Evan and Deb on WHNZ interview Dr. Sreek Cherukuri About Hearing


Intro: Growing your wealth, keeping your health, making life richer day by day. Evan and Deb in the evenings on 1250 WHNZ, W-H-N-Z. Now, Evan and Deb.

Evan Gold: All right, Howard Rosenthal’s up in a little while. This is Evan Gold and we’re going to be talking about the Mr. Food Test Kitchen guilt-free weeknight favorites, and also hearing. When should you get your hearing test and what should you do about it if you have problems? You’re listen to Evan and Deb in the evenings right now. All right we’ve got Dr. Cherukuri with us right now. He’s an otolaryngologist and we’re going to talk about hearing. Dr. Cherukuri, welcome to Evan and Deb.

Dr. Cherukuri: Hello. Thank you for having me and good evening.

Evan Gold: Our pleasure. Now hearing, it’s something as interesting I’ve heard this it’s also about eyesight, is that you guys just haven’t been as successful getting people to get their hearing or eyes checked as dentists are. Dentists convince a lot of people you got to go see your dentist twice a year, but it’s hard to get people to go check their hearing, isn’t it?

Dr. Cherukuri: It is. It creeps up on you slowly over a period of time, and it’s very gradual. I think most people are in tune to when their vision is starting to go because they read every day and have to drive. But hearing, there’s often a slow progression. There’s some denial, and they often think it’s the person’s not speaking loud enough as opposed to their own hearing problem.

Evan Gold: Right, and like you said, it’s so slow that you might not notice it. It’s like trying to watch a plant grow, right? I mean, it’s not like the people that suddenly have massive hearing loss. They’re the ones that are more likely to come in all the time, right?

Dr. Cherukuri: Right. We do see people that have sudden hearing loss. They’ll say, “I heard fine yesterday, and all of a sudden it went out.” It’s the gradual people, they don’t really notice. Like you mentioned, they’re the last to know because it’s all the people with normal hearing that have to constantly repeat themselves or get frustrated trying to converse with the person with hearing loss.

Evan Gold: Right, right. Yeah that is very frustrating. Now are you finding that hearing loss is increasing?

Dr. Cherukuri: It is. The statistics out of Johns Hopkins most recently said 48 million, which is almost 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 people, have some element of hearing loss in at least one ear.

Evan Gold: [crosstalk 2:22] Wow.

Dr. Cherukuri: The previous estimates were more in the 20 to 29 million range.

Evan Gold: It’s happening also at a younger age.

Dr. Cherukuri: Yeah, one of the myths about hearing loss is it’s an elderly problem, but it’s actually the majority of people with hearing loss are below the age of 65. We’re seeing a big jump in teenagers with hearing loss, which we think may be due to iPod and iPhone and mp3 player use with loud headphones. But that’s not been exactly figured out.

Evan Gold: Right, right. Probably you’re starting to see the results back in the 70s when all the, what’s it, the walkmans and those things came out. I remember I had plenty of friends that listened, and I was a culprit too, you turn it up really loud. You love the music but you pay for that one day, don’t you?

Dr. Cherukuri: The walkman though, back then the batteries lasted only a short period of time. They didn’t get that loud and the headphones at that point were the foam over the ear one.

Evan Gold: Right.

Dr. Cherukuri: Today we have these very powerful devices and smartphones and mp3 players that batteries last for hours and they can get much louder. The hearing, sorry, the earbud, often fits in your ear canal and can get much closer to the eardrum and cause damage. In terms of the senior audience it’s years of either industrial noise at the workplace or concerts like Woodstock and those kinds of things.

Evan Gold: Right. Tell me this, what are some of the most pronounced signs of hearing loss?

Dr. Cherukuri: Again, I would say it’s harder for the person to know and it’s easier for their family member or colleague to be aware. If you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, if you feel like people are mumbling or they’re not talking clearly, and then one tell-tale sign, if you have ringing in your ears, which is called tinnitus. The number one cause of ringing in the ear is high-frequency nerve damage related [inaudible 04:21].

Evan Gold: Now, is it normal though for us to have that sort of buzz, that sort of hum in our ears?

Dr. Cherukuri: If it’s lasting, if it’s consistent, it’s not normal. That is a sign of hearing loss most of the time. There is this thing that it might last 10 or 15 seconds you might hear a buzz in one ear and then it goes away. You may not have it for months. That’s a normal phenomenon, but persistent ringing, buzzing or any kind of sound in your ear is not normal.

Evan Gold: Got you. Okay. All right, so tell me, tips for people so that they can avoid hearing loss.

