The most prevailing misconception patients have about hearing loss, according to Jonathan Ayes, is that it isn’t happening to them.
“The older population doesn’t want to admit when they’re facing hearing loss,” he says.
Fortunately, the team at Associates in Hearing HealthCare is well-versed in compassionately and patiently guiding even the most resistant patients toward the recommended solutions that could change their lives by improving their hearing.
Mr. Ayes joined the practice in 2014 as director of operations; four years later, he became its owner. He brought an extensive business background that spans 25 years and includes a wealth of health care management. Yet, his primary goal is simple and exemplified by the practice’s motto to provide “hearing help from the heart.”
“We pride ourselves on our customer service and how we interact with our patients,” he confirms. “We want every visit to be a positive experience.”
Superior patient experience begins with making everyone feel comfortable and well-received. Whether you’re walking into the practice’s Barrington location or its newer, state-of-the-art Voorhees office, the team at Associates in Hearing HealthCare always has a warm welcome waiting for you.
“From the minute a patient walks in, they’re greeted with a smile from the front desk,” says Mr. Ayes. “We take pictures of all our patients so the front desk knows who they are and can greet them by name. The providers greet them with a smile when they’re bringing the patient back to the exam room.”
Mr. Ayes, whose extensive background included over 20 years in dentistry, knows that people ruled by their fear of doctor visits inhibit their own optimal health. Fortunately, he says people are far less inclined to regard audiologists with apprehension than they do with most other doctors.
“Dental patients don’t want to come in because it’s going to be painful,” he says. “I remember the first [device] fitting I sat in on: With hearing aids, you’re putting them in for the patient who can’t hear well, and then they have this moment where they get to hear what they’ve missed over the years, over their lifetime.”
Mr. Ayes says that he often recalls watching his father-in-law’s reaction to the first time hearing aids gave him back all the sounds he had gradually lost over the years. “We walked outside where everything was gravel, and he says, ‘Did you know that gravel makes noise under your feet?’ He hadn’t heard that noise in years! It’s just a great feeling when patients have that same moment in our office. It confirms that we went over and above for them. We want that ‘Aha!’ moment for every patient.”
Despite those promising moments of auditory reclamation, it is still a struggle to get some patients to accept that hearing loss is a reality they must deal with, lest their quality of life suffer from a condition that may be irreversible but certainly isn’t a life sentence.
“Even though hearing loss is permanent, it is treatable with hearing devices,” Ayes notes.
For all the things patients think they do know about their hearing health, there’s plenty most people don’t know about hearing loss, from its many causes and risk factors to its isolating impact.
“Hearing health and your quality of life are closely related to many common medical conditions, which include diabetes, dementia, kidney disease, vision loss, heart disease, risk of falls and cognitive decline,” Mr. Ayes explains. “For example, hearing loss occurs almost twice as often in adults who have diabetes than those who don’t, likely due to inner-ear changes caused by high blood sugars. There are studies showing that hearing loss may also be associated with cognitive decline, since the brain changes structure.”
He notes that the human body is ultimately an interconnected network, which makes it a little less surprising that hearing loss is so commonly tied into myriad comorbidities and circumstances. Everything from external factors (like constant exposure to loud noises) to personal choices (like smoking) to seemingly unrelated elements of one’s personal health (like osteoporosis, a history of falling or reports of depression) can influence or indicate a person’s hearing loss.
The most common cause of hearing loss, however, is age, and Mr. Ayes says that age-related hearing loss affects more men than women. It’s a gradual change that isn’t always easy to detect. He advises that anyone 60 and older should have their hearing tested to establish a baseline.
“When people have high-frequency hearing loss, they can’t hear any background noise: They start turning the TV all the way up, or their partner is in the other room calling to them and they can’t hear it,” Mr. Ayes says.
He adds that risk factors like listening to loud music too often, either by attending too many concerts without the proper protection or having their headphones pipe music at dangerously high volumes are behaviors that can exacerbate the inevitable hearing loss that comes with age.
“When you leave a concert and your ears are all clogged and ringing, that’s not a good sign,” Mr. Ayes points out. “If you’re going to loud concerts, you should get musician’s plugs, which will lower the volume and not affect the quality of the music. This can save your ears from that constant noise and make your whole experience better while protecting your hearing.”
It’s important to start taking care of your auditory health early. No matter the reason for hearing loss or when it begins to set in, the end result can have a profoundly damaging psychological effect.
“You go into social isolation,” Mr. Ayes says. “You start to self-isolate and move yourself out of the world because you’re not hearing well anymore. You and your partner might fight more because they think you’re not listening when you really can’t hear them at all.”
It’s especially important to Mr. Ayes that everyone from young children to the elderly feel welcome and well-treated during their time in either of the practice’s offices.
“We just got a glowing recommendation from a parent of 18-month-old twins because our providers took the extra time to make sure the children and parent were comfortable,” he says.
Working with patients of all ages, needs and financial backgrounds means that it’s important to both offer and be well-versed in hearing-loss solutions that will work for a wide variety of individuals.
Mr. Ayes says, “There’s not one hearing aid that fits everybody. We’ll sit down with them and do their hearing test, and then we’ll discuss their lifestyle and what their need is. Based upon that, we’ll recommend which hearing aid we think is best for them and we’ll demo the hearing aid for the patient. We do a full evaluation, and we do suggest they bring someone with them because the hearing loss affects the whole family, not just the individual with the hearing loss. We offer them a seven-day trial so they can take their hearing aids into real-life situations.”
Mr. Ayes and the Associates in Hearing HealthCare team are adamant about never hard-selling a patient on any of the different kinds of auditory technology they offer. They’ll educate each patient on all of the options available to them, but will never push them to purchase a device before they’re ready.
“Our goal is to have everyone live better by hearing better,” he says. “We’re not going to sell you a device that is outside your budget.”
Another common misconception patients have about hearing health is that insurance will fully cover their hearing aids, which Mr. Ayes doesn’t anticipate will change anytime soon.
“Most insurance, at this point, will cover the testing but not the hearing aids,” he says. “The new Build Back Better bill does have some concessions for hearing aids in there, but they’re not great and probably won’t go into effect until at least 2024.”
To help extend the life and maintain optimal operation of the hearing aids, Associates in Hearing HealthCare offers regular device maintenance and cleanings every four months, as well as ear exams and any needed supplies.
Associates in Hearing HealthCare’s united efforts to be there for their patients no matter what have benefited countless individuals who’ve trusted the practice—and have earned the team numerous accolades, too. Most recently, it was named the Reader’s Choice for Best in Hearing Health in Suburban Family’s Best of Family honors.
Mr. Ayes is grateful for the groundswell of support patients showed with their votes, and appreciates the affirmation that Associates in Hearing HealthCare is delivering the kind of personalized, attentive care it always strives for.
“Our customer service is something we pride ourselves on, and by the readers voting for us, it just reinforces that what we’re doing is what’s best for our patients,” he says. “It means a lot that they feel we’re giving them the best customer service.”
Associates in Hearing HealthCare
502 Sheppard Road, Voorhees
121 Clements Bridge Road, Barrington
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8.
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