Custom Hearing Aids Quiet Shooter’s Worries

Specialty devices offer protection from loud environments while addressing tinnitus.

One of the toughest tests of a shooting enthusiast’s speed and precision comes during a competition in which the challenge is to hit as many targets as possible over a short period of time.

Custom ear protection allows Jason to safely enjoy his favorite hobby.

Known as practical shooting, dynamic shooting or action shooting, these events offer little in the way of prize money, but that doesn’t keep Jason Vreeland, 43, from participating. Like many contestants, Jason is drawn by the thrill of the challenge.

“It’s pretty dynamic because it’s not your typical stand-still-and-shoot-at-something kind of exercise,” Jason offers. “You’re running and maneuvering your way through the course, all while shooting at various targets that pop up along the way.

“The targets range from generic cardboard silhouettes to various shapes, so it’s a bit like a video game come to life. I got into it through a friend, and ever since I attended one of his matches, it’s kind of become my thing.”

Music is another of Jason’s things. So is tinkering in his home workshop, where he has just about every power tool known to humans. Unfortunately, years of attending concerts and operating those tools without ear protection caught up to him several years ago.

“There was this one concert in particular I went to in my early 30s, and as soon as the band started playing, all I heard was crackles and pops,” Jason recalls. “It was real bad, and ever since then, I’ve suffered with high-frequency hearing loss.”

That isn’t Jason’s only audiological problem. Since childhood, he has dealt with tinnitus, a condition that in Jason’s case presents as a constant high-pitched ringing or buzzing in the ears.

“It’s a very frustrating condition to have to deal with because it can saturate your listening sometimes and make it very difficult to concentrate on something or understand people when you’re talking to them,” Jason laments. “Between that and the hearing loss, I was really having a hard time because I thought people were mumbling all the time.

“Then one day at work, I asked one of the guys that works for me to repeat himself because I didn’t understand what he had said. This is one of the most chill, patient guys I know, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was exasperated with me. That’s when I realized, Maybe the problem is me. It was after that I decided to visit EarCare.”

“Awesome” Innovation

Hearing protection devices

EarCare, which has locations in Melbourne, Merritt Island and Indian Harbour Beach, is co-owned by Karen Cowan-Oberbeck, AuD, FAAA, CCC-A, a board-certified doctor of audiology, and her husband, Glenn A. Oberbeck, BC-HAS, a licensed hearing instrument specialist.

When Jason first visited EarCare five years ago, his hearing loss and tinnitus were confirmed through testing by Dr. Cowan-Oberbeck. He was then fit with hearing aids that included a masking device that reduces the effects of the tinnitus.

“The masker produces a gentle ocean sound, like waves crashing,” Jason reveals. “It’s really faint, but it’s enough to drown out the high-frequency ringing, and it works great. That ringing is still there, but it’s so faint I forget all about it.”

Recently, Jason approached Glenn with another concern. Worried that his passion for shooting sports might further damage his hearing, he asked if Glenn could create a hearing protection device that also allowed him to hear communication clearly at the same time.

A shooting enthusiast himself, Glenn gladly accepted the challenge, and the result is an example of what sets practices such as EarCare apart from big-box and online retailers offering hearing aids.

“This is an example of the unique services we can provide,” Glenn adds. “In this case, it was a matter of sitting down and strategizing to come up with something that provides clear hearing while also controlling the tinnitus and input of loudness discomfort levels.”

The devices Glenn created look like hearing aids, which they are. But in addition to electronic amplification, these hearing aids also have the ability to electronically control the input of loud noises so hearing is not damaged by those noises.

In addition, the devices are custom molded to fit snugly in the ears. That was another one of the objectives sought by Jason, whose ability to accurately shoot a rifle can be affected by traditional bulky ear coverings.

“What Glenn came up with is just awesome,” Jason raves. “They work great, and I don’t wear them only at the shooting range; I also wear them if I’m mowing the lawn or doing something in my shop or anywhere where there’s a lot of noise.

“They’re so convenient; they just pop in and out. And, after I showed them to some of the people at the club where I shoot, they went to Glenn to get fitted for them, too. Everyone I know that’s used them loves them.”

For Any Environment

Jason Vreeland

Glenn didn’t stop at providing hearing protection for shooters. He has since developed a full line of digital lithium-ion, rechargeable, Bluetooth compatible, custom hearing protection devices for anyone regularly exposed to high-decibel sounds.

“We’re working with all kinds of people who work or play in loud environments, including some NASCAR pit bosses who need to control their tinnitus and communicate with others while protecting their hearing from the sound of racecar engines,” Glenn says.

“Our goal is to incorporate all of this into custom hearing protection devices that offer patients a solution for any environment. There are a lot of people who need to communicate that are subject to these dangerous noise levels, and that’s who we’re helping.”

Glenn’s desire to help those people is one reason Jason recommends EarCare to friends and family.

“Glenn and his wife are all about giving you the best care possible,” he states. “They work hard to make sure you’re happy with the product and that it’s doing what you need it to do. And if it’s not, they’ll do whatever needs to be done to make sure it does.”

Disclaimer: Hearing aids are not designed for hearing protection. They must be custom fit and programmed specifically for this purpose.
© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. Hearing protection devices photo courtesy of EarCare, P.A. mkb
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    • EarCare, P.A.

      EarCare provides a wide variety of audiological services, including industrial audiological monitoring, hearing aid evaluations and dispensing, hearing aid repairs for all makes and models, and special audiological diagnostics.... Read More

    • Karen Cowan-Oberbeck, AuD, FAAA, CCC-A

      Karen Cowan-Oberbeck, AuD, FAAA, CCC-A, completed undergraduate work at the University of South Florida. She earned a master’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Central Florida and Doctor of Audiology degree from Nova S... Read More

    • Glenn A. Oberbeck, BC-HIS

      Glenn A. Oberbeck, BC-HAS, is a licensed hearing instrument specialist. His specialty areas include personal communication assistance, cerumen management, audiometrics and assistive-listening devices. He is a member of the International He... Read More