April 25, 2014: 12:43 pm: Dr. NeilMeniere's Disease

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

If your balance (vestibular) system has largely been destroyed by taking various ototoxic drugs, by viral attacks on your vestibular system, or from conditions such as Meniere’s disease, you typically have to work hard to keep your balance. However, certain movements, “busy” scenes and other situations can, without warning, cause you to become dizzy and lose your balance.

If you have a damaged balance system, you may already be aware of some of these visual triggers. However, there are probably a number of others that you may not have recognized.

A group of people with severely-damaged vestibular systems due to Meniere’s disease shared the below list of visual triggers that often cause them grief. This list of visual triggers includes:

— Watching a big screen TV or going to movie theaters
— Looking up/down suddenly
— Walking down a visually-busy aisle in a store
— Driving on a “cloverleaf” highway ramp
— Walking beside flowing water such as a river (as opposed to walking beside a lake)
— Cars rushing by as you walk down a road
— Walking on a track with joggers zipping by
— Walking in a steeply sloped theater or arena
— Cars speeding in the opposite direction as you are driving on a narrow road
— Moving lights, especially in a disco
— Walking in the dark, or on a dimly lit path
— Looking back in response to a call
— Zipping past street lights while riding in a motor vehicle
— Walking in a crowd
— Sailing in a small boat vs. in a large ship
— Walking up or down steps, or an incline
— Moving lights at night when driving
— Bicycles zipping by

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April 19, 2014: 12:40 pm: Dr. NeilSpeechreading

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady explained,

I am new to the world of hearing loss. I want to know if there is a way to learn lipreading. How did you learn? Did you just watch people? I am trying to do that but getting frustrated. I am sure that is normal. My problem lies when everyone is talking, and one person is trying to talk to me, and I simply can’t hear them. I asked one colleague to repeat herself 3 times yesterday and just couldn’t figure it out. I end up getting embarrassed and stressed out! I just feel defeated. I think if I could read lips, it could help me in that situation.

Most definitely, speechreading can help you communicate better. However, be aware that learning to speechread (lipreading was the older term) takes time. It is easy to get frustrated. One reason for this is because you can only readily see about 30% of English sounds on a person’s lips. The rest of the sounds are formed behind the teeth, or even in the throat where they are totally invisible. Thus there is a lot of educated guessing involved.

Another frustrating reality is that there is a lot of ambiguity in speechreading. Several words may look the same on a person’s lips, but sound different. We call these words homophenes. For example, the words “bat”, “mat” and “pat” all look identical on a person’s lips. So too, do such different words as “queen” and “white”. So do the words “shoes”, “shoot”, “June”, “Jews” and “juice”. Thus it really helps if you know what subject people are talking about so your brain can figure out the correct word to fit the context.

A third reason speechreading can be frustrating is that some people are animated and move their lips a lot—and thus are easy to lipread—while others don’t move their lips much, or move them in ways that makes it impossible to speechread even one syllable! (You’ll come across the odd person like that.)

Because of these limitations, you need to have proper expectations of what speechreading can and cannot do for you. It will definitely help you, but it definitely is not perfect. So don’t be hard on yourself when you don’t catch something.

Now, let’s address your question of how do you learn to speechread. My first rule is always watch people when they are talking to you. Some people, such as myself and my younger daughter, learned to speechread almost from the day we were born, because we were born with significant hearing losses. I’ve always had to watch people’s faces in order to know what they were saying. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of doing just that in order to try to “hear” grown-ups talking to me from “way up there” when I was just a little guy sitting on the floor. I’ve had lots of practice speechreading—I’ve been practicing every day of my life and yet I’m still far from perfect. However, in spite of all its shortcomings, I’d never want to be without speechreading as it is my main means of communicating. It’s that useful.

My second rule is to combine your residual hearing with speechreading. This is the most effective way. You do far better using both your eyes and your ears, rather than trying to use speechreading without hearing any sound (although I do that a lot too—but remember, I’ve have more than 60 years of experience doing this).

Third, take a speechreading class if you can. Unfortunately, speechreading classes seem to be few and far apart here in the USA. All is not lost however. There are speechreading CDs available that will still help you immensely. The best one of which I know is called “Seeing and Hearing Speech“. (I think I have all or most of the speechreading CDs produced in the English language from anywhere in the world. In fact, I know most of the authors of them.)

When talking to one person in group situations, get as close as you can to the person. Make sure you are face to face and looking at each other and that there is adequate light on the other person’s face. It that situation, speechreading is typically quite easy. Furthermore, when you are that close, you will catch some sounds which will often dramatically increase your understanding of what is being said.

