More than sound: Assuta Ashdod’s Hearing Institute gave an entire immigrant family the gift of peace
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
“We don’t do life and death here; we do quality of life.”
Audiologist Liron Kariv heads the Hearing Institute at Assuta Ashdod and every day, she witnesses how hearing intervention can dramatically alter people’s lives.
An immigrant from Ukraine, Svetlana made Aliyah knowing she had a congenital hearing issue. Her young son Dima also struggled with hearing, and when he was seven years old, doctors in Ukraine recommended surgery. Svetlana, concerned about the risks involved at the time, refused surgery for her son. And since the hospital and medical resources in Ukraine did not offer pediatric hearing aids as a solution, Dima had no other options. Svetlana accepted that he would have to live just like she did — with a serious hearing impairment.
But when they made Aliyah in 2018, and Dima’s disability prevented him from learning Hebrew, advancing academically and managing socially, Svetlana could no longer watch Dima suffer and took action. Navigating a new medical system with broken Hebrew, determination and a goal, Svetlana took Dima to Assuta Ashdod for an evaluation, and within that first appointment, it became clear that they both suffered from the same issue.
“We saw that Svetlana had conductive hearing loss, which means sound could not get through her outer and middle ear. But it isn’t very common for adults. When we tested the way her tympanic membrane moved, we saw that the volume in her ear was tiny, like a baby’s. I told my colleague — maybe her ear is blocked with bone.”
After further investigation, they discovered that Liron’s diagnosis was correct.
Svetlana’s inner ear was perfect. But when sound entered, a bone barrier blocked it from going all the way through. Not only is this condition rare, but it’s even more uncommon to diagnose when a patient is approaching middle age. Liron’s team recommended surgery to fit Svetlana with a cochlear implant that would bypass the blockage.
Dima received the same diagnosis and recommendation.
He and his mother both underwent surgery at Assuta Ashdod on the same day. It proved to be an event that changed both of their lives. Once Dima could hear, he learned Hebrew, excelled in school and finally established a group of friends. His confidence grew as a result. For Svetlana, being able to hear more like everyone else was empowering. She’s so happy she “no longer has to ask the same things over and over again”. She can function better both at work and at home.
Previously, Svetlana’s husband was the only one with perfect hearing, “I often had to shout just to get someone in the house to hear me. It was frustrating and tiring. Now, after the surgeries, I never have to yell. My wife and son actually hear me — I have shalom bayit! (a peaceful home)” Svetlana had doubts before the surgery. “There are always risks. But the staff at Assuta Ashdod was so reassuring and supported us every step of the way, I was more excited than worried.”
For Liron, cases like Svetlana’s and Dima’s are challenging yet rewarding. “People think it’s simple. Either you’re deaf or you hear normally, but that isn’t true. We perform nearly 10 different tests, and then, we need to combine all the results together for a holistic, comprehensive diagnosis.”
Liron’s staff doesn’t work alone. In fact, the staff of the Hearing Institute often collaborates with the Ear, Nose & Throat team as they have many patients in common. They also consult with the Neurology department when treating vertigo patients. All the Assuta Ashdod clinicians and doctors work in tandem, consulting back and forth as equals, without any barriers or silos, and with just one goal — to care for patients with the best and most appropriate treatments.
“I live in Tel Aviv and I commute daily to Ashdod,” says Liron. “I make that choice every single day because I really like this place. Assuta Ashdod is a place of opportunity. Here at Assuta, I can and do solve puzzles.”