WICC Radio Discusses National Hearing Month And The Importance Of Addressing Hearing Loss

Melissa Sheketoff discusses National Speech-Language Hearing Month with Dr. Sreek Cherukuri, a board-certified ENT surgeon and over-the-counter hearing aid pioneer.

They discuss the significant gap in hearing aid usage, with only 1 in 5 individuals who could benefit actually using them.

Dr. Cherukuri explains that despite technological advancements and the availability of cheaper over-the-counter hearing aids, uptake remains low, partly due to misconceptions and the complexities associated with traditional hearing aids.

Dr. Cherukuri also highlights that hearing loss often goes unnoticed by those affected, with signs typically recognized by others. He suggests regular hearing tests, especially for those over 60, as early detection is crucial.

He introduces the ClearCast PAL™, a simpler, user-friendly hearing device designed as an alternative to traditional hearing aids, especially for those with dexterity or technological challenges.

The conversation emphasizes the importance of addressing hearing loss to prevent associated issues like social isolation, depression, and increased mortality. Dr. Cherukuri encourages regular hearing check-ups and considering simpler hearing solutions to improve quality of life.


Melissa Sheketoff: May is National Speech-Language Hearing Month. And it’s a really great time to highlight the significant gap in hearing aid usage among Americans. Despite an estimated 48 million people who experience some form of hearing loss, only 1 in 5 who could benefit from the treatment actually receive it. That’s according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. And so I’m very excited to talk to a board-certified ear, nose, and throat surgeon as well as over-the-counter hearing aid pioneer. And his name is Dr. Sreek Cherukuri. And I’m very happy to have you here, Dr. Cherukuri, to talk

Melissa Sheketoff: more about this, especially during the month of May. How are you?

Dr. Cherukuri: Good morning. How are you?

Melissa Sheketoff: I’m doing fine. I mean, I do wanna discuss obviously how much things have changed in the technological advances, especially in the healthcare sector when it comes to hearing aids. I’m hoping our conversation really encourages people to realize that maybe the way they look at hearing aids, it could be a little archaic. Would you agree?

Dr. Cherukuri: I would agree.

Melissa Sheketoff: So tell us if you don’t mind, you know, what has changed, I guess, in, you know, in the realm of hearing aids and people who rely on them?

Dr. Cherukuri: For decades, hearing aids were prescription devices costing thousands of dollars. And Medicare and most insurance companies don’t cover them. What has changed over the last year and a half is there’s now over-the-counter starter hearing aids available at retail stores that are much cheaper, but the challenge remains that those are only for people with early stages of hearing loss and the statistic of only 25 percent of people with hearing loss ever get hearing aids. That hasn’t changed. So it was not a cost or an access problem. It turns out, I think we’re on the cusp of understanding

Dr. Cherukuri: that hearing aids, while they’re great and really, really good for certain populations, they are not the end all be all solution for every single person with hearing loss. And that’s where I think technology has made some big advances.

Melissa Sheketoff: Well, you know, it’s interesting. You had mentioned before the early stages of hearing loss. What are some signs to look out for when it comes to even determining that maybe you struggle with

Dr. Cherukuri: hearing. So hearing loss is very insidious. It creeps on slowly. So the people with the hearing loss are often the last people to recognize it. It’s typically a coworker, family member, spouse, grandchildren, things like that. They’ll ask you, they’ll notice that you’re asking to repeat what they said, you’re answering the wrong question, or you just nod when that’s not an appropriate answer or the TV is often really loud in the house.

Melissa Sheketoff: So those are really, I would think, kind of significant signs. When you clearly are having a hard time just hearing what didn’t seem to be an issue before. You know, you had kind of mentioned, I would think that people have to be sort of familiar like in your household if they recognize these sort of signs. But that could be kind of tricky. How do you suggest offering guidance for example to a relative or even like an older parent about? Hearing loss and getting treatment

Dr. Cherukuri: It is a little tricky because when our vision goes we know right away that the words are blurry or we can’t see But hearing is a is a receptive Sense so where you don’t know that why the reason you didn’t hear were they mumbling, are they low talking, is the volume too low. So you can always blame that on an external factor, and that’s typically what happens early. You know, we as physicians believe that everyone over the age of 60 should get at least a baseline hearing test and certainly maybe yearly after the age of 70.