Don’t feel bad, or embarrassed when you have to ask for a repeat (or two) or you miss something entirely. That happens to me too—even with all my speechreading practice and skills. Just two days ago I was talking to a clerk in a store and couldn’t get more than maybe 10% of what he was saying. That’s just the way it is depending on how they move their lips. It really helps to have an animated “face” to speechread.

The Speechreading CD I mentioned above has a number of people on it. They range in animation from very animated (one girl is wonderfully easy to speechread—not to mention, easy on the eyes—while one guy is not animated at all and is quite difficult to speechread.

I recommend that you search out the easy “faces” and practice with them first. This will really boost your confidence in your ability to speechread, then go on to those that are a bit harder to speechread and leave the hardest to the last.

One cool thing about this CD is that you can learn with just the visuals, or can add in any degree of sound (voice). And if you need to slow things down, you can set it to half speed. This allows you to better see all the mouth movements that typically go by so fast you may miss the little nuances at normal speed.

I wish you well as you learn to speechread better.

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April 11, 2014: 12:38 pm: Dr. NeilTinnitus

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man asked,

Does listening to music at low volume levels, but for 5-6 hours or more every day, make tinnitus worse? Is it better to listen via speakers or headphones?

Listening to music at low volume levels should not bother your tinnitus (or make it worse). That’s a general rule of thumb.

However, you need to define what you consider “low volume levels”. In a society addicted to loud music, your definition of “low” volume may be much higher than the commonly-accepted “safe” levels promulgated today. To me, “low levels” of sound would mean that all sounds (including all peaks in the music you are listening to) would measure less than 80 dB. The average sound level should be no more than the same level as people talking—namely in the range of 50 to 70 dB or so.

If you keep what you are listening to in that range, I doubt that it will negatively affect your tinnitus.

However, some people have “weird” hearing/tinnitus and their tinnitus is sensitive to lower-level sounds. If this is your situation, turn the volume down until it doesn’t bother your tinnitus.

Other people have “reactive” tinnitus. Reactive tinnitus reacts or responds to louder sounds. Thus, your tinnitus continues to get louder and louder as the volume of sound around you goes up. If this is your case, you need to keep turning the music down until you find a “safe” level that does not cause your tinnitus to react.

Thus, depending on your tinnitus, the above rule of thumb may not apply to you. The best way to know what is right for you is to monitor your own tinnitus. If low-level music makes your tinnitus worse, either turn the volume down more until it doesn’t, or don’t listen so long that it bothers your tinnitus. In addition, your ears need some “down time” too—so give them breaks from time to time.

Theoretically, whether you wear earbuds/earphones or listen via loudspeakers shouldn’t make any difference if you keep the volume to a low level as defined above.

A problem could arise if you were listening to music that is generally softer, but at points has crashing cymbals, loud drums or other suddenly-crescendoing sounds. If you are wearing earbuds/headphones, there is less physical space for those extra-loud sounds to dissipate before they hit your eardrums than if you were listening via loudspeakers.

In my case, since I have a severe hearing loss, as well as discrimination problems, I need to have the average volume very loud in order for me to hear and understand anything. In other words, the average level is much louder than 50 to 70 dB—more like 95+ dB—and this is already over the hearing-damaging level. Thus, any increase in volume (music peaks) can hurt my ears. As a result, for this kind of music I typically opt for listening via loudspeakers so the peaks have a chance to dissipate in the air before they hit my eardrums.

In such cases choose loudspeakers over earbuds/earphones. Even so, if you keep the peaks below 80 dB, it shouldn’t really matter. However, if your tinnitus is louder after listening to your music, then you know it is still too loud for your ears, and you have to turn the volume down more.

Listening to low-level music (just loud enough to hear) may also have a beneficial effect on your tinnitus. You may find that the music masks your tinnitus so it doesn’t bother you while you are listening to it. And if you are really lucky, you may find that residual inhibition kicks in, such that after you stop listening to the music, you discover to your joy that your tinnitus is now at a much lower level, or even disappears for awhile.

If you want to learn more about noise and tinnitus, the many things that can trigger tinnitus, or more about a number of things you can do to help bring your tinnitus under control, check out my book, When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How.

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April 5, 2014: 12:33 pm: Dr. NeilHearing Loss

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D. with Dave Myers, Ph.D. and Marjie Anderson

Dave Myers wrote,

The inspiring news stories about Seattle Seahawks’ ‘deaf’ player, Derrick Coleman, raises an interesting question. Do those of us who can hear and participate in conversation, albeit only with hearing aids (HAs) or cochlear implants (CIs), similarly regard ourselves as ‘deaf’?

