TOP NEWS and HEADLINES

  • Siemens wins bid to acquire HearUSA assets for $129 million.
  • Not Just Loud Music: Secondhand Smoke May Cause Hearing Loss in Teens
  • FDA Clears New Alpha 1 (M) Magnetic Bone Conduction Hearing System
  • Linda Thibodeau Receives Phonak’s 2011 Cheryl DeConde Johnson Award
  • Motorcycle Helmets Don’t Prevent Hearing Damage Caused by Wind Noise
  • ASHA Supports Senator Harkin’s Reintroduction of the IDEA Full Funding Act
  • NPR Apologizes for Broadcasting Tinnitus Tone During Story About…Tinnitus
  • CareCredit Names New National Account Manager
  • Hear the World Sound Academy Starts Grand Canyon Trip
  • GSI Clinical Instruments Now EMR Compatible
  • And the Stevie Award Goes to … Rayovac
  • Oticon At the Heart of It Raises $10,000 for American Heart Association
  • ReSound’s First Business Partner Summit Highlights Practice Management
  • Siemens wins bid to acquire HearUSA assets for $129 million.HearUSA announced that Audiology Distribution, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens Hearing Instruments Inc, submitted the highest and best bid for the purchase of HearUSA in the July 29, 2011 Section 363 auction conducted under bidding procedures established for HearUSA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

    The US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division, approved the sale as of August 1, 2011. The transaction is expected to close within 30 days of the final sale order.

    The bid by Audiology Distribution includes aggregate consideration of approximately $129 million plus a waiver by Siemens of distribution on 6.4 million shares of HearUSA common stock owned by Siemens. According to previous financial media reports, Siemens already owned 14.1% of the company, and it supplied most of the hearing aids at HearUSA’s reported 2,000 provider offices (176 of which are company owned).

    For purposes of the bidding, the company estimated the value of the waiver of distribution to be in the range of $6 to $7 million, subject to final reconciliation of assumed liabilities, excluded liabilities, taxes, and common stock dilution effects of the transaction.

    The estimated $129 million purchase price is comprised of $66.8 million in cash, which includes repayment or assumption of the $10 million debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing provided by the stalking horse bidder, William Demant Holdings A/S (see July HR Online News), plus the payment of cure costs for assumed contracts, the assumption of various liabilities of the company and certain of its subsidiaries, and the assumption of the company’s existing supply agreement with Siemens.

    In a separate statement to shareholders, William Demant wrote, “By HearUSA’s completion of the transaction with the highest bidder (closing), the agreement entered into prior to the auction process, when William Demant was selected as stalking horse bidder, will expire. As a consequence of this, HearUSA will be obliged to pay William Demant a break-up fee of $2 million and to repay the bridge financing of $10 million (DIP loan) made available during the bankruptcy proceedings. The outcome will not affect William Demant’s previously announced expectations of the year.”

    The HearUSA press release states that the cash portion of the purchase price in excess of the repayment or assumption of the DIP financing will be used to pay the company’s remaining unsecured creditor claims and wind up costs of the company, with the balance to be distributed to equity holders of the company. For more on this story, see the February, May, and July editions of HR Online News.

  • Today Show features 7-minute segment on hearing loss. On August 10, 2011, NBC’s Today Show featured host Matt Lauer admitting that he was concerned about having hearing loss and showed him getting a hearing exam from Shelley A. Borgia, AuD, a New York-based audiologist.

    A Baby Boomer and long-time broadcast journalist, Lauer was prompted to seek help over decreased hearing sensitivity in his right ear, where he receives information from the morning show’s broadcast booth via a discreet earpiece. The 7-minute segment includes highlights of Lauer’s audiology exam and discusses common concerns of people with hearing loss. Laurer’s testing revealed that, while his left ear is borderline normal for hearing sensitivity, his right ear, where his earpiece is placed, does have mild high-frequency hearing loss. While Laurer’s hearing loss is not severe enough for Borgia to prescribe a hearing aid, she does recommend custom hearing protection to protect further damage when attending loud events.

    However, Today also included another story about a man in his 30s who did need a hearing aid and received a Lyric hearing aid. The patient’s story discussed the stigma issue of having a visible hearing aid, and the many unobtrusive hearing aids that are now available for those with hearing loss.

    Overall, the segment provided great public awareness to hearing health, highlighting hearing aid options, showing the examination process, and addressing many of the common concerns of potential Baby Boomer hearing aid recipients, such as Lauer. To view the segment, go to today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/44087745#44087745.

    Linda Thibodeau

  • Linda Thibodeau receives Phonak’s 2011 Cheryl DeConde Johnson Award. Phonak announced that it had awarded the 2011 Cheryl DeConde Johnson Award for outstanding achievement in educational and pediatric audiology to Linda Thibodeau, PhD, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and an active member of multiple organizations devoted to the rehabilitation of adults and children with hearing loss.

    Thibodeau holds a position with the Board of Directors for the Academy of Rehabilitative Audiology and is a member of a working group for ANSI standards for measuring FM system benefit. She has conducted many workshops on FM verification and other hearing assistance technology-related topics at EAA, AAA, and state meetings across the country. She has also authored numerous articles and textbook chapters in speech perception, amplification, and hearing assistive technology.

    Phonak introduced the award in 2007 to honor educational and pediatric audiologists for their outstanding work and commitment to advocate for and improve communication, as well as academic outcomes of children (Karen Anderson, PhD, whose article “Predicting Speech Audibility from the Audiogram to Advocate for Listening and Learning Needs” appears in this edition of HR, was a co-recipient of the award that year with Rebecca Kooper, AuD).

