Hearing Loss and Veterans

05th Nov 2014 Hearing, Medical News

One of the most common injuries to war veterans is hearing damage. 60% of soldiers returning from warzones experience some version of hearing damage – either hearing loss, tinnitus, or both. This accounts for around 414,000 US veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to date. Most people are concerned with loss of limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder, and brain injuries while less attention is brought to hearing loss. Despite its prevalence, hearing damage is often overlooked since it is generally does not cause loss of life.

The two main reasons for hearing damage from war are short-term exposure from high-intensity noise and long-term exposure to loud ambient noise. This can involve everything from loud trucks and helicopters to machine guns, artillery fire, and blasts from explosives. The prevalence and intensity of damaging wartime noises has increased over time, particularly with the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which has resulted in more hearing damage for soldiers than in the past. Hearing protection is provided by the military, but many soldiers will forgo using it in order to listen carefully for signs of danger. In addition – if soldiers find themselves in a combat situation suddenly, there is no time or good way for them to grab hearing protection.

One of the problems with diagnosing hearing loss is that many veterans don’t seek medical attention when they first start to notice problems. Military culture can be partially to blame since hearing loss is so prevalent. Hearing loss has often been seen as a necessary evil or even an honorable sign that a soldier has seen action. However, this delay in treatment is not unique to veterans. Many individuals try to live with their hearing loss, despite the fact that damage to hearing cannot be reversed. On average it takes 7 years for someone to talk to a doctor after they first start noticing changes in their hearing.

Hearing loss is costly for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with around $2 billion in benefits dispersed annually. The VA purchases one in every five hearing aids sold in the United States and 25-30% of all VA disability claims involve hearing. There is a push to get more funding for research in hopes that they can achieve the same innovations that the prosthetic limb field has seen. All veterans are encouraged to have their hearing evaluated upon discharge and medical attention should be sought as soon as hearing loss is noticed.

Starkey Hearing and Doctor Robert Dean Afghanistan Mission

There are many civilians living and working in war zones and, despite not being military personnel, they are exposed to many of the same hazards. There has been significant research done into the effects of war on soldiers, but very little has been done for those not enlisted. Recently it was reported that the number of children and other vulnerable Afghan civilians injured or killed has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2014. There has been a rise in the number of ground engagements in areas with higher civilian populations, which has accounted fro this steep increase in causalities. While civilians can be accidentally injured or killed during war, there has been a disturbing trend of attacks directed toward them – particularly tribal elders or government officials in this case. The number of children and women causalities has increased the most as the fighting moves into areas with higher population density.

Afghan civilians are exposed to everything from gunfire, IED attacks, mortars, and grenades, to loud noises from trucks, helicopters, and aircrafts.  All of these sounds can damage hearing and lead to tinnitus or permanent hearing loss on top of any other injuries.

Hearing damage can occur in one of two ways – long-term exposure to a loud environment (driving a loud truck,) short-term exposure to a high-intensity sound (gunfire or IEDs.) Exposure to loud noise causes destruction of the hair cells in the inner ear, but the degree of destruction is based on the intensity and duration of the noise. These hair cells are responsible for carrying sound vibration information to the auditory nerves, so without them available to convey this information the individuals experience hearing loss.

Hearing loss is irreversible, but there are methods to cope. Hearing aids are the most recommended method to restore some, if not nearly all, hearing to an individual. Starkey Hearing Foundation has been working with the Bayat Foundation  in order to distribute hearing aids to Afghan civilians, many of them children affected by war, who would otherwise be left unable to hear.  We were able to fit over 600 people with hearing aids while on our mission to Afghanistan.

The Ebola Virus and the Case for Modern Medicine

07th Aug 2014 Ebola, Viruses

Newspapers throughout the world have been carrying news of the recent outbreak of Ebola. According to the World Health Organization 932 people have been killed thus far, the majority of them in Africa. This disease has taken the lives of at least 100 health care workers trying diligently to bring health back to the infected. These efforts have not been in vain as over 1,700 people have been infected since the outbreak began with around 54 percent of these cases resulting in death.

