Guest Post by R. Scott Armbruster
Sound Pillow Sleep System
My name is R. Scott Armbruster. I have a constant annoyance in my head. It never stops, day or night and goes by the name of Tinnitus. I know the exact moment the blast of sound hit me a/k/a the “acoustic insult”. It was the fall of 1994. I worked in the concert production industry and headed stage left, to reposition a laser effect when the talent (a classic rock-n-roller) screamed into his microphone and began his signature anthem. With my ear about 6 inches from 100,000 watts of sound, my knees buckled and I hit the floor. Being young and dumb…I had no ear protection.
I could handle my condition, during the day. However, it was the quiet of the night that was challenging. Some nights, I just couldn’t sleep; which made life, in general, more difficult. So I started working with the concept of speakers in a pillow by way of a product call the Sound Pillow. I liked its potential so much, I bought the company, then overhauled the pillow, from the inside out, until I developed a Sound Pillow that was very comfortable and sounded great. The next step? Finding the right sounds.
I attended Tinnitus seminars and symposiums, held by the industry’s leading doctors and researchers and just listened. The vast majority of the time, I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. When they said “some patients responded well to white noise sounds like the rain, oceans, streams, fountains…” And “stress can make the perception of tinnitus worse while relaxation and meditation can lessen the perception of Tinnitus…” I understood exactly what the said! And thus, the concept for the Sound Pillow Sleep System was born. The next step was to find the right sounds.
Ten years later, I found them…Real sounds from nature and super relaxing music that helped me to cover-up the sounds in my head, “turn off” my racing mind and relax me to the point of sleep. The Sound Pillow Sleep was born – a ready to use straight-from-the box sound conditioner. It worked so well, it is now used by our service men and women in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. As it turns out, tinnitus is the number one injury, in all of the military.
There is no known cure for Tinnitus. There are, however, talented researchers looking for it. You can learn more about the current research efforts and connect with thousands of other Tinnitus suffers by visiting the American Tinnitus Association’s web site at www.ATA.org and by following them on Facebook or Twitter.
Testimonial: I was introduced to the Sound Pillow Sleep System in early 2014. As a result of combat related hearing loss, I also have severe tinnitus. Getting to sleep has long been a problem, but with the soothing music and relaxing ocean waves of my preferred listening program, I find falling to sleep much easier. Thanks for a sound system that can truly help make a difference.
-Tony Seahorn, Vietnam Veteran
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Much of the time we write about the challenges of Post-Traumatic Stress, a silent wound no one can see, yet its effects can consume a person’s mind, heart, spirit, and even soul. However, there is a very physical silent wound that many individuals face, especially veterans who have been in combat zones where IEDs, bomb & RPG blasts and other tragic events cause a physical hearing loss.
Losing any of our senses makes negotiating the daily routines of life much more difficult. And losing the loss of hearing separates one from the ability to participate in the most common of daily tasks. Simple activities like going to the store and trying to communicate with the checkout person, or straining to understand what your waiter is telling you at a restaurant can be challenging. Consider, also, what it takes to have a conversation on the phone. Most of us take these common everyday tasks for granted. Thanks goodness for new technologies like texting.
It was an early Friday morning and I was heading to the airport to catch a flight to Louisville, Kentucky. Tony had accepted an invitation for both of us to speak on several panels regarding hearing loss and combat veterans. In between the acceptance and the trip, he got a special opportunity to spend ten days in Alaska fishing for salmon and halibut. This proved to be an offer he couldn’t refuse. So you guessed it, I was doing this one alone, kind of like Tonto without the Lone Ranger.
Once I arrived in Louisville I had the wonderful privilege of spending several days with four wounded veterans and three of their wives. All of the vets had severe hearing loss from an IED explosion or near a suicide bomber, and one who had contacted an unusual illness that caused him to lose his hearing due to the cartilage in his body being eaten away. Three of the four vets also suffered with pretty severe traumatic brain injuries.
What was quite amazing about this group was not what they had lost, but how far they had come in addressing their condition and moving forward. And to make this situation even more remarkable was that each had a wife who was incredibly supportive and tenacious on making sure that her husband fought for his recovery as she helped fight for appropriate services in the healing journey. One of the wives had a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy while another had a background in working with the deaf and was skilled at sign language and other techniques to use when working with individuals faced with hearing loss.
What was an Aha Moment for me after being around these couples is the fact that there are “tip” sheets to assist with adjustments to hearing loss.
-Tips like stand still and face the individual with whom you are talking.
-Try to keep to the point and don’t overuse words.
Darn, these were things Tony and I learned the hard way. I could have benefited knowing these years ago. The list reminded me of training our dogs… you do the same things… when giving directions or a command. Stand still. Use minimal words such as stay, sit, down, eat, kennel, etc…Kind of showed us that training ourselves sometimes is very much like training our animal friends.