    The award is named for Cheryl DeConde Johnson, EdD, FAAA, the first hearing health professional to receive the award for her many years working as an educational audiologist and deaf educator, including 15 years successfully directing the audiology and deaf education programs for the state of Colorado. Johnson is now the honorary chairperson of Phonak’s award selection committee. She commented in the press statement, “Dr Thibodeau exemplifies the marriage of service, research, and teaching, and has made significant contributions to hearing aid and FM research, particularly as it pertains to school-age children. We are privileged to have her as a peer and delighted to acknowledge her outstanding contributions. Her service to the profession over the past two decades is so impressive and truly exemplifies the spirit of the award.”

    In addition to her current FM-related work, Thibodeau has instituted the Pediatric Habilitation Specialty at the University of Texas at Dallas, which offers AuD and SLP students the enhanced opportunity to gain expertise in evaluation and management issues for school-aged children with hearing loss. She initiated the Summer Intensive Auditory Rehabilitation Conference (SIARC); Camp CHAT (Communication Habilitation via Audition for Teens); and AALTA (Application of Advanced Listening Technology for Adults).

  • NHCA issues guidelines for recording hearing loss on OSHA 300 Log. In an effort to promote best practices in hearing conservation, the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) has issued a set of guidelines to assist audiologists and other professional reviewers to determine the recordability of occupational hearing loss.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) record-keeping regulation (29 CFR 1904.10) states that companies are required to report documented hearing loss in the form of qualifying Standard Threshold Shifts (STS), on the OSHA 300 Log. However, according to NHCA, there is evidence that occupational hearing losses are routinely under-reported.

    The NHCA said in a press statement that professional supervisors (audiologists and physicians) have at times reported difficulties in making a determination of recordability and work-relatedness. The organization also says it has heard from hearing professionals that they sometimes feel pressure from clients to alter their professional assessment in a manner that benefits the client.

    NHCA President Timothy L. Rink, PhD, says that the new guidelines for recording hearing loss cases are the result of over 2 years of intensive review by a task force of hearing care professionals chaired by Alice Suter, PhD. “Physician and audiologist reviewers who are responsible for making the determination to record an OSHA STS on the 300 Log will now have consistent and uniform guiding principles to assist them in making that decision,” says Rink.

    The NHCA guidelines advise hearing professional reviewers to take into consideration the following when determining occupational hearing loss for documentation on the OSHA 300 Log:n OSHA’s policies as well as legal determinations that, if it is more likely than not that any part of a qualifying hearing loss is work related, it must be recorded.

    • Noise measurements, including work area and personal dosimetry measurements, to determine the worker’s time-weighted average exposure level.
    • Audiometric configuration, that is, describing configurations consistent with non-work-related causes.
    • Non-occupational exposures and medical history.

    While the guidelines discuss documentation of hearing protection use and compliance with the limits set by the Hearing Conservation Amendment (29 CFR1910.95), they emphasize that this compliance is not sufficient evidence to establish that no part of the loss was work-related.

    The new guidelines are now available via a PDF download on NHCA’s Web site at www.hearingconservation.org/associations/10915/files/Guidelinesforworkrelatednessdraft8.pdf.

  • Senator Harkin reintroduces IDEA Full Funding Act. On July 20, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) reintroduced the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act (S1403). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has released a statement that fully supports the act and applauds Harkin for his initiative.

    “Our children will benefit the most from the passage of S1403,” ASHA President Paul R. Rao, PhD, CCC-SLP, said in the statement. “The bill will ensure that students with communication disorders and other disabilities receive the highest quality special education and related services.”

    Over 10 years, S1403 would gradually increase the federal share of IDEA funding from 16.1% to 40%. It is estimated that a quarter of every dollar spent under IDEA supports speech-language pathologists and audiologists. S1403 provisions also would:

    • Provide relief from the financial burden that state and local taxpayers face by supplying schools with the dollars that are necessary to boost the quality and range of services available for students with disabilities;
    • Help raise salaries for teachers and related services personnel, allowing districts to enhance recruitment and retention possibilities;
    • Support school districts by increasing graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment rates of students with disabilities.

    The bill has 13 additional co-sponsors, and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) is expected to introduce a House version of S1403 soon.

  • NPR apologizes for broadcasting tinnitus tone during story about tinnitus. National Public Radio’s ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, wrote an apology to listeners who heard a simulated tinnitus sound during a story about the potential causes of tinnitus. Schumacher-Matos and an NPR science editor agree that they should have warned listeners before broadcasting the sound.

    On July 17, 2011, an NPR segment on Morning Edition, titled “Tinnitus: Why Won’t My Ears Stop Ringing?” featured a high-pitched tone that is reported to imitate ringing in the ears. After the program aired, NPR received dozens of complaints from those who suffer from tinnitus, as well as complaints from those who do not suffer from tinnitus. The listeners wrote that NPR’s broadcast of the sound without warning had exacerbated their condition and that they subsequently heard a ringing in their ears for a long period after the broadcast. Some commented that they had never experienced the ringing before hearing the broadcast.

    NPR forwarded the complaints to Anne Gudenkauf, the supervising senior science editor, who subsequently posted a warning at the top of the segment, which is available on the Internet. The warning reads: “Caution: This story contains a high-pitched sound that simulates what tinnitus sufferers hear.”

    In response to the complaints, Gudenkauf wrote, “I don’t see any indication that these specific noises—more than any loud noise— cause tinnitus. However, the ATA [American Tinnitus Association] clearly warns users about hearing the noises at high volume. In hindsight, we should have warned our radio audience as well.”

    The podcast can be accessed at www.npr.org/2011/07/18/138163304/tinnitus-why-wont-my-ears-stop-ringing; HR also confirms that it is a very annoying and slightly painful sound. Readers, beware…

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