First Jack Anderson Memorial Classroom
Sound Field System Installed

 Diana Schonberg and her first-grade class along with I.N. Fehr, who made the donation.

Richardson, Tex—Last year, on Friday, October 8, Jack Anderson, president of Audio Enhancement, lost his life on a canoe trip down the Guadalupe River outside of Kerrville, Tex, during an outing related to the annual Scott Haug Audiology Retreat. Anderson, an expert in the field of assistive devices, touched the lives of many people he never knew, and was widely relied upon for advice about installing ALD systems. Upon learning of his death, I.N. Fehr of Dallas contributed to his memory, and in conjunction with the Scott Haug Foundation, the first Jack Anderson Memorial Classroom Sound Field System was installed.

Diana Schonberg’s first-grade classroom at Remington Elementary School in Flower Mound, Texas, was chosen as the recipient in an effort to improve the signal-to-noise ratio for students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but also to allow Schonberg to hear her students better. Schonberg is hearing impaired, and has been having difficulty understanding the children. They now pass the microphone to one another so she can easily understand their responses and questions.

The school’s PTA was reportedly impressed at how easy the Audio Enhancement Sound Field system was to install, and say the initial outcome has been very positive. As a result, the Flower Mound School System is seriously considering fund-raising projects that would allow them to expand the amplified classroom concept to many more classrooms and schools. Further contributions to the memorial fund can be made to: St. Joseph’s Institute of the Deaf, c/o Sister Joyce Buckler, 1809 Clarkson Rd, Chesterfield, MO 63017-5065.


Hearing Instrument Sales Gain Steam in Second Quarter
Alexandria, Va—According to Hearing Industries Assn (HIA) statistics, total US net unit sales of hearing instruments increased by a total of 4.3% during the second quarter of 2005 compared to the same period last year, despite a -6.7% sales decrease in dispensing activity by the Veterans Administration. When ignoring the the number of units dispensed by the VA—which comprised about 15% of all hearing aid units sold in 2004—private sector hearing instrument sales rose by 6.2%.

Two major trends in hearing instrument dispensing in recent years has been the increased use of digital and behind-the-ear (BTE) technologies. Digital signal processing (DSP) hearing aids comprised 88.05% of the market, which is nearly identical to first quarter statistics (87.9%). However, the use of digital BTE hearing instruments increased from 25.1% of the market in the first quarter of 2005 to 27.1% in the second quarter. A total of 26.4% of all hearing aids sold in 2004 were of the BTE style. This trend in greater BTE use has been attributed to the both directional microphone hearing aids (and certain advantages offered by BTE aids) and open-ear technology, as well as new styles of hearing aids based on BTE designs.


SHHH Applauds FCC Decision on Wireless Phone Accessibility
Washington, DC—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently affirmed its commitment to ensuring people with hearing loss have cell phones that they can use (see July HR News, p 10). In response to requests for reconsideration of the rules, the FCC retained some rules, modified some, and asked for further comments on others. The FCC required Tier 1 carriers (the largest five companies) to make available at least four models (or 25%) of hearing aid compatible phones by September 18, 2005 and five the following year. By 2008, 50% of cell phones offered by Tier 1 carriers should be hearing aid compatible.

In an effort to find common ground with the wireless industry, SHHH worked together with the Wireless Association (CTIA) to develop a package of offerings that will hopefully reduce consumer confusion in finding an appropriate cell phone and give them a range of options. The consumer-industry agreement is reported by SHHH to help create a reasonable selection of phones at a wide range of prices. Consumers will be allowed to test the phones in-store before making a purchase. Combined with the flexible return policy that allows real-world testing for 30 days, this agreement will give consumers a better chance to find a phone that they can use. Further, CTIA member companies agreed to promote the hearing aid accessible phones using their own in-store displays. 

“To stay competitive, no telecommunications company can ignore the huge group of people with hearing loss in the United States,” says Brenda Battat, associate executive director of SHHH, who has worked on cell phones accessibility since 1995. “That market is 28 million today, and is predicted to reach 78 million by 2030. Hearing aid and cochlear implant users will have a better experience shopping for a cell phone starting this fall—thanks to a new kind of collaborative effort between consumers and industry. Finally, people with hearing loss will have more freedom and mobility with cell phones.”

As cell phone manufacturers assume responsibility for creating accessible technology and carriers comply with the hearing aid compatibility rules, the consumer complaints that preceded this ruling may not be as necessary in the future. A recent effort by CTIA to eliminate the in-store testing rule led to a massive response in FCC Commissioner Michael Copps’ office. “We heard from consumers across the country about the importance of one of our rules in particular, the rule that requires retailers to make in-store testing of hearing aid compatible phones available upon request,” Copps said in a prepared statement. “We wisely decide to maintain this rule today, and explore whether we should extend it to retailers that are not owned or operated by wireless carriers.”

