OhioHealth Medical Minute: Hearing Loss
Hearing loss affects millions of Americans each year, and on average, most of us accept it as a simple fact of life. However, for the over 20% of people in the U.S. who report varying degrees of hearing loss year after year, the situation can be extremely frustrating and can lead to feelings of isolation, especially from family members and loved ones.
Fortunately, hearing loss treatment has come a long way since the early 2000s. Wayne Robbins, DO, system program director of ENT at OhioHealth, explains some of the newer treatment options available and how they’re changing lives for the better.
MT: “All right, so we’re going to talk about something that I know a lot of people are really thinking about, or at least they should: their hearing. First off, let’s talk about hearing loss. A lot of people experiencing that, and it can really impact somebody in a very big way.”
WR: “Yeah, Marcus, I think hearing has a more significant impact on people than we really realize. Helen Keller said ‘Blindness keeps me from things, but my hearing loss, my deafness, keeps me from people.' As we age, it’s really about being social and interacting with other people. And when we lose our hearing as we age, we tend to withdraw from conversation, and that leads to isolation, depression and loneliness. We see this in a lot of people as they reach those advanced ages.”
MT: “Now the good news is folks don’t actually have to live in silence. There are some options. Let’s talk through that. What can people turn to to help them hear better?”
WR: “There are lots of options available. There are different types of hearing losses, and they can be some that can be corrected surgically, and some, unfortunately, nerve losses that we can’t. But even for those people there are all sorts of amplifiers out there. Some are very inexpensive that you can buy on the web today. We call them pocket-talkers or personal amplifiers. And then of course some are more advanced. We do traditional hearing aids, and they can be helpful for a large majority of people. Hearing aids have come a long way, like all electronics have in the past 10 or 15 years. We even have artificial hearing aids and are working on artificial intelligence in hearing aids today, so they’ve changed a lot. Even for people who have profound hearing loss, or deaf as you might say, we can do cochlear implants and bring hearing back to those people.”
MT: “So now that we know about the options, what do you hear from people and their families once they take that step, and they can start to hear once again?”
WR: “Well, that’s a great question. Some of these things are just ordinary, everyday things. They’re not as miraculous. People just rejoining conversation and starting to keep up with their family. Some of them are truly miraculous. People when they hear for the first time. There are many implant videos out on the web, activation videos, where you see people hearing for the first time, and they haven’t for so many years.
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