Ménière's Disease Grantee Featured in Reader's Digest

  Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Ian Swinburne, Ph.D., a 2018 Ménière's Disease Grant (MDG) recipient, shared his expertise regarding vertigo with Reader's Digest in an article called "What Causes Vertigo? 15 Things Neurologists Wish You Knew" published in March 2018. 

"The spinning, dizzying loss of balance which earmarks vertigo can come without warning," the article opens. Various professionals provide information about its duration, how it feels, and different types.

HHF-funded Dr. Swinburne notes specifically that the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière's disease can cause vertigo. He explains that "[b]outs of vertigo likely arise in patients with Ménière's disease, because the inner ear's tissue tears from too much fluid pressure—causing the ear's internal environment to become abnormal.'" He is currently pursuing a research project to understand the inner ear stabilizes fluid composition, which he believes will help to identify ways to restore or elevate this function to mitigate or cure Ménière's disease.

View the full article from Reader's Digest, here.

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Ugly Emotions

By Lisa Peten

Some time ago, I was having a text conversation with a friend who also has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. When I relayed to her that I am thankful in many ways for the changes that have occurred in having this condition, she was outraged that I would say such a thing. This prompted her to rant 1,001 ways in which her hearing loss is essentially ruining her life.


Despite being 20 years my senior, we share similar emotions in dealing with our late-deafened and hard-of-hearing experiences. Since we are usually so very aligned in our thoughts and emotions, I imagine my appreciation for this condition caused her outrage and to be even more perplexed about my gratitude for this condition. In any event, we hashed through this discussion and came to an “agree to disagree” conclusion which posed a crossroads in our friendship. We closed this discussion with authentic, raw emotion, conjuring up dispassionate experiences which urged persuasion to change the other’s mind. In the end, we were both thankful for the honest sharing and I learned a thing or two more about compassion and empathy.

I learned that “ugly” emotions (i.e. rage, envy, and hate) about being deaf/hard-of-hearing have not been given the time, space, or energy to address them. They are sometimes buried falsely with the perception that these types of emotions are unacceptable. Emotions like helplessness, frustration, and sadness seem to easily find ready support, but the ugly emotions present an elephant in the room never to be acknowledged.

After years of being unsuccessful in burying “ugly” emotions, I found three techniques to love yourself through these moments:

Share Immediately

For a long time I told no one except my family about my hearing challenges. It was too vulnerable an act for me to bare. Nowadays, sharing this detail immediately has had a positive effect on my experiences at restaurants, retail establishments, and even medical visits beyond the ENT and audiologists. Lessons learned along the way has taught me to release the emotions quickly, to avoid an emotional explosion later.

Dispense Energy

When emotions of any kind, especially the ugly, surface, dispensing activity provides another early release. In the past, I would practically run from humiliating situations when hearing incorrectly. Now, I can easily own up to the error and explain my hearing loss. While the embarrassment is still present, it does release my ugly emotions and allow the moment to pass without festering.

Forgive with Compassion

I continue to struggle with others’ reactions to my hearing loss. Eleven years after my diagnosis, I still feel sullen when I communicate with people who I have known before my hearing loss. Often times, after they learn of my hearing loss, they speak louder and unconsciously use body language to essentially ignore me, especially during group conversations. I know this is ignorance or discomfort on their part, but it still hurts. I have learned to fire away compassion for all of us in order to ease these emotionally ugly moments.

I hope the point of contention of my hearing loss someday subsides. However, in the meantime, I will own all emotions associated with my hearing loss, and will remember to extend greater compassion and empathy to those of us who need it when ugly-filled emotions become present.

Lisa Peten is a self-help hearing coach, mind-body empowerment speaker, and health advocate blogger, on a mission to empower health-hungry communities to become more proactive in obtaining nourishing foods and seeking holistic health alternatives. She is the founder of Sound Health and Hearing, a health coaching boutique consultancy. She is also a participant in HHF's Faces of Hearing Loss campaign.

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HHF Welcomes John Dillard, Retired U.S. Army Colonel, to Board of Directors

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) recently welcomed COL John T. Dillard, USA (Ret) to its  Board of Directors. A Cold War Veteran, COL Dillard lives with tinnitus and hearing loss—the two most common war injuries—as a result of repeated exposure to gunfire and blasts.

