Hearing and vision MDs join forces

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Dr. Bert Brown (right), of Cleveland ENT/Physician Hearing Centers, is joining forces with Streetsboro ophthalmologist Dr. Douglas Ripkin to treat patients with a variety of sensory issues. (Photo by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Nina Polien Light

Folks living in and around Streetsboro who may have both hearing and vision loss can soon be treated for both in one convenient location.

Beginning in June, Dr. Bert Brown of Cleveland ENT/Physician Hearing Centers will see patients inside the office of ophthalmologist Dr. Douglas Ripkin. 

“It’s natural for an ophthalmologist and an ENT to work together because ears and eyes are both key sensory organs and the patient population we deal with is often similar,” Dr. Brown says, adding medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, frequently contribute to both hearing and vision deficits.

“Although we treat patients in all stages of life, many of our elderly patients have hearing and vision problems that impact their brains in similar ways to decrease how they experience the world.”

Both hearing and vision loss can lead to decreased cognition, balance problems and isolation, he says, especially when both deficits are present. Even with mild hearing loss, the temporal lobe shuts down and, over time, shrinks permanently.

He points to a decade-long Johns Hopkins University study that followed people with mild hearing loss. The research found the ability to think declined 30 to 40 percent among individuals with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. Cognitive impairment, which can lead to dementia, occurred 3.2 years sooner in folks with hearing loss than in those without hearing loss.

Left untreated, hearing and vision problems place people at a higher risk for falls that can result in sprains, breaks or concussions, Dr. Brown explains. Diminished cognition and compromised balance, both separately and together, can lead to isolation.

Just as he does in his Mayfield Heights and Macedonia locations, Dr. Brown will work closely with an experienced hearing provider to tailor a treatment plan for every patient’s specific hearing loss and will offer a full complement of hearing-aid services. He will also treat other ear, nose, and throat concerns—such as wax build-up in the ears, ear infections, allergies, sinus issues, swallowing problems, thyroid maladies and snoring.

Although Dr. Brown and Dr. Ripkin will share office space, they will continue to maintain separate practices. When appropriate, they will collaborate to address a patient’s hearing and vision concerns. Dr. Brown says it is a win-win situation.

“This arrangement provides me with another convenient location and ensures I have access to patients in all areas of the city,” he says, pointing out that eyes, ears, nose and throat used to be a single specialty in the earlier days of medicine until branching off into separate areas of expertise.

“It allows Dr. Ripkin and I to work together to formulate the best treatment plan so we can help patients with hearing and vision loss experience the world in the way they want.”

Cleveland ENT/Physician Hearing Centers’ newest office is at 9424 State Route 14 (inside Ripkin Vision & Laser Center), in Streetsboro. Other locations are at 6770 Mayfield Road, Suite 210 (in the Atrium of Hillcrest Hospital), in Mayfield Heights, and 640 East Aurora Road, in Macedonia. Streetsboro hours are Thursday, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Hours at the other locations are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with extended hours on Monday and Wednesday. Call 440-461-0150 to make an appointment at any of location. Visit the website at PhysicianHearingCenters.com.