A Patient’s hearing loss journey in receiving the best, lasting care
Hearing loss is one of the most common ailments that affects troops sent back to combat, according to the Pentagon and government researchers .–USA Today
As consumers in America, we constantly pursue our highest form of achievable value with a given product or service. Whether that ultimate value is determined as the cheapest cost with highest quality for one person, or as the medium cost with highest efficiency for another, we all are prone to this way of thinking in a free market society. Wouldn’t the same mindset be applied to the healthcare sector as well? After all, isn’t the freedom of achieving the best possible healthcare one of the freedoms held most high to many?
On April 11, 2006 Captain Mark A. Brogan realized all too well that he held a very high stake in his own healthcare. He was serving the United States in Operation Iraqi Freedom, when, on that day, he was injured by a suicide bomber in close proximity . As he states,
My hearing was substantially damaged. My first hearing test was not till a few months after my injury. The test results showed that my right ear had been perforated and sustained severe to profound damage and the left severe. The blast came from the right side which was the worst. The inner ear was so damaged that my vestibular system was damaged and my balance and dizziness were horrible.
Ultimately the Department of Veterans Affairs was able to give this brave soldier another opportunity to receive his hearing ability yet again. As he says of the treatment they provided,
The VA gave me a pair of great hearing aids and they work very well, I even have a remote control much like a car key remote that changes volume and programs.
Receiving the utmost value in relation to your healthcare is what patients or veterans strive for. The following story depicts an example scenario that applies to a Veteran’s case and treatment process. However, as you can see, the emotions that are faced in this circumstance could be applied to anyone facing this same scare.
On a Tuesday morning, I head to Manchester VA Medical Center to have a check-up with my primary care physician. Recently, I have experienced dizziness and my hearing has been slightly disrupted through my right ear. During my service tour in Iraq, I had that side of my face injured, and as a consequence, that ear & hearing were too. I have always had particularly good hearing up until my injury as well. I want to go to my trusted VA primary care physician under the impression that they will do whatever is needed to help me try to regain my hearing loss.
When I enter, I check-in at the entrance kiosk. They ask the generic questions of the current condition of my ear, along with other symptoms I am experiencing. I check-mark the box next to headache/dizziness. After talking to my PC, they clearly see how my right ear has been disrupted and write me a referral to go see an Audiologist. At this point, I feel that I am in good hands with the VA as the PC is aware of my situation and that I am in need of more service than they are particularly cut-out to handle. It is not about them trying to quickly resolve my case, or have a personal win for their career. Rather, they know the Audiologist is the one best equipped to help provide the right kind of care for me.
Going to see an Audiologist only takes a couple of days and I am surprised they are able to call me back in the following week to go see the Manchester Audiologist. I was worried they were going to have an Audiologist only available in a location not close to me. I’m content knowing Manchester is less than a half hour away from my home. I make the drive back up there, conduct the same initial paperwork, and wait to be called into the office. The Audiologist performs a set of examinations and tests, and afterwards, proceeds to follow-up with the results to me.
They had found that I have sensorineural hearing loss as a result from the loud noise during my injury. They let me know that a hearing aid can be provided and that there are a great array of positives from obtaining one (especially given my current hearing condition). My first thought is that I am worried about the cost of this piece.
Will it be worth it for only one ear? Will I be able to afford it even?
My Audiologist reassures me that the price is reasonable and that the VA allows a great package payment plan. I can choose to pay the upfront percentage amount that works best for me and pay off the rest incrementally. I agree to get one for my right ear after knowing these positives.
He proceeds to let me know the ways in which I can order a state-of-the-art hearing aid through the VA after he fits me for the right size and design. I can first register through the health Administration/enrollment section of the VA Medical center of my choice. When I register, I must have a copy of my Veteran’s DD214, driver’s license and health insurance. I can complete this up at the Manchester (or other) facility itself, online through the Form 10-10EZ, or by mailing the Form 10-10EZ as well . I decide to go through the online ordering route and receive my hearing aid in a few weeks.
The hearing aid I receive in the mail is technically referred to as an ITC (In-the-canal) style . I am able to (1) control it easily and (2) have it formed to my ear as well, to lessen the apparentness of showing others I am wearing it. After installing it, I really do feel like myself again. Hearing is something we may take for granted unless it is altered or hindered in any way. Regaining it again in my right ear has showed me how the VA has sincerely seen me as a person, not just a patient. I am now able to join my group conversations again and be a part of them, without feeling any different. I wasn’t just another case but I was a person seeking my ultimate value –which was just this—feeling like myself again.
Veterans should be able to receive the same value that all of us are endlessly looking for. When the United States Department of Veterans Affairs fully implements the Value Management methodology, it will increase the number of Captain Brogan-like cases.
This will provide our Veterans with not only additional health freedom, but health value as well.
 Zoroya, Gregg. “Soldier’s Story Illustrates Risks of Hearing Loss in War.” USA Today. USA Today, 4 Aug. 2008. Web.
 America, Hearing Loss Association of. “Veterans | Hearing Loss Association of America.” HLAA Updates. Hearing Loss Association of America, n.d. Web.
 “Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services.” Hearing Aids -. N.p., n.d. Web.
 “Hearing Aids | NIDCD.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web.
Figure 1: “Hearing Aids | NIDCD.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web.
Figure 2: “Hearing Loss.” Hearing Aid Parts. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web.