Whenever life gets gnarly, I think about roller coasters and the message you get before it takes off. You know the one. “Remain seated with your hands, arms, legs, and feet inside the vehicle at all times.” This whole year has been a roller coaster.

Business owners have been on a roller coaster. I waited to hire someone to help me until I had gotten my vaccine and until I could find someone who had gotten the vaccine as well. If I don’t get back to you in the normal time, it’s not because you aren’t important. It’s because things are far from normal.

A few observations about the past two months…

1) People are suddenly buying things and making appointments they’ve been putting off for a year.

2) The hearing aid manufacturers are trying to transition from stop or trickle to full speed ahead – safely. One manufacturer was so overwhelmed that they mixed up the right and left ears. Another manufacturer made the wrong earmold. Then it took 3 times as long as it usually does to re-make it. (Before vaccines, it only took twice as long as normal.)

3) And finally, people are frustrated – more so than any time in the past year. It’s understandable. We’re all so tired of this and we want it to go back to normal. Hang in there.

Covid Update

Now that Santa Barbara county Coronavirus transmission is again widespread, we are being extra careful in the office. We are scheduling extra time between appointments. Unless it’s too cold, the two chairs outside are the new waiting room.

Carol is here again Tuesdays and Thursdays and my husband, Jack, will be helping with scheduling. One hearing aid business in Santa Barbara and the VA in Santa Maria have closed, so it has been extra busy. We really need to hire extra staff, but we’re holding off until we have better control of the virus. I hope you’ll hang in there with us. We have so many patients who are fragile.

Thanks to everyone for being so patient. I’ll try my best not to drop the ball on anything.

Don’t Put Anything Smaller Than Your Elbow in Your Ear!

I actually have worked with one doctor who said it’s ok to use Q-tips, as long as you dip it in alcohol. They’re abrasive and the skin in your ear is delicate. On the other hand, I have a friend who ruptured her eardrum with a Q-tip because someone opened the bathroom door and it hit her elbow.

I told my son this rule when he was about four and he looked down at his elbow for a moment before deciding it wasn’t possible. Anyway, your call. But, officially, nothing smaller than your elbow.

There’s a lot going on right now, so I thought we could use some humor. It’s my favorite coping mechanism. Enjoy

Black Lives Matter – a statement from the American Academy of Audiology

Call to Action
June 8, 2020

We sincerely hope that members of the Academy join us in expressing our deepest sympathy to the families of George Floyd and others whose tragic deaths have sparked long overdue conversations in our nation.

We ask that you share in our sadness for the unbearable stress these unthinkable events have placed on Black Americans and specifically on our Black members. While the majority of the membership cannot even begin to imagine this type of stress, we can use this time to imagine and realize a different future in the Academy.

The Academy leadership has been taking time in recent days to listen to Black national leaders and Black colleagues within the association. Although these individuals naturally have varying opinions, one piece of advice has been clear: Listen and create a pathway to action.

The Board recognizes that the organization does not have a track record of inclusion and that action is needed. The lack of diversity is evident across our committee, council, and board leadership structure, within our leadership development program—Jerger Future Leaders of Audiology Conference (JFLAC), and in our awards and recognition. In these very preliminary conversations, it is evident that the problems run much deeper and permeate all aspects of audiology from the student experience, preceptor experience, daily work experience, convention experience and more. We have not even scratched the surface in these conversations and understand that a tremendous amount of work needs to be done across all aspects of our profession.

The Academy will not tolerate discrimination, racism, prejudices, or bias. Our next step is to implement methods for institutional change by collaborating with our Black colleagues on how to execute a plan for change. This is a first step on a journey to institutional change, all members will be part of this journey; in fact, all members must be part of this journey for there to be real change. We are purposefully starting this conversation with Black members. This is not meant to minimize the experience of other members of color or other individuals who feel marginalized. This is a starting point in the current context, and we will expand this conversation over time. We will facilitate the needed dialogues and listen to how we can achieve needed shifts within the profession and truly be the organization of, by, and for each audiologist serving all individuals who need our help.

