DR. SMITH: Hello. Dr. Keith Smith with you – Surgery Center of Oklahoma. Thank you for joining us in this video blog series. This is the next blog that I promised you.
My good friend, Stan Baker, is with me here. He’s a very experienced and dedicated otologist. And Dr. Wolf with the Hearts for Hearing non-profit foundation is here with us as well. Thank you both for joining us.
DR. BAKER AND DR. WOLFE: You’re welcome.
DR. SMITH: We’re going to do this in two parts because there really is a lot of information. We’re going to start with Dr. Wolfe. I’m going to have him explain what is Hearts for Hearing, what is their significance, what do they do, how can you help them accomplish their incredible mission. So without further ado, Dr. Wolfe…
DR. WOLFE: Thanks so much, Keith. I really appreciate it. I’m with the Hearts for Hearing Foundation here in Oklahoma City. It’s a non-profit organization that seeks to optimize communication and listening abilities of both children and adults with hearing loss. Over the last 10 years, we have served over 1,000 patients — children and adults — who have cochlear implants, so a large population. We also participate heavily in research with both hearing aid technology and cochlear implant technology. So that uniquely positions us to determine the best technology that will benefit the patients we serve – the technology that we can use to really unbridle them to hear as well as they possibly can in real-world situations.
One thing we’ve seen over and over again over the last several years is that we receive patients from other areas and they’re really struggling with hearing aids. They’ve been caught in what we call the ‘hearing aid channel’ where they work with a professional who has great intentions, but they’re primarily just experienced with working with hearing aid technology, so they continue to pour all their efforts in to trying to fine tune the hearing aid of that patient. And in reality, what we know is that patient would do far better with implantable hearing technology, or in most cases, a cochlear implant.
A cochlear implant is a medical device that’s implanted in the inner ear – in the cochlea – that’s the structure, more often than not, where the damage is — in the ear that really prevents people from hearing well. The cochlear implant bypasses those damaged structures, stimulates the auditory nerve directly, and partially restores hearing, really giving people their lives back.
We see people who have withdrawn from social situations. They don’t interact with family or with friends any longer. We see people who have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their job because they can’t interact with coworkers or with clients anymore at work. This technology completely changes their life for the better. Unfortunately, we know far too many people who are unaware of this technology. For every 1 person who has a cochlear implant, there are 10 out there who could benefit from one, whose life could be better, whose communication and hearing abilities could be better, but they either don’t know about it, or in many cases, they can’t afford this technology.
And that’s where I think the Surgery Center can really come into play. Because they can offer cochlear implant technology at a cost that’s lower than what can be found anywhere else in the United States. So I would urge you, if you feel it in your heart to support our mission at Hearts for Hearing, I promise you that we can serve patients as effectively and efficiently with hearing loss as anywhere else in the country and any donation to Hearts for Hearing would be money well spent. And I also urge you to really explore your hearing technology options with Dr. Baker and at the Surgery Center. It can be life changing. It can be transformational. And you won’t find a better deal in the country.
DR. SMITH: Dr. Wolfe, what would you say is the typical bill that you would see from a so-called not-for-profit hospital that has performed a cochlear implant on a child or an adult? What kind of bill would you normally see?
DR. WOLFE: Well, that’s a good question, and oddly enough, there’s a range. And the range is anywhere from $80,000 to $125,000, believe it or not, for one ear with a cochlear implant. So it’s an expensive technology. Unfortunately, I just got word of a case of a young child – an 18 month old – that we serve. Really most people should be able to hear with two ears. God gave us two ears and we should use two ears in order to get by in the real world. To tell where a sound is coming from, to be able to hear a noise, you need two ears. This young child received one cochlear implant and the total charge for the implant was about $90,000 and after insurance paid, his family was stuck with a bill for about $20,000. And until they pay that bill, he can’t receive a second cochlear implant.
And from what I understand, they could’ve come to the Surgery Center and gotten both cochlear implants for far less than they would’ve paid for that one cochlear implant. So he would’ve been hearing both ears, which is really unfortunate, because there’s a small window of time in which you can really develop the binaural auditory system, or the ability to be able to hear with two ears.
DR. SMITH: This is part 1. In part 2, we’re going to visit with Dr. Baker and let him tell you a little bit more about the specifics about cochlear implantation and it’s advantages and how truly exciting this technology is. Dr. Wolfe, thank you very much. Will you stick around for part 2? We’ll get started on that before too much longer.
DR. WOLFE: Sure thing. Thanks.