After 15 years of implanting cochlear implants (CIs) in patients with severe hearing loss, Charley Della Santina, new director of the Johns Hopkins Listening Center, knows that adjustments by an expert CI audiologist and sustained interaction with an auditory rehabilitation therapist skilled in working with CI users are keys to success. Although most patients receive great benefit from their CIs, some miss out on these critically important parts of CI care and fail to reach their full hearing potential.
Ending therapy too soon typically happens not due to a lack of desire but rather to the real burdens imposed by a long commute, says Della Santina. “We’re of course easy to reach for patients who live near the city, and our international patients commonly live in Baltimore while they receive care at Johns Hopkins,” he says, “but our regional patients sometimes face a long drive. If each visit requires hours of driving and a full day off of work and school, participation in auditory therapy can be a challenge for families of children with CIs. Patients’ parents tell me, ‘I love my audiologist and therapist, but I wish they were closer to my home’.”
To shorten those long commutes, the Listening Center is expanding to Washington, DC; Bethesda, Md.; Green Spring Station in Lutherville, Md., (north of Baltimore); and Kent Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Johns Hopkins audiologist Pamela Cain, who specializes in care of CI patients, started piloting the expansion program in Bethesda and at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C., two years ago. “I get a lot of positive feedback from patients who prefer to get their care at these locations,” she says. “It allows us to reach and help people who weren’t getting necessary services before.”
Auditory rehab therapist Deborah Bervinchak will lead the Listening Center’s new expansion onto the Eastern Shore. Bervinchak, who lives on Kent Island, knows the nuisance of a long commute. “I drive 90 minutes to Hopkins each way. It’s exhausting, and I don’t have children in the car,” she says. “Having a more convenient location will make it easier for our patients to get the rehab they need on a regular basis.”
The Listening Center is also improving access for patients by streamlining care. New clinic coordinator Kimberly Mooney is working to make appointments more efficient by scheduling providers from different disciplines on the same day. Rather than patients undergoing imaging study, consulting with an audiologist, and seeing a surgeon in three different appointments, for example, they can have all three visits in a single trip. The Listening Center team also communicates closely with a patient’s referring audiologist to ensure well-coordinated care.
“Making access to expert care as easy as possible is part of our mission to help Listening Center patients achieve their full hearing potential,” says Della Santina.