Audio Centro - Better Hearing for All
By Tom Larsen - Photographs Courtesy of Graficas Hernandez Produccion and Nathalie Duffau
The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines audiology as “The scientific study of hearing, especially the diagnosis and treatment of hearing disorders.”
Audio Centro’s founder, Doctor Luis Andrés Serrano, a native Cuencano who comes from a family of doctors (12 Ear, Nose and Throat practitioners at last count) chose audiology as his specialty early on.
After completing his studies in basic medicine and surgery at the University of Cuenca, Dr. Serrano studied audiology in the United States (Hartford University), Spain (Universidad Isabel I de Castilla, SAERA Institute), and Portugal (Coimbra University), ultimately earning a P.H.D. in the field.
Twenty-three years ago, in partnership with his sister, he opened the first Audio Centro Clinic, named Audio Austro, in Cuenca. They now have offices in Quito, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Machala, Loja and Manta, and new centers will soon be opening in Ambato, as well as Mexico, Bolivia and Perú. The Cuenca location, managed by Dr. Serrano, now has more than eighty employees and sees, on average, 700 patients per year.
Their Mission: To provide diagnosis and treatment for all types of auditory disorders, guaranteeing the satisfaction of our clients through quality care in a very pleasant environment, backed by a professional team, and with the best technology available in the marketplace.
Audio Centro is the exclusive distributor in Ecuador for some of the top auditory technology companies in the world, including:
- INTERTON: A Danish company, part of the GN Group, a world leader in hearing aid technology;
- SONIC: Part of William Demant Group, with the best hearing aid in the world at this time, ENCHANT;
- BRUCKHOFF: Based in Germany, the company possesses an impressive portfolio of auditory solutions, including state of the art bone vibrating technology;
- NATUS Biological: An American company, the world leader in diagnostic solutions, especially in the science of auditory electrophysiology (the science that studies brainwave patterns, and how they relate to an individual’s ability to process sound.);
- VIDEOMED: A Polish company, dedicated to Audiology and ENT field equipment, audiometers, microscopes, etc.
Doctor Serrano is justifiably proud of the fact that, here in Ecuador, he has access to the latest technology two or more years before his colleagues in the U.S.
“One time when I was in the United States”, he told us, “I was able to teach doctors there how to use the ‘latest’ technology because I had already been using it for over a year in Cuenca”.
The facility is clean and modern, and you will be greeted by a knowledgeable, friendly and helpful staff of specialists, dedicated to making your visit as enjoyable as possible.
Dr. Serrano himself currently deals almost exclusively with children. Microtia, defined as a congenital defect where the outer ear is underdeveloped at birth, is a major concern in Ecuador. The effects range from a mere cosmetic deformity of the outer ear to, most often, partial or complete hearing loss.
In Ecuador, more than 320 new cases of microtia are diagnosed each year (no one knows how many cases go unreported or untreated), the highest in the world. Mexico, by comparison, sees 300 new cases a year, but Mexico’s population is about 124 million, while Ecuador’s is less than 17 million.
Why does Ecuador lead the world in this grim statistic? The fact that the majority of the population lives at high elevation may be a contributing factor, but no one knows for sure. Dr. Serrano will soon be participating in a research project with Harvard and Vanderbilt Universities to find answers for these kids. Imagine a poor child from the countryside, with all the other challenges that come with that reality, trying to keep up in school without being able to properly hear the teacher, and you can see why Dr. Serrano speaks so passionately about the subject.
Audio Centro’s practice is limited to Audiology, but it is important to stress that Dr. Serrano has built an impressive network of medical professionals in other disciplines—many of them family members. With surgeons specializing in the head and neck, plastic surgeons that can rebuild the outer ear, psychologists that can help the child and the family deal with the stress caused by an ordeal such as this, dentists and other medical specialists, Audio Centro has the team in place to help combat this childhood scourge.
What specifically does a clinic like Audio Centro offer the Cuenca Expat community? According to Dr. Serrano, 70% of all people over the age of 60 will at some point suffer from one or another type of hearing impairment, or in many cases, vertigo.
Vertigo, the sensation of spinning usually related to problems with the inner ear, is easily treated and essentially harmless, but it can, on occasion, develop serious consequences. If you’re new to Cuenca you may attribute this feeling to “the altitude,” and it may in fact be related to the city’s elevation, but it may also be an infection, or any number of other causes. Whatever the case, Audio Centro is the place to go to get answers.
As Dr. Serrano says, “It’s difficult to learn Spanish as a second language, because we use so many idioms and terms that are unfamiliar to the foreign ear. Imagine how difficult it can be if your hearing is not 100 percent.” Something to think about.
Another advantage for the expat is that Dr. Serrano speaks excellent English. His equipment readouts are in English, so he can easily share test results with you, and explain the next steps.
In order to acquaint more expats with Audio Centro’s products and services, they are now offering free consultations for expats and 10% off in hearing aids and supplies for new customers until the end of December.
In addition to consultation, diagnosis and providing the appropriate device for your needs, Audio Centro has their own on-site laboratory, saving time in the diagnosis and proper treatment of their clients. Their team of specialists ensures that the treatment they prescribe is tailored specifically to each individual client. Their technicians can clean, repair and service your existing device (check with them for the specific brands that they work with).
Audio Centro accepts credit cards from around the world, and will complete all the paperwork for you to obtain reimbursement from your insurance company.
As you can imagine, providing top quality facilities, equipment and training does not come cheap, but Dr. Serrano, who has extensive experience with the U.S. healthcare system, estimates that Audio Centro’s prices are roughly 50% of the cost of comparable services in North America.
Dr. Serrano and part of his team in Audio Centro Cuenca
Audio Centro's main office in Cuenca
Greeting new patient
Testing a patient with the last technology
Contact Information in Cuenca: Av. Manuel J. Calle y Paucarbamba, Edificio ALUR, across the street from Clinica Santa Ana. Phone; 407 9420, Cellular; 098 652 3462, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. See their website, www.audio-centro.com, for addresses and contact information for their other locations.