Dr. Cherukuri: The only preventable kind of hearing loss is noise related hearing loss. If you’re in the workplace and it’s a loud environment like a factory or mill, ear protection is mandatory. It’s really important. OSHA has guidelines to this effect, but a lot of people and companies don’t enforce it. Hunters, if you’re hunting and shooting a gun you can lose your hearing instantly depending on the decibel level of the ammunition and all that. Again, earplugs and earmuffs are the only way to prevent hearing loss truly.

Evan Gold: Wow, wow. From shooting a gun you can lose it and then it’s gone forever?

Dr. Cherukuri: Yeah. If it’s shot and you hear a ringing in your ear and it doesn’t go away again, you suffered some damage. We see people in our Ear Nose and Throat clinic that went hunting and they’re like, “I can’t hear out of one ear.”

Evan Gold: Wow.

Dr. Cherukuri: We check the hearing test and it’s permanent. It’s fast.

Evan Gold: [crosstalk 06:03] Wow. You got to make sure you’re really wearing protective covering.

Dr. Cherukuri: Yeah. One analogy they talk about, the sun. We didn’t know the harmful effects of the sun. It’s gradual and it’s cumulative over the years with skin cancer.

Evan Gold: Right.

Dr. Cherukuri: It’s the same with noise. If it’s a lot of exposure to loud noise over the years, the ears suffer irreparable irreversible damage, just like the skin does. Probably a lot of people in your audience have to see a dermatologist and have skin cancers and [pre 06:31] cancers treated. Similar thing we’re starting to learn now about hearing, believe it or not, in the military they thought loud noise helped army military people in the 40s and 50s get used to and strengthen their hearing. Obviously that was found to be false.

Evan Gold: You just can’t do that, can you?

Dr. Cherukuri: No. Sound protection is the key, noise protection.

Evan Gold: All right, stay with us. We’re talking to Dr. Cherukuri right now. You can find their website MDHearingAid.com and we’re going to be talking about sound amplifiers. Do they really work? It’s Evan and Deb 1250 WHNZ W-H-N-Z.

All right, we’ve got to talk about hearing, your hearing loss, what could be the cause or what could cause hearing loss in the future. Dr. Cherukuri’s with us and he’s been telling us how you really can’t strengthen your hearing. If you’re doing certain things you could potentially damage it to the point of loss from shooting guns to loud music. Dr. Cherukuri, when we look at, like you were talking about, avoiding future hearing loss as well, but there’s people that use sound amplifiers and different types of hearing aids. What’s the difference between a sound amplifier and a hearing aid?

Dr. Cherukuri: A sound amplifier is just what the name implies. It is a device that amplifies sound. Its original intention was to be used in environmental or recreational activities, such as hunting or bird listening. Some of manufacturers got clever and understood that you know what, we could market this to seniors as a “cheap hearing aid.” The main difference, the most important difference, it’s not a medical device. It doesn’t have FDA oversight and it does not have to be responsible or it doesn’t have to claim to officially do what it does.

Now a hearing aid is a Class 1 FDA registered medical device. As a result they have to follow what’s called [ANP 08:43] Standards, American National Standards about a quality level, component level, output. Again, the FDA is very clear on this. If you have hearing loss, which is a medical condition, you should only be using a medical device such as a hearing aid.

Evan Gold: [crosstalk 08:58] Now, let me ask you about the sound amplifier. Are those the things that … I think I saw someone use a long time ago. I haven’t seen a lot lately, but where sort of they put something on the table and then it sort of sends a louder … I guess the sound gets louder and then shoots through something that they’re wearing in their ear?

Dr. Cherukuri: That’s the original definition of a sound amplifier. Now with the technology and miniaturization of circuits they look just like hearing aids, but they’re not hearing aids. They can be worn on your ear and just amplify sound. The key though is the vast majority of them, they don’t amplify voice, which is the key to a hearing aid of human frequencies of speech. Sound amplifiers are meant for birds, again, hunting, listening to prey, things like that.

Evan Gold: Okay.

Dr. Cherukuri: They don’t use medical grade components in the vast majority of them. It’s really not the appropriate solution for anyone with a hearing problem.

Evan Gold: Right. Those are less expensive so people sometimes opt for that, but they’re really making a mistake is what you’re saying.

Dr. Cherukuri: Historically, they are less expensive. If you go to certain websites you can find them for 99 cents. You can imagine that’s not going to be a very high-quality product, even if it’s $20. It’s not going to be a sophisticated product. Prior to our company, MDHearingAid, which manufactures low-cost FDA registered hearing aid, sound amplifier was a discounted product as compared to a traditional hearing aid.

If I may just say, the problem with the whole industry is hearing aids are not covered by most insurance or Medicare, and they range between 1 and $5,000 each. It’s a very expensive out-of-pocket expensive and there have been people looking for alternatives. In my own practice that’s actually why I founded MDHearingAid, because I had a lot of patients that had hearing loss but couldn’t afford the entry-level hearing aids in our office. It got me thinking, why are the hearing aids so expensive? Something like a nice iPod is a couple hundred bucks or an iPad is $400, which can do a lot of things.