For any person with a hearing loss and especially our returning veterans and families, get informed about all the new technologies and assist devices that can greatly enhance the ability to function. If you are in this category you will have to be your own fervent advocate. If you aren’t satisfied with your services, keep pushing for any new ideas or programs that are available. Do your Google searches. The Veteran Centers are pretty overwhelmed with the number of veterans needing services, therefore, you will need to be the bull terrier not willing to give up or give in until you are convinced all that can be done, has been done.
Adapted hearing devices are available through many American companies. One such organization is Hamilton CapTel. It produces a caption phone that has been a Godsend to Tony. Hamilton CapTel has just launched a new program called Heroes with Hearing Loss www.heroeswithhearingloss.com The program focuses on education and information for navigating the world of the hard of hearing. Take a look at their video. You may even want to “Like” them on Facebook to get more information.
In the end I am reminded of a quote by Joseph Fort Newton. It clearly captures the essence of so many of our military personnel and their families who continue to wake up every day and courageously move forward toward their personal healing and their mission of making a difference for others.
“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us, how we take it, what we do with it —– and that is what really counts in the end.”
by Tony Seahorn
Every once in a while we get presented with a special opportunity that may change or at least have an impression on our lives. This happened to me a few weeks back. I was asked to be a member of a panel of veterans who had hearing loss and tinnitus due to combat exposure. The panel was part of the National Joint Defense Veterans Audiology Conference (JDVAC) which is held around the country each year. This year’s event was held at the Omni Hotel in Dallas,Texas.
Of the six veterans participating on the panel, all of us also had PTSD and a couple with TBI. We all agreed that most veterans with severe hearing loss have other scars from war that often add to the severity of individual disabilities.
From the time we arrived we were treated like royalty: beautiful rooms, a basket of goodies delivery shortly after we arrived, and even free coffee and lattes. Unfortunately, Jan was unable to go with me due to her teaching commitments at CSU. I’m not sure whether she was most jealous of the basket of goodies or all the free lattes she could have during my three days at the conference.
Maybe I should backtrack a bit. Ever sinceVietnamI have struggled with tinnitus, ringing in my ears. For the most part I have been able to endure the buzzing in my ears, that is until last November. One night I went to bed with the “normal” ringing. However, in the morning I awoke with the sound being far worse than ever and I had lost most of my hearing in my right ear. My hearing loss was also accompanied by dizziness.
After several doctor visits and antibiotics, I was told that the ringing would probably never get much better and my hearing would not fully return. Fast forward a few months and this special opportunity to be a part of a conference with some of the best hearing specialists in the country.
My panel was made up of eight individuals: two audiologists and six veterans. Each panel member contributed, not just telling their combat story, but how being hearing challenged impacted their lives. The entire session was taped and will be presented in a video and streamed on the sponsor Hamilton CapTel® Web site which will reach hundreds if not thousands of viewers throughout their network.
Following the conference, one veteran wrote in an e-mail …Our feeling is that we have to start somewhere with this important message. Hopefully, as we look back at our endeavors a year from now, we’ll see encouraging progress that not only includes larger veteran audiences for this panel at industry events – but more importantly, increasingly open “solutions” dialog between hearing health care professionals and the veterans they serve.
For all of you vets who are living with a hearing problem, I truly believe help and hope is on the way. I found that support and optimism in Dallas. The experience has been such a blessing. To think I almost didn’t attend this event.
Following is a message from Judi Victor in her capacity of Panel Director:
Hi, JDVAC Holistic Panel Team!
Tina and I are having trouble finding the right words to thank you for your participation in the Holistic Hearing Healthcare Panel at JDVC on Tuesday. Each of you contributed so much to the discussion; we can’t imagine a more articulate, informed, bright or inspiring group. It was, indeed, impressive – and to think that the entire panel had never rehearsed together until a few hours before the actual event is truly amazing!
Even though our “live” audience was not gigantic, please keep in mind that we are editing the video presentation to stream on the Hamilton CapTel® Web site, which will reach hundreds if not thousands of viewers. In addition, the video will be shown in part or in its entirety at other industry events throughout the coming year.
Our feeling is that we have to start somewhere with this important message. Hopefully, as we look back at our endeavors a year from now, we’ll see encouraging progress that not only includes larger veteran audiences for this panel at industry events – but more importantly, increasingly open “solutions” dialog between hearing health care professionals and the veterans they serve.
We know that this event required a huge effort on your parts, not to mention the fact that it took you away from your work, families and many other activities. Please know that your participation is appreciated more than we can ever express.
With warmest regards and deepest gratitude.