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O.W.L.S. health series turns focus to hearing

February 12, 2014
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

One of the largest crowds to attend the O.W.L.S. series on health turned out to listen to a presentation "All About Hearing Aids." Approximately 40 people gathered in the meeting room of the Pine Island United Methodist Church Friday morning to have breakfast and listen to Charles Cameron, a board certified hearing listening specialist from Hearing Health of SW Florida, LLC.

"As I've gotten older, I often hear my children say to me, 'You know Mom, you're saying WHAT a lot,'" Julie Talmage said. "So finally after several years listening to that, I said, 'OK, I'll get my hearing tested.' So I contacted my insurance company and they told me to go to Hearing Health of SW Florida and I went to see Charles Cameron.

"Charles took me through all of these hearing tests to find out exactly what was wrong with my hearing in both the right ear and the left ear," she continued. "I was so impressed with what I found out, that it was high-high notes and low-low notes. Oh my goodness, there are so many types of hearing aids and what will my insurance pay for and what won't they pay for? How long to they last? I had a million questions and Charles spent the time necessary to explain everything to me."

Article Photos

Left to right: Julie Talmage, Caryle Regan, Chris Schrowe,? Charles Cameron (owner of Hearing Health of SW Florida) and? Ryan Carpenter.??O.W.L.S. series features ‘All About Hearing Aids’ presentation.

"My wife and I started Hearing Health in Southwest Florida about three years ago and I've been in the business for almost 20 years in upstate New York," Cameron said. "I started right out of high school, through college, and worked for the family business until we started the business down here.

"One of the things we look at when a patient comes in is what is their environment?" he continued. "This is important so that the hearing aid is the correct one for your environment. We do an evaluation, take into consideration your environment, the budget and offer all of the available options. We try to educate our patients so they can make the correct decision the first time.

He then discussed things covered in an evaluation.

"Some of the sounds you lose you don't even realize you've lost," he said. "Crickets, a fire burning, walking on leaves or snow or the sound of the ocean. These are high frequency sounds and often people don't realize these sounds have been lost until we put the hearing aids in.

"What people often say is, 'I can hear everything but I don't understand anything,'" he continued. "You tend to say people are mumbling. Low frequencies are male voices and sounds in general."

Cameron gave the audience a tour of the ear. There are three parts of the ear: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer ear consists of the ear canal and ear drum. Sounds travel into the ear canal, striking the eardrum causing it to vibrate. The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum containing three small bones called the ossicles. These small bones are connected to the eardrum at one end and to an opening at the other. Vibrations from the eardrum cause the ossicles to vibrate which in turn creates movement of the fluid in the inner ear. Movement of the fluid in the inner ear (cochlea) causes changes in tiny structures called hair cells. The movement of these hair cells sends electric signals to the auditory nerve and then to the brain where everything is interpreted.

"The average amount of time people wait to see me is seven years," Cameron said. "The problem with this is that over time those hair cells I mentioned earlier have deteriorated. When a patient comes in early and gets tested and then fitted with a hearing aid they can recover 100 percent. But if they wait, say five years, and come back for the hearing aids they might be at 60 percent. So, the earlier the better. It's called auditory deprivation. If you don't stimulate those tiny little hairs they die off.

"Hearing loss can be caused by any number of things," he continued. "Some people are born with it. Genetics can cause hearing loss. If mom, dad, grandparents had hearing loss there's a good chance you will also."

He went on to say, "Work can cause hearing loss. A lot of our vets are coming home with hearing loss. These are high frequency hearing loss. Motorcycles, heavy equipment, construction workers are exposed to sounds that can damage their hearing.

"Sometimes it's as simple as earwax," he added. "Patients come in and they think they're losing their hearing the problem can be solved with a simple cleaning. So if you're having trouble just come in and we can clean them out for you and send you on your way."

Tinnitus is a common problem. It can be in one or both ears. It has been described as a ringing noise but in some patients it may sound like crickets, whistling, buzzing, ticking, tunes, songs or even human voices.

"The industry has never figured out where tinnitus comes from or what causes it," Cameron said. "My philosophy is it is about high frequency. If you have a high frequency hearing loss, tinnitus is the symptom of high frequency hearing loss. But there is no definitive answer. One new innovation in the industry is what's called a 'tinnitus masker.' It's built right into the hearing aid and has been very successful.

"If you are saying, 'Boy these young people mumble,' they aren't mumbling," he continued. "Or if you're turning up the TV or the radio. Hearing aid technology has advanced so much in the last five years we can now do things that seemed impossible. Today we have directional microphones one in front and one in back. This enables us to control the volume of background noise much better. I could probably go on for hours about the new technology available today.

"Hearing aids, for a pair, run from about $1,500 all the way up to $10,000. What it comes down to is what your particular needs are. Our goal is to educate you so that when you leave our office you have enough information to really make the right decision. As long as we've done that we've done our job."

One of those in attendance asked if Medicare covers hearing aids.

"Unfortunately Medicare doesn't cover a dime," he said.

Another asked, "Do you have facilities all over or just here in Southwest Florida. Can I get care when we go back up north?"

"This is something you want to be careful of," Cameron said. "If you're snowbirds, you want a large company with locations near where you spend your summers. We find the right hearing center for our clients that are here only part time."

Hearing Health of SW Florida offices are in Cape Coral, 2816 Del Prado Blvd., S., 239-471-7148, and in North Fort Myers, 8190 Littleton Road, 239-599-2174.



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