STUART – For nearly 21 years, the staff at the Hear Care Center, Inc. has helped the hearing challenged on the Treasure Coast rejoin the conversation and regain the subtle nuances of sound unwittingly lost in the shuffle.

Although owner Linda MacLeod opened the business in July of 1998, her career helping people regain their hearing has spanned more than three decades. Prior to opening her own business, she worked for about 10 years as an audiologist performing diagnostic testing for a local ear, nose and throat specialist. Her vast years of experience give her the ability to match each customer’s unique symptoms and degree of hearing difficulty to the exact product on the market able to compensate for and alleviate the sound loss.

“I think what helps people is that I try to find the right thing for them, and if one thing doesn’t work, I try something else,” she said. “I also make sure that I find really good products that produce the results that they need.”

In order to get the ball rolling, the Certified Clinical Audiologist performs diagnostic hearing tests, hearing aid consultations and provides hearing aid fittings, along with industrial hearing tests for corporations. People of Hispanic origin who find it easier to describe their hearing problems in their native language will have no worries here since she understands and speaks Spanish fluently. The one thing she tries to get across to speakers and listeners of any language, however, is the importance of not ignoring the initial signs of hearing loss.

“If they don’t treat it, their brain starts to forget the sound stimulation,” she explained. “What ends up occurring is that they lose cognitive input and are then even more prone to dementia. It is important for patients to get a hearing aid soon after being diagnosed with hearing loss because the device needs to become part of their lives and they learn to manipulate it correctly before their condition gets any worse.”

One of the first steps to alleviate hearing loss is to schedule a full diagnostic hearing evaluation, which may include pure tone testing, bone conduction testing, speech reception testing and word discrimination testing, among others. Those assessments are followed up with a discussion of the specific types of hearing aids best suited for solving the patient’s particular problems.

“The hearing test can let us know if a patient has a nerve loss, mixed loss or a conductive loss, which enable us to determine if a medical referral is needed,” Mrs. MacLeod added. “Next we discuss cost and budget preferences. Each digital hearing aid company has different levels of technology, and I explain that all digital hearing aid companies are not equal. After explaining the style of digital hearing aid best suited for their type of loss, the technology levels to choose from and the cost of each hearing aid together, we make a decision and choose the right digital hearing aid for each individual.”

Customers will find a broad variety of hearing aids at The Hear Care Center, including such brands as Oticon, Phonak, Signia, Starkey, Resound, Unitron and Widex. Since the airwaves are filled with publicity about all the newest hearing aid devices, Mrs. MacLeod wants to make sure people in search of hearing restoration don’t fall into the trap of buying the latest invention on the market simply because it’s a novel idea or always going for the cheaper price.

“If you see a digital hearing aid that has many channels and another company has the same amount for less, it does not mean that they sound the same,” she explained. “Certain companies have much more success in speech understanding than others. Sometimes the cute tiny digital hearing aids don't have enough power to meet their hearing needs so I explain why they may need something more powerful. I make sure the digital hearing aid I recommend has enough residual power to be able to increase it down the road if needed.”

That said, the owner is definitely in love with how the latest advances in hearing aids can make living in a sound-filled world much easier for people struggling to remain in the conversation. Those who own smart phones will find a whole new world of hearing at their fingertips, and the potential resources available through Bluetooth wireless connections is endless, she added.

“Technology and adaptability are two of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen over the years of my career,” she emphasized. “Today's cutting-edge hearing aids can analyze a spectrum of sounds, pickup speech patterns and filter out background noises. A patient is now able to adjust the controls themselves when it gets to a certain pitch that might be annoying or difficult. Now they can go into a Smartphone and make some adjustments themselves instead of having to come in the office and have a technician manually make them on a computer.”

Mrs. MacLeod realizes some customers may come in for a free consultation but prefer afterwards to do comparative shopping online in search of the best prices. She does stress, however, the lack of after-the-sale service that hearing aid shoppers face by purchasing online or at one of the huge discount operations.

“While big-box stores may offer lower costs on hearing aids, they have the tendency to change professionals quite often so the relationship you had when you purchased your instrument may not be there when you go back,” she said. “Having a good bonding relationship with the professional is a huge part of the success of your journey in wearing hearing aids. Equally important as having a hearing aid is being taught how to properly clean, care for and wear your hearing aids. Buying online assumes even more risk.  In this case no one is available to properly instruct you on how to get the most out of your investment.”

In addition to The Hear Care Center’s complimentary hearing test that can identify the specific type of hearing loss and whether a medical referral is needed, other services include hearing aid repair, cleaning and battery replacement. The company also offers brief reviews of some of the top hearing aids on its website, including the Oticon Opn, which provides users a full soundscape to embrace multiple speakers and the ability to actively participate in conversations with more participants. The device connects directly to an iPhone®, enabling users to stream music directly to their hearing aids.

Mrs. MacLeod loves building relationships over the years with her repeat customers and enjoys seeing their reactions upon returning to the world of full sound.

“The most rewarding thing for me is watching their smiles when they hear things they haven’t heard for a long time,” she said.

The Hear Care Center is located at 2219 Kanner Highway. For more information, call (772) 283-3000 or visit the company’s website at www.thehearcarecenterinc.com.

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