New York City Tinnitus Doctor – Garrett Thompson, AuD – #01

Hello everyone, all the viewers, this is Episode One, we are launching the brand new pure tinnitus podcast where I your host, Ben Thompson interview some important figures in the world of tinnitus and hearing loss. And I’m here today with a special guest someone I know very well. So no matter where you’re viewing from in the world, sit down, relax. Let’s learn about our special guests for this episode number one, Numero Uno. This is Garrett Thompson. Garrett is not only my brother, but Garrett is an audiologist, a Doctor of Audiology in New York City in Manhattan. And a number of years ago, he graduated from the city of the City University of New York, in New York City. And he studied in his residency at a well known institution called the Callier Center in Dallas, Texas. And this is a place that’s well known for producing the research that the rest of the country and the rest of the world uses for treating hearing loss, working with tinnitus, cochlear implants, another aspect of hearing loss science. So Garrett, and I grew up we are siblings, here’s my older brother, and I thought it would be the most appropriate opportunity to bring him on as the first guest. So he can share his experiences as an audiologist to help you who may be listening, who may have tinnitus, or may have hearing loss. And maybe you live in the New York area, as well as learn about our family upbringing, and how two brothers ended up in a very niche medical specialty of Audiology. So right now, Garrett is an audiologist at resonant audiology since June 2017. And he’s providing clinical services as one of two audiologists in their busy Midtown private practice.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
And I’ll say thanks for having me as well, and congrats on your podcasts and all that you’re doing with your site. So the way that I got started, going all the way back, it really comes from, in my opinion, our mother, who was a speech language pathologist, Pamela’s story, is her name. And so I think we were both aware that speech and hearing, you know, were interesting fields, and they combined, you know, the scientific element with the one on one clinical element. And so I’ve been generally aware of that, throughout my upbringing. And then I studied something different in college economics. And I’ve been interested in entrepreneurship and small business. And so at some point, the collision of Audiology and private practice, you know, owning your own practice, and kind of all the entrepreneurial things that go along with that. I thought it was interesting. And I took some classes in audiology and hearing science and liked them a lot, and decided to pursue it and go to graduate school in New York. And then, as you said, Did my final year in Dallas, Texas, and then now working as a private practice, and man, thanks so much. And were there any moments along that journey where that really stand out to you maybe starting a new chapter or specific moments, whether that’s with a patient or learning a certain subject where you realize the impact of what you’re doing?

Two brothers audiology interview about tinnitus.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
I’m sure, I don’t know about a specific moment. But I think more generally, it was interesting to learn about things in school as I was taking even the prerequisites before graduate school, knowing that I could apply those learnings to real life and actually helping people and that process was interesting to me as opposed to other schooling which was a little more abstract. Maybe this was very applicable in the real world to deliver value to people and help people and in your job as an audiologist in New York City, and for anyone who’s watching maybe in the New York area, can find Garrett online search Garrett Thompson will definitely take care of Your needs I know that. Um, so when you’re working as an audiologist, how quickly do you see results working with hearing aids and devices for your patients? for hearing loss or tinnitus? Yeah, for tinnitus or hearing loss, because you were saying that what you enjoyed was taking the education, taking your knowledge and then using it to improve people’s lives. So what is your experience of helping someone? Is it quick does it take time? Gotcha. Um, for someone who is new, who’s never used hearing aids, before, if it was just a straight hearing loss case, I’d say it’s kind of variable. I mean, some people walk in the door, and that day, we’ll do a hearing test, we’ll put hearing aids on them, and they’ll be blown away, and it works very well. And they’re super satisfied and just sort of proceed without any friction from there. Other people, it takes a little bit of time and some getting used to and, you know, multiple follow up visits to do some fine tuning. I’d say that’s probably the average. And then some people it takes either a lot of time or it doesn’t work, you know, that that go round. And maybe they take a year or two years to sort of reassess and think if the effort of getting hearing aids is worth the benefit. So I’d say there’s a pretty wide range, but overall, it certainly does help people and and, you know, we love to see that. for tinnitus. Again, there’s so many different in this patients that walk in the door, but for someone who it’s really bothering them, maybe it got worse recently, or it’s just time when they’re sort of over it and ready to do something. I’d say for those people, it’s it’s fairly quick that they never really considered usually never really considered hearing aids as a solution. Either they weren’t told about them or just never crossed their path. When they try them whether or not they have hearing loss, typically they do have some level of hearing loss, but they tend to find that they’re pretty darn helpful, straight away. And then it’s just a matter of orientation and getting them used to wearing them and all the things that go with that. But yeah, I’d say the benefit, specifically for tinnitus patients is fairly quick and fairly substantial.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
Yeah, that’s great that we get to work in a field where we can see those quick results. All different medical specialties are able to see results in different periods of time. So you shared your journey about getting into audiology. And you mentioned how our mother whose name is Pamela, she has been a speech therapist for many years, and she recently completed her doctorate in speech therapy to complete research Bravo, bravo, Mama. Bravo, mom. Thumbs up. And my question for you is you had explained to me that you, you saw a new way of working with tinnitus patients. When you went to Texas at this specialty center, would you be able to share to listeners, some of whom are patients others may be other professionals, what you saw that they were doing differently that you enjoyed, and you thought it was useful to take back to New York?

