specialist at HES and is available to answer questions regarding insurance benefits.

Joyce – Joyce has been with HES since 1985. In addition to supervising the Billing Department, Joyce also takes phone calls on busy days.

You can also read their full bios, by clicking on our staff page here!



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, or call us today for an appointment.

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!

Dr. Kristina Jackson – WNY Living – April 14, 2018

HES’ Dr. Jill Bernstein was a featured guest on WNY Living to discuss Tinnitus, the debilitating condition of “ringing in the ears” or the perception of sound heard in the ears or head that is not actually present in the environment (buzzing, hissing, etc.).  Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo is the only audiology practice in WNY that has four Certified Tinnitus Specialists that are here to help patients manage their symptoms, and improve their quality of 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.

HES makes list of WNY Best Places to Work!

On Thursday, March 15th, Hearing Evaluation Services was honored for being named one of the Best Places to Work in Western New York by Buffalo Business First. HES was a finalist in the Micro Category, which consists of businesses with staff size of 10-24 employees.

There were several steps taken to earn this honor, including an application process, followed by employee surveys that were analyzed by Quantum Workplace, a national company that specializes in workplace environment programs. As a result of these surveys, Hearing Evaluation Services was very proud to be ranked as one of the Best Places to Work. HES was honored along with other fantastic organizations throughout Western New York at a luncheon held at Buffalo Riverworks.

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