Encouraging Patients to Schedule Winter ENT Checkups


Reach out to those with cold and sinus issues and college students home for the holidays

During the winter months, when colds, flu, strep throat, and other illnesses affecting the ear, nose, and throat run rampant, ENT practices could be at their busiest. But patients won’t come in if they don’t know they should—or how you can help them. Now is the perfect time for proactive patient education to reach those who are suffering from common winter ailments, as well as college students home on break who may be due for a checkup.

Start with patient education

Here’s what ENTs know that patients may not: our ear health significantly impacts our quality of life. Our ears control hearing and balance. This is clear to anyone who has experienced the disorienting sensation of having a cold or sinus infection that leaves them feeling dizzy and off-balance.

Remind patients that only an ENT can determine whether trouble hearing is caused by a simple cold or a more serious condition.

Sometimes having trouble hearing can be caused by something as simple as a cold or excessive earwax, while in other cases it signals a more serious condition such as a perforated eardrum or even a tumor. Only an ENT can accurately determine the cause. Encourage patients to schedule an appointment if they are having any issues with their hearing, balance, or pain in their face, head, or neck.

Consider sharing these videos on social media, on your practice’s web site, or in your waiting room:

College students at risk for hearing loss

Since many college students are home for the holidays on winter break, now is the perfect time for your young patients to schedule an ENT checkup. Recent studies show that college students are increasingly at risk for hearing loss, given environmental factors like noisy traffic and subways, as well as frequent use (and misuse) of earbuds and headphones that can result in music-induced hearing loss (MIHL).

Young people may not know that their surroundings and listening habits can put them at risk for hearing loss–or that hearing loss is irreversible. Prevention is the only “cure,” and education is the key.

Teach your patients to use the 60/60 rule with headphones and earbuds: listen at 60 percent volume for no longer than 60 minutes at a time, advises patient education web site HealthyHearing.com.

Share this video with your patients:

Educate young patients on the proper use of headphones, earbuds, and earplugs to protect their hearing.

Explain that they should wear over-the-counter foam earplugs if they are planning to attend a sporting event or concert. A recent study in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found that earplug use was effective in preventing temporary hearing loss caused by exposure to loud music (average of 100 decibels) over several hours. Tinnitus—ringing or buzzing in the ears—was found in 12 percent of the participants who wore earplugs, versus 40 percent of the participants who did not use earplugs.

This video can help illustrate the concept:

And lastly, when appealing to young patients, it can’t hurt to play the celebrity card.

You might share with patients that Coldplay singer Chris Martin developed tinnitus at age 25. According to NIH’s Noisy Planet web site, doctors warned Martin that his music career might be over if he didn’t protect his ears, so he now wears hearing protection at concerts and while practicing.

“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I wish I’d thought about it earlier,” Martin said in an interview.

‘Hear’s’ to a healthy new year

One in eight people in the U.S. (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, according to the NIH. Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss.

ENTs know, but patients might not, that a variety of factors can affect hearing loss—some of which are preventable.

Hearing loss can be due to many factors, such as the aging process, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, diseases, head or ear trauma, or congenital or genetic factors.

These facts, while well-known to ENTs, may be news to patients. Spread the word this season that the best thing you can do to protect your hearing and your health is to have a checkup by a qualified ENT.

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