Dr. Cherukuri: So the first step is always get a hearing test and see what’s going on. There’s a lot of reversible causes like earwax or ear infection or things like that that can cause or contribute to hearing loss. But it is very common, like over 80% of people above the age of 80 have some significant portion of hearing loss.

Melissa Sheketoff: So again, we are talking this morning to Dr. Cherukuri and he’s an ENT, but also he has a lot of knowledge when it comes to over-the-counter hearing aids and just some different hearing assistance. I mean, let’s talk about the different treatment options, if you don’t mind, Dr. Cherukuri, because again, like you mentioned, people go right to the hearing aid, full-blown hearing aids, but there are some remedies in between, right?

Dr. Cherukuri: Right, I think as a medical establishment we’ve missed the target a little bit. Whether you’re 3 years old or 93 years old, the answer for hearing loss is typically when a hearing aid. And hearing aids are great, but they do come with some challenges. They’re very small, which is a challenge if you have dexterity issues. They’re complicated. You might have to pair them with an app on your phone. And some people like my father, for example, that would be a real technological challenge. And they can be uncomfortable. You have to wear them, they’re very small, some

Dr. Cherukuri: of them need really tiny batteries. And you can see those are great for I think people on the younger side, but certainly for people that are older and maybe have some dexterity issues, vision issues, things like that. That is a complicated, tiny piece of technology. And so what we have been working on the last few years is a different approach to hearing loss. We’ve all heard the term wearable or some of the hearable technology and so what I’ve been spending the last 2 years designing is something we call the clear cast Pal. It’s a personal assistive

Dr. Cherukuri: listening device. It’s almost like a headband, sorry, neckband or a headphone that you wear around your neck with earbuds. Much easier, simpler solution, simple on-off switch, volume buttons, very easy to use or even put on somebody if it’s a family member. And you can hear conversations really well because we have a very unique dual microphone technology. There’s a microphone in the base. There’s also a separate wireless microphone. If you want to, you could put it next to the TV and whatever you want to hear, you will hear clearly into your ears. And it’s almost like reading

Dr. Cherukuri: glasses. You just wear them around your neck when you don’t want to wear them. You just take them off. Couldn’t be simpler. And I think that’s a really important option for those people who are not ready for a hearing aid. Maybe that’s the wrong fit, again, from the dexterity or the technology or the cost standpoint. There are now other options. And I think I was sharing with you before, imagine if someone had mobility issues and the only option was a wheelchair. Right, right, that’s such a great comparison. Right? Yeah, I mean, there’s no, in the hearing

Dr. Cherukuri: loss world, there’s no crutches, there’s no cane, there’s no walker, but so many people, that’s all they need. And so here we are, we believe we designed the best, simplest solution for hearing loss when a hearing aid is not the right solution for that person.

Melissa Sheketoff: I mean I think you also highlight here Dr. Cherukuri the importance of getting your hearing evaluations doing routine checkups but also you know understanding that there is a strong impact with hearing loss especially if you don’t address it.

Dr. Cherukuri: Right, as I mentioned, it comes on slowly, but the impacts we have really seen in the last few years of research, we knew about the social isolation, but it’s been linked to depression, dementia, higher risk of even mortality is untreated hearing loss. So seniors that really want to pride on their independence and don’t want to end up in assisted living type scenarios. It’s a very important sense to handle and we hope something like the Clearcast Pal gives a much easier option for people to get into the hearing amplification world and start reaping those benefits of good

Dr. Cherukuri: communication and clear hearing.

Melissa Sheketoff: Yeah. I think it makes an awful lot of sense and certainly I really appreciate getting your perspective on this, especially during the month of May, national speech language hearing month and Dr. Sreek, Cherukuri. I want to thank you again for taking the time to come on WICC and share all of this great information.

Dr. Cherukuri: Thank you. And also around May and June is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so a lot of us adult children of seniors it’s a great way to help them is take a look at our website clearcasthearing.com and get them into a physician and have their hearing tested.

Melissa Sheketoff: That’s fantastic. Again Dr. Cherukuri thank you for your time and I’m sure we will talk again in the future.

Dr. Cherukuri: Thanks for having me.

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