Embrace New Technologies in ENT


From new hearing aids and sleep apnea devices to innovative patient education, tech is transforming medicine

On average, Americans currently spend more than $10,000 a year per person on health care, according to ENTtoday. This is “a dramatic and unsustainable increase” from the average of $160 spent in 1960, stated the publication, adding, “The only real mechanism for both decreasing the cost and improving quality in medicine is through innovation and the creation of new technologies.”

Inventors and innovators are heeding that call: the ENT device market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent by 2026, according to MedGadget. Among those new devices are a lower-profile hearing aid and an alternative to the CPAP. Patient education technology is evolving as well. Here’s a look at some of the best new tech in ENT.

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New hearing aid among ‘Best Inventions of 2018’

Hearing loss affects 38 million Americans, a number that’s expected to double by 2060, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. An estimated one in three people age 65 to 74 suffer from hearing loss, researchers found. In a press release, the Bloomberg School warned that compared to those without hearing loss, older adults with untreated hearing loss incur substantially higher total health care costs—an average of 46 percent, totaling $22,434 per person over a decade.

That may be no surprise to doctors, who know that hearing loss is not simply a nuisance, it’s a health risk. However, the average person may not know that impaired hearing puts them in danger of walking problems, falls, depression, and even dementia. Easy-to-understand patient education videos like this one can help get this message across:

A rechargeable hearing aid that fits inside the ear and costs substantially less than traditional hearing aids was named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2018.

There are many reasons people might delay or avoid seeking treatment for hearing loss, including the perceived stigma and expense of traditional hearing aids. That helps explain the buzz surrounding the Eargo Max, named one of the Best Inventions of 2018 by Time magazine. The rechargeable hearing aid fits inside the ear and can be purchased online or with the help of a specialist. Eargo Max retails for $2,450. A recent Scientific American article put the average cost of hearing aids at $4,700 a pair.

While any affordable, effective device that addresses untreated hearing loss is a good thing, let patients know that Eargo Max is made specifically for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, not for more serious cases, and that only a trained medical professional can determine the severity of a patient’s hearing loss.

For more on this topic, see Myths and Facts About Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

CPAP alternative helps sleep apnea patients

In other exciting ENT news, a new therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is now available. The new option is an implantable hypoglossal nerve stimulation device, also known as Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS). The FDA-approved device from Inspire Medical Systems is for eligible patients who have not responded to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. For many users, the CPAP mask is cumbersome and the noise it makes is disruptive to bed partners.

The Inspire device, implanted during an outpatient procedure, is controlled by a small handheld remote, as explained in this article from Tufts Medical Center. Inspire monitors patients’ breathing while they are sleeping, delivering mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve which controls the movement of the tongue, keeping the airway open during sleep. For OSA sufferers—about one in four men and one in 11 women—the tongue can fall back in the throat, blocking the airway and preventing oxygen from going to the blood, resulting in poor sleep quality and negative health effects.

Obstructive sleep apnea affects heart health and can increase the risk of stroke; a new device helps patients who were not successful with CPAP.

“OSA puts pressure on the heart, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of stroke,” said Khalid Ismail, M.D., Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Tufts. “It can also result in daytime sleepiness that may affect professional and social lives, as well as the ability to drive safely.”

Tufts reports that “Inspire’s UAS therapy has been found to be incredibly successful,” citing 36 peer-reviewed publications on its safety and efficacy as of June 2017. One study found that OSA patients experienced a 78 percent reduction in sleep apnea events per hour, and 85 percent of bed partners reported little to no snoring from their bed partner using the device.

The device maker has said results of its clinical trial show adherence rates of six to seven hours of sleep for Inspire patients, nearly double the rate of CPAP.

Using Rendia videos and Exam Mode to educate patients

Rendia’s patient education software is another technology that helps destigmatize ENT conditions by educating patients about them. Rendia offers a large library of videos and animated illustrations related to common ENT conditions, from ear infections and tinnitus to sinus issues and tonsillitis.

Rendia’s Exam Mode is like “Google Maps for anatomy,” allowing doctors to visually and interactively explain ENT conditions and treatments to patients.

Rendia offers a feature called Exam Mode, which we like to describe as “Google Maps for anatomy.” Using an iPad or computer, you or your staff can guide patients through simulated 3D anatomy models and animate functions and conditions to accompany your chairside conversations. You can draw on the animations to explain concepts the way you want, to help patients understand conditions and make treatment decisions. All you need is an Internet connection.

Technology is changing the way we practice medicine, treat symptoms, and educate patients. Find out more about how we can help you innovate in your ENT practice and better engage your patients. 

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