Cellular phones were originally exempt from the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988, and consumer advocates have had to fight long and hard to achieve even the level of access that they have today. In a prepared statement, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said that, as a regulator, he has been guided in making decisions by “one key principle: that the public interest means securing access to communications for everyone, including those the market may leave behind.”


Phonak Savia Honored with Design Award
Warrenville, Ill—The Phonak Savia hearing instrument has been awarded the 2005 Medical Design Excellence Award, which recognizes contributions to and advances in the design of medical products. The Savia product line reportedly incorporates 10 new technologies into its design, and is said to be the first hearing system to implement the unique capabilities of biological systems using state-of-the-art digital technology.

The award competition evaluates design and engineering features that improve patient benefits, health care delivery and change in traditional medical attitudes or practices. Phonak was honored at a ceremony during the Medical Design & Manufacturing East Conference and Exposition, June 13-15, in New York City.

“With Savia, we are entering a new era in hearing instrument technology,” says Cathy Jones, president of Phonak in the United States. “We are honored by the MDEA judges’ recognition of Savia’s Digital Bionics. This award further supports our mission to substantially improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired individuals by offering not only breakthrough sound enhancement, but the continuation of cutting-edge aesthetics and design.”


ATA Research to Simplify Tinnitus Diagnosis

 Portland, Ore—New research funded by the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) may simplify diagnosis of tinnitus and improve understanding of the underlying mechanisms that cause persistent ringing in the ears.

The ATA’s Board of Directors has awarded nearly $70,000 to Anthony T. Cacace, PhD, of the Neurosciences Institute of Albany (New York) Medical Center, and Steven Silver, MD, chief of otolaryngology at the Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (also in Albany), for a one-year study to develop a database of images that show brain activity in people who have normal hearing.

Cacace and Silver will use a brain imaging methodology, known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), to create the library of images and associated MR spectra. These data will become the baseline for research that may show how the brains of people with noise-induced tinnitus differ from others. Analysis of the images will focus on a potent brain chemical called gamma aminobutric acid (GABA). Researchers already know that brain images from people who have noise-induced tinnitus show lower-than-normal levels of GABA. Cacace and Silver hope a second year of research will confirm a direct correlation between reduced GABA levels and the presence of noise-induced tinnitus.

Richard J. Salvi, PhD, chairman of the ATA’s Scientific Advisory Committee and a tinnitus researcher at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, noted that Cacace and Silver’s study may lead to new protocols for diagnosing tinnitus based on a simple non-invasive brain image. “Documenting a reliable pattern of brain chemical levels and areas of brain activity could simplify diagnosis and increase accuracy when defining the underlying cause,” Salvi said. "It may also allow us to eventually correlate which treatments work best, depending upon the cause of the tinnitus.”

Salvi says people with tinnitus still frequently encounter health care providers who do not understand the condition and don’t know that viable methods for dealing with tinnitus exist. This lack of awareness means many people are told to “just live with the noise” and learn to ignore it. “If the noise sounds like a jet engine in your ear 24 hours a day, that’s a pretty useless piece of advice,” Salvi says. “We hope that the Cacace and Silver research will give the worldwide tinnitus research community valuable data that may help advance a cure for ringing in the ears.”.

Armed with the baseline images in the second year of the proposed research, Cacace & Silver will compare them to images from two groups: first, brain images from people who have noise-induced hearing loss but no tinnitus; and second, to brain images from people with both noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. The findings will be published following completion of the research project in 2006, under terms of the grant.


Bio-logic Signs Agreement with Novation
Mundelein, Ill—Bio-logic Systems Corp has reported the signing of a three-year contract with Novation, the supply services company of VHA Inc and the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHSC), for Bio-logic to serve as a sole source supplier of infant hearing diagnostic equipment and supplies, and a dual source supplier of infant screening systems and disposables. The agreement is effective May 1, 2005, and runs through April 30, 2008.

“Partnering with Novation is a natural fit for Bio-logic,” says Gabriel Raviv, chairman and CEO of Bio-logic. “Both organizations share the philosophy of providing value through competitive pricing and innovation, and helping users of their products and services remain at the forefront of the evolving health care marketplace. Though Bio-logic prides itself on being the technology leader in the hearing industry, what sets us apart from the competition is our added focus on customer support and leadership in providing education on new technologies to hearing professionals. Our innovative A-C-E program, or Audiology Centers for Excellence, is bringing Bio-logic together with approximately seven leading university hearing programs, many of which are Novation members, to elevate the clinical competency and thought process for students, educators, and practitioners through the power of continuing education.”