With hearing aids, Derrick Coleman can hear play calls in the noisy Seattle stadium and can answer questions at a news conference. Are we deaf? Is he?

My identity is ‘a person with significant hearing loss’ (aka hard of hearing). My mother transitioned from hard of hearing to what I called deaf when she gave up her hearing aids and could no longer hear anything (we communicated by writing notes).

If people like Derrick Coleman and the rest of us are deaf, then what defines the boundary line between deaf and non-deaf?

I am curious: how do you view yourself? As deaf, even if able to converse with HAs or CIs? What is your definition of deafness?

Audiological deafness means you can’t hear without amplification. It is written with a small “d” (deaf).

Cultural deafness means you belong to the Deaf culture. It is written with a capital “D” (Deaf). Culturally Deaf people use a manually signed language such as American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.

If you are deaf, you may choose to use your voice to talk and use amplification in order to hear (as much as possible). Most people would call you “hard of hearing”. However, if you choose not to speak, but use ASL to communicate and identify yourself with the Deaf community, then you’d be both deaf and Deaf.

I am hard of hearing when I use amplification (hearing aids or assistive listening devices). However, when I take them off, I am audiologically deaf (functionally deaf). So when I am wearing my hearing aids, I might say I’m hard of hearing. Without my hearing aids, I often say I’m deaf (or functionally deaf).

The politically correct term is to say you are “a person with hearing loss”, putting the “person” ahead of the hearing loss, since hearing loss does not (or should not) define us. We are people first and foremost, who just happen to have a problem hearing.

The politically incorrect term is to call us “hearing impaired”. Many hard of hearing and Deaf people find this term offensive. (To me a “hearing impaired” person is a hearing person that has had too much to drink!)

Late deafened people are people who have lost their hearing (typically) as adults (after they have acquired language) so they use their voices to talk. However, they “hear” by using hearing aids and other amplification devices, by signing or by a combination of both. Basically, whatever works best in a given situation.

Labels are often confusing as typically more than one label fits us, and each person defines the label a bit differently.

As Marjie Anderson explains,

It depends on who I am talking to really. Some people don’t understand hard of hearing or late deafened or oral deaf or deaf versus Deaf. Don’t even get me started on total communication, pidgin signed English (PSE), Conceptually Accurate Signed English (CASE) and American Sign Language (ASL).

I just tell some people I can’t hear very well, and then give them a list of things they can do to help us communicate. To others, I say I’m deaf. They seem to get that I can’t understand their speech (due to a variety of reasons). To people within the hearing loss community, I am hard of hearing. That clues them in that I didn’t grow up signing, and I went to mainstream schools.

According to the Social Security Disability rules I am deaf. Because I sign, some will say I am Deaf. Because I can’t understand speech in normal situations any more, but used to, some will say I am late-deafened. Because I can sometimes hear noises (loud enough and the right pitch) others will say I am hard of hearing.

So like the labels: grandmother, mother, daughter, sister and friend, I also can be hard of hearing, late-deafened, Deaf and deaf all at the same time, and they can all be true. They are just words, and different people define them differently.

Call me what you want. I call myself “Marjie”.

As Marjie said, the label isn’t what’s important. What is important is that we have effective communication. So call me what you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner!

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March 30, 2014: 12:31 pm: Dr. NeilAssistive Devices

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

You might not think you have a hearing loss, but if your wife (or husband, or kids) complain that you always turn the TV volume up too loud, you almost certainly have a significant hearing loss. If this is the case, the new TV SoundBox is for you.

If you are frustrated because you hear your TV, but notice you are now missing a lot of what is said while sitting in your favorite chair, again, the TV SoundBox is for you.

The TV SoundBox not only will help you hear and understand your TV again, it will also bring peace to you family—no spouse always yelling at you to turn the volume down any more. Think what that could do for your marriage!

The TV SoundBox is basically a remote wireless speaker that you keep close to you so you can hear your TV without straining to hear, and without cranking the volume up so loud.

The reason it works so well is because it retains more of the high-frequency sounds that give speech much of its intelligibility. You see, high-frequency sounds drop out of the air (so to speak) with increasing distance. Since the high-frequency sounds carry much of the intelligibility of speech, when these high-frequency sounds don’t reach your ears, you have difficulty understanding what you hear.

The secret to the TV SoundBox is having it reasonably close to your ears. (My wife puts hers on the back of the couch behind her. She could just as easily put it on the end table beside the couch.) This means the high-frequency sounds reach your ears instead of fading away. As a result, you now can understand your TV much better and no longer need to have the sound cranked up so loud.

