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Wilford Hall audiology clinic works to maintain, restore hearing

By Senior Airman Keifer Bowes | 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 29, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — Hearing can play a critical role in people’s daily lives, from enjoying a favorite song to hearing an evacuation alarm, sound impacts many day-to-day tasks.

When hearing is compromised, and an individual can no longer effectively communicate, the 59th Medical Wing audiology clinic can alleviate and restore hearing related issues.

As the largest clinic of its kind in the Air Force, the audiology clinic offers hearing tests, balance testing and hearing aid screenings.

Maj. Ramone Williams, audiology element chief for the 59th MDW, sees patients ranging from infants to retired generals.

“We are the largest audiology clinic Air Force wide,” Williams said. “We do the standard diagnostic hearing tests and infant hearing screenings, but a large part of what we do here includes helping retirees get hearing aids at cost. An aid that could cost somebody six to eight thousand dollars at a civilian provider, we can often times provide to them for six to eight hundred dollars.”

The audiology clinic also contributes to conserving the hearing of service member’s in career fields posing hearing dangers.

A study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that 16.4 to 26.6 percent of male veterans of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War seeking Veterans Affairs care suffer from serious hearing loss and tinnitus. That same study found 7.3 to 13.4 percent of female veterans had hearing loss.

“Anybody that is exposed to hazardous noises due to their occupation is automatically enrolled in the hearing conservation program where we do annual hearing test to make sure that they don’t have a shift in their hearing,” Williams said. “If there are any changes, we’ll do a more in depth examination and make our recommendation from there.”

Williams stressed that for many patients, proactively seeking treatment can result in earlier diagnosis and preferred outcomes. Many hearing loss patients wait seven years before treatment, but the clinic hopes to reduce this number through educational outreach initiatives.

“People have a pre-conceived notion that if they come to us with hearing loss, they’ll have to wear this humongous hearing aid, but they don’t understand that the technology we have now makes it so that hearing aids today are virtually invisible,” said Williams as he held up a hearing aid measuring no more than an inch. “We get patients that know they have hearing issues, so when they finally come to the clinic the most common complaint we get is that they have a hard time hearing in a group conversation. Hearing issues aren’t only affects the individual but also the people around them.”

With various treatment facilities throughout the city, the 59th MDW provides a full spectrum of health care services to more than 240,000 beneficiaries in the San Antonio metropolitan area.

For more information about the 59th MDW, including new 59th Medical Wing Texting Service, visit www.59mdw.af.mil.