Gone in 60 Seconds

After years of suffering, Sheri and Dominick finally found a fix for their tinnitus.

Sheri Edel was working in manufacturing when she experienced a “God moment.” It hit her that it was time for a major change in her life. After speaking with her pastor, she took a leap of faith and accepted a job as the Christian education director for her church. 

The moment when Sheri's lifetime of constant ringing finally stopped.

The moment when Sheri’s lifetime of constant ringing finally stopped.

“I held that position for nine years and absolutely loved it, loved the children,” Sheri says. “Then I decided kind of late in my life that I was ready for something different. I wanted to help people in some way, and medical coding came to mind. I went to school online for 14 months and became a certified professional coder.”

It didn’t take long for Sheri to get a job once she earned her certification. She was quickly hired by a large local health system to do the coding for its family practice and inpatient services.

“Every time doctors see a patient, they record what’s wrong with the patient in the chart,” Sheri describes. “Every diagnosis has a code. There were more than 50,000 codes for 2021, so my coding book was three inches thick. After the doctors record what they find during the patient’s visit, I code it and bill it to the payers. It’s a job I love, so I’m very happy I made the change.”

For a long time, Sheri wished for another change in her life, one that would eliminate the maddeningly incessant ringing in her ears, a condition known as tinnitus.

“I’ve suffered with tinnitus all my life, and I’m in my 60s now,” she elaborates. “I remember it being there during my teenage years because it bothered me in school. The sound is like a very high-pitched electrical tone. There were times it was barely there and times it was so bad I wanted to pull out my hair. I often lost sleep because of it.

“I tried many remedies. I tried all the tinnitus drops and all the little tricks you find online, but nothing worked. Then one Sunday, I saw a copy of Florida Health Care News and there was a huge article in there about Dean and Kathleen Knoblach and their practice. I read the testimonial and thought, If anybody can help me with my tinnitus, I think Dean can. I called the next day and made an appointment.” 

Dean Knoblach, BC-HIS, is a board-certified hearing instrument specialist at Knoblach Hearing Care in Largo. Dean’s wife, Kathleen Knoblach, HAS, is a licensed hearing aid specialist who also works at the family practice.

When Sheri arrived at Knoblach Hearing Care, Dean spoke to her at length about her symptoms and conducted a complete hearing evaluation. Based on his findings, he recommended that Sheri join a clinical trial investigating advanced devices that can mask the incessant ringing of tinnitus by replacing it with another much softer, more pleasant sound. Sheri agreed.

“Dean described the device as pulling down the shade on the squealing in my ears,” Sheri recalls. “With the study, I wear the devices in my ears for a period of time, and if they don’t work, there’s nothing on me. I thought, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Tailored Technology

For many people, tinnitus comes in the form of a buzzing, ringing or even cricket-like sound. In reality, it is a phantom noise without any acoustic stimulation, which means the sufferer can’t just walk away from it.

“More than 50 million Americans experience tinnitus,” Dean reports. ”A Johns Hopkins study concluded that in 45 million of those cases some level of acoustic damage to the auditory nerve is at the center of it all. That means most cases of tinnitus are irreversible and inoperable, and medications won’t help.”

That does not mean, however, that all hope is lost. Thanks to the recent advent of digital tinnitus maskers, relief for many patients dealing with the annoying condition may be only a hearing exam away.

A tinnitus masker such as the one Dean recommended for Sheri can be programmed to produce its own cloaking sound. It can be set to sound like a waterfall in the distance, a babbling brook or waves on a sandy beach.

“Like a blanket of comforting sound that can effectively cover up the tinnitus, tinnitus maskers push the annoying sound way off into the distance,” Dean explains. “This in turn helps trick the brain into not noticing the tinnitus.” 

Several hearing aid manufacturers carry this masking feature in their high-end models, but the specifics of each device vary.

