At first it can almost seem humorous: Dad can’t hear very well, and mom just smiles and shakes her head resignedly.

But that feeling can soon turn to frustration on all sides as one of the most common health issues in the United States progresses unchecked. Here in Southside Virginia, crucial audiology services that can help families in just this situation are critically lacking. To address that need, Longwood University has hired the region’s only full-time doctor of audiology and will soon be home to a range of services for patients with hearing disorders.

Dr. Mani Aguilar is an experienced clinical audiologist who previously worked at the University of Virginia for 10 years in its speech and hearing center and at a children’s hospital in Texas for 10 years. She has taught online courses at Longwood for the past five years, and is now starting a full-time slate of both teaching duties and audiology work at Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services on Third Street.

"Our goals are simple," said Aguilar. "We want to serve the community in the best possible way, by providing information on treatment and working with patients who have hearing disorders to find solutions to their problems. We are making every effort to get out and really be a part of the community."  Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services is partnering with the Farmville Lions Club and a national organization, Hear Now, to possibly provide hearing aids to individuals who could not otherwise afford them.

That means students in Aguilar’s classes will not only learn from the best but also have the opportunity to observe and engage with real patients from the region. Using a full range of state-of-the-art devices—the most advanced diagnostic equipment available—Aguilar will

  • diagnose hearing disorders
  • make medical referrals
  • prescribe and dispense digital hearing aids
  • provide ongoing therapy for patients who require it

"More than 35 million Americans have some form of hearing loss," said Aguilar, "and a lot of the time it’s something that people are either embarrassed about or try to live with. The message is: There’s help available and solutions for most patients. We’re going to deliver them to the region for the first time in a full-time clinical setting."

Some estimates put the number of Americans over 65 with some degree of hearing loss at more than 30 percent, but the issue runs deeper. About 10 percent of children have some sort of hearing disorder, typically diagnosed in elementary school. For these children, having resources available in the community is critical for success in school and at home. Whatever the age, most patients who receive a device to assist them with hearing require several follow-up visits to learn to use the device effectively. Aguilar provides that service at the Third Street location.

"Many people think you simply put a hearing aid in, turn it on and presto, you can hear again," she said. "That’s simply not the case. Often patients have adjusted to hearing loss over several years, and their brains have to learn to use all the new sensory signals again. The worst thing that can happen is a patient takes out his hearing aid and puts it in the drawer because he doesn’t know how to use it properly. That’s why we are making sure to provide ongoing care for our patients at Speech, Hearing and Learning Services."

Audiology services are now available at Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services at 315 W. Third St. To schedule an appointment or to speak with Dr. Aguilar, please call 434-395-2972.

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