New Jersey Hearing Health Center | Hearing Center Interview
Donna Goione-Merchant, Au.D. CCC-A says she’s “somewhat of an introvert.” But put her in front of a patient who needs help with hearing loss and she happily comes out of her shell.
“I feel very comfortable talking with people I know I can help,” she said. “I enjoy helping them, answering their questions and that look on their face that says 'aha.'”
Dr. Merchant and her father founded New Jersey Hearing Health Center in 1992 after conversations about what they both wanted to do next. “I decided I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and dad was a retired school administrator,” she explained. “That was 23 years ago. My parents helped me get set up and took care of the reception, scheduling and marketing.”
Dr. Maren Ridenour, Au.D., CCC-A also works with Dr. Merchant at the Brick office. New Jersey Hearing Health Center is AudigyCertified and specializes in educational and pediatric audiology.
“We’re focused on re-education and reintegrating people back into life,” she said. “We physically go into schools and work with students. We’re not just giving them an instrument, but teaching them how to hear again. No one else in the area combines these techniques the way we do it.”
Dr. Merchant believes patients need to take responsibility and be involved in their own care. “I really think if a patient understands why they’re doing something and see the benefit, they’re more likely to do it,” she said. “If we can develop some realistic expectations and understanding of what ears can and can’t do, it says a lot about their success with or without devices.”
She said her favorite part of being a hearing healthcare professional is helping her patients come to the realization that they can do it. The most challenging part of her profession, on the other hand, is getting an adult to understand they will never have completely normal hearing again and how to adjust expectations.
“I find adults can be more challenging than kids and their parents,” she said with a laugh. “Adults don’t like change. They don’t like to be told what to do. I have great patients,” she added. “If you’re mean, you can’t come in. The mean thermometer is right outside. You have to be nice.”
Her favorite hearing device success story involves a 90 year-old patient who had very poor speech discrimination. She had worn one hearing aid for more than 40 years because other professionals had told her she’d never hear out of her right ear. Dr. Merchant convinced her to do an experiment and try wearing two hearing aids. “She says it opened up her life,” Dr. Merchant said. “All those years people told her it couldn’t be done. Now she’s connecting with friends and family more than ever before.”
New Jersey Hearing Health Center is a warm, family-oriented facility where you can get a warm cookie and hot chocolate on Wednesday and patients feel right at home. Staff participates in local Chamber of Commerce events and conduct hearing screenings at the public library and local churches on occasion.
“This center is my other home,” Dr. Merchant said. “My kids grew up here. It’s an integral part of who I am. It’s nice to love what you do and make a living at it.”