Special to the Times
The number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled during the past 30 years. Recent studies show that between 33-50 percent of adults age 65 and older experience hearing loss, as do approximately 15 percent of children in the U.S.
Hearing aids and other treatments are a way of life for many older Americans, and they're accessible to everyone at the Saint John Hospital outpatient audiology clinic.
Saint John audiologist Mary Dutton, A.uD., can fit hearing aids ranging from $500 to $3,000. Active duty military are covered under United Healthcare/Tricare, and Medicare patients need a physician referral. Otherwise, individuals can make direct appointments at the clinic.
Diagnosis and treatment for children
Children who are hard of hearing will find it much more difficult than children who have normal hearing to learn vocabulary, grammar, word order, idiomatic expressions, and other aspects of verbal communication, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Mary Dutton confirms this.
"We can do Otoacoustic Emissions tests with children as young as newborns to determine if a child has hearing loss," Dutton explains. The audiology clinic at Saint John specializes in testing young children.
For preschool and school-age children, hearing loss can be congenital or acquired. It can be caused by ear wax buildup, ear infections, a hole in the eardrum or eustacian tube dysfunction.
"Fluid in the ear and ear infections can be caused by allergies," Dutton explains. "A lot of our families that move here tell me they've never had allergies until they came to the Midwest." Dutton often refers those patients to ENT physician Joel Waxman, M.D.
Dutton helps both children and adults at her clinical practice at Saint John's outpatient center. She works closely with pediatricians, family practice physicians, ENTs and other referring physicians and nurse practitioners.
Adult hearing loss and balance issues
She has a different set of challenges with adults and older adults in her clinic. Many adults experience hereditary hearing loss (affecting nearly half of all adults), or gradual hearing loss due to exposure to dangerous noise levels. Dutton fits these people with hearing aids, and recommends follow-up cleanings.
"I highly recommend they come in every three to six months to keep them well-functioning," she says.
Older adults may also experience balance or dizziness problems. Often related to hearing loss, these issues may contribute to dangerous falls and other injuries. Dutton works with patients' primary care or ENT specialists to diagnose and treat balance problems. In some cases, an on-site physical therapist is needed to help improve balance and mobility issues.
Treatments and therapy
A variety of therapeutic and treatment options can help many people with hearing loss. Hearing aids are the most common device used for treatment. For children and adults with severe hearing loss, cochlear implants are also an option.
Page 2 of 2 - Auditory (hearing) rehabilitation provides training and treatment to improve hearing. Auditory rehab services at Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth are provided on an outpatient basis in the hospital's convenient rehab center, which is located at the entrance of the Saint John campus in Leavenworth at 3500 S. 4th Street. It adjoins the campus outpatient surgery center, with easy access for patients needing cataract surgery, general surgery, diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopies and EGDs, and infusion therapy.
The audiology clinic and rehab services department are convenient for residents of Leavenworth, Basehor, Lansing and Fort Leavenworth areas.
General questions about audiology services and the outpatient rehab program can be answered at saintjohnleavenworth.com or 913- 680-6180.