Larry Farris, ACA, BC-HIS, calls it "the hearing smile" - the look of pure delight that comes across the face of someone who is experiencing what today's hearing aid technology can do for them.
"It's like turning on a light switch," the vice president of A&B Hearing Aid & Audiology said. "We brighten lives that have been dimmed by hearing loss."
A&B Hearing operates nine locations in San Antonio, New Braunfels and Corpus Christi. Farris' father, who founded the hearing center, sold it two years ago.
"We've kept the family atmosphere and still treat it like it's a family business," he said. "Most of the employees have worked here for a long period of time. Patient care is number one."
Farris said A&B Hearing's philosophy on patient care is to take the patient "on a journey to better hearing," from testing all the way to making sure they are wearing the right amplification. Staff encourage family members to attend patient visits so they understand what hearing aids can do and provide strong follow-up service.
"This is a service-oriented profession," Farris explained. "Ten percent of the time is spent testing, 90 percent of the time is spent in follow up. We can’t just give individuals a hearing aid and send them out the door."
Yet it's getting individuals to come in the door that presents the biggest challenge. "There is a crazy amount of people with hearing loss who haven't done anything about it," Farris said. "The impact this has on society affects individuals from all walks of life as well as their families and their income."
Farris' favorite hearing device success story involves a 12 year-old flag football player who lost her hearing aid in a domestic squabble with her step-father. When the girl's teacher discovered Farris, who coached an opposing flag football team, was a hearing instrument specialist, she asked if he might be able to help. Using his contacts in the hearing aid industry, Farris arranged for a manufacturer to provide the girl with new hearing aids - which he gladly delivered on Christmas Eve.
"The hearing aids arrived at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve and I jumped in car and drove to teacher’s home to fit this young girl. Afterward, there was a big old black bird on the pole making sounds and she was excited because she could hear him. She gave me a pack of IBC root beer for the ride home. It wasn't until I arrived home that I found the note she'd stashed in the carton. I was amazed how other people that did not know this girl stepped in to make it all work out. It really impacted me emotionally."
Farris has 35 years of experience in the hearing health field and said the most significant change in hearing technology he's witnessed is receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids. "They're so much easier to fit," he said. "You can have someone come in and fit them the same day. It's a double-edged sword, though because it also created an increase in mail order and internet sales. People who buy hearing aids that way are doing the wrong thing for their hearing. Everyone needs to be tested, fit properly and following up regularly with their hearing healthcare professional so they can hear they way they’re supposed to be hearing."