Santa Rosa Head and Neck Audiologist Explains Latest in Hearing Loss Identification and Management

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Santa Rosa Audiologist John Jarvis, PhD, recently had his article “Hearing Loss: Identification and Management” published in a local physician magazine. Dr. Jarvis practices at The Hearing Center at Santa Rosa Head & Neck Surgical Group (SRHN, http://ncmahealth.com/The-Hearing-Center-SRHN.html).

John Jarvis, PhD, Audiology

What I want to emphasize to the public is that most hearing losses, which affect both children and adults, can be treated successfully either medically or surgically to mitigate the detrimental impact hearing loss has on a patient’s quality of life.

Dr. John Jarvis obtained his PhD in Audiology from the University of Denver in 1977, and has practiced clinical audiology for over 35 years. Dr. Jarvis has authored a variety of scientific papers on the subject of hearing loss prevention, diagnostics, treatment, and other topics of interest to the audiology profession. In his most recent article, Hearing Loss: Identification and Management, Dr. Jarvis discusses the current solutions to hearing and communication difficulties available in audiology today, as well as the profound negative impacts hearing loss has on people in social situations.

Dr. Jarvis explains, “Studies show that hearing loss is the third most commonly reported chronic condition in patients over 65, exceeded only by arthritis and heart disease, and more than one- third of all people 75 and older report hearing problems that have significant impacts on their lifestyles. In children, the incidence of profound hearing loss or deafness is 3 per 1,000, and it is estimated that 30 schoolchildren per 1,000 have a hearing loss. Since the propensity of hearing loss in the United States exceeds people’s estimates, there is a discrepancy in understanding that creates an additional obstacle for people living with hearing difficulties.”

The human auditory system is a complicated sensory system that involves more than just proper ear function in order for people to hear clearly. While sounds enter through the ears, it is the brain’s job to make sense of the information. The sense of hearing, in other words, is the product of the ears working in conjunction with the brain’s central auditory system. Damage to any part of the auditory system results in hearing loss, and the type of hearing loss a patient has depends on where damage has occurred.

Dr. Jarvis continues, “The three types of hearing loss are conductive, sensory-neural and mixed-- a combination of conductive and sensory-neural. Conductive hearing loss results from problemsin the external ear canal, tympanic membrane and middle ear, including impacted earwax, eardrum perforation, Eustachian tube congestion, middle ear effusion, traumatic injury to the middle ear bones, and otosclerosis.

“In contrast to conductive hearing loss, sensory neural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs most commonly in the microscopic structures of the cochlea, the auditory systems’ sensory organs for hearing. The most common piece of misinformation given to patients is that there is no treatment for a SNHL, when in fact most patients can be significantly helped with hearing aids.

“Non-congenital SNHL develops overtime due to repeated exposure to loud noise without ear protection, with men having a higher incidence than women. Repeated noise exposure quickly leads to permanent hearing loss, with patients typically unaware of the problem, especially in its early stages and in the absence of tinnitus (phantom ringing or buzzing sounds). Although we commonly think of noise-induced SNHL as an adult problem, there is increasing evidence that children suffer permanent, noise-induced SNHL as well.

“Dangerous sound levels occur in everyday life, making them virtually impossible to avoid. Medical treatment and/or prevention of noise-induced SNHL in humans continues to be researched, but to date remains elusive. Educating the public on the causes is the best method of preventing noise induced SNHL, and today’s diagnostic and treatment technology available can help sufferers find some relief.

“The other most common cause of adult SNHL is aging, or presbycusis. Typically beginning in the sixth decade of life, patients experience a gradual bilateral decrease in high-frequency acuity, along with a general slowing of temporal speech-processing ability. At first, patients have difficulty hearing softer voices or television, and they often ask for conversation to be repeated. As presbycusis advances, patients experience difficulty understanding conversation in everyday situations, especially those with background noise. Untreated presbycusis often results in anxiety, embarrassment and frustration, and eventually to withdrawal. From the first signs of hearing difficulty, the average patient with presbycusis waits seven years to seek an evaluation.

“The most effective way to address SNHL is for primary care providers, including mid-level practitioners, to take an active role in hearing screening by making it a part of routine well-care visits. Screening might be as simple as a patient self-assessment questionnaire or a more standardized test, such as pure-tone audiometry. In either case, patients are much more likely to seek a thorough evaluation and receive effective treatment based on the trust they have in their primary care provider to make the appropriate referral.

“What I want to emphasize to the public is that most hearing losses, which affect both children and adults, can be treated successfully either medically or surgically to mitigate the detrimental impact hearing loss has on a patient’s quality of life. I am proud to be part of the Hearing Center at SRHN where we have the privilege of bringing the latest diagnostic and treatment (both non- surgical and surgical) technologies to our patients.”

Prior to joining the Hearing Center at Santa Rosa Head and Neck Surgical Group, Dr. Jarvis served as a university faculty member, and held a private audiology practice for 30 years. Read Dr. Jarvis’ “Hearing Loss: Identification and Management” in full on SRHN’s blog. To refer patients or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jarvis or one of SRHN’s expert ENT’s, call (707) 523-7025.

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