On Oct. 26, Deborah Minnis, an audiologist with Sentara, answered your questions about hearing loss and what to do about it.

 Ask the Experts: Everything you wanted to know about hearing loss(10/26/2011) 
11:57
Prue: 
Readers: Welcome to our weekly noon health chat at www.dailypress.com. Today's topic is hearing loss and what to do about it.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 11:57 Prue
11:58
Prue: 
Our expert today is Deborah Minnis an audiologist with Sentara. When she's ready for your questions she will let us know. In the meantime, feel free to type in your questions now.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 11:58 Prue
11:59
Prue: 
There are so many issues regarding hearing loss. Look for a story upcoming on Sunday, Nov. 13, about a young musician on the Peninsula who suffers from tinnitus and hearing loss, a common combination in those exposed to loud noise over time.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 11:59 Prue
12:00
Prue: 
Also, be sure to check out www.dailypress.com/health every day for updated national and local health news.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:00 Prue
12:01
Prue: 
For those of you who prefer your news in digest form, you can sign up for a FREE weekly e-health letter that arrives in your email inbox every Monday morning with the week's news.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:01 Prue
12:02
Prue: 
We're just waiting for our expert, audiologist Deborah Minnis, to join us. She will be answering your questions on hearing loss and how to cope with it.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:02 Prue
12:04
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I'm sorry, I thought I was logged in, but I'm here now and ready to go.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:04 Guest
12:04
Prue: 
Welcome Deborah Minnis, audiologist. Could you first of all explain what your qualifications are and who would typically visit an audiologist. Then I have some emailed questions to start us off.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:04 Prue
12:06
Deborah Minnis: 
Audiologists must have a Doctorate degree, which entails 4 years of study beyond the bachelors, a thesis, and one year of clinical fellowship.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:06 Deborah Minnis
12:07
Prue: 
Do you need a referral or can you go direct to an audiologist? Or does that depend on your insurance?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:07 Prue
12:08
Deborah Minnis: 
Audiologists treat people with hearign problems or balance problems. As independent practitioners, no medical referral is required, unless your insurance requires it for coverage.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:08 Deborah Minnis
12:08
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
i have bad hearing loss i went to the lions trailer in nn a month later they called me and refered me to hapt lions thier test did not see to realy cover the problem i am 82 ad have no insur except medicare i no i will never be able to afford a hearing aid and on their many cons off loss i would like to no were i stand thaks eg
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:08 Guest
12:09
Prue: 
This is a huge topic with hearing aids which typically are not covered by insurance. Could you address the costs and if it's possible to get insurance. IS the diagnosis, at least, covered?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:09 Prue
12:09
Deborah Minnis: 
There are many options for low cost hearing aids. An audiology evaluation would tell us exactly what you need, adn then we could help you with teh various options out there
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:09 Deborah Minnis
12:10
Prue: 
Readers, We are talking to audiologist Deborah Minnis who can answer your questions about hearing loss.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:10 Prue
12:10
Prue: 
What are some of the options for low-cost hearing aids?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:10 Prue
12:11
Deborah Minnis: 
Diagnostics are generally covered by insurance, even medicaid. Hearign aids generally are not covered, but some insurance co's are starting to cover them now.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:11 Deborah Minnis
12:12
Prue: 
And the low-cost ones?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:12 Prue
12:12
Deborah Minnis: 
There are reconditioned aids that can be purchased for under $400.00
And, there are organizations that help with aids, such as teh Lion's Club, or teh Starkey Hear Now Foundation.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:12 Deborah Minnis
12:12
[Comment From ArtArt: ] 
Will the "hearing loop" that some public facilities have installed clarify the audio for someone with tinnitus wearing hearing aids?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:12 Art
12:13
Deborah Minnis: 
If you have a T-coil in your hearing aid, then the "loop" will help a great deal.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:13 Deborah Minnis
12:13
Prue: 
Readers, audiologist Deborah Minnis can answer your questions until 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:13 Prue
12:13
Prue: 
What is a T-coil? and also, could you clarify what tinnitus is for our readers.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:13 Prue
12:13
Deborah Minnis: 
Most everyone has experienced occasional tinnitus, but 15% to 20% of the general population and 80% of people with hearing loss have tinnitus all the time.
For most people, tinnitus is an irritant, an annoyance, but not a major problem. For some, however, tinnitus is a major, life-impacting problem. It can cause depression , anxiety sleep disturbance and difficulty concentrating.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:13 Deborah Minnis
12:14
Prue: 
Are all people with tinnitus candidates for hearing aids?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:14 Prue
12:16
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
i did not understand her answer i would like to no if free evalution is avable?? eg
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:16 Guest
12:16
Deborah Minnis: 
Many people have been told there is nothing that can be done for their tinnitus, that there is no cure. It’s true there is no cure, but there certainly is help for tinnitus.. Our brain can learn to suppress information ¿ we do it all the time, and our brain can learn to suppress tinnitus as well.
Following a complete Audiological evaluation, we provide an in-depth discussion of the causes of tinnitus. The patient must understand that tinnitus is a brain problem, not an ear problem. We empower the patient to think differently about their tinnitus and thus control its impact. For some, this informational counseling is all they need.
The next step is a tinnitus evaluation, where we focus on the exact nature of their tinnitus ¿ how loud it is, what frequency or pitch it is, and how much noise it may take to cover it up. Our goal is to understand exactly how tinnitus is impacting the patient¿s life ¿ does it interfere with hearing, the ability to concentrate, the ability to sleep? The answer to this question will help determine which solution is most appropriate.
