Test-Case Scenario

Accurate testing, validation prove critical in properly correcting hearing loss.

Mary Dawson is a Disney-holic. So are most of her closest friends. From the rides at the theme parks to the special events that are held there throughout the year, there is nothing that Walt Disney World® offers that Mary and her friends don’t enjoy.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

A self-proclaimed Disney-holic, Mary’s improved hearing is allowing her to enjoy her favorite pastime again.

“We spend almost our entire social lives at Disney,” Mary enthuses. “We especially love the Flower and Garden Festival and the Food and Wine Festival. The wine-pairing dinners they do there are just amazing.”
Mary and her friends are among those who believe Disney World is indeed the happiest place on earth. It wasn’t all that long ago, however, that all the joy she usually derives from a Disney visit disappeared.
“It all started on Thanksgiving Day, 2016,” Mary explains. “I woke up that morning virtually deaf in my left ear with full-blown tinnitus, which for me sounded like someone was running a vacuum cleaner or a leaf blower right by my ear. It was just terrible.”
After the Thanksgiving Day holiday passed, Mary visited an audiologist associated with a local ear, nose and throat specialist. The audiologist diagnosed her with sudden hearing loss, which has many causes, and the physician prescribed prednisone to alleviate inflammation.
A few months later, after the audiologist said her hearing had stabilized, Mary was fit with a hearing aid. However, the hearing aid did little to improve Mary’s hearing. A few months later, she suffered the first of several similar hearing losses in her right ear.
“From November 7, 2017 until May 31 of 2018, it was one hit after another,” Mary says. “It was a gradual deterioration, and once again, after being told to wait for my hearing to stabilize, I was fit with a hearing aid for my right ear. But it didn’t do me any good.
“I honestly couldn’t hear a thing. At Disney, for example, I couldn’t hear the chefs or the winemakers talking about their food and wine. I couldn’t hear the people at the table with whom I was sitting. I couldn’t hear anything, and it was awful – for everyone.
“I had my hand up to my ear, saying, Excuse me, what did you say? Can you repeat that? We don’t do summers at Disney, and I was so upset thinking this is how it’s going to be for me from now on that I told everyone that come fall, I wouldn’t be rejoining the group.”
Mary was in tears that day. Within a month, however, she was shedding tears of joy, and all because she read an article in Brevard Health Care News about EarCare. Ironically, she read that article while waiting to have her ears checked yet again by her local ENT.
“I was thinking even before I read that article that I really needed to go somewhere else,” Mary remembers. “Then I read that article and said to myself, That’s it, that’s the place I’m going to, and I made the appointment for June 19.”

A Sound Decision

During her initial appointment at EarCare, Mary first met with owner Karen Cowan-Oberbeck, AuD, a board-certified doctor of audiology. Dr. Cowan-Oberbeck gave Mary a thorough hearing evaluation, then asked her to meet with her husband, Glenn A. Oberbeck, BC-HIS, a board-certified hearing instrument specialist.
“When Mary first came to us, she was extremely frustrated,” Glenn reports. “She had been wearing hearing aids that she purchased from a big box store, and she was extremely frustrated with the way they were working.
“So, we tested everything, and the diagnostic tests we did showed us that there was potential for her to have much better hearing. In fact, that potential was significant, so we offered her the opportunity to try some new technology.”
Glenn says proper testing is absolutely critical in correcting someone’s hearing, and that it was especially critical for Mary, who had been told by her original audiologist that her left ear was “a dead ear,” meaning her hearing could not be restored in that ear.
“We’ve seen that many times where someone has been told that they have a dead ear and that they’re not going to get a viable result by wearing hearing aids,” Glenn says. “That’s why it’s our philosophy to do validation as part of the testing process.”

“It’s really a remarkable thing what the Oberbecks have done for me. I can’t thank them enough. I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not found them.” – Mary

Validation is the part of the evaluation process where after a patient has been fit with a hearing device, their hearing is tested electronically with the device in place in their ears to determine their efficiency. Depending on the results, the device can be adjusted or changed out to fit the patient’s needs.
“The validation is critical because our goal is to give our patients directionality and bilateral input, meaning they can hear out of both ears,” Glenn explains. “So, if our testing tells us it is in fact a viable ear, we’ll fit the patient and test that ear with the instrument in place.
“Sometimes we find that there is no benefit or that their hearing is actually worse, or the worse ear is negatively impacting the better ear, in which case we would take the hearing aid back since it was providing marginal or no benefit.
“With Mary, however, the results were very good. She was getting bilateral input and bilateral clarity, and by providing that, we opened a door for her to once again participate in the things that are important to her, and she’s very excited about that.”

Tears of Joy

“Elated” might be a better way to describe Mary’s state. Since being fit with new hearing aids from EarCare earlier this summer, she has already made her reservations for her fall excursions to Disney and told her friends she will once again be a part of their outings.
“I can’t tell you how elated I am about how this has all turned out,” Mary enthuses. “I told Glenn and everyone at EarCare, You didn’t just give me back my hearing, you gave me back my life. Even now, I get choked up talking about it because I’m so fortunate.
“I mean, I really didn’t know just how bad my hearing had become until I went home the first day with my new hearing aids, and that was on June 27. My birthday just happens to be June 28, so it was a very happy birthday to me
a very emotional birthday.
“I was so happy that day that I cried. I just sobbed tears of joy because it’s really a remarkable thing what the Oberbecks and EarCare have done for me. I can’t thank them enough. I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not found them.”

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