Hearing Aid

Longwood provides region with first full-time service for patients with hearing disorders

At first it can almost seem humorous: Dad can’t hear very well, and mom just smiles and shakes her head resignedly.

But that feeling can soon turn to frustration on all sides as one of the most common health issues in the United States progresses unchecked. In Southside Virginia, where Longwood is located, crucial audiology services that can help families in just this situation are critically lacking. To address that need, the university has hired the region’s only full-time doctor of audiology and will soon be home to a range of services for patients with hearing disorders.

Dr. Mani Aguilar is an experienced clinical audiologist who previously worked at the University of Virginia for 10 years in its speech and hearing center and for an additional 10 years at a children’s hospital in Texas. She has taught online courses at Longwood for the past five years and is now starting a full-time slate of both teaching duties and audiology work at Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services.

‘More than 35 million Americans have some form of hearing loss.’

— DR. MANI AGUILAR, audiologist

“Our goals are simple,” said Aguilar. “We want to serve the community in the best possible way, by providing information on treatment and working with patients who have hearing disorders to find solutions to their problems. We are making every effort to get out and really be a part of the community.”

As part of that effort, Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services is partnering with the Farmville Lions Club and a national organization, Hear Now, to possibly provide hearing aids to individuals who could not otherwise afford them.

Also benefiting from this new service are students in Aguilar’s classes, who will not only learn from the best but also have the opportunity to observe and engage with real patients from the region.

“More than 35 million Americans have some form of hearing loss,” said Aguilar, “and a lot of the time it’s something that people are either embarrassed about or try to live with. The message is: There’s help available and solutions for most patients.”

Some estimates put the number of Americans over 65 with some degree of hearing loss at more than 30 percent, but the issue runs deeper. About 10 percent of children have some sort of hearing disorder, typically diagnosed in elementary school. For these children, having resources available in the community is critical for success in school and at home. Whatever the age, most patients who receive a device to assist them with hearing require several follow-up visits to learn to use the device effectively.

“Many people think you simply put a hearing aid in, turn it on and presto, you can hear again,” she said. “That’s simply not the case. Often patients have adjusted to hearing loss over several years, and their brains have to learn to use all the new sensory signals again. The worst thing that can happen is a patient takes out his hearing aid and puts it in the drawer because he doesn’t know how to use it properly. That’s why we are making sure to provide ongoing care for our patients at Speech, Hearing and Learning Services.”

By: Matthew McWilliams