John Dillard e-appeal photo.jpg

COL Dillard is currently a Senior Lecturer for Systems Acquisition Management at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, where he has been employed since his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2000. His curricula focus on system developments to advance technology and warfighting capabilities. At the NPS, COL Dillard also counsels young military officers as they cope with the effects of tinnitus including sleep, concentration, and mood issues.

Previously, COL Dillard held positions as an instructor at the U.S. Army War College and an adjunct professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In the latter, he educated Silicon Valley public and private industry professionals in Project Management. The full-text versions of his own many written works on managing technology efforts are available on ResearchGate.

In addition to his present role at the NPS, COL Dillard is a Defense Department Consumer Reviewer for the annual Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program for scientific proposals in the areas of tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss research. COL Dillard says that he "hopes to contribute in a tangible way to HHF’s drive to restore hearing for countless people affected by its loss."

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Security Updates to HHF Donation Page: Action Required

By Lauren McGrath


Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is committed to maintaining transparency with our constituents. In addition to our pledge that all contributions are well-invested—100% of all donations benefit our critical research and awareness programs—HHF promises to uphold data security best practices with online gifts.

We request that you make two simple updates to you ensure you can donate to HHF online in the future. Follow the links included here for guidance making the changes:

  1. Update your operating system (OS) on your Apple or Windows computer to the most up-to-date version.
  2. Update your internet browser to the most up-to-date version.

Our online giving page will be inaccessible to users who do not complete these changes by March 15, 2018.

The updates are required because today's industry standard security features are no longer compatible with older systems. Ensuring that your OS and internet browser are fully up-to-date is the best way to protect your donation and guarantee it is processed safely. This is an industry-wide requirement to ensure the highest level of security when processing all financial transactions.

Please contact us at info@hhf.org if you require assistance making these changes or have any questions about the security of our donation platform.

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Improving Diagnostic Test for Ménière’s Disease

By Wafaa Kaf, Ph.D., and Carol Stoll

Electrocochleography (ECochG) is a commonly used assessment of the auditory system, specifically the inner ear and the hearing nerve. ECochG is most often elicited by a brief acoustic stimulus, known as a “click,” at a relatively low repetition rate. It measures two key responses: summating potential (SP) and action potential (AP), which assist in the diagnosis of Ménière’s disease, an inner ear and balance disorder. Previous research has established that individuals with Ménière’s disease are likely to have abnormally large SPs and a large SP/AP ratio. Though click ECochG has great potential to detect Ménière’s disease, it lacks sensitivity, or the ability to correctly identify those with the disease. Only 69% of those with Ménière’s disease are correctly diagnosed, while 31% of those with the disease have normal ECochG results. This lack of accuracy prevents its use as a definitive diagnostic tool. Hearing Health Foundation 2015 Emerging Research Grants recipient, Wafaa Kaf, Ph.D., is researching the use of a novel analysis technique called Continuous Loop Averaging Deconvolution (CLAD) to best improve the sensitivity of ECochG to high click rate for diagnosing Ménière’s disease. Findings were recently published in Ear and Hearing 2017.


In a recently published paper in Frontiers in Neuroscience, Kaf’s research team shares its findings on the effects of altering the parameters of the acoustic stimulus on ECochG responses to quantify the effect of stimulus rate and duration of the elicited stimuli. Kaf and her research team obtained SP measurements to 500Hz and 2000Hz tone bursts that varied in duration and repetition rate from 20 adult females with normal hearing. CCLAD was used to interpret the tracings elicited by the differing stimuli of tone bursts.

They found that SP amplitude was significantly larger when using the highest stimulus repetition rate. It is believed that the high stimulus repetition rates minimize the neural contributions and mostly reflect hair cell responses, the target of ECochG. In addition, longer duration stimuli is believed to better reflect hair cell involvement while shorter stimuli may be useful in eliciting responses reflective of neural contributions. Lastly, 2000Hz tone bursts produced larger SP amplitude as compared to 500Hz tone bursts. Therefore, 2000Hz tone bursts with a high repetition rate and long duration can be used as parameters to minimize neural contributions to SP measures whereas short duration stimuli can be used if one wishes to asses neural activity.  

