Holistic medicine is an approach to health treatment that emphasizes cooperative relationships. It is the practice of medicine that addresses the wants of the whole person including physical, nutritional, environmental, social, spiritual, and lifestyle changes. This approach to health treatment includes the use of drugs and surgery if needed, and focuses on education for balance and well being. Now, hearing healthcare professionals are using a multi-step process to improve treatment outcomes for hearing loss patients. The transition is placing hearing health as part of whole-body health.
Evaluation is the first step in the holistic approach to hearing loss treatment. Hearing healthcare professionals identify the presence of hearing loss and if present, determine if the damage is due to a sensorineural impairment. The inner ear is susceptible to numerous chronic diseases, and as a specialist in this area, the hearing healthcare professional can assist in the detection and possible treatment of chronic diseases.
A review of the patient’s case history is essential for identifying the presence of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases often have multiple and overlapping pathophysiology so a method of identification of these diseases should be a part of a medical history form for patients of hearing healthcare professionals.
Hearing Loss Comorbidities
At this step, the professional will determine if both a chronic hearing loss and another chronic condition are co-existing. If this is the case, then comorbidity, the presence of two or more chronic conditions simultaneously exists. Poor health outcomes increased healthcare costs, and highly complex clinical management are part of treating comorbidities. This interaction between the two illnesses affects the manner of treatment and prognosis.
At this point, the hearing healthcare professional determines if the odds ratio of chronic disease is increasing. This increase may indicate associated pathology. Vascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and chronic kidney disease as well as neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are known to elevate odds ratios.
Self-evaluation is a time for hearing healthcare professionals to assess readiness to attempt patient co-management of the patient’s diseases. The practitioner must decide if they wish to be involved in the sharing of information with other providers to improve the patient’s outcome. This access allows the hearing healthcare professional to provide awareness regarding the interactions with hearing and balance disorders.
This phase is communication that works toward team management of comorbid chronic health conditions. These interactions usually involve the patient’s primary care physician. A hearing healthcare professional can add a clear insight to a healthcare team for a few reasons:
- The hearing healthcare professional is the only member of the treatment team who can assess inner ear function.
- Hearing healthcare professionals are the sole members who can provide treatment for sensorineural hearing loss.
- The hearing healthcare professional can notify the other health care professionals of hearing disorders.
The future of hearing health is gearing up for enhancement through the collaboration of hearing healthcare professionals with other medical specialties.