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I’ll say that it was it was new to me because I was young, and I’d never really done much tinnitus work at that point. So it’s not that the techniques word so groundbreaking or different or anything, but I it was, it was my biggest exposure to working with tinnitus patients, you know, what you can do what you can offer and the benefits that they can reap from that. So that sort of opened my eyes just seeing you know, for example, I remember a guy who was like, 45, or something. He had tinnitus in one year out of nowhere, he was under a lot of stress. I think he just got divorced. And he was in the pits. I mean, he really needed help and was like, desperate and seeing the person the supervisor was working with, you know, get him started and get him were here and in that side and counsel him through that whole difficult process. I was that was new to me. And I was like, oh, wow, there’s like a big, you know, benefit that you can provide here, where, you know, maybe people with hearing loss that it’s kind of gradually worsened over the years, they’re not so psyched to start wearing hearing aids for some of them. This guy in particular, which I think you know, translates to to a lot of fitness people. He really needed help and he was very, you know, quick to accept that help. And it did provide a lot of benefits. So what was new to me Seeing how not many people want to help tinnitus patients, no offense, but a lot of EMTs, they don’t really want to deal with it. Some audiologists do not want to deal with it, I was working with a supervisor who, you know, was very excited to work with tinnitus patients to help them. And I saw that there was this huge gap and a lot of benefit that that they were experiencing. So that was exciting to me. And, and then on, you know, just the science of what tinnitus is how it’s kind of strange, you know, what we know and don’t know about it. That was all exciting to me, as well.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
Thank you. So I wanted to touch on something you mentioned, which is that most audiologists don’t work with tinnitus patients to the extent that they really need to see improvement, and you touched on how it part of it may be lack of interest, and maybe to get into that psychological space with them. And another factor that people often bring up to me is that when they’re going to different doctors, they don’t seem to know much about tinnitus. So is it? How much of it is the education component of these professionals? And how much is it just their desire to use the techniques in a way that serves the patients? What are your thoughts on this for the average audiologist or healthcare provider that works with hearing loss?

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
Yeah, it’s tricky. I would say that among EMTs, it is sort of an education thing. And I don’t mean to demean them at all. Obviously, they have a ton of education, and they do very good work. But when it comes to tinnitus, there’s this, this general feeling, and I assumed that it must have been taught to them that there’s nothing you can do. And I have patients who walk in who’ve been told that, or some version of that over and over. And that’s very frustrating knowing that there are some things we can do. I mean, certainly there is no cure for tinnitus. But there are a lot of things that we can do to make it more manageable and to you know, make people’s lives more manageable for people who have it. So that’s certainly a prevailing issue. And certainly among aunties, and even amongst some audiologists, there’s the feeling of there’s nothing you can do, there’s no cure. So I would say that’s a big part of it. Another part of it is that tinnitus patients are seen as difficult or challenging, and a combination of those. So unfortunately, some professionals just would rather not go down that road. But I find that audiologists who do want to work within this patients like yourself, then I tend to be pretty excited about it and want to give you know, 110% partially because others, you know, aren’t really offering those services. Thank you. And

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
do you think that the average audiology education in graduate school in the doctorate programs, do you think they need more tinnitus coursework to understand the psycho social emotional effects of it?

