All Eyes & Ears
Proper vision and hearing care is a necessity for people of all ages, and the ability to access both under one roof is one of the best benefits of the new SLUCare Sight and Sound Center on Grand Boulevard in Midtown. The facility is part of the Center for Specialized Medicine on the campus of the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.
“It’s not unusual for patients to experience both vision and hearing loss,” says SLUCare optometrist Dr. Thomas Porter, who practices at the Sight and Sound Center. “The fastest-growing segment of our population is people age 55 and older, and these are two of their most common issues. It makes sense to provide both types of care in the same location so doctors can serve patients more efficiently.”
Porter and his colleague, optometrist Dr. Katie Loock, say the Sight and Sound Center offers an attractive, relaxing environment designed for patient comfort. “The lobby is beautiful and modern with lots of natural light, and the waiting room looks out onto a garden area,” Porter says. Registration is done by touch screen at a kiosk, and there are patient liaisons and care coordinators to direct people through the process. “They are really wonderful,” Loock says. “They are a huge help to patients, especially those visiting for the first time.”
We really embrace the interconnectedness of the practitioners here.”SLUCare Optometrist Dr. Katie Loock
The optometrists’ office is part of a larger eye care group that includes an ophthalmology practice, and there are 35 modern exam rooms to serve patients. Both Porter and Loock see people for routine eye and vision care, but they also advise patients with specialized needs. Porter assists those with vision loss from conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma, while Loock works with specialty contact lens wearers, including those who need custom-fitted lenses due to eye injury, corneal scarring and other conditions.
“These special contacts include scleral lenses, which are larger than regular soft lenses,” Loock says. “They hold their shape more than a soft lens does, and they can be filled with fluid to fit over an irregular cornea as a clear, prosthetic surface. Services like these set us apart as providers of more than just general eye care.”
The practice also offers an expanded variety of eyeglass frames and regular contact lenses. “Our previous optical shop was well stocked, but we have about twice as many choices now,” Porter notes. “Patients can choose from economy or designer frames to fit a variety of needs and budgets.” State-of-the-art office and medical record technology also maximizes efficiency and enhances the patient experience, he says.
According to Loock, the center’s location at the new hospital is a real benefit because it allows access to other practitioners as well. “For example, if I examine a patient and detect conditions in the eye that suggest he is at high risk for a stroke, I can make sure he gets to the emergency department right away,” she says. “Or, a patient with diabetes might see her regular physician for a checkup, then come to me for a diabetic eye exam. Yet another patient might learn that he needs cataract surgery; we have a streamlined referral process to make that easy. We really embrace the interconnectedness of the practitioners here.”
Porter says patients appreciate being able to schedule their eye and ear appointments on the same day so they don’t have to make multiple trips. That level of convenience is especially important for people who live outside the St. Louis area. He says the new center is also much larger than the previous location, allowing for more patients to be served.
For those experiencing hearing loss, the Sight and Sound Center provides evaluations, advanced diagnostic testing, hearing aid fittings and follow-up care. There are hearing aid styles that fit in the outer part of the ear, behind the ear or inside the ear canal, and technological advancements have made them smaller and more discreet than ever. Many models offer remote control features through the user’s smartphone. Patients can work with a provider to decide which type works best for their needs, and they also receive lifetime service for their devices.
Audiologist Dave Harris says SLUCare staff works collaboratively with hearing aid patients to help them experience life to the fullest. “When you start to lose your ability to hear, it can isolate you and lead to other issues like depression and even dementia,” he notes. “We have many options to help people protect and improve their hearing.”
Whether patients need help seeing or hearing better, or just taking preventive care of their precious senses, the Sight and Sound Center offers comprehensive services to enhance their quality of life. And because the facility is located at a new academic hospital, it’s very much a part of the future of medicine. Medical students and residents help care for patients in a way that benefits everyone, Porter says.
“We recognize that most people coming to the Sight and Sound Center have had many difficulties to deal with, so we strive to make their experiences positive,” he notes. “We want them to have a pleasant visit, enjoy the center’s conveniences and get the care they need to function at their best.”
Patients now are being seen at the new SLUCare Sight and Sound Center at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. It is located inside the Center for Specialized Medicine on the hospital campus.
By: Julia M. Johnson