This session may be followed by discussion of the various sound therapy options available. Some people find tremendous relief from hearing aids. Others may need hearing aids that include the option for white noise or fractal tones. There are ear level noise generators and bedside sound generators, and even sound generators in pillows.
Tinnitus patients are all very different, and an individualized treatment approach must be designed to meet each person¿s needs. I have been gratified to see the tremendous difference tinnitus management can make in a patient¿s life.
“No cure” definitely doesn¿t mean ¿no help¿!

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Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:16 Deborah Minnis
12:18
Deborah Minnis: 
To answer the question about free evaluation - yes, we do free screenings anytime. However, a complete eval would be necessary to determine teh appropriate course of action, ie, what type of aid would work best. Insurance should cover teh costs of the evalaution.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:18 Deborah Minnis
12:18
Prue: 
Does Medicare cover that evaluation? How often?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:18 Prue
12:19
Deborah Minnis: 
Yes, medicare does cover evaluation costs.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:19 Deborah Minnis
12:19
Prue: 
And before we go to more questions what is a T-coil? And how would you know if your hearing aid had one?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:19 Prue
12:20
Prue: 
Readers, we are here until 12:30 p.m. EST with audiologist Deborah Minnis of Sentara. She is answering questions about hearing loss and what you can do about it.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:20 Prue
12:20
Deborah Minnis: 
A T-coil allows the hearign aid to pick up a signal using a magnetic coil induction system. Basically, it makes it easier to hear over teh phone...
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:20 Deborah Minnis
12:20
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How can you convince someone -- an older person -- taht they have hearing loss and that it would make their life and everyone else's easier if they got help
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:20 Guest
12:21
Deborah Minnis: 
and to hear in large rooms that are "looped". Most aids have t-coils, but you need to make sure it is ordered by teh Audiologist when your aid is ordered.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:21 Deborah Minnis
12:22
Deborah Minnis: 
Sometimes a loaner aid can be useful. We can fit some aids for teh patient to take home for a short time and see the benefits. All hearing aids come with a 30 day trial...
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:22 Deborah Minnis
12:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
i do not think it wasacomplete evalutioni dont think they give complete ones it was only a lion members hearing and ask some question many years ago my thrat docter gave me one it was much more detaled thank eg
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:22 Guest
12:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
can you get battery chargers for hearing aids?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:22 Guest
12:23
Deborah Minnis: 
Some hearig aids do use re-chargeable batteries, but these are the exception. The technology has not really been perfected.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:23 Deborah Minnis
12:25
Prue: 
You have largely answered the emailed question about tinnitus and hearing loss, but Randy also wanted to know "How bad is bad when it comes to hearing loss?" He also is suspicious that as audiologists sell hearing aids it perhaps benefits them rather than the patient, whom it might make dependent... any truth to using a hearing aid worsening your hearing?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:25 Prue
12:26
Deborah Minnis: 
How bad is bad? That depends entirely on how the hearing loss impacts an individual's ability to understand speech, participate in social activities or perform effectively on the job. In other words, it depends on the demands that are placed on your hearing. Two people with the very same degree of hearing loss may report very different degrees of difficulty.
Someone who is primarily at home, and only participates in small group conversations will have very different needs than someone who is active in larger group settings, such as meetings, social gatherings, church or restaurants. In these settings, hearing loss will present a greater challenge.
For the person is primarily at home, assistive listening devices may be sufficient, whereas an individual who is more active would benefit from good digital hearing aids that provide directionality, noise reduction, bluetooth options, etc.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:26 Deborah Minnis
12:27
Prue: 
Readers: We have just a couple more minutes for you to ask your questions about hearing loss.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:27 Prue
12:27
Deborah Minnis: 
Hearign aids will not make your hearing worse.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:27 Deborah Minnis
12:28
Prue: 
In conclusion, Dr, Minnis, could you tell readers how to reach your office. Also, what do you think is the greatest advance in your field in the last few years? And what is the most common complaint you hear in regard to hearing difficulties.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:28 Prue
12:28
Deborah Minnis: 
For those of you interested in tinnitusWe are hosting a tinnitus seminar on November 10. This is a free, informational seminar that should be very helpful to anyone with tinnitus. We do community seminars twice each year and they are always well received ¿ a good time, some refreshment, and information sharing in a very relaxed setting where you can have all your questions answered, with no pressure. I encourage anyone interested to call 1-800-Sentara to register for this seminar. (Nov. 10 at 10:00, here at the CarePlex ) I hope to see you there!
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:28 Deborah Minnis
12:29
Prue: 
Thank you for that information about the tinnitus seminar. Is that the same number to call to reach your office/make an appointment?
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:29 Prue
12:29
Deborah Minnis: 
I can be reached at 757-827-2528. The most common complaint is being able to hear, but not understand speech.
Hearing aids are amazing devices - ceratinly a great advancement
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:29 Deborah Minnis
12:30
Prue: 
In addition to our weekly Wednesday health chats -- always at noon at www.dailypress.com -- join us tomorrow, Thursday at noon for a chat about youth suicide prevention.
Next week's topic: Chiropracty.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:30 Prue
12:30
Prue: 
Dr. Minnis, thank you very much for your participation and information. I will close the chat now unless you have anything else you want to tell readers.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:30 Prue
12:31
Deborah Minnis: 
Thanks so much!
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:31 Deborah Minnis
12:31
Prue: 
Thanks everyone. Don't forget to join us on Thursday, Oct. 27 at noon to learn about youth suicide prevention. Bye.
Wednesday October 26, 2011 12:31 Prue
12:32