The TV SoundBox works as either a stand alone unit if you don’t have hearing aids, or you can use it while wearing your hearing aids. Thus, it makes a wonderful first assistive device if you are slowly losing your high-frequency hearing due to increasing age and don’t feel you are quite ready for hearing aids yet.

The TV SoundBox consists of two parts—a wireless base transmitter/recharging unit and a remote receiver/loudspeaker.

Recharging the TV SoundBox is simple—just place it back on its base. In a few hours, it will be charged up, ready to go. Typically, you can expect to get 8 hours of continuous use out of one charge—so it’s good for listening most of the day.

The TV SoundBox is not limited only for listening to your TV. You can hook it up to any audio device—your stereo, your radio, your iPod, your MP3 player; even your computer. All that is needed is that the audio device has an audio output jack. Typically this would be the standard 1/8″ stereo headphone jack on portable devices, or the red and white RCA audio output jacks on your stereo or TV. I’ve played my iPod through it with great results.

A really ingenious feature of the TV SoundBox is that the patch cord supplied has an 1/8″ stereo plug at one end and RCA plugs at the other. Thus, if your TV has RCA audio output jacks, you plug that end into your TV and the other end into the base of your TV SoundBox.

However, if you want to hear from an audio device that only has a 1/8″ audio output jack—then you reverse the patch cord and plug the 1/8″ plug into your audio device and the other end into the base of the TV SoundBox. You can do this because the base of the TV SoundBox has both an 1/8″ audio jack and RCA jacks wired as audio inputs.

You use this patch cord one way or the other as needed. For example, we plug the audio patch cord in one way on our main TV which has RCA audio output jacks, and the other way on our small portable TV which only has an earphone jack. This eliminates having to have two different patch cords. With this arrangement, one patch cord works for both situations.

You can use the TV SoundBox wherever you are since it is wireless. If you get up and go to the kitchen or dining room or outside on the patio, just take the TV SoundBox with you and continue to hear beautiful clear sound. The range is up to 100 feet (line of sight), but I found that realistically in our house with it’s walls and other obstructions, about 50 feet was the limit of reliable reception.

Does the TV SoundBox really work. Just ask my wife. She loves hers! Because she has a moderate to moderately-severe hearing loss, she sits it on the back of the sofa when she listens to the TV. She explains, “I like the fact that I can hear far more clearly using the TV SoundBox while having the TV volume turned down low, than I can by just listening to the TV with the volume turned up much louder”.

The TV SoundBox has great volume—loud enough to awaken the dead (or zombies at least) at full volume (especially if the TV has fixed audio outputs). However, you’ll not need that much volume if you have it close beside you. If you keep the TV volume low, then you’ll need to turn the volume up more on the TV SoundBox. That’s why it has so much reserve volume—not so you can crank up the sound like you needed to do on the TV.

If you’d rather listen to something privately, instead of listening via the speakers, just plug in your favorite headphones or ear buds. That’s my preferred way of listening with it. This works well with my almost-profound hearing loss. Otherwise, I’d have to crank the volume way up so my ears could hear/understand it.

Another cool feature of the TV SoundBox is that you can “pair” up to 50 SoundBox receivers to the base transmitter. That way if several family members need a unit, they can all listen to the TV together—with each one setting the volume on their TV SoundBox to match their hearing. Talk about a happy household!

I know you’re now asking, “Just how much is the TV SoundBox going to set me back?” The good news is that although the regular price of the TV SoundBox is $149.95, you can get it for only $123.95 from the Center’s website.

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March 16, 2014: 12:28 pm: Dr. NeilHearing Aids

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

As some of you know, I am the owner/curator of “The Hearing Aid Museum”, the largest on-line hearing aid museum in the world. As a result, I’m often asked to identify and/or appraise old hearing aids, and to contribute pictures and information on hearing aids for various publications.

Recently, I was asked to write a piece on the history of hearing aids for the 100th edition of “Signal”, the journal of the Association of Hearing Instrument Practitioners of Ontario. This article was recently published (Winter 2014).

If you are interested in the history of old hearing aids, you may find this article, profusely illustrated with rare and beautiful hearing aids from the Museum, totally fascinating. You can access it from the Museum’s home page, then click on the link in the yellow box.