The data that Kaf’s team published is a critical initial advancement towards ultimately understanding the SP measurement in diseased ears. Their findings not only provide normative data for tone burst ECochG across stimulus frequencies, stimulus rates, and stimulus durations, but also help others better understand how to improve sensitivity of ECochG for early diagnosis of Ménière’s disease.  

Wafaa Kaf, Ph.D., is a 2015 Emerging Research Grants recipient. Her grant was generously funded by The Estate of Howard F. Schum.


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San Diego Tunes In to Hearing Health

By Jordan Conole

On February 11th, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the nation’s largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, hosted a public seminar on hearing health and hearing loss in at the Central Library in Downtown San Diego.

  Guests mingle before the start of presentations on hearing loss research and treatments in the Shiley Special Events Suite of the San Diego Central Library.

Guests mingle before the start of presentations on hearing loss research and treatments in the Shiley Special Events Suite of the San Diego Central Library.

Event attendees included members of the public, scientists and researchers, many of whom have devoted their careers to finding a cure for hearing loss.

Ronna Hertzano, M.D., Ph.D., a surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, spoke about the need for change in the way we treat hearing loss, noting, “Just as a doctor would now take a patient with elevated or slightly higher blood pressure seriously, we must do just the same with hearing.” Dr. Hertzano claimed that those who experience hearing loss oftentimes can suffer from loneliness and feelings of isolation.

According to a recent study by the National Aging Committee, more than 11% of those with some form of hearing loss suffer from depression compared to only 5% of the general public.

Dr. Harrison Lin, a scientist funded by HHF’s Emerging Research Grants program, and colleagues discovered that of the 48 million Americans who report experiencing some form of hearing loss, only about one-third of those actually seek out treatment.

Ken Knoblett, a San Diego resident who counts himself as part of that third, noticed a drastic change in his interactions with friends and family once he began to use hearing aids. “I was immediately able to be more connected to my friends and family and enjoy gatherings again. The hearing aid and treatment really changed my life for the better!”

Based on the strong connection to hearing loss and its strong emotional side effects, testing for hearing loss and treating it is the best way to combat and prevent its underlying side effects.

Hearing loss is an isolating condition for hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the scientists working for HHF hope to someday end that isolation.

Jordan Conole is a freelance journalist who covers San Diego local nonprofits and charity events in the surrounding areas. 

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My Ears Don’t Work, But My Implants Do

By Caroline Oberweger

“No Walkman in the water, ma’am.”

I’m in my neighborhood park, about to go swimming in a New York City public pool. “Oh sorry,“ I stammer to the City Parks employee addressing me. “It’s not a Walkman. It’s a waterproof cochlear implant processor.”

She looks at me like I’m speaking Greek. “No electronics in the water,” she repeats.

“But it’s to help me hear,” I explain.

She doesn’t budge. She doesn’t understand. I have to try another tactic. Deep breath. “I’m deaf. I cannot hear without this, so I need to wear it while I swim. It’s not a Walkman, see? It’s a magnet that goes on my head.”  

  Caroline and her family

Caroline and her family

The word deaf gets her attention. Now she gets it. Here in front of her is a person with a disability. Here is a person using an accommodation. She knows she cannot stop me from using it. Looking embarrassed, she waves me through. I thank her and smile.

In the five years since I’ve gotten my cochlear implants, one of the biggest challenges—or at least, one of the most unexpected ones—has been the need to explain the technology to others. Thanks to my long, thick hair, most of the time no one can see my implant processors at all. But when they can, the reaction is often one of bemusement or blankness.

My experience with the City Parks employee was not the first one like that, or the last. Once, on vacation, someone asked me why I needed an MP3 player in the ocean. He thought I was listening to music. He didn’t understand that I was listening to the whole world.

On a planet where only about a half million individuals out of 7.5 billion use a cochlear implant, ignorance of the technology is to be expected. And I’m proud to speak on its behalf, to explain why I need them and what they do, and to proclaim that while the technology is a marvel of science, for me it’s also just pure magic.