“Having the full range of our infant screening and diagnostic products and disposables, such as the new HALO Ear Muffin™, available to the over 2,400 members represented by Novation offers a significant sales opportunity,” says Bio-Logic president and COO Roderick G. Johnson, “but more importantly gives us the chance to develop deeper relationships with these members as they become more familiar with Bio-logic.”


UTD Procures Major Grant to Study Cochlear Implant Device Programming
Richardson, Tex—When cochlear implants were introduced commercially in the 1980s, the prosthetic devices opened up a new world of hearing to many who were profoundly deaf. The implants, which deliver electrical stimuli to the auditory nerve thus providing at least partial hearing, have improved to the point where most patients with the devices are able to carry on a conversation without lip-reading or signing, and some are able to use the telephone.

But the devices are not perfect. Many users have difficulty hearing in noisy conditions, such as those found in a restaurant or other public place. In addition, the simple process of listening to music may be fraught with frustration, having been likened by some patients as hearing “noise with rhythm.” In an effort to improve the performance of cochlear implants—and the hearing of those who use them—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently provided Philip C. Loizou, PhD, a faculty member at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), with a 5-year, $1.5-million grant to program cochlear implants to operate more effectively in a range of listening conditions.

“Currently, cochlear implant patients are fitted with a single program that is used in every listening situation,” says Loizou, an electrical engineering professor in UTD’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “The goal of the NIH-funded project is to develop new signal-processing algorithms tailored for music and noise. In the near future, we envision patients being fitted with at least three distinct programs: one they can use in relatively quiet environments, one for noisy environments, and another for listening to music.”

Loizou’s project will include the testing of cochlear implant patients from the Otolaryngology Department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. In addition, the study will tap the clinical expertise of UT Southwestern physicians, as well as audiologists at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at UTD.

Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the outer, middle, and inner ear, and directly stimulate auditory nerve fibers, which send information to the brain. The devices have proven to be beneficial to children and adults who have severe to profound hearing loss and who cannot hear or understand speech with hearing aids. Loizou, who joined the faculty at UTD in 1999, directs two laboratories at the university—the Cochlear Implant Laboratory and the Speech Processing Lab.


Latest Research Suggests that Untreated Hearing Loss Accounts for $100 Billion in Lost Income
Alexandria, Va—Research associated with an article published in the July edition of The Hearing Review points to a growing number of people in the US with hearing loss, a still-low percentage of people seeking hearing help, and $100 billion in lost income per year due to untreated hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). More than 31.5 million Americans find it difficult to hear without a hearing aid, an increase of 9.9% since 2000. BHI researchers also documented that untreated hearing loss has a tremendously negative effect on individual incomes.

The BHI MarkeTrak survey, the most comprehensive of its kind, found that:

  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem, and most people with hearing loss are still in the workforce (younger than 65).
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss.
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems.

Yet, despite the rising incidence of hearing loss, only about 1 out of 4 (23.5%) people with this problem use hearing instruments. And more than 1 million children with hearing problems are not getting treated.

BHI researchers found that—for the 24 million Americans with untreated hearing loss—the impact of doing nothing about this problem equates to at least $100 billion in lost income per year. The research revealed that, whether your hearing problem is treated or not, you are likely to lose some income in the course of your working life. However, on average, the income decline is cut in half for hearing aid owners. The average amount of income lost by working people who do not get hearing aids ranges from $1,000 a year (for those with mild hearing loss) to $12,000 a year (for those with profound hearing loss). Of course, individuals can gain or lose a lot more, depending on their income levels, age, and the severity of hearing loss.

“People are still embarrassed to admit they have a hearing loss and get hearing aids,” says BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD. “But the price of their vanity is lost earnings for the rest of their lives, a diminished ability to communicate effectively, family problems, and a host of other troubles. When you seem out of touch because you can’t hear, other people may incorrectly believe you are stupid; in effect your untreated hearing loss ends up being much more noticeable than modern hearing devices in your ears.”

Once people try hearing aids, the vast majority feel their lives have improved, according to the BHI survey findings. Overall consumer satisfaction with new digital hearing instruments is 77.5%, an increase of more than 14 percentage points since 2000. “With the increase of Bluetooth for cell phones and the growth of MP3 players with earphones, there is greater acceptance of devices for the ear,” Kochkin says. “We hope this trend helps people overcome their anxieties about using instruments to aid hearing.”

The BHI’s MarkeTrak survey utilized 53,000 members of the National Family Opinion (NFO panel) to track the incidence of identified hearing loss in the United States. MarkeTrak VII appears in the July Hearing Review, pgs 16-29. To download a copy of the most recent survey, visit the BHI Web site at www.betterhearing.org. The research on income loss is not included in MarketTrak but was compiled by analyzing data from the same households. The full report will be published separately, pending review of additional data.