Anderson Audiology Consultants | Hearing Center Interview
Alan Smith, Au.D., CCC-A had an epiphany one day. Standing in the middle of a room at the large, multi-specialty practice where he worked, he couldn't remember the name of the patient he had just seen. That's when he realized there was much more to audiology than what he - and his patients - were currently experiencing.
"I had three people in rooms waiting for me, was preparing to do a balance test and had just taken a phone call when one of the assistants came in to ask me what I wanted to do with a patient. I said "I don't even know who that is." She said "You just saw him." When I approached the other doctors about changing our business model to spend more time with each patient, they weren't interested - so I opened my own practice."
Anderson Audiology Consultants, which opened in 2002, is based on research that indicates the amount of time your audiologist spends with you is directly related to the success you have with hearing aids. "Audiology is a completely different approach to the traditional medical model," Dr. Smith said. " You can't just write a prescription and boot the patient out the door. That's why at Anderson Audiology Consultants, we take our time."
Dr. Smith said his philosophy on patient care is simple - he treats each patient like they’re a member of his family. "This comes in to play sometimes when they ask me if I think they need hearing aids," he said. "I always say ‘let’s pretend you’re my mom. Some people don’t like to have this information sprung on them and I can always say ‘it’s a good thing you’re not my mom.’ I make sure they have the information they need to make an informed decision and they go home and think about it."
His favorite hearing device success story involves a patient with tinnitus. "He had terrible ringing in his ears," Dr. Smith said. "He described the noise as a buzzer at a basketball game."
As a result of this impairment, he slept no more than two to three hours a night and would only leave the house to go to the doctor. Dr. Smith treated him successfully with sound generators and tinnitus retraining therapy. At his six month visit, he confided in Dr. Smith that if the treatment hadn't worked, he was planning to commit suicide.
"I wish he had told me that upfront," Dr. Smith said wryly. "That would've been good for me to know."
Dr. Smith said misinformation is one of the biggest challenges of working in hearing healthcare. Not only does the internet create misinformation, so do other patients.
"I had a lady come in who refused to get two hearing aids even though we told her she needed two. She complained for years that she couldn’t hear well. When she finally got a second hearing aid, she told everyone it was because of the hearing aid manufacturer. I told her – "no, you’re hearing better because now you’re wearing two hearing aids!"
Anderson Audiology Consultants is busy in the community conducting free hearing screenings at local health fairs and speaking to organizations such as Seratoma, Rotary and Kiwanis. Whether it's a current or potential patient, Dr. Smith is committed to putting in the time to develop a relationship, in the hopes it will "chip away at the barriers" and result in better hearing health.
"We don't realize what an impact we have on patient's lives during the short amount of time we spend with them," he said. "We can't take for granted what we do. We give people their life back."
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