IMPROVED HEARING IS ON THE MOVE

HearingPageJan15

IMPROVED HEARING IS ON THE MOVE

The puzzle pieces are fitting together for people who experience hearing loss and it’s easier for them to seek care with the help of a new initiative that is a dream realized for a local audiologist.

Wayne Memorial Hospital’s Mobile Hearing Solutions bus hit the road this past July. The mobile unit is a fully equipped audiology clinic on wheels and is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Gwyn, AUD, of Wayne Memorial Hospital’s Audiology Department. “With this unit, we can provide comprehensive care for people five years old to 105 through testing the hearing, administering diagnostic fittings, providing screenings, and educating the public on hearing loss prevention and management,” he said. “We are also able to screen the hearing of infants and very young children as well.”

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There was a strong need for such a unit locally. A 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment for Wayne and Pike Counties identified improved audiology services as beneficial for the area. As a result, Wayne Memorial took action and developed this unique service.

The colorful 35-foot customized motor home features a sound treated room to assure testing accuracy and the finest hearing aid fitting equipment in the industry. “We didn’t sacrifice quality; we just improved accessibility,” said Dr. Gwyn. “We provide the same level of services we feature in our state of the art Main Street clinic.”

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The unit serves residents who live in Wayne, Pike and Lackawanna Counties and is stationed primarily at Wayne Memorial Health System sites in Carbondale, Hamlin, and Lords Valley. This past summer and fall, the mobile unit has traveled to the Wayne County Fair, Ladore Lodge, facilities in the Hemlock Farms community, various senior centers, and health fairs. “Our goal is to settle into a more routine schedule in conjunction with our physician offices,” said Dr. Gwyn. “We believe that hearing health care begins with your primary care physician.”

The overall goal of the mobile audiology program is based on the acronym EPIC: Education, Prevention, Identification, and Correction. “There are a lot of misconceptions about hearing and hearing loss,” said Dr. Gwyn. “Patients have difficulty separating fact from fiction, and that is the reason education will play a large role in our mobile program.”

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According to Jim Hockenbury, Director of Ancillary Services for Wayne Memorial Health System, the mobile unit offered educational and screening services at last year’s Wayne County Fair, screening approximately 300 people.

Dr. Gwyn sees a number of patients who’ve suffered from noise induced hearing loss. “We service patients who are still active on farms and in industry, patients that experience excessive noise on a regular basis.” Hearing loss caused by noise is preventable, and it’s important for people to realize the need for hearing protection. Through more access to hearing screenings and dissemination of patient information, Wayne Memorial Hearing Solutions hopes to make an impact.

Many patients who experience hearing loss have feelings of disconnect from family and friends. The logo design on the unit depicts various puzzle pieces. “It follows the theme of connectivity,” said Dr. Gwyn. “We want to connect patients to life again through sound.” Today’s technology enables patients to connect wirelessly to televisions, radios and telephones to improve hearing in difficult listening environments. According to Dr. Gwyn, the mobile unit will serve to connect patients to better hearing.

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A mobile unit is something Dr. Gwyn was interested in thirty years ago. While attending college in Ithaca, New York, Dr. Gwyn was impressed with the mobile unit there. “This unit traveled all over the world in industrial and community settings. I was inspired by this and always hoped to implement a similar service.” Eventually, all the pieces fell into place. In 1986, Dr. Gwyn began the Wayne Memorial Hearing Solutions audiology department from the hospital’s third floor. Several moves later, he landed in the Main Street clinic where the program has existed for the past six years. Now with the Mobile Hearing Solutions, Dr. Gwyn can continue offering these services in multiple locations throughout three counties.

Tentative future plans for the mobile unit include providing industrial screenings at manufacturing sites and bringing the unit to local schools to offer educational programs and screenings.