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Otolaryngology Newsroom

URMC Newsroom Q&A: What is Aphasia? 

Bruce Willis’ family announced in March 2022 that the film star, known for his roles in classics like “Pulp Fiction” and “Die Hard,” would be stepping away from acting after he was diagnosed with aphasia.

Most people in the U.S. haven’t heard the term “aphasia,” according to the National Aphasia Association. But you likely know someone who has this common communication disorder. Or, you might know that there is a connection between brain damage, strokes and difficulty communicating. Senior speech-language pathologist Heather Coles, M.A., CCC-SLP has treated a wide range of communication disorders in her 25 years at the University of Rochester Medical Center and specializes in aphasia. She addresses common questions and misconceptions about this condition for a Q&A on the URMC Newsroom.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Are On the Way: In Good Health

Availability of over-the-counter hearing aids may become reality sometime this year.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed guidelines on allowing a new class of hearing aids to be sold without a prescription for people 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss.

UR Medicine audiologist Katherine Joyce shares her expertise in this story. 

Far from home for the holidays, oral cancer survivor finds family in Wilmot Cancer team 

Not too long before the holiday season last year, Steve Friedman, 63, found out the pain he was feeling from a poorly fitting denture was more than just that.

A visit with oral and maxillofacial surgeon Joseph Fantuzzo, D.D.S., M.D., led him to the Wilmot Cancer Institute, where he would soon spend the holidays being treated for oral cancer at the Head & Neck Comprehensive Care Center.

Steve Friedman, of Pavilion, N.Y., visits Wilmot Cancer Institute for a follow-up appointment at the Head & Neck Comprehensive Care Center on Nov. 16, 2021. After losing his voice box to a battle with oral cancer, he uses a stylus and mobile notepad app on his Windows phone to communicate.

“At that point I was far enough along that there was little that my dentist could do for me,” Steve recalls.

Head and neck surgeons Weitao Wang, M.D., and Joel Fontanarosa, M.D., Ph.D., saw Steve a few days before Thanksgiving last year, and found that he had a bleeding mass on his tongue and lumps in his neck. A biopsy showed stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. Read the full URMC Newsroom Patient Care Feature to learn about Steve's treatment and recovery with our multidisciplinary head & neck team. 

Dr. Pamela Kruger's Interview with Channel 8

Cochlear implant recipient shares her story

Marlene's audiologist, Dr. Pamela Kruger says her first level of hearing usually takes weeks of therapy.

"I would say she was in maybe the top 25 to 30 percent of getting to that level," Kruger says. 

Sutliff says her first day with the activated implant was a rollercoaster. "I took turns between crying and singing to myself. I hadn't been able to sing and hear at all, and singing was so important in my life growing up," Sutliff says. 

Dr. Kruger also says Sutliff did the necessary research prior to her implant as well.

"She prepared well. She was very, very thoughtful about this. She did not make this decision lightly and I think that is evident in her outcomes."

Dr. Isaac Schmale's Interview with Channel 13

13 WHAM: Smell Re-training After COVID-19

"People are not only depressed when they're symptomatic but they kind of feel hopeless," says Dr. Isaac Schmale, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at URMC. He has additional training in rhinology, a sub-specialty focused on the nasal cavity and sinuses.

Loss of smell, known as anosmia, can be caused by many things, including polyps, injuries or viruses. When the cause is viral, as with Covid-19, the science of what happens and how to fix it, is still in its early stages.

"What we think happens is that the area in the nose where smell happens, or high up in the nose, is damaged," explains Dr. Schmale. "The lining there, the pathway from your nose to your brain, there's damage. They don't know everything about it yet but that's the theory."

It is thought that most people will regain some or all of their sense of smell within a few weeks or a month after the infection. But between 5% and 10% will suffer long-term loss, and that's where Dr. Schmale says a kind of physical therapy for the nose might help.

"The goal is to either help the body regenerate, we don't know how much that's happening, or just get the most out of the system that's left. Find new ways for your brain to adapt to what signals are left."

Dr. Schmale says early findings indicate smell retraining is helping about half of the people with profound, long-term, loss of smell caused by a viral infection.

Dr. Sveta Karelsky's Interview with News 8

Inspire Device designed to stop sleep apnea and improve your sleep

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a very common condition in which our breathing during sleep is interrupted due to obstruction or collapse of the throat, which we also call the airway,” explained Dr. Karelsky. “This can lead to a number of very negative consequences and risks to your health – ranging from being sleepy and fatigued to exacerbating things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and even the increased risk of stroke. The most common treatment typically offered is a continuous positive airway pressure device or a CPAP mask, which a lot of people are familiar with, but this can be quite a challenging treatment to tolerate. And what we found is that part of the cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excessive relaxation of the muscles of the throat or airway and that’s precisely what the Inspire Device or the upper airway stimulator is designed to help with. It’s designed to help improve that muscle tone while it’s on in a patient who is sleeping with obstructive sleep apnea.”