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Ear Wars: Looped in to Listening

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Richard Einhorn lost much of his hearing last year, he thought he might never enjoy a live performance again. But then the 57-year-old composer discovered a new technology for the impaired -- called a hearing loop. Today, he joins us to share how the tiny device radically transformed his experience of sound. Plus, Dr. Neil Sperling, of the New York Otolaryngology Group, discusses new advances in listening for an aging population.

Listeners: Tell us about your experience with hearing loss. Or, do you have a question for Dr. Sperling? Call us at 212-433-WNYC or leave a comment.


Richard Einhorn and Neil Sperling

Comments [14]

Chris Cassell from Chicago

A couple of questions for Dr. Sperling:

Question #1
How far has digital signal processing in hearing aids progressed in compensating for the general decibel loss, the frequency response of that loss and possibly other deficit artifacts?

Question #2
Is there any information on how well t-coil equipped hearing aids work with hearing assistance RF receivers equipped with a neck loop antenna in place of headphones?

Oct. 27 2011 04:28 PM
Dr. F from NYC

To the Staff of Soundcheck and WNYC:

I would like share that I, too, was moved to tears on several occasions during your interview of both the very talented and articulate composer, Richard Einhorn, as well as your "very own" Dr. Neil Sperling. As a both former performer (actor/singer/musician) and doctor, I appreciated greatly what both individuals described and elaborated on: a condition which is a reality for too many individuals and which I have to live with myself. I will quickly clarify that my "disability" in no way even begins to approximate what Maestro Einhorn experienced, lives with and works through on a daily basis. My emotional response was strictly out of empathy. I could not begin to imagine living the way he does and sincerely applaud his heroism. I'm also grateful for his sharing the technology which can change many people's existence with your audience. I live with unilateral tinnitus virtually 24/7, but not the cacophony Mr. Einhorn is forced to hear. My "deafness" is limited to one ear and only to sounds in the "High Frequency" range. I do, however, experience that exquisite sensitivity to load sounds. That’s insult added to injury when that "disruptive" and even painful sound is emanating from the mouths of one or more of your beloved children. But, again, I must stress how much worse his condition is. In essence, I should be - and am - grateful that it wasn't a different outcome for me. Nonetheless, I could relate to much of what he said, including the initial presentation. As a physician, I knew exactly what to do and wasn't in the least frightened by the situation. I was, perhaps, unusually optimistic, I guess. I received treatment from a specialist, like Dr. Sperling, within hours. This brings me to how touched I was by the compassion towards and understanding of the people from all walks of life who are plagued by this condition and its "collateral damage," which he demonstrated. I most respectfully extend kudos to Dr. Neil and thank you all for a most informative show, which, I am sure, rang with the sound of hope for many who are less fortunate than I.

With profound gratitude,

Dr. F

Oct. 27 2011 03:00 PM
Robert from NYC

I lost all hearing in my left ear due to nerve damage as a child from infections. This happened over time. When you mention losing hearing suddenly it concerns me greatly. In the past few years I have had vertigo episodes, which gave me migranes and dizziness. However, no hearing loss during or after these episodes.
I was told they were due to a viral infection.
With these infections am I at risc for losing all hearing in my good ear? How common is this? Thanx.

Oct. 26 2011 10:45 PM
Denise from Somers, NY

I am a boomer, and have hearing loss due to three instances of blowing out my ear drums - two on flights, one from allergies. I have tinitous - and miss many conversations, mostly my family's but at work it is VERY embarassing. Where do I get the loop?

Oct. 26 2011 10:29 PM

I developed tinnitus and hyperacusis - but no hearing loss - suddenly in 2004. After my first panic attack and a significant depressive episode, I ultimately found my way to the Center for Hearing and Communication, where I underwent Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. The hyperacusis went away, I still have tinnitus - but it no longer bothers me because my mind blocks it out. I am 63 and urge people who suffer from it to see an sympathetic ENT - some will tell you nothing can be done - and try it if you can afford it (I don't recall insurance covering most of it). I now protect my ears with audiophile ear plugs and avoid headphones, which undo the training, at least temporarily.

