Healthy Hearing Conversation | Brookside Specialty Center
When newborn infants at the SwedishAmerican Health Hospital in Rockford, IL don’t pass their newborn hearing screenings, they are referred to Brookside Specialty Center where they may very well become a patient of Susan Marshall, Au.D. That’s a good thing. Dr. Marshall likes medical science, but she loves interaction with people. She’s known some of her patients their entire lives.
“It’s so nice to see them develop language,” she says of her youngest patients, “and to help the parents through that process. It’s so nice to see them succeed. That makes it so much fun.”
Brookside Specialty Center is part of SwedishAmerican Health System, a division of the UW Health, an academic health system associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, Dr. Marshall works with three other audiologists in a specialty clinic which includes ear, nose and throat, podiatry, endocrinology and allergy health professionals. The audiologists treat patients of all ages with all degrees of hearing loss and work closely with the ENT physicians both in and out of the operating room.
Finding the right fit
Dr. Marshall believes receiver-in-the-ear (RIC) technology has greatly helped in reducing the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. So have in-office demonstrations, which she does a lot of. “You can talk about technology all day long,” she said, “but once they listen to it, it makes a big impact.”
Because patient expectations can be unrealistic at times, Dr. Marshall tries to provide perspective before she begins treatment. Using a scale of 1-10, she asks each patient to identify how they are currently hearing, then tells them what number on the scale amplification can help them achieve. Not every patient needs cutting edge technology and Dr. Marshall is careful to consider all factors, including lifestyle, budget and expectations, before recommending a hearing aid manufacturer.
“Every patient is different,” she said of hearing loss. “You have the challenge of what you are working with, what you can give back to them and how you can explain it. The patient is investing a lot of money to hear better and they want to have it perfect, but even normal hearing people can’t hear perfectly. You’ll never hear like you did when you were 20, but (with the right amplification) you’re absolutely going to have a huge advantage over not having any hearing at all.”
It's never too late to change your life
Dr. Marshall recalls one patient who brought his elderly mother in to see her. Her old hearing aids weren’t working well and, as a result, they weren’t able to communicate with each other. Dr. Marshall fit her with new amplification and treated her for the next few years. “He came back to see me after she passed away and said, 'You know, you gave me my mother back. We were able to talk, converse and tell stories to each other which we hadn’t been able to do for a long time because she couldn’t hear me.' To have that piece of his mom before she passed was so rewarding.”
Hearing loss often occurs gradually, which is why most patients wait an average of five to seven years before seeking treatment. “You don’t realize what you’re missing, because you’re missing it,” Dr. Marshall said. “It’s hard to explain how much hearing impacts and changes your life, how much easier it makes communications and relationships. You’d be surprised the number of people that tell me after the fact, 'Gosh, I wish I would’ve done this five years ago.'” I tell them, “Well, you’ve done it now and we can make it better.”
To find an experienced and compassionate hearing healthcare professional like Dr. Marshall in your community, visit Healthy Hearing’s online directory of professionals. There you can read verified patient testimonials from hearing centers in your own community and choose the one that's right for you.