Submitted by Advanced Hearing and Balance, LLC
Hearing loss is experienced by 18.7 percent of Mississippians, according to the National Health Interview Survey, and with four clinics in South Mississippi, Dr. Holly McLain, Audiologist has found a need for her services.
“We’re one of the only private practice, full service audiology clinics in the Pine Belt,” said Dr. McLain, clinical audiologist and owner of Advanced Hearing and Balance, LLC, in Oak Grove.She has been practicing in the Pine Belt for ten years.
In the past year, she has opened three satellite clinics. The Magee clinic is open Mondays, the Petal clinic is open Tuesdays, and the Columbia clinic is open Wednesdays. The Oak Grove clinic is open daily.
Dr. McLain employs another audiologist, Dr. Katherine Mault, and four staff members. They provide all aspects of diagnostic services for hearing and balance issues and fitting of hearing aids, as well as custom ear protection for hunters, swimmers, musicians, laborers, and anyone else who needs it.
They also provide hearing evaluations and hearing aids for the military and Veterans Administration.
Some insurance plans may require a referral, but it can be a referral from a primary physician, Dr. McLain said. “It doesn’t have to be from a specialist.”
Dr. McLain, a Richton native, earned her Doctor of Audiology degree and Bachelor of Arts degree with a minor in deaf education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She completed her fourth year at Bartels Center for Hearing and Balance in Hammond, LA, followed by four years as director of Audiology and Neurodiagnostics at Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg before going into private practice.
“It was just something I thought was interesting, and I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field to help people,” Dr. McLain said about choosing audiology. “When I was younger, I did go to church with a hearing-impaired girl, and that kind of piqued my interest in the field.”
She suggests annual hearing tests, and said people with cardiovascular problems and diabetes should have their hearing checked because those diseases can contribute to hearing loss.
“Generally, people notice hearing loss in their 50s, but the average age to act on it is seven years from when they first start noticing it,” Dr. McLain said. “The sooner hearing loss is addressed, the better the outcome.”
Vanity and cost are the main reasons some people put off getting treatment for hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, among adults 70 and older who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than one in three has ever used them, although 15 percent of American adults ages 18 and over – about 37.5 million – report some trouble hearing.
For many, there’s a stigma attached to wearing hearing aids, although Dr. McLain said that seems to be lessening.
“I think it depends on their age. Some younger people are really more OK with it than older people. They’re more aware of Bluetooth,” she said.
“I wish that people could understand how important it is. Hearing aids are not only about hearing better. It’s about stimulating your brain. When you have hearing loss, your brain is not getting the information it needs. It’s been shown that hearing aids reduce dementia, and they reduce falling problems. That’s why it’s so important to treat it earlier, when they’re in their 50s or 60s, instead of when they’re in their 80s.”
Some patients who get hearing aids after many years of hearing loss don’t do as well because the auditory nerve has lacked stimulation for so long.
“People wonder why their 85-year-old grandfather got hearing aids and still can’t hear. It’s because he may have waited too late to rehabilitate his hearing loss,” Dr. McLain said. The sooner you can treat the hearing loss, the better.
Digital technology has improved hearing aids. Today’s devices do a much better job processing sound and filtering out background noises, making it easier to hear conversations, and they can integrate with other technologies, such as Bluetooth-enabled devices. Aesthetically, they are much smaller and more discreet than before. Some are virtually invisible.
Hearing aids will generally last people five to seven years or longer if well taken care of.
Drs. McLain and Mault also treat balance issues, which may affect dizziness/vertigo stability when walking and standing.
“We do diagnostic evaluations for primary care physicians and neurologists. We can rule out issues,” she said. “A lot of people think it’s normal to be dizzy as they age, but it’s never normal. A lot of it can be fixed with just some simple head maneuvers. Unfortunately, we’re usually one of the last stops instead of one of the first stops.”
In their diagnostic evaluations, Dr. McLain and her staff do full case histories about any symptoms patients are experiencing, including medicines they are taking and tests they’ve had.
“We do it all in one day. It is a lengthy evaluation. It’s about two and a half hours to do the full hearing and balance testing, and we explain it to them and create a plan of care before they leave.”
For patients suffering from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which makes them feel like they or the inside of their head is spinning, treatment may be as simple as a head maneuver. Otoliths in the inner ear monitor head movement and position related to gravity. These otoliths are tiny crystals that sometimes become dislodged and create that dizzy feeling.
“We have to put the crystals back in place,” Dr. McLain said.
This involves a series of movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure, which can take just a few minutes.
“Then they’re mad that they dealt with it so long when we could have fixed it years ago.”
The popularity of earbuds and headphones means there will probably be many more people suffering from hearing loss in the decades to come and at younger ages.
“It’s going to be an epidemic, it really is, because people in their teens up to early 40s constantly have the earbuds in their ears, and they’re going to damage their hearing,” Dr. McLain said. “If you have earbuds in constantly, you’re going to have problems later.”
She suggests children only use headphones that don’t allow the volume to exceed a certain level.
“No matter your age, you need hearing protection,” Dr. McLain said.
Dr. McLain is certified by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Her research interests include fall prevention, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, and advanced diagnostic measures.
Dr. McLain said she feels blessed to be able to help so many people with their hearing and balance problems. “Helping people, whether it’s helping them to get over their dizziness or helping them to be part of their lives again — they miss out on that with dizziness and hearing loss. It’s very gratifying to see the change in people once they’ve received help or treatment.”
For more information, contact the staff of Advanced Hearing and Balance at 601-450-0280 or www.pinebelthearingaids.com.
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