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
Yeah, I mean, I think that maybe the psychosocial emotional effects are probably decently covered. But I would say, the clinical interventions and the counseling and just working with these people, those could be covered more. So I mean, obviously, I only went to my program. And I can say that my program certainly needs more of that. But just from what I hear from friends and colleagues, I would think that that, you know, is the case with most programs around the country? Yeah.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
Cool. All right, we’re gonna switch it up. For anyone who’s listening. Thanks for making it this far. If you made it this far, stick around for this whole podcast interview, it’s gonna be filled with some extra bonuses along the way. And I want to switch up the energy right now and ask you guys, so who heard about audiology first was, uh, you are me. You’re a few years older than me. And you ended up graduating a few years before me? So how did this come into our family? And how did how did our mom Pamela bring us into our lives? And she did so in a pretty successful way, right? Because if your mom says, You should be a lawyer, most kids go, I don’t want to be a lawyer. I’m not gonna be a lawyer. So how did she how she managed to pull this off?

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
That’s a good question yet. She must have been sneaky because I didn’t even see it coming. I don’t I don’t know what she did. That sounds sneaky of us. Yeah, so I’m six years older than you for people who don’t know. So one would think that I thought of the idea first and decided to become an audiologist first. And when I tell my patients like, Oh, I have a brother who’s in California in the Bay Area. He’s also an audiologist. They’re pretty blown away by that. And they also think because I’m the older brother that I came up with at first, but I do tell them That you really did decide to do it first. I didn’t like thinking about it. Like I said, I studied economics. So I was trying to, you know, find my way after college. And it was on my mind, but I wasn’t making a hard push towards it. And then you I think we’re a sophomore in college, at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. And you said, Oh, you know, after this whole college thing, I think I’m going to go straight to graduate school. And for whatever reason, that lit my competitive fire, and I was like, Okay, well, he’s not going to beat me to it. So I think we’ll jump on it. And so I guess I started a year or two before you. And then that’s, that’s how it all went down.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
It’s pretty funny. Yeah, it’s unique. There’s not many brothers in audiology. And that’s true. It’s not that this was even discussed much in our family, really. But for those who may not know, speech therapy, and audiology are very much intertwined. We need to hear well to have age appropriate speech production, particularly for kids. So speech therapists, like our mom, they know a lot about audiology. They know it’s a growing profession, they know that the baby boomer generation is getting older. And it’s a large percentage of our population. They know the markets expanding. They know it’s working people to people, and there’s a science element. So it all makes sense is pretty, it’s pretty funny how it all worked out,

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
isn’t it? Yes, I don’t think either of us would have guessed that we would have ended up doing this. But God never did.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
Yeah. And I almost actually went to the program in New York City with you. And

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
I knew you turned us down, I turned you

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
down to move out west to California, to follow the progressive systems to be around the creative energy. And then later on, as you know, I visited you in Brooklyn, in New York City. After I had come into my own a bit into my own values. And I loved New York City. I loved Brooklyn. So it’s funny how these things work out.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
But I think I mentioned that you would have liked it, but it’s okay. Yeah. That worked out.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
Yeah, absolutely. All right. So

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
for anyone who’s still watching, awesome, keep listening here, we’re gonna now switch it up to something that’s more relevant to you, our viewers who may have tinnitus, who may have hearing loss. And let me let me be real, some people who have tinnitus. Now, it’s a, it’s a symptom, it’s usually a sign that hearing loss is either there, or it’s going to come down the road. So don’t be surprised by that, be prepared for that. This could be an opportunity to educate yourself and learn a bit more. So Gary, I want to just imagine that you’re in your clinic in your office in New York City, and you have a patient on your schedule, you never seen them before. They’re referred for tinnitus, you end up doing a hearing test, and it shows a mild hearing loss. How do you counsel that patient? And what’s your internal dialogue when you have that opportunity, or that patient in front of you?