Evan Gold: Right.

Dr. Cherukuri: We did some research and developed low-cost hearing aids, starting as low as $199.

Evan Gold: I’ve seen hearing aids go for upwards of $4,000. Is there a huge difference between, let’s say, a hearing aid that’s a few hundred dollars versus $4,000?

Dr. Cherukuri: The difference is not necessarily in the device itself. The reason they’re so expensive is partly the manufacturers [inaudible 11:36] them up to the providers, such as audiologists or hearing aid dispensers. Then what happens in the brick and mortar office setting is the audiologist will program the hearing aid to a specific hearing loss and that is a manual process. It requires a fair number of visits to get it right and [inaudible 11:56] many people are frustrated with the fact that they paid all this money and it’s still not perfect. Once there’s nerve damage you can never get perfect hearing back.

Evan Gold: Okay.

Dr. Cherukuri: In our devices, which are pre-programmed to the most common types and configurations of hearing loss, people do extremely well at about a 90% less cost.

Evan Gold: Okay, so you’re saying obviously this will cover most of the people that have hearing aids. If they have something more serious do you work with them there? For that small percentage of individuals do you send them into a different area?

Dr. Cherukuri: Certainly, and our devices won’t work for everybody. That’s the other thing, it’s just like vision and your facial features. Everyone’s needs are unique. As that may be a challenge to buy glasses over the internet, for example, not everyone will be satisfied or their needs met with our types of devices. But for those people we have a physician referral network that we send them to a local Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor that can help them get custom hearing aids at a discount. Or perhaps they qualify for a surgery that Medicare would cover, or state programs that would help people get the cost of hearing aids covered.

Evan Gold: We’re talking right now. Dr. Cherukuri, he’s an otolaryngologist and his website is MDHearingAid.com. You’re listening to Evan and Deb on 1250 WHNZ W-H-N-Z. Going back real quick, because I know you really wanted to talk about the sound amplifier issue, can they be harmful to your hearing?

Dr. Cherukuri: Sound amplifiers, by large, they won’t have the medical-grade technology we spoke of earlier. What they can do is if something loud gets amplified into your ear even louder it can cause permanent hearing damage, just like we spoke about earlier with the guns or the loud music. Hearing aids have some called compression, where if something loud comes in it senses it and then reduces it so it’s not amplified into your ear. That’s a ear-saving technology that you find in a medical device that you won’t find in a recreational device like a sound amplifier.

Evan Gold: Wow.

Dr. Cherukuri: That exact sentiment was echoed by Dr. Eric Mann from the FDA. He said substituting a sound amplifier when a hearing aid is indicated can actually lead to more damage to your hearing.

Evan Gold: Looking at your hearing aids, very simple to order. Do they need to see some sort of doctor ahead of time to get fitted for anything?

Dr. Cherukuri: We always recommend anyone with hearing loss to be evaluated at Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor and or a hearing test. Again, I tell this to all my patients, get the best hearing aid you can afford. If they can afford the custom one, that’s the way to go.

Evan Gold: [crosstalk 14:52] Right.

Dr. Cherukuri: Unfortunately, 80% of people that could benefit from the hearing aid in the US are not getting one, and cost seems to be the major obstacle for that. What we did is we removed cost from that equation. We priced it more like electronics.

If they have a hearing test they can send it to us. Myself and our Ph.D audiologist can review them and provide guidance as to which hearing aid and which settings would be optimal. If that’s not the case they still can order and try these products and see if they work for their needs in the comfort of their home. They don’t even have to leave and make numerous office visits and things like that.

Evan Gold: Okay, and it’d come with a certain money-back guarantee?

Dr. Cherukuri: Oh yeah. Because again, it’s not going to work for everybody.

Evan Gold: Right.

Dr. Cherukuri: All we want to do is get people a product they can use. If they’re not using it they send it back. 45 day risk-free 100% money-back guarantee.

Evan Gold: All right, well you can find them very easily at MDHearingAid.com is the website. Their phone number, 888-670-4327. You’ve heard this on our show before folks, hearing is one of those things if you don’t use it, you will lose it. Get checked out and if you need a hearing aid you want to give them a call. MDHearingAid.com, Dr. Cherukuri, thanks so much for joining us.

Dr. Cherukuri: Thank you, have a good evening.

Evan Gold: Good stuff. All right, that’s about it for us tonight. We’re back tomorrow night though, right here on 1250 WHNZ. Make sure you join us. See you tomorrow right here. It’s Evan and Deb.