Please consider this an invitation if you identify as a Black audiologist (member or not) or a Black audiology student to click the link below and provide your contact information so we can engage you to lead this conversation. The Academy leadership is committed to your voice being heard and for you to dictate the path forward that can lead to inclusion, representation, and equality.”

I think this is awesome. May it be a call to action in whatever profession or sphere of influence you have.


Santa Barbara Audiology: working from home

I woke up this morning remembering something learned in the school of hard knocks: Work smart. Not just hard.

So here are the “smart” ideas that will keep everyone safe and hopefully keep me from going out of business. It turns out I can work from home in a lot of cases. Here’s how:

1) If get a buy a hearing aid or if you have a current hearing aid, I can program it remotely. The setup takes maybe half an hour. Remote programming is not ideal because it’s only so effective without “real ear” measurements, so I’ll eventually everyone will have to follow up in the office.

2) I can troubleshoot and help you do basic repairs remotely too, either via Skype or the manufacturer’s remote programming software. If you need help with Skype, I can walk you through it over the phone.

3) Manufacturer repairs can be sent from and to your home. Manufacturers are now willing to send repairs directly to patients for free. You can give me repairs through the mail slot or I can mail the repair form, box, and label to you to send it in yourself. Sometimes I have to reprogram a repair first though. In that case, you’ll have to pick it up at the office or pay for me to FedEx/UPS it to you.

4) And finally, I can mail batteries, domes, wax guards, tubing etc

These days it feels like what my grandmother went through in her lifetime – the flu epidemic, the dust bowl, the depression… only it’s happening all at once. We have to stick together (6 feet apart).

Life in Santa Barbara with Covid 19

We’re still open during this crisis. But there are a few changes though. Carol and the pups are staying home for now. I’m answering the phone as I can. I’m seeing only one patient in the office at a time and I’m encouraging everyone to make an appointment rather than just drop by. I’m wearing a mask and gloves, although I’m not sick, and I’m cleaning everything throughout the day. There are so many people who come here who are in the highest risk group and I’m doing all I can.

A woman was walking by and decided to ask about the chair. She said amiably, “Is this your chair? Is it just siting here all lonely?” I told her that I had put the chair outside for anyone who feels safer sitting in the sunshine when there’s another patient in the office. It’s also for people in the long line at Trader Joe’s if they get tired. Sunshine and a nice view of the mountains. What could be healthier, eh? She really liked the idea and told me enthusiastically that I had to post it.

Please stay well and safe everyone. Practice patience and kindness.

Over the Counter Hearing Aids

NPR covered over-the-counter hearing aids back in 2017. Since then, politicians have passed legislation that provides access to these new amplifiers. NPR, like the politicians, dismissed the audiology profession without talking to an unbiased expert in the field – not a doctor and not someone who sells hearing aids. Ruth Bentler at University of Iowa would have been a good choice. Todd Rickets at Vanterbilt would have been another.

The only way I’ve thought of to concisely explain what audiologists do is to compare them to orthodontists. You might ask why a bunch of wires cost $6,000. They’re just wires. It’s because they don’t help much if you don’t have an expert, with 6-8 years of education, custom fit them and fine tune them over time. Audiologists require at least 8 years of education.

I’m glad these amplifiers are out there, but they’re only appropriate for a limited group of people. I tell patients to try it out, but keep your receipt. I guess you could compare them to something like Invisalign knockoffs that you get on Amazon or at the drug store. They’ll work for a few people with slightly crooked teeth.

One last thing. The NPR podcast inferred that you have to spend $5000 on a pair of hearing aids. The $5000 ones can have a lot of benefits, but the quality of the fitting is at least as important as which hearing aid you get.

What really needs to happen is for legislators to come up with policies that help enforce competence and ethics. There are problems with both of those in this field. How you legislate something like that, I don’t know. That’s their expertise.