Back in 2021, I remember reading a story about the death of the Texas Roadhouse CEO, who took his own life after battling severe tinnitus. I think of tinnitus as simply ringing in one’s ears, but I had never thought of it as something that might cause a person to take their own life.
In late August, on an NPR segment of Here and Now, Robin Young interviewed audiologist Brian Fliger and one of his patients, Elliott Gerberg. Gerberg had dealt with chronic tinnitus for over 20 years. While not always debilitating, it was very distracting and negatively impacted his life.
Earlier this year, Mr. Gerberg began treatment using a newly approved treatment, which combines sound therapy with tactile stimulation of the tongue through electric shocks. Although it doesn’t sound pleasant, Ms. Young volunteered to try it on the air and described it as “a party in my mouth.” Mr. Gerberg found that his tinnitus completely disappeared after this new treatment and referred to it as a game changer for his well-being.
I have to admit that my research didn’t go deep enough to know why scientists thought electrically shocking the tongue in combination with sound therapy would eliminate tinnitus in some patients. But I’m in awe of those who attack a problem and find solutions that are unexpected. With estimates that more than 10% of American adults suffer from some form of tinnitus and the realization of how debilitating it can be, I’m glad that scientists continue to research and experiment on innovative solutions that may lead to more and better treatments.
Take care and stay safe.
A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan
The Roaring Twenties--the Jazz Age--has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.
Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.