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March 12, 2014: 12:25 pm: Dr. NeilMusical Ear Syndrome

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A lady wrote,

For years my tinnitus has been a kind of sound of which I was rarely aware. Now, with a new, loud tenant upstairs, I recently started being able to hear his phone calls and conversations with people in his home upstairs. He speaks very loudly. I have a 25 – 30 dB loss in my right ear and a 75 – 80 dB loss in my left ear. I hear him as if he was in the room with me. Music plays all day, telephone calls all day, TV all day. He stays up playing music till 4 or 5 a.m. I have no escape from it. I hear him throughout my apartment, which is fairly large, but when I leave the apartment, the conversations he had stay in my head and I can walk away for quite a distance before it dwindles, or I try to distract it away.

The same thing happens with music. And actually with music, I can be listening to nothing and hear an actual song as sung by a famous singer in the singer’s voice. I hear it through the ear that has very little hearing, at least it feels that way. I thought “recruitment” might be an explanation, but I know nothing about it.

I have sought help for this, but it is not well-known where I live. I’ve read a lot and know it is not a hallucination, but is an illusion—it’s still miserable no matter what it’s called. I hope you have some ideas on this.

I think I know exactly what you are experiencing. You say this is not an hallucination, but rather an illusion. You might be interested to know that your above statement is one of the proofs that what you are “hearing” really is an hallucination. With true auditory hallucinations, you “know” what you are hearing is real, but you are totally wrong, because, in reality, it is totally phantom. That is the nature of an hallucination.

On the other hand, an illusion is where you hear something real, but you ascribe it to something else. For example, an illusion would be where you hear a person talking, but it seems to be coming from your cat’s mouth.

With an hallucination, there are no real external sounds around you, so your ears are not hearing anything, yet at the same time you “hear” sounds as though they were coming from your ears. This is what you are experiencing.

You say that your tenant upstairs is very loud. Yet at the same time, you have a severe hearing loss in your worse ear. You also say you hear the upstairs sounds and what he’s saying as though he was standing right beside you talking to you it’s so clear in your bad ear.

If you think about it, you know your bad ear can’t hear anything from the tenant upstairs. You have enough trouble just hearing sounds around you. Thus, if he is upstairs talking on the phone, you’re not going to hear him at all. Yet, you believe you are hearing him. That’s how hallucinations work. They totally fool you into believing they are real. And you justify your opinion by believing that you have a loud tenant, when in reality, he may be as quiet as a mouse.

Incidentally, this is not recruitment. Recruitment is where sounds become abnormally loud much faster than normal because you have a sensorineural hearing loss. Nor is it hyperacusis where you hear all sounds louder than normal. What you have is a condition called Musical Ear Syndrome. With Musical Ear Syndrome, you hear phantom sounds that you swear are real, but in truth, are totally phantom.

An easy way to tell whether your upstairs tenant is, in fact, having the TV on all day, having the phone ringing all day, playing music all night until 4 AM, etc. is to have somebody with normal hearing come to your place and listen. When you hear the phone ringing or the loud music, etc., ask the hearing person if she hears the same thing. If she is not hearing exactly what you were hearing, you know that these “sounds” are not real, and that you are experiencing an hallucination.

If there is no one that can come and listen with you—say it is 2 o’clock in the morning when the music is bothering you—record the music that you are “hearing”. Then, the next day listen to the recording and see if you can hear any music on it. If you don’t hear anything, you know you were “hearing” phantom sounds (again). Alternately, take the recording to a hearing person and have him listen to it. If he can’t hear any music, again you know it was all in your head.

These kinds of hallucinations are not psychiatric problems. In other words, you are not crazy. You do not have a mental illness. You are not going nuts. You are not schizophrenic. Rather, something is not working quite right in the auditory circuits in your head.

Furthermore, you are not alone. Thousands upon thousands of hard of hearing people hear similar things to what you are experiencing, yet they seldom talk about these things, for fear of being thought crazy and misunderstood by their family, friends and doctors.

That is why I wrote a detailed article on this very subject. It is called, “The Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds Many Hard of Hearing People Secretly Experience“.

In addition, you can learn even more about Musical Ear Syndrome in my book, “Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds“.

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March 4, 2014: 11:46 am: Dr. NeilOtotoxic Drugs

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man wrote,

How about publishing a list of drugs that are safe to use?” [This was in relation to my article on drugs that are associated with tinnitus “New List of Drugs, Herbs and Chemicals Associated with Tinnitus Released.

You are not the only person to ask me this. It sounds like a great idea at first thought—so, here it is. You’ll notice it is a mighty short list!

Drugs That Are Safe to Use

(blank)

Here are six reasons why I don’t publish a list of “safe” drugs.

