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New technology to test hearing, called the Otogram, is being used to break down language barriers.

Alvarado Hospital’s Dr. Michael O'Leary, an ear, nose and throat specialist in San Diego, is using the new device to reach out to patients in the community who may be experiencing issues with hearing, but have been held back from being diagnosed due to a language barrier.

The Otogram is designed to meet the needs of the multilingual patients by administering tests in one of 13 languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese), Korean, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Russian and Arabic.

Hearing loss is the No. 1 disability in the world and, coincidentally, it is also the most preventable disability, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Early detection is essential to stemming the progressive damage to hearing that can occur and standard tests must be conducted to measure a patient’s level of hearing loss. A crucial aspect of the standard hearing battery is the Speech Reception and Word Recognition tests and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33% of San Diego residents speak a language other than English at home.

“This new technology is providing a groundbreaking platform for us to keep our patient’s care at the heart of our practice no matter their language,” said Dr. O’Leary. “With the Otogram we are able to reach out to patients who may not be receiving adequate care due to language barriers.”

This technology is also useful for rural areas where the test can be performed remotely.