University Hearing Systems

Amy Abbott, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Abbott completed her Masters Degree from the University of South Florida in 1996.  After practicing Audiology for ten years, Dr. Abbott completed her Doctor of Audiology degree from A. T. Stills University in 2006.  She is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech and Hearing Association, and the Florida Academy of Audiology.  She has won the award for the Best of the Best in Audiology in the Sarasota/Bradenton area and has been honored as a top professional in her field by the Biltmore’s Who’s Who Association.

As an Audiologist in the Sarasota area, Dr. Abbott has practiced in various settings including Ear, Nose and Throat practices, the school systems as well as private practice.  She is well experienced with diagnostics, including hearing testing, balance testing and hearing aid fittings.

Dr. Abbott moved to the Sarasota area in 1987 with her family.  She has been practicing Audiology in the Sarasota area for 16 years.  She is married with two children.

Education:

  • Doctor of Audiology, A. T. Stills University 2006
  • Master of Arts, University of South Florida 1996
  • Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders, University of South Florida 1994

University Hearing Systems

University Hearing Systems is a full service practice for diagnosing hearing loss, balance or dizziness disorders and fitting hearing aids.

Hearing Loss:

Do you think you have a hearing problem?

Try and answer the following questions about your own behavior to determine if you need to seek an audiogram and medical examination of your ears.

  • Do you commonly strain to hear conversations?
  • Do you frequently ask for words to be repeated?
  • Do you have problems hearing the doorbell or telephone?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying or answer questions inappropriately?
  • Do people often sound as though they're speaking too softly?
  • Has someone close to you mentioned that you might have a problem with your hearing?
  • Do you turn up the television or radio louder than others would prefer?
  • Do you remove yourself from conversations or social situations because it is difficult to hear what is being said?
  • When you are socializing, does background noise bother you?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions you should consider having a hearing test performed by a Doctor of Audiology. A hearing evaluation can determine if you need help medically, surgically or if you need hearing aids.

Hearing is determined by the audiogram. Various tones are presented to each ear, and you will indicate whether each tone is heard or not. Each ear is tested independently at various tones. The degree of hearing is calculated in decibels (dB) of hearing loss. Normal hearing is at least 20 dB or better. A mild loss is 20-40 dB, moderate loss is 40-60 dB, and severe loss is 60-80 dB. Profound loss, or near deafness, is 80 dB and beyond.

Hearing loss may be divided into two types: conductive and sensorineural.

A conductive hearing loss is due to abnormalities of the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear structures which block the conduction of sound into the inner ear. Therefore, wax in the ear, a hole in the eardrum, or fluid behind the eardrum may cause conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is usually treatable and may resolve completely.

In contrast, sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve hearing loss, is due to problems with the inner ear or with the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss may not be correctable, and is often permanent. It worsens with age, and is common in the elderly. However, sensorineural hearing loss can be associated with birth trauma, neurologic disease, trauma to the head, as well as certain medications and toxins. Sensorineural hearing loss is treated with hearing aids. If sensorineural hearing loss is profound and present in both ears, then cochlear implantation can be offered.

Hearing Aids:

Hearing aids can fit a range of hearing losses from mild to severe.

Hearing aids come in all sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear models (BTE) to invisible-in-the-canal (IIC). All of them are capable of being modified electroacoustically in any number of creative ways. The degree of amplification can be varied as desired across frequency, while different types of automatic gain control can be separately programmed at selected bands of frequencies within the audible range.

Digital hearing aids are the most advanced. Just some of the special features available in digital hearing aids include: multiple memories, multi-band noise reduction, multi-microphones, low battery warnings, feedback reduction, and digital cell phone compatibility. Additional features include remote control, blue tooth and tele-coil (loop) compatibility.  Given the flexibility that digital signal processing permits, we can expect to see additional features periodically introduced.

Our Doctor of Audiology, Amy Abbott, can recommend a hearing aid that is right for you and take you through the entire hearing aid fitting process.

Preventing Hearing Loss:

Noise avoidance is key.  Young people are losing their hearing 2.5 times faster than their parents' generation due to more exposure to loud music and noisy environments. That means that when young people today are 40, their hearing ability will be more like a 60 or 70 year-olds' hearing.

Here is a list of general tips for reducing your risk of noise-induced hearing loss:

Limit the time you are exposed to loud noises.

Earplugs should be used when you are exposed to firearms, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, jet skies, power tools, loud appliances, snowmobiles, or any other loud noises.

If you use headphones to listen to music all day long, do not have the volume up above 50 percent. And never exceed 80 percent, even if you're listening for a short time.

Dizziness:

Some people describe a balance problem by saying they feel dizzy, lightheaded, unsteady, or giddy. This feeling of imbalance or dysequilibrium is sometimes caused by an inner ear problem. Others describe their balance problem by using the word vertigo, which comes from the Latin verb "to turn". They often say that they or their surroundings are turning or spinning. Vertigo can also be triggered by problems in the inner ear.

Yearly more than two million people visit a doctor for dizziness.  An otolaryngologist will explore the causes behind the balance discomfort by examining the ears, nose, and throat to make a diagnosis. Often times, to help diagnose the source of the dizziness or imbalance, a VNG (videonystagmography) is performed.

In a dark room, a VNG (videonystagmography) test is performed by placing video goggles over the eyes. Warm and cool water or air is gently introduced into each ear canal. Since the eyes and ears work simultaneously through the nervous system, measurement of eye movements can be used to test the balance system. In about 50 percent of patients, the balance function is reduced in the affected ear.

Treatment for Dizziness:

Depending on the diagnosis for the dizziness or imbalance, the physician will recommend different treatments.

While some vertigo is self limited and may be treated with medications, vertigo from BPPV or labyrinthitis is often treated with physical therapy. Using Epley maneuvers, the head is taken through a variety of positions and manipulated to clear debris (crystals) from the semicircular canals and to reduce the inflammation that the debris causes.

Medications like diazepam (Valium) and meclizine (Antivert) are used to decrease inflammation within the vestibular system.

If there is concern that there is a viral infection causing the labyrinthitis or neuritis, antiviral medications may be considered.

Patients with acoustic neuroma or other structural problems of the ear may require surgery.

Patients with central causes of vertigo need further investigation and treatment will be tailored to their specific underlying diagnosis.

Tinnitus:

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. Rarely, however, tinnitus can represent a serious health condition.

It is not a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from this disorder. In almost all cases, only the patient can hear the noise.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus can arise in any of the following areas: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, or by abnormalities in the brain. Some tinnitus or head noise is normal. If one goes into a sound proof booth and normal outside noise is diminished, one becomes aware of these normal sounds. We are usually not aware of these normal body sounds, because outside noise masks them. Anything, such as ear wax or a foreign body in the external ear, that blocks these background sounds will cause us to be more aware of our own head sounds.

Fluid, infection, or disease of the middle ear bones or ear drum (tympanic membrane) can also cause tinnitus.

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment, and consequently chronic tinnitus.

Today, loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise, firearms, and high intensity music.

Some medications (for example, aspirin) and other diseases of the inner ear (Meniere‘s Disease) can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as a brain aneurysm or a brain tumor (acoustic tumor).

After a careful evaluation, your doctor may find an identifiable cause and be able to treat or make recommendations to treat the tinnitus. Once you have had a thorough evaluation, an essential part of treatment is your own understanding of the tinnitus (what has caused it, the person's specific symptoms, and options for treatment).