What you need to know about the Ebola virus.

Ebola primarily occurs in Central and West Africa near the rainforest. Outbreaks generally start when an animal infects a human. This could be in the form of a bite, their feces, secretions, bodily fluids, etc. Fruit bats are notorious for carrying the disease. Once it comes in contact with humans, it is passed person to person. This is not an airborne disease so it cannot spread by simply coughing around another person. There must be some type of fluid exchange for the disease to spread. This can happen via direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids, blood, treating people that are infected, and handling dead bodies.

By understanding how the disease is transmitted, it is easier to avoid becoming infected if you are in an area where an outbreak is occurring. Unfortunately, many of these smaller villages do not have access to this information or basics like clean water which would allow them to live in more sanitary conditions where the risk of infection is reduced.

Once a person becomes sick there are several signs that it could be Ebola. They start to run a high fever, feel weak, headache, muscle pain, and sore throat. These symptoms are very similar to the flu which makes it even harder to identify. Unfortunately, the symptoms do not manifest right away. It can take two to 21 days before a person knows that they are sick. The disease can live inside of a person for 61 days after becoming contaminated, creating additional risk for mass exposure. Very often, people go about their lives not knowing that they could be spreading a deadly disease.

Modern Medicine

As a doctor and humanitarian, Dr. Dean has traveled the world providing the gift of hearing to those in need. This is one of the many ways that he is using modern medicine to transform lives of individuals and their community. The Ebola virus demands a similar approach. Modern medical care can prevent many people from dying from the disease. Access to basic solutions like IV fluids in a contained hospital wing can save lives and prevent the disease from spreading.

Dr. Dean is also keenly aware of the need to prevent outbreaks in the first place by training local community leaders on how to identify the disease and ensure that infected individuals are quarantined and treated right away. People in West Africa and throughout the world can benefit from receiving education on how to avoid coming in contact with the disease, then understanding what to do when symptoms develop. Humanitarians, like Dr. Dean, can play a critical role in stopping this disease by developing educational and treatment programs then training local leaders. For those fortunate enough to live in the United States, focusing on good hygiene is an easy way to avoid disease like this since they require a person coming in direct or indirect contact with an infected persons bodily fluids.

Surprise Performers Join The Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala

The Starkey Hearing Foundation So The World May Hear Gala will take place on July 20th in St. Paul Minnesota. This high-octane annual event will be jammed packed with celebrity performers and humanitarians from throughout the world. The foundation was pleased to announce that this year’s surprise performer is Grammy-Award winning artist, Rob Thomas. This is set to be an incredible and unforgettable evening as Rob Thomas takes the state with Sammy Hagar and John Legend.

Each year the gala raises money to further the efforts of The Starkey Hearing Foundation to give the gift of hearing to children throughout the world. Humanitarians, activists, donors, volunteers, and celebrities come together for one purpose and one cause – helping children to hear. This is a monumental goal, and the foundation has been to over one hundred countries thus far. Each trip, each encounter, is life changing, and this one night honors those that make that mission possible.

Dr. Robert Dean has been privileged to work closely with The Starkey Hearing Foundation and has already been on multiple global medical missions with their group. He has traveled the far reaches of the globe, experiencing firsthand the life-changing gift that hearing brings to a child. It is one thing to be a physician in the United States where healthcare is readily available. It is completely different to work in a country where your help may be the only medical help that child ever receives. He has witnessed how a child, after being fitted with a hearing aid, is accepted back into a society that had previously viewed them as an outcast. Hearing does more than open up a world of sound. It enables children, and adults, to be an active and contributing member of society that will change the course of their entire life.

This year’s So The World May Hear gala will be full of star performers like Rob Thomas, who believe in the foundations mission. While it is easy to get caught up in the hype of a celebrity endorsed organization, The Starkey Foundation has been very conscious of its primary mission, to bring hearing to the world. As such, it has made a concerted effort to work with local organizations and governments to provide hearing aids and, even more importantly, access to long-term hearing health care in places it would be least expected. Using an effective three-step approach the foundation has worked effectively across cultures and continental boundaries, something that Dr. Robert Dean is an active part of.

