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Medical Obstacles Overcome (part 1)

Jan 07, 2015 05:02PM ● Published by Dia

by Amy Reisner 

Music to their ears    

Southlake Otologist amplifies lives and a love for music    

Making his way from room to room to see his patients, Dr. Bob takes extra time to ensure each patient gets special attention. He checks hearing aids, cochlear implants, the condition of post-surgical middle ear reconstruction and a variety of other complex ear problems. You won’t just see older adults suffering from hearing loss; you’ll also see 10-year-old Adam toting his large musical instrument cases. Otologist and neurotologist Robert (Dr. Bob) Owens, M.D., gave Adam, now a budding musician, a cochlear implant at age 3 and a half.

After his residency training at West Virginia University Hospitals, Dr. Bob went on to complete a competitive, two-year fellowship in the management of pediatric and adult hearing disorders at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles. He then entered into practice with his father at Owens Ear Center. Dr. Bob is not only a Southlake resident, but performs many of his pediatric surgeries at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Southlake. He work with both adults and children with complex ear problems, and has treated thousands of patients from all over the state, performing more than 700 ear surgeries each year.

At the time Adam’s parents discovered his hearing loss, Adam was still too young to communicate the severity of his condition, thought it was clear that it was rapidly getting worse. Hearing aids only frustrated Adam, and eventually, at age 3, he was given a cochlear implant by Dr. Bob. “When Adam needed surgery, we knew we were in the most capable hands in town,” says Adam’s father Don Chamblee. Now age 10, Adam is not only speaking normally, but also listening to music, singing, and playing viola and saxophone—all rare achievements for a cochlear implant patient.

The work Dr. Bob does with cochlear implants, specifically, is life changing, especially for the pediatric patients. “The first thing we noticed at age 2 was that she wasn't developing speech,” says Erin Ross, mother of now 3-year-old Ashling. “She went through speech therapy and was fitted with hearing aids. However, on one of her visits to check on the hearing aids, we found that her hearing loss was progressing. It was at that time that I talked with Dr. Bob about the next step—cochlear implants.”

Three-year-old Ashling received cochlear implants in her left and right ears in 2014, and is now developing her speech and talking. “I am very thankful for Dr. Bob,” Erin says. “He has helped a lot of people, but I feel the work he does with cochlear implants is the best. He has given me my little girl’s voice.”

 As a surgeon, Dr. Bob explains, you always want to do everything you can, no matter what age you are working with. However, with a child, there are other factors that come into play. “If you can fix the problem right the first time, then maybe the child won’t have a lifetime of problems with their ear condition,” Dr. Owens says. “If we can get to them first and have a very good outcome, then maybe that kid will never have to have surgery the rest of their life.”

The children Dr. Bob has helped have their whole lives ahead of them, and thanks to him they have a chance to pursue their dreams. Fifteen-year-old Madi Davis, who has been a patient of Dr. Bob for 10 years, knows a thing or two about pursuing life-long dreams.

Sitting in front of the television watching a talent reality show at age 6, Madi Davis made the decision right then to pursue a musical career. However, Madi suffered severe hearing loss. With a history of ear complications from birth, Madi’s symptoms had only worsened. When she saw Dr. Bob, at age 5, Madi had almost complete hearing loss in both ears. After a handful of successful surgeries to remove tissue growth and repair the middle ears, Madi remembers that things finally started to turn around. “I thought I was just a bad student,” Madi recalls. “But it turns out, because I couldn’t hear the teachers, I struggled. Once my hearing improved, I excelled in school.”

And Madi didn’t just making strides as a student. The musical ambitions she had at such an early age came to fruition. Over the years, choir led to piano, and piano led to guitar, and soon she was writing her own music. Recently, at age 15, Madi auditioned for The Voice, and she’ll be traveling to San Francisco in the coming months for her second call back. Madi is quick to attribute her successes, in part, to Dr. Bob. “I don’t think I could do any of the things I am doing now without him,” Madi says. “Simply put, I couldn’t write music if I couldn’t hear, and I wouldn’t be where I am today experiencing what I am if it weren’t for Dr. Bob.”

Madi is a good example of a young patient Dr. Bob was able to help early on, who now just sees him for regular check-ups. “We like to see kids first, because we hope that what we do sets them up so that they really don’t need us the rest of their life. Sometimes, when seeing adult patients, I say to myself, ‘I wish this person would have come to me when they were 7 instead of 35. If I would’ve been able to see them as a patient earlier, maybe they wouldn’t have had this for the past 28 years.’” 

A now vibrant 3-year-old, Ashling Ross began having problems with her speech at age 2. Ashling’s mom, Erin, is an employee of Dr. Owens and recognized right away there could be a hearing problem. After cochlear implants in 2014, Ashling’s speech is improving.

After unsuccessful attempts with a hearing aid, Adam Chamblee was given a cochlear implant at age 3. Now, at 10 years old, Adam is excelling musically. He listens to music, sings, plays viola and saxophone,” said Adam’s dad, Don. “All which are rare abilities for a cochlear implant patient.”

 “There is a great deal of satisfaction when you see a child who was not able to lead a normal life because of their hearing or ear condition, and we are able to improve that or eliminate a problem that was holding a child back.” -Dr. Robert Owens

Auditioning for a reality TV music competition show has been Madi Davis’ dream for the past 10 years, and she wasn’t going to let ear infections, hearing loss and middle ear reconstruction surgery hold her back. Now 15 years old, Madi is writing her own music, playing guitar, singing and, that’s right, auditioning The Voice.



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