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
So the if I see a tentative patient, on my schedule coming up, I’m always intrigued because they present in such different ways. So I’m thinking, hmm, what’s the age of this person? So I check, like, okay, it’s 54. And I’m like, Alright, could just be maybe some early onset hearing loss, and something related to that. And then when they come in, and I check their intake information, you know, we do thsi, tinnitus handicap inventory to see, because I wanted to know, you know, how much is this bothering them? How severe is the tinnitus effect on their life? So then it could be very little, and someone’s just curious, like, why am I hearing this strange ringing in my ears? Or it could be, it just started and it’s really bothering me. That’s a whole different can of worms. Or it can be I’ve had it for 15 years, but now it’s bothering me more. So I start to kind of put the pieces together just from the information that they provide, like, how in how many situations? Is it? Is it bothering them? Is it keeping them from sleeping? Is it keeping them from working? is it affecting their social life? is it affecting their, you know, psychological life? So that’s a big part of it. Then we do the hearing test if you as you say, it’s just a mild hearing loss. That’s an interesting part of the puzzle. So then I’d bring them out, we’d start to have a conversation. Okay, I have I see here in front of me, Mr. Johnson, that you have some ringing in your ears, it’s affecting you quite a bit. The hearing loss shows some damage, but not as not so bad. Um, tell me about when it’s affecting you most. And then he would give me some more information. There. In my mind, if the tinnitus is the main issue, and it’s really affecting their lives, then the hearing levels are important but not sacrosanct. It’s like whether it’s mild, or there’s no hearing loss or mild hearing loss or moderate. It they’re really being negatively affected by this tendon. So what can we do to improve that and improve their quality of life essentially? So if it was someone with mild hearing loss, I would say, all right, well, you know, your hearing is pretty good. But given this tinnitus presentation, there are some things that we could try, that would probably help you manage that, and and would improve your experience of attendance, this might even make it fade almost completely. And then I would go through the options, specifically, hearing aids. And if you want to try them, then we could try them, then if you wanted to come back another day to try them, we would do that. But that person if it was, if it wasn’t such a severe tinnitus situation, then I would say, you know, you’ll probably have a good outcome here. I think that we can improve the tenderness. Perception a lot.

Ben Thompson, Au.D.
So why are Why are hearing aids? The go to there? For someone who’s listening who may be thinking I don’t, I don’t need to hear better, I just need help with my tinnitus.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
Right, right. Yes, good question. And it’s something that I would go into in detail during an appointment. The long and short of it is that a lot of people who have tinnitus also have some level of hearing damage, even if they can hear people totally fine 95% of the time, tinnitus more often than not, comes along with some hearing damage. And the hearing damage usually in the highest pitch sounds is often where the tinnitus presents to. So short version is, if we give them a little more sound that they’ve been missing because of the damage, give them a little more sound specifically in those regions, the higher pitch sounds, then it often mixes with the tinnitus sound to the point that the perception of the tinnitus is much lower. Sometimes it’s not at all. And it makes it feel like it goes away by you know, 50% 75%, something like that. That’s great. If we can also bring in the negative reactions, which is the fundamental basis of cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of psychological component in the emotional system, then, that’s a great approach. And certainly hearing aids have been proven through research to have a positive effect on the perception of tinnitus. So it definitely is a strong recommendation from the audiology community. And let me just jump in, let me happen inside that. Along with hearing aids, we do a lot of that counseling, we do talk about a lot of things that you just mentioned. Because hearing aids, though extremely useful, and probably the best tool we have, it’s not, it shouldn’t just be like handed to someone. And that’s it. You know, we do coach them through a lot of the stuff which you’re talking about, which is number one, kind of educating and sort of comforting, like, what is this sound I’m hearing? And why am I hearing it? So you know, we give them a lot of information there and say, you know, it’s not a sign necessarily have something worse, it’s just a sort of benign signal that the ear or the brain is producing most likely in response to this hearing damage. So you do you know, some counseling on that. And and then, like you said, some of the cognitive behavioral techniques, so certainly using that, along with variants is important. Well, I feel like I’m in the clinic with you in Manhattan in New York City right there. That was great. There you go, though, there’s definitely some stigma towards hearing aids. And some people even tell me that they feel like audiologists are just selling and hearing aids when they really need help with tinnitus. But what you’re introducing here is that if you have a mild hearing loss, but your main problem is tinnitus, the hearing aids not necessarily for your hearing loss, the hearing aid is for your tinnitus. So maybe we should call it a tinnitus aid. I don’t know. But that’s a conversation that every every person within this might want to start having with their doctor, or with one of us because it’s an important conversation to have. I want to bring in Kevin don’t jump in. It’s an important point. So I do think that there is that negative association where some audiologist or hearing aid dispensers are trying to just tell you something, unfortunately. And so I think there is that stigma and some people go in having that thought Number one, you need to work with a professional that you trust and that you don’t think is doing that. Number two, as you say it could have, it could just be called a tinnitus aid because I think it is the most effective tool. And so even if your hearing is great, if that easily could be called attendance aid, and that would be descriptive and appropriate. And then number three would be, I don’t think that the price point should be super, super high. Like we shouldn’t necessarily be suggesting the most expensive hearing it for someone who has no hearing handicap perception, and tinnitus, in my opinion. You know, I’ve had people with a pair of hearing aids for 50% of what somebody down the street might suggest for tinnitus. And they do very, very well. So it doesn’t have to be like the most expensive device. It’s as much about the counseling, and then just getting a little bit of extra sound in those higher pitch areas. So just just wanted to address that because I do think it’s important.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
I totally agree that is important. And being courteous being a hub where people tell me what they experienced. That is a common that is a common situation. So anyway, that we can bring that into the conversation. And yeah, using this term tinnitus aid, I think that’s something that I want to keep using because it doesn’t have this same stigma as a hearing aid, but essentially, it’s the same same function. So I want to introduce a new little topic here. Current and future trends for hearing aids for telehealth. As we’re having this conversation. It’s during Coronavirus in 2020. And for anyone who’s living in your area around New York City, you guys have been hit really hard, as well as us here in California. So what are your ideas on how Coronavirus and how these times we’re living in any way which are so forward thinking and technology positive? What are the future trends for hearing aids for treating hearing loss? Working with tinnitus and telehealth? Yes, so there’s a lot that could happen. It’s hard to predict the future as that. But you know telehealth is, it depends on the specialty, right? So for certain ones, like dermatology, I know a lot can be done just with a high quality camera for radiology where you’re like reading slides or something or whatever. That can obviously be done from distance.

