Holiday hearing screening

Legionowo, Włocławek, Tarnowo Podgórne, Pruszków, Solec Kujawski, Inowrocław, Miastko, Płońsk, Kalisz, Stegna, Ciechanów, Stalowa Wola, Augustów, Grajewo, Kutno and Otwock. These Polish cities hosted this year the ‘Lato z radiem’ (‘Summer with a radio’) – a summer holiday radio program broadcasted ‘live’ since 1971 (the program celebrated this year its 45th anniversary). This year the team of Polish Radio Program 1 was touring Polish towns in a company of a Mobile Hearing Center of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, specialist car with a fully equipped ORL surgery and a special compartment for hearing screening tests. From town to town, each summer holiday weekend a Mobile Hearing Center followed the sounds of a popular melody of Clarinet Polka – opener of the ‘Lato z radiem’ recognized by several generations on Poles. The Mobile Hearing Center is a ‘surgery in wheels’ and the first in Poland non-commercial project combining hearing screening with a preliminary ORL diagnostic examination.

Motivation of this hearing screening program conducted by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing was in the first place screening for communication-hampering hearing loss as well as popularization of knowledge about hearing and ways of preventing its dysfunctions. People in cities visited by the Mobile Hearing Center could take advantage of consultation with an ORL doctor, audiologist, phoniatrist or hearing rehabilitation specialist such as speech therapist or teacher of the deaf. Listeners of the program could learn a lot about the need of testing hearing and problems with hearing touching children and adults.

Doctors from the Institute were present on the air each summer weekend working to convey one important message: the earlier a hearing loss is detected, the better chances are for successful treatment. – Today, with present progress in medical technologies we can help almost any patient with hearing problem – emphasized Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, who also had joined the ‘Lato z radiem’ tour and the Mobile Hearing Center.  He also reminded the listeners about two jubilees: 20th anniversary of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing and 25th anniversary of deafness treatment in Poland.

To start with, the team of the ‘Lato z radiem’ took hearing tests in the Mobile Hearing Center so that they could with conviction invite listeners to participate in preventive hearing examinations. ‘The examination is non-invasive, painless and takes only a few minutes’ – encouraged the program hosts: Karolina Rożej, Sława Bieńczycka and Bogdan Sawicki. The more was said on the air about hearing tests, the longer queues were waiting to the Mobile Hearing Center.

I have heard on the radio that people are doing hearing tests on our market square. I decided to seize the opportunity, because queues to the specialists are very long. – said one of the patients in Legionowo, first of the towns visited by the Mobile Hearing Center. Travelling through subsequent town of Poland, sometimes several hundreds of kilometers from one another, we could learn also about problems with access to specialists. In Miastko, which for the occasion had been decorated with colorful umbrellas, the interest in hearing tests surpassed all expectations. A queue for the Mobile Hearing Center formed already in the early morning. Waiting time was sometimes as long as 3 hours. Why there were so many people wanting to have their hearing tested explained one of the first patients in the queue: In our town there is no ORL doctor. For examination or consultation I would have to travel several dozen kilometers.

Extraordinary long queues were waiting for hearing tests also in Płońsk, Solec Kujawski, Inowrocław and Włocławek. There, same as in other towns, a large part of patients were senior citizens who because of problems with access to audiologist or ORL specialist were queuing for the Mobile Hearing Center undeterred by long waiting time or weather, in Legionowo –  oppressive heat, in Stalowa Wola – hail.

The group of senior citizens in Poland is growing. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński addressed them speaking in the ‘Lato z radiem’: It is hard to stay active if your senses are not working well – he said. His words must have been convincing, because elder inhabitants of Włocławek region came in force for screening directly from the Festival of Seniors’ Vocal Art. – Growing proportion of people over 65 years is a challenge for all medical specialties. But in otolaryngology we have especially much to do. – said Prof. Skarżyński. Presently, after implementation of a program of hearing screening in children, Prof. Skarżyński is taking the first steps towards developing and introducing similar programs for elderly people.

Summarizing, inhabitants of visited towns were extremely interested in hearing examinations. It is an evidence of a great need existing for professionally conducted, non-commercial hearing screening. In total nearly 2 thousand people took advantage of the opportunity of the Mobile Hearing Center. Results of this screening confirm what the experts have observed for many years – incidence of hearing disorders is very large and in grows with age (from 20% in schoolchildren to 75% in the elderly).

In many towns hearing loss was detected in nearly all elderly people who took the test. It is a convincing reason to organize hearing screening on a regular basis for all age groups – said dr Anna Piotrowska, head of the Epidemiology and Screening Department of the Institute, on the air at the ‘Lato z radiem’. – Hearing screening should be introduced for all newborn children. Poland is one of the leading countries in the world in this regards, our newborn hearing screening program is one of the best in the world. It means that all children born in Poland undergo hearing screening test and if there is a problem, we can intervene even that early. But we must remember that the fact that results of hearing test made after birth were normal does not guarantee that hearing problems will not occur at later age or even when they grow up.

Summer vacation is a very good season to talk about hearing problems. When ‘Lato z radiem’ visited Stegna, a popular seaside holiday town, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński spoke on the air about tinnitus and how soothing sounds of waves can be used in hearing therapy. – Lapping waves can mask patient’s tinnitus, helping them to cope with this affliction – he explained.

Visiting the Mazury Lakes region, in Augustów i Grajewo, specialists from the Mobile Hearing Center took advantage of holiday mood to explain how to cope with changes of pressure in the ear in an airplane or while diving.

Music was another topic often mentioned in the ‘Lato z radiem’. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński often emphasided on the air its beneficial impact on human organism and its therapeutic role in treatment of hearing disorders. But at the same time he warned that even the most beautiful music can become a hearing-damaging voice when it is too loud.

Not only our specialists and journalists of the ‘Lato z radiem’ were actively promoting hearing prophylaxis and care, also local authorities, in many towns their mayors had joined the action. In Solec Kujawski mayor Teresa Substyk took the opportunity to have her hearing examined and then personally invited her townsmen to the Mobile Hearing Center. Similarly president of Ciechanów, who is one of the youngest town presidents in Poland, has set a good example and submitted to hearing examination in the Mobile Hearing Center.

Our team had traveled 5,5 thousand kilometers visiting 16 towns. We finished that tour in Otwock with a deep conviction – it was worth it! We have helped many people. We showed them that hearing loss is not a life sentence – todays medicine can help to remedy hearing loss and keep it in good condition until old age. Thanks of appreciative patients were an incitement to start planning the next Mobile Hearing Center tour.