Photo by Brett Thorne
CTMC listens to demand for hearing and balance services
Dr. Jasmine Burrington consults with Mike Hudson on hearing loss at Mariposa Apartments in San Marcos. Burrington said she plans to offer free consultations to the senior community each month.
Central Texas Medical Center opened the Hearing Center at Live Oak Health Partners in San Marcos on July 15. The center provides hearing and balance assessments, maintenance of hearing devices and preventative hearing care. The center is operated as part of Live Oak Health Partners, CTMC’s collection of specialty and primary care clinics.
Dr. Jasmine Burrington said the Hearing Center acts as a liaison between the audiologist, who focuses on hearing and balance, and physicians who focus on the health of the ear, nose and throat.
“We can look at things from the medical standpoint as well as the hearing, communication and quality-of-life standpoint,” Burrington said.
According to the Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey, there were 5,218 people with hearing disabilities in Hays County in 2010, and Burrington said her work focuses on finding solutions tailored to each individual.
Burrington’s services include comprehensive ear evaluations, which start with a case history and include examinations of the ear, tests for infections and a pressure check to determine the health of the eardrum. From there, Burrington and the patient formulate a plan to address the patient’s hearing issues.
Burrington was born with hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aids since she was 6 years old. Her father, sister, brother, niece and grandfather all live with hearing loss.
“I work with patients based on how I would want to be worked with as a patient,” Burrington said. “It does seem to help patients when they know I have personal as well as professional experience with hearing loss.”
Burrington said the Hearing Center also focuses on preventative care by providing molded ear plugs for swimmers and people who work in loud environments.
Clay DeStefano, CTMC director of public relations and marketing, said population growth in Central Texas has meant greater demand for medical services and an influx of doctors to the area, which has allowed the hospital to focus on growing and adding new services, such as the Hearing Center.
“In the last couple of years, more physicians were coming to us saying, ‘I like this town. I want to be part of this community and your hospital. How can we work together?’” DeStefano said. “That’s kind of a new thing.”
Live Oak has added a number of specialties to its broad array of medical services since 2009. The organization has locations in San Marcos, Kyle, Wimberley and Lockhart with specialties that range from family practice to allergy testing and cosmetic surgery, Huenergardt said.
CTMC CEO Sam Huenergardt said before he joined the hospital in 2009, Live Oak provided general surgery, orthopedics and primary care. Since he came on board, the organization has grown to include two dozen physicians with 13 specialties.
“Six or seven years ago this looked like a small acute-care community hospital,” Huenergardt said. “Now characterize us as a small health system where we have home health, hospice, all these physician specialties and the hospital on top of it.”
When it comes to hearing aids, one size does not fit all, Dr. Jasmine Burrington said. Different people have different hearing needs, and Burrington said she tries to form relationships with patients to help address their individual needs through the Hearing Center at Live Oak Health Partners.
Hearing loss can come from a variety of different factors, including extended exposure to loud noises, hereditary factors and degradation of the inner ear brought on by various chemicals, Burrington said. Each source of hearing loss can directly affect the kind of care a patient requires, she said.
“You want to have a relationship with the person who fits the hearing aids, and that’s one of my biggest messages to people who have hearing loss who want to find out about hearing aids,” Burrington said. “[Patients] need to know how to get the right service for the lifetime of their hearing aids and their lifetime.”
Burrington said the best way for people with normal hearing to protect their ears is by keeping music players at reasonable volumes and wearing earplugs to concerts and sporting events where loud noises can be expected.
“Anytime you have to yell to be heard, it’s probably damaging your hearing,” Burrington said.