Hear Here
Gail B. Brenner, Au.D., owner of Hearing Technology Associates, LLC and The Tinnitus & Sound Sensitivity Treatment Center of Philadelphia, P.C. helps people overcome hearing loss and manage tinnitus
by Leigh Stuart

Fifty-eight-year-old pharmaceutical industry professional Thomas Metcalf has had a number of hearing issues for approximately 15 years, afflictions that could threaten his career if left unaddressed; however, his career is on track and as strong as ever.

The answer to how this is possible comes down to one woman: Gail B. Brenner, Au.D., owner of Hearing Technology Associates and The Tinnitus & Sound Sensitivity Treatment Center of Philadelphia, P.C.

“I have dealt with health care professionals my whole life, but I have never worked with someone who is as caring as Dr. Gail Brenner, and who really looks at the whole person and listens carefully and finds ways to help people with hearing loss be fully functional in their particular environment,” Metcalf says.

For Metcalf, who is bilingual and utilizes his French and English language skills regularly, communication is a major part of his job. Unfortunately, he suffers from not only conductive and asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss but severe tinnitus as well.

As he participates in video and teleconferences often in his line of work, it is imperative that Metcalf listen and respond to, and otherwise participate in, conversations with colleagues and clients. Thankfully, Dr. Brenner, who initially saw Metcalf for his tinnitus, was able to prescribe sound-amplifying devices that have allowed Metcalf to hear clearly once again.

“To have a disability that can be compensated for with technology is really a fortunate thing,” Metcalf says. “So many people with disabilities don’t have technologies that can help them. Hearing loss is one disability that if you have the right audiologist and the right technology, you can compensate for that disability, and that’s what Gail has done.”

Metcalf has been so pleased with Dr. Brenner’s work that now, even though he lives two and a half hours from her Philadelphia office, he feels just fine about making the long trip across state lines to see her. This is because Dr. Brenner saved his life, in a way. “I’d be on total disability if I didn’t have these hearing aids,” he says.

“Hearing Technology Associates is not just about technology; it’s about quality of life, improvement of well-being and relationships, even job performance—all of those things,” Dr. Brenner says. “Hearing affects a person’s entire life.”

Dr. Brenner even cites research indicating hearing can have a direct impact on one’s brain function.

“Dr. Frank Lin at [Johns] Hopkins University [School of Medicine] is doing a tremendous amount of research regarding how hearing loss affects brain function and cognitive function,” she says. “He has linked untreated hearing loss with early cognitive decline, early onset dementia and brain atrophy, especially in older patients. … People with untreated hearing loss can feel isolated, not stimulated and have more memory problems, and this has been confirmed with MRIs and brain studies.”

The good news for people with hearing problems is that, thanks to specialists such as Dr. Brenner, there’s no need for one’s hearing impairments to go untreated anymore. Dr. Brenner has access to the newest, most modern technologies and techniques for assessing, diagnosing and treating hearing loss and tinnitus.

Hearing aids, for example, have become more effective and discreet as science has progressed. This is of special importance today, as medical advances are allowing people to live longer, fuller lives. In fact, where the United States had 39.6 million persons aged 65 and older in 2009, the country is projected to have 72.1 million individuals in that age bracket by the year 2030, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. For such individuals, it is great news that hearing devices are becoming less obtrusive.

Yet, while hearing loss is often seen as a problem that impacts individuals of an advanced age, Dr. Brenner sees patients of all ages. She says that for those who need hearing assistance, it’s never too early to start wearing hearing enhancement. It may be surprising to many, but Dr. Brenner says many people don’t even notice the first signs of hearing loss. Because of this, the thorough consultations Dr. Brenner has with each patient are of vital importance.

She asks patients questions such as, “Do you often hear other people talk but have difficulty understanding?” or “Do you sometimes struggle to hear clearly when there is background noise?” or “Do you occasionally have trouble following conversation in small groups?”

She explains, “A person may think they have perfectly normal hearing, but if they often think other people are mumbling, or if they experience ringing or buzzing in the ears or head, that can be the first indicator, an early sign, that there may be hearing loss or ‘sound voids.’ That would be the time to have the hearing tested by an audiologist.”

Dr. Brenner says that everyone should have a baseline hearing test by the age of 50 performed by an audiologist, but individuals who work around noise—musicians, construction workers, etc. —should have their hearing checked earlier and more regularly.

Hearing assessments take less than one hour to complete and are covered by most insurances, as they are considered preventative. “It is absolutely better to diagnose hearing loss early,” she says.

In the end, Dr. Brenner says that each patient’s hearing solution is customized to suit each individual patient; whether they want to hear their grandchildren better, or just be able to listen to their favorite records once again, there is a solution to help.

Metcalf relays a sentiment from one of history’s bravest physically challenged heroes to exemplify just how important our senses are to communication.

“Helen Keller said, ‘Blindness separates us from things; deafness separates us from people.’ When people start to have hearing loss—and I’ve seen this in others—they can become isolated,” he says. “They don’t hear the people around them, don’t take part in conversations, and can get very depressed. I think that’s why I encourage so many people to get digital hearing aids that are available in all price ranges.

“I always say, ‘Go to Gail Brenner; she’ll find a way.’ She deals with people from all walks of life and finds a way to come up with a solution.”

Hearing Technology Associates, LLC
143 Bala Avenue                                            
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004                

1015 Chestnut Street, Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19107  

The Tinnitus & Sound Sensitivity Treatment Center of Philadelphia, P.C.
143 Bala Ave.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Photograph by Jody Robinson