This July 20th, the foundation once again hopes to bring a spotlight to the need for the global hearing initiative while commending those who are giving a portion of their lives to making the world a better place. Dr. Robert Dean will be in attendance, once again lending his support to a cause worth fighting for. To learn more about the foundation, its goals or its mission visit www.starkeyfoundation.org.

Secretary Hillary Clinton to Speak at The Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala

Dr. Robert Dean has been privileged to support The Starkey Hearing Foundation in their efforts to give the gift of hearing to children throughout the world. This year’s special guest speaker is none other than the renowned Secretary Hillary Clinton. Fresh off her worldwide book tour, Clinton will be lending a hand to a cause worth fighting for.

The Starkey Foundation has been incredibly blessed by the presence of celebrities from all over the world who truly care about giving the gift of hearing. Many celebrities and humanitarians will be attending the annual So The World May Hear gala in St. Paul MN. The Starkey Hearing Foundation has used this function to recognize and honor those who have made hearing possible through their generous donations of time and money, and this year is no exception. This year, the So The World May Hear gala will take place on July 20th, 2014 so that humanitarians, volunteers, and donors can be recognized as those that make the foundations work possible.

This year the gala, and all of those involved with the foundation are pleased to announce a very special guest. For many years now the Starkey Foundation has received a great deal of support in its mission to spread the gift of hearing from the Clinton Foundation. This year the So The World May Hear gala is going to be the host to special guest speaker former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton has been a longtime supporter, through both the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiate, but this is the first time she will be joining the Starkey foundation and its guests for the gala. Given her busy book tour and political efforts, the foundation is truly honored by her presence and the commitment it shows to children around the world.

With a list of humanitarians that feature the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Forrest Whitaker, Prince Seeiso of Lesotho and Sandi Young, this year’s gala promises to be spectacular. Dr. Robert Dean, the Florida-based humanitarian, physician, and journalist has already announced his intention to attend year’s function. Adding Secretary Clinton, as the guest speaker, is both profound and exciting for the foundation.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of a once a year event, The Starkey Hearing Foundation has been a worldwide advocate at the forefront of the global hearing initiative. The founders, Bill and Tani Austin, believe that there is no such thing as a disability only ability and have built an organization that takes this message the furthest reaches of the earth. As of this year the Starkey Foundation has visited over one hundred countries and has delivered and equipped over 1.43 million people with hearing aids. As they traverse the planet helping people hear The Starkey Foundation, and volunteers like Dr. Robert Dean have changed countless lives bringing a whole new world of possibility and opportunity to millions of people.

You too can make a difference by supporting The Starkey Hearing Foundation. Learn more by visiting www.starkeyfoundation.org.

Dr. Robert Dean to Attend the Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala

Each year the stars align over St. Paul MN, and the supporters and fans of the Starkey Hearing Foundation will come together to celebrate giving the gift of hearing to children throughout the world. At the So The World May Hear gala the spirit of giving will be once again honored, and those who have taken the time to participate and give back to the community will have a spotlight shone upon their generosity. The event is designed to showcase the tremendous impact caring individuals can have on their fellow man and encourages each person to reach for their full potential. The gala celebrates the achievements of those who are willing to work to make the world a better place, people like Dr. Robert Dean, who has been traveling the world with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to give children one of the greatest gifts of all – the gift of hearing.

This year the So The World May Hear gala will take place on July 20th, 2014. Among the humanitarians that will be honored are the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Forrest Whitaker, Prince Seeiso of Lesotho and Sandi Young with performances by Sammy Hagar and John Legend. Dr. Robert Dean, the Florida-based humanitarian, physician, and journalist will also be in attendance at this year’s gala. The gala has even greater significance this year as it falls on co-founder Tani Austin’s birthday, and founder Bill Austin has committed to matching all donations, up to $100,000 that come in through Tani’s birthday on the 20th of July. This is a fantastic opportunity for people to contribute and have that contribution make an even greater impact.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has become a global force to help people achieve their full potential. Believing that there is no such thing as a disability, only ability, the foundation has travelled the globe delivering people from a world filled with silence. To date the Starkey Hearing foundation has visited over one hundred countries, partnering with local and international organizations to bring their vision of hearing for everyone to the most remote parts of the world. Over the course of these travels the organization has delivered and equipped over 1.43 million people with hearing aids, opening up the world to people who otherwise were forced to live in complete silence. Countless lives have been changed by the organization and Dr. Robert Dean has felt privileged to participate with on the ground activities.