I love making people smile when I tell them about the first time I heard the swish-swish that applying body lotion makes (a sound I never knew existed!), or how I learned that you don’t have to actually stand in front of the oven waiting for it to reach the desired temperature, because… Did you know there’s a beep? (They knew. I did not.)

But it’s also frustrating at times. “I’m not tuning out my children,” I want to shout to those shooting a disapproving glance at that wire sticking out of my head. “I’m tuning in!”

Even relatives and close friends did not, initially, quite understand how my cochlear implants work. The very day my first implant got activated, a friend texted, “So, do you hear perfectly now?” I had to explain that, in fact, that first day I heard very poorly; it would take time, patience, and months of listening practice with a good speech-language pathologist before my brain would learn to process what initially sounded artificial and electronic as the normal, everyday sound of objects and voices.

Is my hearing perfect today, five years post-implantation? No, but it’s pretty darn good. Especially considering that, after decades of moderate to severe hearing loss, today I have no natural hearing left at all.

My ears don’t work. But my implants do, splendidly. And I couldn’t be happier.

Caroline Oberweger is HHF's development consultant. This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Hearing Health magazine.

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Study Suggests that Nursing Homes Ignore Residents’ Hearing Loss

By Robert Polner

Over the past decade, hearing loss has emerged as a key issue in aging and health.  The problem affects over 80% of people aged 80 and over. Hearing loss is associated with social isolation, depression, and cognitive impairment --- all problems that are common among nursing home residents.

Yet the problem of hearing loss has not received much attention in the nursing home world.

  Photo Credit:  Senior Guidance

Photo Credit: Senior Guidance

“Hearing loss is often seen as an inevitable consequence of aging,” said Professor Jan Blustein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of health policy and management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the senior author of a study published today (Jan. 30) in The BMJ. “Many people just don’t appreciate how much hearing loss disrupts understanding and communication, and what a toll that takes in the lives of vulnerable older people.”

Prior studies in single nursing homes have shown that staff are often unaware that residents are having difficulty hearing.  But Blustein and her colleagues found that this appears to be a national trend.  Using data that all US nursing homes are required to report to the federal government known as the Minimum Data Set (MDS), the researchers found that in 2016, over two-thirds (68%) of long-stay nursing home residents over the age of 70 reportedly had adequate hearing, meaning that “they had no difficulty in normal conversation, social interaction, or listening to TV.”  The researchers compared this with previously reported data on elderly people outside of nursing homes, and argue that the reported rate in nursing homes is implausibly low.

“While prior small studies have shown that nursing home staff underestimate hearing problems, the data strongly point to a national problem,” said Blustein.

According to co-author and geriatrician Joshua Chodosh, M.D. of the NYU School of Medicine, recognition and treatment of hearing loss is “low hanging fruit for those who care for elderly people. Once you’re aware that hearing loss may be a problem, there are many ways to help,” said Chodosh. “Speaking clearly and facing the person when you talk is a good way to start.  But patients should be referred to an audiologist.  If buying hearing aids is within financial reach, that may be a good step. But there are other low-cost hearing assistance solutions such as pocket amplifiers that cost about $150 that can be very helpful in communicating with older people with hearing loss.”

As Blustein notes, “Hearing loss disrupts communication, leaving those affected especially vulnerable to social isolation and depression. Nursing homes could make a big difference in residents’ lives by attending to the issue.  This would not only be good clinical practice;  it would also be compliant with the law, since the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that homes offer ‘effective communication’ with residents.”

This press release was republished with permission from NYU. View the original article here.

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HHF’s Fiscal Practices Endorsed by Consumer Reports for Second Consecutive Year

By Nadine Dehgan

  Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, is thrilled to be recognized by Consumer Reports as one of the “Best Charities for Your Donations” for the second consecutive year.

Consumer Reports’ prominent charity roster, released annually to facilitate informed giving, includes 11 categories ranging from Animal Welfare to Youth Development. HHF is acknowledged as a top-rated nonprofit in the Blind and Hearing-Impaired category, and the only organization listed whose mission is to better the lives of those with hearing loss.

