Explore this issue:May 2013
Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, is an otolaryngologist with a fairly typical mix of patients, many of whom are elderly and in need of treatment for hearing loss. But his recent research findings into the connection between hearing loss and dementia came about because of another “hat” he wears—that of the epidemiologist dedicated to examining the public health implications of his work.
To that end, Dr. Lin recently began working with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to develop a Center on Hearing and Healthy Aging. “This will be the definitive center going forward to pull in epidemiologists, mental health professionals, health economists and other experts who have never fully understood hearing loss but who are in a position to learn and then bring about much-needed advocacy and change,” he said. “We need to train the next generation of researchers to understand that hearing loss doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We also will bring in clinicians on our side of the field—for example, auditory scientists, audiologists and otolaryngologists—so that they can understand how hearing loss interacts with aging and gerontology.”
Dr. Lin said that forging these types of connections between specialists is just one of the challenges that must be met in order to improve the treatment of hearing loss in older patients. Several other shortcomings must also be addressed, he said. One of the most important is the improper or perfunctory way that hearing aids are often given to patients, often without adequate programming, patient education and use of adjunctive hearing-assistance devices or follow-up care.