“Since more than 90 percent of all tinnitus involves some sort of acoustic trauma, each and every case is different,” Dean says. “It is our job at Knoblach Hearing Care to determine what combination of particular technology and settings is necessary to properly address each individual’s needs. There is never one model that works for all, but with the right technology and proper settings, nearly all cases are correctable.”

Rectifying the problem is essential for safeguarding patients’ mental and emotional health, Dean adds. Chronic tinnitus sufferers can experience severe complications such as anxiety, insomnia and eventually severe depression.

High-Decibel Career

Dominick Luca retired and moved to Florida in 2012 after working more than 30 years in the engineering division of the City of New York. Most of his career, Dominick was an operating engineer, but he worked his way up and eventually began managing boiler plant and air-conditioning systems in office buildings, college campuses, hospitals and other public spaces.

With his hearing instruments, Dominick says he hears like he’s 20 years old again.

With his hearing instruments, Dominick says he hears like he’s 20 years old again.

His was a long, loud career that began when he was young and a new recruit in the Navy. There, he got his initial work experience with heating systems, sweating over the boilers on ships. Between his Navy service and his tenure with New York City, Dominick spent decades in high-decibel sound. It wasn’t without consequences.

“With all the years of working on machinery, not wearing hearing protection as much as I should have while doing things like welding, hammering and bending metal, and from the constant pounding and banging of metals, my ears took abuse,” he shares.

“I noticed that I had a hearing loss, and I found myself constantly asking people to repeat themselves. I also noticed since I retired that my right ear was ringing. It was a nuisance and making me a little nuts because it was 24 hours a day. It was maddening to live with it.”

Frustrated, Dominick sought the advice of his trusted family physician, who immediately referred Dominick to Knoblach Hearing Care. When Dominick met Dean, he understood why his doctor was so quick to recommend him.

“Dean was very interested in making sure he knew exactly what was happening with me,” describes Dominick. “He started by doing several tests. He’s up to date on all the technology and has all types of equipment to help determine what’s needed. 

“Dean found that I had a particular difference between my left and right ears and recommended hearing devices that also knocked out the tinnitus. And by the time he was done tuning these devices, my hearing was crisp and clear. It’s been years since I was able to hear this well.”

Maximum Benefit

The combination of hearing instrument and masking device Dean recommended for Dominick was a perfect fit. Dominick is amazed by the difference it makes when he uses his instruments compared to when he leaves them off.

“The masking devices are just wonderful. They’ve been 100 percent effective for me,” Dominick offers. “I don’t wear them at night, but during the day I wear them and I’m tinnitus free.”

Dominick relays that he’s back to hearing like he did as a younger man.

“My ears suffered from abuse all those years, but with these devices it’s like I’m 20 years old again,” says Dominick. “I can hear, and I don’t ask people to repeat themselves. Because these devices muffle the tinnitus, it helps me to hear more crisply what people are saying, even in a crowd.”

Dominick is extremely thrilled with the result of his trips to Knoblach Hearing Care, including the work of Dean and his staff.

 “It’s a fantastic facility that is focused on total customer satisfaction, from Dean’s diagnosis right down to the work of the receptionist,” reports Dominick. “They smile. They make you laugh. They’re all perfectionists. I would give them five stars. I would recommend them without a doubt.”

Peace, Finally

Tinnitus masking is not a miracle cure, but it can make a miraculous difference. It did for Dominick and Sheri, who now hears a faint whisper instead of an annoying squeal while wearing her hearing aids. 

“Dean said I could choose whatever masking sound I wanted, so I chose white noise. It totally masks the tinnitus,” Sheri says.

“I have dealt with tinnitus for so many years, and I finally have peace. I wanted to cry. It’s amazing. So are Dean and Kathleen. They really are the most wonderful people. When I walk into Knoblach Hearing Care, I feel like I’m with old friends. They’re absolutely fantastic.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Dominick’s photo by Jordan Pysz. Sheri’s photos courtesy of Sheri Edel. js
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