Here's the link. I hope it helps you.

Oct. 26 2011 10:27 PM
Judy Miller from New Jersey

As a Hearing Assistive Technology trainer, it was interesting to listen to Richard Einhorn's experience with sudden hearing loss. He mentioned learning about loop amplification systems at the HEARING LOSS ASSOCIATION of AMERICA'S annual convention in Washington D.C. "The Transduction Loop" is an amplification system that has been in use for decades in classrooms and in some public venues. It is finally becoming more well known and hopefully will see greater use around the country.
The Hearing Loss Association of America is a national non profit, self-help organization for those with hearing losses. It is vital resource for anyone interested in learning more about hearing loss and finding out about hearing assistive technologies. Local information is available from state chapters which are listed on their website,

Oct. 26 2011 03:38 PM
andy novick from Brooklyn

I have tinnitus 24/7 and once had rupture of left eardrum. From a skin diving accident...the eardrum was repaired but now, 20 years later my tinnitus is very bad...any advice...can I see a doctor for this condition?

Oct. 26 2011 02:59 PM
Kris from Long Island

I'm an Iraq War Veteran, 26 years old, and have hearing loss for obvious reasons. However, when I'm tested at the VA with the beeping headphones in a silent room that I assume everyone's familiar with... And the test where they play a static noise while they ask me to repeat words that I hear... The test results say I don't have any significant hearing loss.

My hearing problem is similar to the example you played of the airport announcement- it's hard for me to focus on a single voice when there is ANY ambient noise. Any time there's a TV or radio on, or I'm in a crowded room, communication is extremely difficult for me. How can I prove to the VA that this problem is real and persistent despite their test results? Is there another test I can ask for?

Oct. 26 2011 02:35 PM
Carole from NYC - Manhattan

I have had constant tinnitus in both ears for about a year and a half. It was constant following a visit to a painfully loud bar on the UWS (a going away party for someone in their 30s). I'm 57 and notice that now when I'm in a group of people, I have difficulty hearing conversation. My 88 year old mother is now profoundly deaf and 'gets by' with 2 hearing aids. There is such a denial that occurs when people begin to notice hearing loss -- often humorously laughing off 'mis-hearings' -- when they should be doing something to help themselves.

Glad to hear about new technology to improve hearing -- and the more discrete the better, since there is such a stigma attached to hearing aids.

Where should someone begin -- to have their hearing checked and learn if a hearing aid would be helpful?

Oct. 26 2011 02:33 PM
Denise Parker from Detroit Michigan

My daughter was born with congenital hearing loss, bi-lateral mild to moderate. She has been aided since six weeks old. Her school is all equipped with FM systems that work with her aids. (She wears an accessory when at school to "hook into" the FM system). Is the Loop system better than FM for classrooms? Or is it better for a place of mixed use, where some people have hearing loss and some do not?

Oct. 26 2011 02:30 PM
Barbara Bell from Upper Saddle River, NJ

In June of 2010 I lost partial hearing (low notes) in my right ear. It presented itself with clogged ear and nose. I thought it was an allergy. After an MRI, it was determined that I had a virus which caused the hearing loss. I consider myself lucky since it improved slightly and I do not suffer from tinnitus or vertigo. Chiropractic, deep tissue massage, and neti pot may or may not have contributed to the slight improvement. What is the doctor's opinion on those therapies?

Oct. 26 2011 02:28 PM
Barry from Lower East Side

Great show! Most of us take hearing for granted. NO MORE. The clips that Richard Einhorn produced to show us how he hears were fascinating.

Oct. 26 2011 02:27 PM
Celia from east village

When I'm on the subway and I can't hear my own iPOD (at a reasonable volume!) over the sound leaking from someone elses headphones, I can' help but wonder what those people are doing to their own hearing! So many take their hearing for granted. This new technology is so needed and welcomed!!

Oct. 26 2011 02:24 PM
Marcio from NY, NY

man, after i hear soundcheck about hearing loops i'm not going to put the volume so high when i'm hearing music no more when i'm sleeping.

Oct. 26 2011 02:21 PM

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