Garrett Thompson, Au.D.
I think is one that we really should be using distance work more the the technology of hearing aids, obviously, that sort of caps what we can do at the moment, but I think that that’s rapidly improving. With what you’re doing in particular, you know, tinnitus counseling, obviously, that that can be done any kind of counseling can be done remotely, very easily. With the telehealth as it relates to hearing aids to NSAIDs, as we were saying, there are some regulatory constraints. But I think if you just wipe the slate clean and say, You know what’s possible, I think that we could grow by leaps and bounds. And I think that, you know, if I could control the hearing aid settings in the way that I want to, for my patients, where all they need is a cell phone, and all I need is my laptop, I think, you know, I could be in New York and they could be in Brazil, or, you know, Kentucky wherever, and I could do 80% of what I want to do. And then if there was like a paraprofessional, with them like that, they could go to urgent care or something like that, and have a paraprofessional, who knows you know how to change the tips or how to clean the wax filters, then I could do 90% of what I want to do. So we’re getting close. And I do think that audiologists should embrace it and, you know, try to push that, that frontier forward. So that’s exciting. And then even now, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff that that we can do. So I think, you know, hearing aids have a bad rap of being sort of bulky and associated with older people. But the technology is actually pretty advanced and you can do some pretty cool stuff with them. So I do want people to know that. That’s great. You completed your Capstone your doctoral research project on telehealth, correct. Okay, okay, I want to bring in the final question here which we’re going to ask everyone who comes on the show comes into the podcast here. So what is your favorite sound? This may be something in nature this may be something man made may be related to you that no one knows or this or everyone in your family might know that you love this sound. What is your favorite sound Garrett? Do I have to give one or can I give a variety of sounds? You You may give a variety please we love that all right. I do like a lot of nature sounds I don’t know that I have one as the as the short answer but I like crashing waves we grew up you know in Rhode Island near the ocean so that is an awesome sound. I like like a woodpecker on a tree. I I wake up sometimes when I’m in Rhode Island to that Senator our house and I think that’s pretty cool. I like the sound of like, this is natural but not nature. Like a glass like a hefty glass hitting some some stone like a stone counter. That’s a very satisfying like clunk. So I like that. There’s probably more but I’ll leave it there. Thank you. We’re all about sound. We’re all about hearing and tinnitus. This has been episode number one and for anyone listening, viewing wherever you’re at YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, wherever you’re at wherever you’re at in the world right now. And thanks for being here with us. It’s been such a pleasure to interview my brother, my blood brother, older brother, another Thompson, Garrett Thompson, audiologist in New York City. You want to find him You can search for Garrett Thompson audiologist in New York City, and he’s currently working at Resnick audiology in midtown Manhattan. Thank you so much, Garrett, for being here. Thanks, Ben. I appreciate it. Keep it in the family for episode one. Yeah, we’ll keep moving forward, guys. Everyone, take care. And check out the rest of our content here with Pure Tinnitus.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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