The “Best Charities for Your Donations” are determined using metrics from three major charity watchdogs: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. These watchdogs independently research charities’ financial histories and moral standards to evaluate how donors’ contributions are used. Each of them have previously highlighted HHF for its excellence in fundraising, governance, effectiveness, and financial standards.

HHF’s superior charity ratings and our placement on the Consumer Reports list illustrate how we pursue our mission in a financially responsible way. These accolades differentiate HHF from its peers and assure donors we are worthy of their trust.

HHF exists to better the lives of those with hearing loss by funding life-changing research and through our awareness and education programs. Our endorsements from Consumer Reports and charity watchdogs show our commitment to our mission. We have achieved many scientific milestones in our 60 years, but more work is needed. We are grateful to those who give their time and financial resources in pursuit of better treatments and cures for hearing and balance conditions.

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The Strength of Our Olympians

By Vicky Chan

The competitors in this year’s Winter Olympics are full of drive and determination. Olympians throughout history have overcome various challenges for a chance to win the gold, including hearing loss. Hearing loss has played a big role in the lives of some Olympians. In spite of their disability, or, perhaps, because of it, hard-of-hearing Olympians have thrived as athletes. Rather than viewing their hearing loss as a limitation, these Olympians—our very own Gold Medalists—have claimed that compromised hearing has shaped their work ethics and contributed to their success.

Adam Rippon

  American Figure skater Adam Rippon. Credit:  Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group. 

American Figure skater Adam Rippon. Credit: Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group. 

Adam Rippon is a figure skater participating in the 2018 Olympics. He was born with an eye infection and 80% hearing loss. Before his first birthday, he had major surgeries to correct both issues. At age 5, he survived a bursted appendix and severe respiratory condition. Despite his early health difficulties, he won a gold medal at the Four Continent Championship and the national title in 2016.

Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings is a retired American WNBA star who was born with hearing loss. She participated in more than 15 WNBA seasons and won four Olympic Gold Medals. Catchings has attributed her success to her hearing loss—compared to her typical-hearing opponents, she is more observant on court which allows her to react faster than they can. Catchings said, “As a young child, I remember being teased for...my big, clunky hearing aids, and the speech problems...Every day was a challenge for me...I outworked [the kids who made fun of me], plain and simple.”

Frank Bartolillo

Frank Bartolillo is an Australian fencer who competed in the 2004 Olympics. He was born with hearing loss, but Bartolillo states that his hearing loss has actually helped him improve his fencing skills by allowing him to fully focus on his opponent.

Carlo Orlandi

Carlo Orlandi was an Italian boxer. At age 18, Orlandi became the first deaf athlete to compete and win a Gold Medal in the 1928 Olympics. Later, he became a professional boxer with a career that spanned 15 years and won nearly 100 matches.

David Smith

David Smith is an American volleyball player who was born with severe hearing loss. At age three, he was fitted for hearing aids in both ears. As an athlete, he relies heavily on hand signals and lip reading to communicate with his teammates. On the court, Smith can’t wear his hearing aid, so his coach, John Speraw, uses the “David Smith Rule.” This rule mandates that “when David wants it, David takes it,'" says Speraw. "Because in the middle of a play, you can't call him off...He's mitigated any issues he has by being a great all-around volleyball player."

Chris Colwill

Chris Colwill is an American diver who was born with hearing loss. Although his hearing aid allows him to hear at an 85-90% level, he can not use it while diving and relies on the scoreboard for his cue to dive. But Colwill stated that this is an advantage for him—noise from the crowd doesn’t distract his concentration on diving.

Katherine Merry

Katherine Merry is a former English sprinter who won a Bronze Medal in the 2000 Olympics. At age 30, she developed tinnitus when a nurse made a mistake during a routine ear cleaning procedure. Ever since, she has lived with a constant high-pitch buzzing sound in her ears. It becomes worse when she is tired, overworked or on a flight. Today, Merry works as a BBC Sports Presenter.

These Olympians prove that those affected by hearing loss can pursue successful careers in sports. Refusing to let anything hold them back, they turned their disabilities into advantages in their respective competitions. Hearing loss allows them to block out distractions and focus on the sport. Their disability has shaped their determination, forcing them to become stronger and better athletes.

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