2010-11-19 / Columnists

Have You Heard?

Commentary By Shirley Pollak, Au.D

This is the fifth installment of my column to date, and I wanted to take this opportunity to better introduce myself to you. Hopefully, this column has helped you to be better informed about hearing loss, and hearing health care.

I have been an audiologist for over 18 years. I worked at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn from 1993 until 2003, serving for six of those years as Chief of Communication Disorders in charge of the Audiology and Speech Pathology Departments at the Maimonides Developmental Center. Together with personnel in the Neo natology and Pediatrics Departments, I was responsible for establishing and running Brooklyn’s first newborn hearing screening program. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with newborns, infants, and children, as well as adults of all ages.

I received my doctorate in audiology in October 2001, and in April 2002 established a private practice, S. Pollak Audiological, on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. I currently employ three part-time audiologists who work with me, all of whom are licensed by New York State and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Together we run a very busy office, seeing patients of all ages.

In July of this year, I opened an office on Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Park. As a resident of Brooklyn, I wasn’t very familiar with the neighborhood.

Over these past few months, I have had the pleasure to meet with physicians and residents of the area, who have made me feel very welcome.

So what does an Audiologist actually do? Well, we are responsible for the diagnosis and management of hearing and balance problems. We work closely with pediatricians, primary care physicians, ear-nose-throat physicians, neurologists, teachers, speech therapists, and special educators. With the testing equipment we have at our disposal, we are able to identify a hearing loss, as well as the part of the ear or hearing system that is malfunctioning. Since different types of hearing loss call for different types of solutions, we make specific recommendations to each patient about the potential solutions for their problem. Some hearing losses are medically or surgically treatable, and some require the use of hearing aids.

Hearing loss in children, even temporary treatable hearing loss such as middle ear fluid or infection, can result in many accompanying problems. Speech and language delays, articulation deficits, auditory processing problems, attention problems, learning difficulties, and sensory integration issues can all come about or be exacerbated by the presence of a hearing loss in a child.

Hearing loss in adults can lead to feelings of isolation and depression, stress and anxiety, which may even lead to physical symptoms including high blood pressure.

Many family quarrels can be avoided when communication flows freely, which is not possible when hearing loss is present.

As a way of introducing myself and “giving back” to the community, I have lectured a Senior Citizens group on hearing loss, and conducted hearing screenings for all the children at a local HeadStart program. I will be participating in a local Health Fair this weekend. Your doctor may have heard from me by now, or may soon hear from me, to encourage them to speak to their patients about hearing loss. Unfortunately, even though hearing loss is very common, particularly among the very young and the elderly, physicians rarely screen for hearing loss in their patients, or even discuss the topic at a routine visit. If you or someone you know suspects hearing loss, please speak with your doctor and ask for a referral for an audiological evaluation.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be having a problem with his or her hearing, please call Dr. Shirley Pollak at Rockaway Audiology and Hearing Aid Center for advice or a consultation, at 718-474-4744.

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