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Why Does the Audiologist Ask About Your Health and Hearing History?

Hearing loss is related to a variety of other health issues, and can even be caused by certain medications. Learn more in this episode...



The importance of your health and hearing history. That's the topic for today on Ask The Hearing Doctors. 


Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined by Dr. Ana Anzola, Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctors of audiology at Hearing Doctors, the Washington DC area's highest-rated audiology practice with over 1,500 five-star reviews.


Ana, Wendy, let's get right to it. Now I imagine... Well, let's say for this, for this episode of our little get together, I'm coming to you as a patient, but it's probably very overwhelming for, for somebody like me. I'm nervous about it. I don't know, I don't want to admit I have hearing loss and that kind of thing. Is it because I'm afraid to know for sure. Is this common, and how do you handle that when, when, when you're meeting somebody for the first time? 


Yeah, I mean, I think for us, um, we get that a lot, but what we do get is, "I can't believe I did not do this soon enough, um, or sooner." It's, it's one of those realizations that once you actually take the step, we congratulate you. Everybody should get their hearing tested. It's not scary. It doesn't hurt. Um, it's just a very simple test where we put you in a booth. You listen to some tones, um, and it comes back with a graph that gives us a clear idea of what your hearing sensitivity is like, and then we take it from there. But we go over a very thorough history, uh, talking about, um, other potential problems that you could be suffering. And you may not even know even that there may be some correlation between what, you know, like we have diabetes and things like that. And we kind of connect the dots for our patients. 


Let's say, I don't know if you get this, but there are a lot of people that fear the dentist. I mean, just absolutely fear the dentist. Please, I can't get in that chair. Okay. So maybe that's all of us here. Um, so if you have somebody like that, who just, for whatever reason, they have a fear of going to see an audiologist, what would you suggest for somebody like that in order for them to feel more comfortable coming in? 


So I always try to take the approach, you know, that when they're coming to see me they're not really excited to, like you said, you know, it's, especially if you've never done this before, you have no idea what it's going to be like. You know, are you gonna walk out of there with terrible news? Um, I always try to tell, you know, the people that come see me that this is very personal to me. I love this. This is my passion. I fit my father with hearing aids. My sister has hearing aids. So this is why I'm going to treat everyone I see just like I would anyone in my family. So I know it's a very nerve-wracking thing, but we are very caring. And we're going to definitely take care of everyone and make it as comfortable of a transition as possible. Yeah. I mean, we even have a therapy dog here, so... 


Oh, do you really? Now I really want to get my ears checked. I love dogs. Um, let's walk through, if you would, what I can expect from that first visit to a hearing healthcare professional. So when they come in, yeah, yeah. So I've, I've just come in for the very first time. Oh, I'm nervous, whatever that is, but what, what do I expect? What am I going to get from you? As far as what you're looking for from me?


We ask that you come in with your loved ones. Um, somebody that you know is really close to you, or maybe if they were the ones complaining about your hearing... 


My backwards way of getting them to come in, to see the audiologist. 


I think that will make a big difference because then, um, then we can put things together for them as well. So we're going to explain to you exactly what the findings were, right? And then we're going to explain it to your loved ones. And I think that connecting the dots for them will give them the empathy. If you are truly suffering from some sort of hearing deficiency, they will now start to understand, rather than "you're not listening to me, you're not hearing," and that was the end of that... But if I show them, this is what he or she is suffering from, and this is how they hear it, it really changes the whole conversation. 


Oh, so that would make things better at home. You know, when you have that kind of fighting because you don't understand that the person has a hearing problem or that, that makes a lot of sense.

Um, health history. Why is it important if I come to you... why is it important for you to know my health history? Why does that matter? 


There are so many different diseases and illnesses that can either suggest hearing loss or that, you know, they can co-exist together. Uh, I know we've talked about cardiovascular diseases. Um, diabetes. Diabetes is another really big one. Um, there's also other things like kidney disease that can, you know, suggest hearing loss, any strokes, heart, um, heart attack sometimes, which would go along with cardiovascular. I'm trying to think if you can think of any others, there's like a TIA, transient ischemic attack as well. 


So if I tell if by, by my telling you my health history, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, that's a red flag for you that says, "ah, you, you probably do have a hearing problem then." And so at that point, you do do, does that help you in, in, in diagnosing or does it just tell you, okay, this is potentially an issue that, that causes hearing, right. 


I think it opens up the communication in the relationship and how we interact, you know, so I'm going to tell you about hearing, but we're also going to maybe explore other situations for you that you maybe need to keep an eye on, right. So it really changes the way we communicate with our patients. 


Some of the other general health conditions associated with, that are important when evaluating, hearing. What other ones are there? We've talked about diabetes, we've talked about cardiovascular. Are there other ones that jump out that say, "Ooh, that, that could be part of the reason why you have a hearing loss."


Yeah. We talked about vertigo, dizziness. That's something very important, uh, to get it always checked out. So we take more of a holistic approach to hearing, not just the two ears that you have. Right, right. Yeah. We also talk about, you know, have you ever been exposed around loud noises? You know, and if someone's like, "you know, I'm a construction worker" or, you know, "yeah, I love to go to live concerts every weekend." Those are different things that we can also kind of keep in mind when, and, you know, may not be something they need hearing aids for, but they definitely need hearing protection. 


You would want to know, you would want to know, not only my health history, but perhaps even what I do for a living or, or, you know, what do you do for entertainment? That kind of thing. I mean, would it, would it get in that deep to find out...? 


Sure! Um, and we're going to really get to know you, but also get to know your family history, um, get to know if you've had, um, middle ear issues or ear infections. Um, that sort of thing really gives us a lot of information and how we can take a better approach to get to the bottom of it. 


So if I had an ear infection as a kid, right, I'm 60 years old now I, I, but as a little kid, I had a couple of ear infections. Do you need to know that?  


Yeah. It may not, it may not be significant enough, right. Looking at a history, like, you know, six ear infections a year, that sort of thing. 


All right. So I've, I've come to you. We've gone over my family history, my medical history, and now, you know, everything that may be adding to, or, or contributing in some way to my hearing loss. But if I have cardiovascular or, or, or disease or diabetes or whatever it is, are you in touch with my primary care because of that? 


I don't know if it's because of it. I think that that's our practices. If we, with, um, our patient's permission, we communicate with their primary physicians, um, all the time. And so not just the first time that you came to see us, but just overall every six months we send them a full report and then just giving, giving them, um, an idea of what's actually happening with them. Um, or, you know, what type of approach we're taking with the hearing to really address that. 


Does it help to, when you talk to my primary care, to find out specifically the medicines I'm on, because I may have forgotten one to tell you about, I know we've talked in the past that some medicines can actually contribute to hearing loss. 


Yeah. So, you know, we're, we have a really good relationship with a lot of the physicians in the area. So, you know, I, sometimes if we need more information, they're willing to provide that for us, if we have any questions, but you like Dr. Anzola said, we always are communicating with them. And there's, we make sure that we have a good open communication between us, you as the patient and the physician, it's going to be a whole team approach... And the family members. I think it's just so important. 


Yeah. Well, you know, it's, it's nice. It's comforting to know that if, if, if I were to come in here, you get to know me as a person, you get to know my family. If I'm bringing a family member with me. That right there would make me feel a heck of a lot more comfortable about whatever the diagnosis might be. 


Right? Whether you take action to correct the issue if it's there, but at least now you have a baseline, and then we can take it from there. 


Great. Ana, Wendy, thank you so much. As always, appreciate it. And we look forward to doing it again soon.

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