There is a shift happening in medicine. The walls are coming down. The bigger picture of how the body works together as a whole and how seemingly unrelated systems and symptoms may actually be more connected than we ever dreamed are all coming to the forefront of medicine. This more holistic shift is happening across disciplines, including in the world of audiology and hearing loss.
What is a holistic approach?
The conventional approach to health often involves diagnosis and a treatment to address specific symptoms. Holistic medicine looks at the person as a whole and how the various systems of the body connect and impact one another. As more research comes out about hearing loss and how it may be related to other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, the hearing healthcare industry is beginning to see value in this bigger picture approach.
The holistic hearing health approach
This new more holistic approach to managing hearing health and treating hearing loss starts with a standard thorough evaluation to determine the presence of hearing loss and whether or not that hearing loss is sensorineural. This is because hearing loss related to the delicate structures of the inner ear may be a red flag for chronic disease while other types of hearing loss are generally not.
Once the standard hearing evaluation has been completed, and a sensorineural hearing loss identified, hearing healthcare professionals practicing a more holistic approach research and consider both the patient’s history and how the hearing loss may relate. Has there been a diagnosis of another chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or even cancer? Have there been other indications of a chronic disease such as high blood pressure? Are there lifestyle factors that may put the patient at higher risk for a chronic disease that is yet undiagnosed. Could the hearing loss be related to these?
Hearing healthcare providers then use what is called an Odds Ratio to determine the likelihood that the hearing loss and chronic disease are connected based on documented research. For example, vascular diseases (heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic kidney disease) and neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia) have a higher Odds Ratio than some other chronic diseases because they are more likely to be related to hearing loss.
One of the most exciting pieces of the holistic approach is hearing healthcare professionals working as part of a team with their patient’s physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to treat the patient as a whole. Communication is opened up where it may have once been closed off both in the medical team and between the team and patient, creating a more effective treatment approach. Experts agree that this holistic process and the collaboration and improved communication it fosters can improve patient outcomes. If you’d like to learn more about this holistic approach to managing hearing loss or to schedule a hearing evaluation to get started managing your hearing loss, contact our office to schedule an appointment.