In early 2020, I launched Pure Tinnitus, a tele-health company that provides tinnitus consultations and treatment. The fact that a global pandemic hit about the same time was purely coincidental.
When the pandemic hit, my tele-health business model was tailor made to weather this unprecedented public health crisis. Clinics were closed or operating at reduced capacity, but people bothered by tinnitus still needed care.
In this article, I want to explain my personal journey to create Pure Tinnitus and how tinnitus therapy is performed via tele-health.
So how did I get here?
My Personal Journey With Tinnitus
I developed chronic tinnitus from the age of 19 as a result of loud music exposure. I have been able to manage my tinnitus well. It only affects me when I am trying to fall asleep at night in a quiet room.
Years later, I applied to graduate school and was accepted into a doctoral program in audiology at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. In California, I made a lot of friends who worked remotely, which opened my mind to the possibility of running a business from my laptop. But how could I do this as a hearing doctor?
During graduate school, I didn’t see a plausible way to work as an audiologist in the tele-health model. At times, I felt like walking away from the field altogether, but then I began learning about tinnitus therapy.
Suddenly, a new avenue opened up that would allow me to work remotely, help others, and stay in audiology. I was in my second year when I attended a presentation given by Dr. Jennifer Gans, a psychologist specialized in therapy for individuals with tinnitus.
She explained her research on mindfulness meditation and how it can reduce tinnitus distress. With that knowledge, she developed an online program that guides individuals in the practice of stress-reduction techniques to reduce the burden of tinnitus.
That lecture taught me two things. First, it was an example of how holistic health practices could help a patient with hearing loss or tinnitus. Second, her program demonstrated that individuals with tinnitus were open to using the internet to get help.
The more I learned about tinnitus therapy, the more I was drawn to it. The psychological aspect of tinnitus therapy had quickly become my favorite area within audiology. I was lucky that, unlike many audiology programs, my university offered two semesters in tinnitus management and treatment.
UCSF Medical Center | Tinnitus Management
For my residency, I was accepted into the highly competitive audiology program at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). One day, I met with a patient who had driven four hours from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco to find help for his tinnitus.
My patient had sought help in the Lake Tahoe area but no doctor had offered anything useful. When our appointment was finished, he had a plan for how to manage tinnitus over the next three months. He thanked me and seemed genuinely satisfied. He finally felt some relief. I clearly saw that tinnitus specialists mattered. I understood the pain, the frustration, and could help.
It was crystal clear that I should learn as much as I could about tinnitus management and tele-health during my residency at UCSF. When I finished, I looked for work to continue practicing as an audiologist.
I was tired of living in the big city and had the urge to move to a new area. That’s how I landed on the Big Island of Hawaii to work as an audiologist. I surfed after work, ate lots of tropical fruit, and swam with dolphins on the weekends. Paradise, right? Not exactly. After six months, I realized I was lonely and unhappy working in a private hearing aid clinic.
I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where my journey to become a tinnitus specialist began. Once again surrounded by innovation and technology, I was finally ready to start my online tele-health business.
Pure Tinnitus Origin Story
I began launching tinnitus educational videos on my YouTube channel called Ben Thompson, AuD. I created an online monthly group coaching program via Zoom. The problem of accessibility for tinnitus therapy was solved virtually. All you need is an internet connection.
I also delved into connecting with the professional community. With the across-the-board cancellation of conferences in 2020, I decided to host the Tinnitus Virtual Summit, which featured 14 guest speakers from 4 countries. More than 500 people registered, which is a good turnout by any measure.
It’s been one year since the pandemic hit, changing the way we work, live, and interact with one another. As the pandemic subsides, it will leave behind a permanently altered healthcare environment, with tele-health playing a more central role.
For me, the pandemic propelled my goal of working as an audiologist from my laptop, and helping people with tinnitus get to a better place. Digital healthcare will continue to grow, opening up so many more doors to live better and stronger, despite conditions like tinnitus.