Ou, Tu Professors to Study Hearing Loss, Mental Disorders

Article excerpt

How extensive is the incidence of hearing loss in today's society?

Dr. Balu Kalayam, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, bypasses that question by moving to the next, asking the extent of mental disorders among those who have serious hearing difficulties.

That results in at least a partial answer to the first question - approximately 60 percent of the people over 60 have experienced some hearing loss.

Dr. Hal Merrell, professor of audiology at the University of Tulsa's Department of Communicative Disorders, who supplied the above estimates, is teaming with OU's Kalayam in a pilot research project to look more deeply into these problems.

"We see mental problems occur mainly in the aged who have experienced a progressive hearing loss rather than in the profoundly deaf population," he said. The profoundly deaf, he added, make up only a small part of the population.

The research collaborators first intended to define the scope of the problem among Tulsa's hard of hearing population. As Kalayam explains it:

"The first phase of my current research is to define the magnitude of the problem. In the second phase, we hope to further analyze the nature of mental disorders in the hearing impaired."

The OU professor says the study idea was formulated when he was involved in researching organic mental disorders for the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

"I more or less stumbled upon the mental problems of the sensory impaired when I was writing for the APA journal," said Kalayam.

The thrust of the research project to be undertaken by the disciplines of psychiatry and audiology opens up a range of other questions:

- What is the likely impact in the American workplace? …