1. All drugs have adverse side effects according to the FDA. Here is a quote from my book, “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed”. (1) “All drugs have side effects. This is no secret. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the government’s watchdog on the drug industry. The FDA warns, ‘When it comes to using medicine, there is no such thing as a completely safe drug. All medicines have risks.’ (2) Notice this, ‘No drug is perfectly safe. Every single drug that affects our bodies will have some side effects.’ (3)” Thus there is no completely safe drug—which means no drug makes the “safe” list! As I said, it’s a mighty short list.

2. Not all side effects are known when a drug is released for use by the public. In fact, just under half of the drugs released to the public still had serious side effects that had not been found in all the testing that goes on before a drug is approved by the FDA and released to the public. This means that about 51% of the drugs released to the public had serious side effects that were only discovered after all the studies had been completed. (4) This makes you the guinea pig.

Notice that most of the drugs released to the public still had serious side effects that were missed. Who knows how many “minor” side effects were missed? Obviously it has to be much higher than the 51% of the major side effects missed. (And unfortunately, ototoxic side effects seem to be relegated to the “minor” category.)

Therefore, you can’t say a drug is “safe” for your ears until years or decades after it has been used by the general public. For example, it took 11 years after Vicodin came on the market before it was found to be ototoxic. It took more than two decades after Erythromycin was released to the public before doctors realized that it was ototoxic. And it took over a century of use (117 years to be exact) before doctors discovered that Acetaminophen was ototoxic. So how long do you have to wait before you declare any given drug to be “safe” and thus eligible for the “safe list”?

3. People vary in their sensitivity to drugs. Therefore, a drug that apparently does not produce any side effects in one person may produce a host of serious side effects in someone that is sensitive to that drug. With this in mind, how do we decide whether a given drug is safe or not?

4. Often side effects are related to dosage—the higher the dose, the more chance you have of getting a side effect, and of that side effect being more severe. Thus, we’d have to know whether a drug had a “safe” level and what that “safe” level was. Here it gets complicated because that “safe” level likely varies considerably with each person (see No. 3 above).

5. Some drugs appear to be safe when taken alone, but when taken in combination with other drugs, the synergistic effect produces unwanted side effects. Since few drug combinations are studied, such resulting side effects are unknown. Thus, we can’t say that a given combination of drugs is always “safe”.

Based on the above, there is no way a person could honestly declare a drug to be truly safe and thus place it on the safe list, and have this list accurate. Therefore, all we can do is compile lists of drugs that have proven themselves to cause certain specific side effects such as tinnitus.

The best I can do, if you ask me about a given drug, is to tell you what I think the risk is. It may be small, but there are no guarantees that it won’t cause you grief. Thus, you needs to do your own “due diligence” before taking any drugs if you wish to avoid (as much as is humanly possible) unwanted ototoxic (and other) side effects.
________

(1) Bauman, Neil. 2010. Ototoxic Drugs Exposed, 3rd Ed. pp. 71-73.

(2) Be an active member of your health care team. 2001. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

(3) Questions about CDER. 2001. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

(4) Waltermire, Richard, R. Ph., MS. 1998. Direct-to-customer advertising of RX drugs can be harmful to your health. From Drug benefit trends. p. 1.

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February 21, 2014: 11:40 am: Dr. NeilLoop Systems

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

I love the Univox DLS-50 home loop systems—and not just because I sell them. Just over a decade ago I was looking for the best home loop system, and I came across the Univox line. After using it myself, I was so impressed with it that I began selling them. We are now the largest Univox home loop system dealer in the USA. That’s how well they work.

From time to time I receive emails telling me how these marvelous little units have changed hard of hearing people’s lives. Here’s one I recently received. I think it will bring tears to your eyes as you read it.

A daughter wrote,

My mother has always been resistant to change, especially where technology that she doesn’t understand is involved. It has taken me 2 years to convince her of the advantages of getting telecoil hearing aids (she is very hard of hearing). She finally had one hearing aid retrofitted with a telecoil (she’s also very conservative and thrifty, even though she can well afford two), but prior to the installation of the Univox DLS-50 there was no technology in her house to take advantage of the telecoil. Now there is, and the change it has made is remarkable!

I hooked up the unit to her TV. Upon the final wire hookup and volume adjustment her face lit up as she listened to the TV show on display. People were talking on the show with background music playing. She sat with wide-eyes for a moment with what I can only describe as an expression of wonder-filled joy, like a child experiencing the joy of Christmas. Her first words were, “I can hear every word they’re saying!” she then turned to me and exclaimed, “Oh, this is wonderful!”