Despite its celebrity appeal, The Starkey Hearing Foundation has taken a realistic and community-based approach to hearing. As part of its model, the foundation works with local and regional leadership in the community and has been striving to empower local residents to take ownership of their own local hearing health services. The team then approaches each situation in a three-phase model that has worked effectively in over one hundred countries across the globe. First patients are identified, then the patients are fitted with custom made ear molds and taught how to care for and operate their hearing aids, and finally the foundation provides after care services to patients. The aftercare is an ongoing support system that remains in place at a central location, giving patients access to information, batteries, and repair services.

This July, the foundation once again hopes to highlight the contribution of those who make a difference in the world. Previous honorees have included President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher, and Mohammed Ali. Dr. Robert Dean will be attending the event and this year’s gala promises to have a host of deserving people, who for a moment are given the spotlight of a grateful world.

Fighting Against Hearing Loss in the Philippines and Throughout the World

13th Jun 2014 Haiti

The right to hear is basic to who we are as human beings. We were made to enjoy the song of the birds, communicate with others, and listen to the wind rustle through the trees. In the United States and other wealthy countries, we have been able to fight against hearing loss by using vaccines and other basic medicine. Unfortunately, there are millions of people throughout the world that never benefit from modern medicine. They are unable to have access to even the most basic vaccinations. They and their children suffer as a result, often leading to preventable hearing loss.

I traveled to the Philippines with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, on a mission to help improve the hearing of people in poorer communities. While there, I was greatly saddened to find so many people suffering from hearing loss that was completely preventable. One mother, for example, had a little boy that was born unable to hear because she had the measles while pregnant, something that could have been prevented with an MMR vaccine. On this trip, we were able to provide free hearing aids for over 5,000 children. Those children now have the gift of hearing and can rejoin society and their peers at school and other activities. Rather than growing up isolated, they can now enjoy the fullness of life and the sweet sounds that fill it.

I was so moved by this experience that I have continued to travel with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to developing countries around the world. While, in Haiti, I experienced another eye opening moment. We found that children and people with disabilities, hearing loss included, were labeled as worthless and tossed aside by society to die. These children, at no fault of their own, were cast aside and made to believe that they didn’t matter. Every child, every life matters, regardless of a disability and by providing them with hearing aids we were able to directly impact their lives and show that people with disabilities have value. It is amazing how a piece of medical technology, in this case a hearing aid, can turn a child’s life around and give them value again.

After our trip to Haiti, Hope 2 Haiti director Scott Bonnell issued a statement saying: “It is because of sponsors like Dr. Robert Dean, here fitting children with their new hearing aids, that hundreds of orphans in remote villages like St. Marc are able to hear for the first time.” I believe that it is because of local activists and partners we are able to make a difference. Organizations like Hope 2 Haiti are working with these poor and impoverished communities on a daily basis, paving the way for people like myself and the Starkey Hearing Foundation to come in and provide resources like hearing aids. Without their work it would be impossible for us to help so many.

I have been privileged to continue my work in countries throughout the world and will continue to do so. On each trip, I learn new things and my eyes continue to be opened to the challenges of people living without hearing. As a doctor, I am committed to making a difference in the lives of people at home and throughout the world because there is no difference between us. As people, we are all the same though some have been privileged enough to grow up in the world of vaccinations and preventative medical care while others, through no fault of their own, suffer in silence, cast aside by society. It is up to us, those that can, to stand up and help. I for one am happy to respond to that call and invite others to join me in doing the same. To learn more about the Starkey Hearing Foundation or my work email contact@doctorrobertdean.com.