The Clear Choice
How Pinnacle ENT Associates helps people affected by hearing loss recover their quality of life
by Leigh Stuart

Hearing loss does not discriminate, meaning Americans of all ages and backgrounds are susceptible to the threats it presents to one’s health, happiness and social life. Approximately 15 percent of adults in America, or nearly 40 million people, have trouble hearing, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Children, too, are greatly affected, with nearly three out of every 1,000 children in America born with some degree of hearing loss, the NIDCD reports.

Such staggering statistics underscore the scope of the problem. They also highlight the necessity of seeking out highly trained medical professionals, such as the team of physicians and audiologists at Pinnacle ENT Associates (PENTA), who can address hearing loss in individuals of all ages. 

Although hearing impairment affects one’s sensory perception, it can also have a significant impact on quality of life, according to PENTA’s Marc Surkin, M.D. Dr. Surkin notes that poor hearing can cause anything from squabbles between family members to compromised safety in navigating the world around them.

Hearing impairment in children, explains Larry Feiner, M.D., can cause developmental delays. Hearing loss in older patients especially, notes Nicole Balliet, Au.D., can lead to social isolation, which in turn can cause depression. Such conditions, if left untreated, can go so far as to contribute to cognitive and memory decline.

To fight a foe as pernicious as hearing loss, however, one must first determine which of the three types of hearing loss a person has: sensorineural hearing loss, wherein the cochlea (inner ear cavity) or connective nerves to the brain are damaged; conductive hearing loss, typically due to an impairment, infection or injury to the outer or middle ear; and a combination of the two.

Sensorineural hearing loss can have a genetic component, wherein a patient is predisposed to the condition. Conductive hearing loss can range in causes from otitis media, or an infection of the ear, to fluid to atresia, or the absence/abnormal narrowing of the ear canal.

Autoimmune disorders, wherein one’s own body begins attacking itself, can target the organs of hearing, thus causing hearing loss. Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear, causes hearing loss, as well as episodic vertigo, ringing in the ears and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Trauma, too, can cause hearing loss; symptoms of a labyrinthine concussion, for example, which can follow a head injury, can also include hearing impairment.

Many are familiar with the causes of noise-induced hearing loss, such as exposure to a career with a high decibel level on a daily basis or repeated subjection to loud sounds or music via headphones, but even something as simple as impacted or overabundant cerumen, or earwax, can lead to hearing impairment.

These are just a few of the vast array of causes that can lead to hearing loss in one form or another. As there are so many causes, it is of vital importance to consult with an experienced medical professional who can accurately diagnose the one or more causes of an individual’s hearing loss.

“I think a lot of patients don’t realize that it often takes six to seven years for someone to do something about their hearing loss,” Dr. Balliet says, noting that this often includes the time when someone first notices hearing impairment to when treatment is sought out.

Luckily, a great many tests and treatments exist to help those with hearing loss. PENTA can help “at least 80 percent of people with hearing loss,” says Dr. Feiner, through means such as surgery, medication or hearing aids.

The diagnostic evaluation is vital in helping determine the cause of a person’s hearing loss, and PENTA is at the cutting edge with the technology to do this. Another highly advanced means of testing at PENTA’s disposal is known as videonystagmography (VNG), which is a series of tests that help assess vestibular integrity.

Cherise Silverthorn Keane, Au.D., explains that this test requires patients to wear special goggles that record their eye movements. VNG testing allows PENTA’s professionals to determine if a vestibular (inner ear) disease may be causing a balance or dizziness problem. This is one of the only tests available today that allows professionals to assess each ear independently to decipher if there is an asymmetry in the peripheral end-organs.

From myringotomy (a procedure wherein the eardrum is pierced to remove fluid or release pressure) to wax extraction to tympanoplasty (the repairing of holes or tears in the eardrum) to transtympanic injection of a steroid into the ear, PENTA can perform a host of procedures to help patients hear more clearly.

Counseling, too, is a vital part of PENTA’s approach to treatment. Many professionals within the practice note that their role can, at times, resemble that of a marriage counselor. While this is said in lighthearted fashion, hearing loss has the potential to cause communication breakdowns in relationships.

For this and many other quality-of-life reasons, it behooves many hearing-impaired patients to seek out the assistance of a sound amplification device, otherwise known as a hearing aid.

Such devices have been around for more than 115 years, but only recently have these devices caught up with the lighting-fast speed of technological advancements in other fields. Not only have hearing aids become smaller and more aesthetically pleasing, but some can also be connected to one’s television or mobile telephone for greater convenience.

The members of PENTA’s medical and audiological staff agree, however, that it is best to treat hearing loss before it negatively affects a patient’s quality of life. As Dr. Feiner says, “I think hearing [loss] prevention is more important than treatment.” For this reason, especially for individuals regularly exposed to high decibel levels, PENTA’s team recommends being fitted for customized hearing-protection devices.

“Pinnacle means the peak,” says Dr. Balliet. “We want to be the top, the best, because we think our patients should have the best care, the best technology—the best they can.”

To make an appointment with PENTA, call 610-902-6092. For more information on the practice, visit