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Greetings from San Diego! – American Academy of Audiology Convention

AudiologyNow! 2010It’s the morning of the last day of AudiologyNOW!, the annual convention of the American Academy of Audiology.  I’m writing this from my hotel room before packing up and heading to the convention center.

First, about the hotel . . .

I never stay in convention hotels, because they just cost too darn much.  I’d rather stay a little further away, save a ton of money, and rent a car – giving me freedom to travel a bit.  Usually I win with Priceline – this time I lost.  I’m in a hotel that’s apparently close to Sea World, although all I see is a gigantic flee market and fast food joints. A 4-lane road is 30 feet from my ground floor window.  Apparently, in San Diego, there’s no need for heavily insulated windows, and it sounds like I’m writing this post from a tent on the sidewalk.

And now about the convention . . .

The sessions have been what one would expect, with little to talk about.  Informative, but not exactly what you call exciting.  The Expo hall seems to be bigger this year than ever before, with a few things that might be interesting to the non-audiologist.

The weirdest thing I saw was a laser treatment for sensorineural hearing loss.  You sit down in a chair and low-level lasers shine into your ears.  After a few minutes, it reportedly improves your ability to understand speech and partially alleviates your tinnitus.  As an audiologist, I was immediately skeptical.  I asked if there was any published literature on this device yet, and they proudly handed over a printed Powerpoint presentation from the inventor.  (That’s not exactly what I meant by “published”.)  The research results and method were questionable at best. We’ll have to wait and see if this thing has legs.  They’re currently seeking FDA approval.

A couple manufacturers have announced wireless connectivity options for their newest hearing aids.  So you can connect something to your TV, cell phone, or MP3 player and have it wirelessly stream directly into your hearing aids.  Wireless connectivity has been around for a couple years through the use of Bluetooth, which required wearing a “streamer” around your neck or carrying something in your pocket to receive and transmit the signal.  The newest devices use 2.4 GHz technology, instead of Bluetooth, and require no streamer.

A lot of tinnitus devices are popping up as well.  I’ve always told patients that there are a lot of treatments out there that work for some people, but no treatment that works for most people.  That still seems to be the case, but the market is growing because of the prevalence of  tinnitus.  Nothing seems to groundbreaking this year, with Neuromonics still leading the pack in reported success rate and pricing – it’s close to $5000 for the treatment device.

So the plan today is to hit up a couple of the big hearing aid manufacturers in the expo hall, sit in on at least one more lecture, win the audiology trivia bowl, and head home on a red-eye tonight.  I’ll be back in the office Monday afternoon.