Services help children with hearing problems

Published 9:58 am Friday, August 22, 2008

Many of the ear troubles among children turn out benign, but one can never be too careful.

The Children’s Rehabilitation Service in Selma is making sure the hearing of young people is preserved before the problems become severe.

“We try to reach children at an early age to prevent further complications as they get older,” said nurse and office coordinator Melvina Moss. “Hearing has a lot to do with their speech and other learning disabilities.”

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Selma CRS holds monthly hearing clinics the third Thursday of each month in the Easter Seals of West Central Alabama building, 2906 Citizens Parkway. It offers services specifically for children, but also helps people up to 21-years-old.

Some of the most common causes of hearing loss are sinuses and allergies and wax buildup. Those can normally be taken care of in the office.

As long as potential problems are managed, more specialized care or surgery is rarely necessary.

In addition to a doctor, the clinic uses a team that includes a nurse, audiologist and social workers.

“Before I put a hearing aid on them, we have to let the ear, nose and throat doctor look at them to rule out any problems there might be; something that they have that could be cleared up,” said audiologist Sandra Hindman, who has worked with the program for more than seven years. “With some children, there’s not a medical problem. They just have a sensory neural hearing loss, which is permanent hearing loss. There’s nothing you can do about it, other than attempt to amplify their hearing with a hearing aid.”

After several years of operation, the hearing clinic took a hiatus when longtime ENT physician, Dr. Neil Stronach, retired from the program in June 2007.

Two doctors agreed to alternate each month and continue the program. Dr. Michael Bowman, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine, took over the first session of the renewed program on Thursday. Bowman works for Montgomery Otolaryngology.

Dr. James Wallburn is a semi-retired specialist that previously worked for Tuscaloosa CRS Hearing Clinic and will man the clinic every other month.

“The state Department of Rehabilitation Services recruits these specialists to provide the services,” said David White, Director of Easter Seals of West Central Alabama. “They’ve really gone above and beyond what normal doctors do. They’re not being compensated at their normal clinic rates most of the time. These doctors, not just the ENTs, the orthopedists, the neurologists that come for the different clinics here, they’re generally traveling here from as far away as Mobile. It’s a big benefit for this area.”

The CRS Hearing Clinic does outreach as well as take patients.

A lot of the work is done in the schools. Selma CRS services Dallas, Wilcox, Perry and Marengo counties and conducts hearing screenings in several schools in the region.

“The biggest challenge we have here is people with transportation problems,” said Dianne Chandler, a social worker with the CRS Hearing Clinic. “We work closely with the families and work with them as far as transportation services are needed.”

Chandler said workers also meet with teachers and determine needs for children with disabilities.

If problems are cut off early, they don’t affect a child’s social skills, ability to learn or quality of life.

“The sooner a problem is identified, the quicker it’s taken care of,” said White. “It ensures that these smaller problems don’t turn into bigger problems.”