Dr. Wright's Blog

The Use of Red Noise - Tinnitus Sound Support

Peter is one of my most “severe” tinnitus patients.  I have known him now for about 6 years and he has been all over North America seeking help to manage his tinnitus.  He went through the Tinnitus Retraining Therapy program at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver and was one of the initial people to use white noise to help with his tinnitus.  He has been to the Mayo clinic on several occasions seeking help to manage his tinnitus. 

He came into my office days away from resorting to having surgery on his stapedial and tensor tympani muscles.  He was going to have doctors laser cut them in an attempt to lessen the tinnitus. 

A few months before I saw Peter, I was learning about the use of “red noise” to manage tinnitus.  Red noise has more energy at lower frequencies, even more so than pink noise. It decreases in power by 6 dB per octave and has a softer quality compared to the traditional white noise that is often used for tinnitus sound support. The sound is a low roar resembling a waterfall or heavy rainfall and is considered “more pleasing” for many people who have tinnitus.

As Peter had tried white noise in the past and had found it beneficial, I wanted to make sure that I had that as an option for him.  But I also wanted to try the red noise to see if we could decrease the tinnitus even further.   I had to convince Peter to move from the white to the red noise as he was reluctant. 

Today I saw Peter and the first thing he said was “I have great news; I hardly hear my tinnitus at all.  I am barely aware of it when I am using these and I really feel like you have saved my life.”  Peter is finally able to get off his sleeping medication because with the use of the red noise he no longer needs it.  The quality of life difference for Peter is incredible. 

We are using the Oticon Alta Pro 1 Receiver In The Ear hearing aids with the red noise program and no modulation.  He has said to me that he would be happy to talk about his journey with tinnitus and assist anyone who needs to talk someone who has been in their shoes. 

If you would like Peter to call you, email me at drwright@broadmeadhearing.com

If you would like to learn more about the Oticon hearing aids with tinnitus sound support, email or call me at 250-479-2921 to set up an appointment.

Active vs. Passive Listening

Sometimes in clinic I hear people describe listening as “reaching to hear”.    I interpret that as a sense of working to listen.  This is also what is referred to as active listening.  What people with normal hearing fail to understand is that when you have hearing loss, most of your listening is active listening.  Even with the use of hearing aids, making a concentrated effort to hear is required.  This is in contrast to the passive listening that many people with normal hearing do without even thinking about it. 

For example, I'm chopping vegetables in the kitchen and my husband starts out of the blue asking me about where I put the kids’ hockey skates.  This is out of context to what I am doing and he is not facing me and is actively looking for the skates, and he didn’t get my attention prior to speaking.  But, incredibly, the sounds flowed through to my brain unimpeded and I was able to answer the question without needing it repeated.  Our brains are amazing to be able to do this so fluidly. 

It’s not that easy when someone has hearing loss.  It takes more time to localize the sound source and catch the first few words so right off the bat, the person with hearing loss could need repetition before the 3rd word of the question is said.  There is one quick and easy tip.  Use the person’s name.  Getting someone’s attention prior to launching into speech switches the attention to active listening and then, not unlike being in the ready position when you are shortstop in a baseball game, the hard of hearing person  can catch the conversation ball and not fall behind. 

This can be incredibly helpful not only to the listener, but to the speaker as well as it may be the key to not having to repeat.


Tinnitus Solution Given FDA Clearance

In the fall of last year Broadmead Hearing Clinic was asked to be a clinical trial test site for Otoharmonics to evaluate their new tinnitus treatment methods.  We had a number of participants from our locations contribute to the overall study, which has finally been approved by the FDA.  We are very excited about this news because many people who received the treatment in the trial were seeking to continue the treatment following the conclusion of the trial because they found their tinnitus to be reduced as a result of using their Levo device. 

Tinnitus is a growing concern and for years, people were told there was "nothing they could do about it".  This is happily no longer the case as more inventive products and technology are coming to market to serve the needs of this population.  We see many people with bothersome tinnitus that we can almost always help. 

We were lucky to have been able to work with local Starfish Medical to help to improve the interface that Audiologists and patients will use in the future. 


Patience - A Conversation

The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with Brian who is a patient of mine and has been wearing hearing aids for 5 years. I want to share it as it helps to show the process it takes to find the right hearing aid for each individual person.

“Thank you for your patience”, he said. 

“You are welcome”. I responded. “I understand.  This is an important decision.  After all, what else do you use 12 to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week?”

“Exactly. Not even my car and I paid a lot more for that!  Plus my hearing aids have a much larger effect on my overall quality of life than my car does.  I love that quote you have hanging on your wall by Helen Keller.  You know, the one that says Blindness separates us from things, but Deafness separates us from people”.

“I love that quote”, I replied. 

“Don’t get me wrong, he said.  There are many people who I could care less if I don’t hear.  After all, half of what they say is babbling anyway."

I laugh and agree.  “OK, so let’s figure out what it is exactly that you need this hearing aid to do.  What I heard you say was that the previous hearing aid you tried made music sound tinny and you had trouble on the phone?”

“Yes”, he replied.  “I don’t talk on the phone often, but when I do, I need it to work”.

I think for a few minutes of all the options available in the hearing aid marketplace.  We identify the need for better music fidelity, phone use, easy to change batteries and discrete sizing.  “What about pricing?” I ask.  “Do you have a budget for this?” 

“Yes.  I am wondering if we can keep it lower than $3000 for both of them.”

“No problem" I reply.  "We can get a lot of amazing technology for that price point.  There are hearing aids at $1000 for both that we can try if you like first, but I am not sure it will meet all of the needs you mentioned above”. 

“You are the Audiologist”, he replied.  I consider carefully all of the hearing aids from each manufacturer as they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  Some companies have niche products that work very well for the phone, but I am not sure it will meet this gentleman’s needs for cosmetics.  Finally, after scrolling through the specs on different hearing aids I find one that will match all of his requirements. 

“Now we just have to pick the color, the fun part”, I smile.

We settle on a very small hearing aid made by Widex called the Passion.  It has a special mechanism that improves the sound quality of music above all other aids.  As well, it has a feature where when he answers the phone, it directs the call to both hearing aids.  I also include a free wireless phone that is made by Widex that directly connects to the aids,  it's much more effective than telecoil.  As well, the battery is easy to change and it gives him an audible alert where a woman’s voice says “Battery Low” when it is time to change the battery.  I tell him about the 3 year warrantee, the loss warrantee as well as the battery supply he gets.  He also decides to get an adaptor for his TV to allow the volume of the TV to stream directly into his hearing aids. 

“My wife will like this”, he says.  “I watch sports center at night while she reads next to me and I can’t tell you how many times she has asked me to turn down the volume.  Now I can turn the volume right off and have the audio go direct to my hearing aids”.

“Great”, I reply.  He his impressed by our free services for life when I explain that part.  He knows from being a previous user of hearing aids that there is a relationship that develops with your Audiologist.

“My Audiologist is as important to me as my doctor”, he mentions.  I smile to consider that compliment.  “When I can’t hear things, it wreaks havoc on my relationships”. 

We book an appointment for him to return so that I can do a proper fitting of his hearing aids and allow him to begin his 90 day trial.  “Do you have a later appointment?  I want to bring my wife and she works until 5pm”.

“Of course, I reply, I will book you to come in at 5:30 next Tuesday.  Does that work for you?”
“Perfect”, he responds.  “I will see you then, and Erin; Thanks”.


Hearing Fact

More than 8 million Canadians have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually they do not realize it is happening.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.