Mom is not one to praise anything or anyone, so her outburst was proof that the loop amplifier met its objective—and exceeded my expectations. Since your company sells the Univox line of loop amplifiers, I wanted you to know what a profound difference this has made in her life—improving her quality of single-living life by re-opening a door once thought hopelessly locked shut. I cannot adequately express my gratitude.

Next on my list: a microphone for me so she can stop trying to read my lips, interrupting every conversation with, ‘Hold on, now slow down, what did you just say?’ Keep in mind that I talk facing her with slightly slower, louder, clear, and distinctive speech. Even with that, and wearing two hearing aids, she has difficulty understanding conversations in the quietude of her living room.

I now have hope—as does she—that all that is about to change. We’re now both pretty excited about the possibilities. If you could only have seen her smiling face and expression of wonder at being able to clearly hear a TV show for the first time in years…

Anyway, I just wanted to tell someone! It’s truly an exciting and remarkable time in which we live that brings a return to hearing to those who have lost it.

Thanks for your heart-warming story of how assistive devices such as the Univox DLS-50 loop amplifier can improve the quality of life for hard of hearing people.

Your mom’s reaction is the kind of reaction numerous people have when they first hear beautiful, clear sound via a loop system. This can be your experience too.

This lady used the Univox DLS-50 home loop system. I do too. In fact, I’ve been using the Univox DLS-50 and before that, the Univox 2A for more than 10 years!

If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful device, read an article I wrote about it 10 years ago, then go to this page to get one for yourself or your loved ones.

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February 14, 2014: 11:36 am: Dr. NeilHearing (General)

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

A man asked,

A product called “Reconnect” by IVL [Institute for Vibrant Living] and Dr. Devin Mikles, M.D. has my attention. Can you give me any information about the validity of this product?

“RECONNECT” seems to be the latest “hearing support supplement” to hit on the market. You can read their slick product brochure here,  and their product label showing a list of all the ingredients and amounts here.

In reading through the list of ingredients, I don’t see anything harmful, so if “RECONNECT” does anything for your ears, it should be helpful.

However, is it really helpful? I have my doubts that a product that needs a slick 20-page “brochure” full of hype and half-truths to stir up your emotions so you’ll buy it is really going to help your ears much. One thing for sure though, it IS good for the seller’s wallet!

This brochure is long on hype and short on facts. It alludes to studies, but never directly quotes the recommendations from these various studies, so you don’t know the proven effective doses of the various ingredients given in those studies.

Here is one example that I happen to be familiar with. “RECONNECT” contains the herbal Ginkgo biloba. So far, so good, since Ginkgo is good for our ears. However, there’s a catch.

Notice that in the list of ingredients it says each capsule contains “Ginkgo Biloba (leaf) 15 mg”. They recommend you take two capsules a day. Thus, you’d be getting 30 mg of Ginkgo leaf per day.

The question is, “Will taking 30 mg of Ginkgo leaf a day significantly help our ears?” To answer this question we have to consider two things. First, we need to know whether the active ingredients in Ginkgo are present, and second, if so, are they present in significant quantities in 30 mg of Ginkgo leaf to make a significant difference to our ears?

How much of the active ingredients are present? Who knows? All it says is “Ginkgo (leaf)” with no indication if even any active ingredient is present. (The active ingredient could be in the leaves, or it could be in the bark, or in the roots, etc. In the past, unscrupulous manufacturers have just packed part of the plant into their capsules without regard to whether the active ingredient was even present in that part of the plant, or present at that stage of the plant’s life cycle. Then they’d label it as containing a certain amount of that plant [which would be true], but without an effective amount of the active ingredient(s), that plant material doesn’t do you any/much good.)

In order to be effective, you need to know that you are getting an effective dose of the active ingredients. The way you know this is when the manufacturer specifically states that the contents of each capsule are standardized to a certain percentage of the active ingredients.

In this case, there is no such statement. As stated on page 143 in my book, “When Your Ears Ring” (1), in order to be effective for tinnitus, Ginkgo biloba extract should be standardized to contain 24% flavone glycosides, 6% terpene lactones and a minimum of 2.6% bilobalide.

Does “RECONNECT” contain this? Almost certainly not since the manufacturer does not state this. A further clue is that it only contains Ginkgo “leaf”, not a standardized Ginkgo extract.

To answer the second question, we need to know if there is enough of the above three active ingredients to produce an effective result.

Incidentally, opponents to Ginkgo point to a number of studies have shown that Ginkgo is not effective in treating tinnitus. Why did these studies show Ginkgo to be ineffective? Because the researchers, deliberately (or otherwise), conducted the study using less than the effective therapeutic dose of the active ingredients.

