When Hearing Aids Are Not Enough

There are alternatives that can make a real difference

As As Baby Boomers age, many of us have to strain to hear when others talk, especially on the phone or in noisy environments. We think others are mumbling when they speak, or they complain that we have the TV or radio turned up too loud, or that they have to repeat themselves. Thirty to thirty-five percent of 65 year olds have some hearing loss, and this figure rises to 40-50% of individuals over 70 years.

If you or someone you know has to strain to hear when someone talks or needs to watch a speaker’s lips closely to follow a conversation, then it is time for a hearing evaluation. It is important to visit a
medical specialist who can make an educated diagnosis of your specific hearing issues and prescribe appropriate treatment based on the significant advances that have been made in options for treatment.
Today’s hearing aids are smaller and more advanced than ever before. Technology has also made them more user friendly. A physician who treats hearing disorders will have a qualified audiologist available to recommend the best hearing aids for you, program them and teach you how to use them.

Jacques Herzog, M.D.

Cochlear Implants

Patients with severe to profound hearing loss who are unable to hear with traditional hearing aid amplification may benefit from a cochlear implant, an electronic device that bypasses the damaged
parts of the inner ear by electronically stimulating the inner ear directly. It is surgically implanted and works in conjunction with an external device worn behind the ear.

Advances in electronics and programming technology and research with patients have shown that a growing range of hearingimpaired individuals can take advantage of the benefits offered by cochlear implantation. Although they do not restore natural hearing, most individuals with cochlear implants have achieved significant gains in sound awareness and speech understanding.

While 500,000 patients worldwide have received cochlear implants, this number represents only a small fraction of those with hearing impairment who may benefit from implantation and can be identified through testing. If there are no medical contraindications, candidates of any age may be implanted. Unlike hearing aids, Medicare often covers cochlear implants for qualified candidates.

Other Surgical Options

There are a number of other surgical options that address specific conditions that compromise hearing. These procedures include repairing perforations of the tympanic membrane or replacing the small sound-conducting middle ear bones with prosthetic materials. Chronic infection or congenital abnormalities can result in absence of the middle ear bones, which can be replaced to restore normal hearing.

Stapes surgery treats hearing loss caused by a problem called otosclerosis, which causes a buildup of bone around the stapes, or stirrup bone, the smallest bone in the body. This keeps this bone from moving normally, resulting in conductive hearing loss. Stapedotomy places a prosthetic bone so that sound can again be transmitted from the eardrum to the inner ear. This surgery provides a significant alternative to conventional amplification, and can restore normal hearing in more than 90% of patients who suffer from otosclerosis.

If you or someone you know is not hearing as well as you once did, your first step should be consulting a health care specialist with experience in diagnosing and treating the full range of hearing disorders.

Jacques Herzog, M.D. established the Center for Hearing and Balance Disorders at St. Luke’s hospital in 1993. He is certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and is a Fellow of the American Neurotology Society and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Herzog is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine. He has previously served on the Board of Managers at Central Institute for the Deaf. Currently, he is a member of the Editorial Board of Otology and Neurotology, the world’s leading scientific journal of the specialty. Dr. Herzog has lectured extensively both nationally and internationally on various disorders of the ear and related structures. You can learn more about Dr. Herzog’s practice at www.stlouisear.com, and to arrange for a consultation, you can contact the Center for Hearing and Balance Disorders at 314-453-0001.clm