Machine helps find hearing problems

By BRYN STOLE Staff Writer The Greenwood Commonwealth

A new bit of high-tech machinery is helping doctors at Greenwood Leflore Hospital diagnose hearing problems.

The device, known as an Otogram, uses a computer touch-screen interface to test patients’ hearing, employing the kinds of tests that an audiologist, a specialist in hearing problems, would administer.

According to Dr. Samuel Sprehe, an ear, nose and throat specialist and head and neck surgeon at the Greenwood ENT and Allergy clinic, the machine allows the hospital to diagnose problems it wouldn’t have been able to before.

“For areas like this where we have trouble hiring an audiologist, (the Otogram) is perfect,” Sprehe said. “It allows us to provide a very sophisticated service in an area that would otherwise be unattainable.”

The device also has the ability to administer tests in a number of different languages, from Portuguese to Mandarin Chinese. The Otogram in Greenwood can test in 14 languages, but Dr. Sprehe said he could easily add more if needed.

A basic diagnostic test takes about 20 minutes, and the results are immediately available to nurses and doctors at the clinic. Dr. Sprehe said they usually refer those with potentially serious problems for a second opinion, but the machine is saving many patients a trip to Jackson.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University developed the device several years ago. It’s been used in Greenwood for about six months.

Dr. Sprehe said that, while many of his patients are very elderly or born with  auditory problems, he does see many others whose hearing problems are brought on by hearing trauma.

Machinists, mechanics and others who work in loud environments are particularly subject to hearing loss, as are hunters and shooters who don’t wear ear protection.