For example, on page 144 in my book, “When Your Ears Ring” (1) I wrote: “There have been studies that show that Ginkgo does not work for tinnitus, but you need to check into these studies to see what level of Ginkgo extract was used. For example, one study of 978 people concluded that Ginkgo didn’t work. However, the people in this study were only given 150 mg of Ginkgo extract a day, which is less than one third of the 480 mg per day needed to be clinically effective according to the German Commission, one of the authorities on the use of Ginkgo.”

Notice that the effective dose is 480 mg per day of standardized Ginkgo extract in contrast to “RECONNECT’s” paltry 15 mg of “Ginkgo leaf” per capsule.

The “RECONNECT” brochure cites this German Commission by name, but does not give their dosage recommendations, so you don’t realize that you are not getting an effective dose. The moral of this story is that if you are going to use Ginkgo, make sure you take an effective dose if you want effective results for your tinnitus. (Even then, Ginkgo doesn’t work for everyone with tinnitus.)

This is just one example of how “RECONNECT” may use good herbals, but by not containing an effective dose, you are essentially wasting your money.

Let’s look at another ingredient in the “RECONNECT” formula, the mineral magnesium. Magnesium helps protect our ears from damage caused by loud sounds (which they also state). However, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 320 mg (women) and 420 mg (men) (and the therapeutic dose is quite a bit higher). Incidentally, a number of studies have shown that many people are deficient in magnesium. Thus, adding magnesium to your diet can be beneficial to your ear’s health.

“RECONNECT” addresses this lack of magnesium by adding 25 mg of magnesium asparate to each capsule. As they correctly state, this is only 6% of the RDA. What they don’t explain is that magnesium asparate only contains 10% elemental magnesium. Thus the 25 mg of magnesium asparate really only contains 2.5 mg of magnesium, a minuscule half of 1% of the RDA for magnesium. Can you believe that this extra minuscule amount of magnesium is going to correct a significant magnesium deficiency, and thus help your ears? You need an effective dose of magnesium to improve your ear health, not just a token amount.

From these two examples, you can see that while the ingredients may be good for your ears, unless you get an effective dose, you can’t expect much of anything to change.

In addition to not containing effective doses of various ingredients, the brochure is replete with a lot of testimonials that make you think this supplement will improve your hearing, reduce your tinnitus, get rid of your vertigo or Meniere’s disease, etc.

There are two points to consider here as well. First, there is the placebo effect. Someone studied this effect and found that around 17% of the people taking a placebo had positive results, at least in their own minds. The funny thing was it didn’t matter whether the people in the study knew they were taking the placebo or the drug being tested. The placebo effect kicked in just the same. I think the same thing is happening here too.

Second, advertising testimonials are typically “cherry-picked” for the best of the best. This means these testimonials are not the typical or average results you could expect.

Thus, they prey on your emotions and lead you to believe you’ll have results this good or even better! For example on page 9 of the brochure you’ll find this statement, “RECONNECT may be even better than the testimonials in this publication.” They may be, but most likely you will find that you have no such luck.

Here’s some more hype, “By rebuilding the 15,000 sensory hair cells that transmit sound from your ear to your brain, RECONNECT can help you hear what you’ve been missing.” (p. 10.)

The truth is that most people that lose hearing do so because the hair cells die—and “RECONNECT” cannot resurrect dead hair cells. At the most, it can only help rejuvenate “sick” hair cells.

It continues, “And who knows, you could soon get rid of your hearing aids.” Again, they are preying on your emotions by building hope that you can dump your hearing aids with the statement, “who knows”. The truth is “no one knows”, nor is it likely to happen. If it was true, then all audiologists and hearing aid dispensers could be selling “RECONNECT” and quit selling hearing aids. But you know this is not happening.

On the last page it says, “It’s time to RECONNECT and get rid of all your hearing problems!” I have news for them. nothing is going to get rid of all my hearing problems. I was born with both a severe hearing loss and tinnitus, and to imply that I can take “RECONNECT” and all my hearing problems magically go away is just a big fat lie to try to get me to shell out the bucks for their supposed remedy.

Based on how fast and loose the people at “RECONNECT” have been with the truth, and how chintzy they are with the size of the dose of the various ingredients (and I’ve only mentioned 2 of the 15 ingredients), I personally wouldn’t waste my money on this product. But, as I said earlier, I don’t see anything wrong with the ingredients. They have the potential to help, but in the quantities provided in each capsule, I can’t see them helping anyone that has a real problem with their ears.
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(1) Bauman, Neil. 2013. “When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How“.

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