Healthy Hearing conversation | Dr. Ronna Fisher
Dr. Ronna Fisher may not have become an audiologist in time to help her father, but the memory of growing up in a family affected by hearing loss is the driving force behind her passion for helping others hear their best and the foundation that bears her name.
“Dad started losing his hearing in his 30s from rheumatic fever he had a child,” she related. “He always had difficulty understanding. As it got worse, Mother would accuse him of not listening to her or not paying attention. As I got older, I was very impatient and would get angry with him for not responding. He died when he was 53 and I was in grad school. I never got the opportunity to change his life.”
Fortunately for the residents of Chicago, she’s channeled her father's memory into a lifetime mission of helping others hear their best. When the audiologist she was working for sold his practice, she saw an opportunity to strike out on her own. Today, Hearing Health Center, the practice she started from scratch, has five locations: Downtown Chicago, Oak Brook, Naperville, Highland Park, Chicago/Park Ridge with eight audiologists on staff.
Everything to gain
“My practice has always been on the cutting edge,” she said, explaining that new hearing devices are often a way to get people in the door and educate them about hearing loss. “I always feel we have nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”
And while she’s worried the new over-the-counter hearing aid bill undermines the professional service component consumers need in order to get good results, she does see it as an opportunity to engage more people with practitioners like her. In fact, Dr. Fisher embraces new ideas and products that will bring people in the door, engage them and finally find the right solution for them -- even if they are viewed as a bit “unconventional.”
For example, Hearing Health Center locations offer curbside pickup services and free hearing evaluations for anyone over the age of 50. The website features an online shop where the public can purchase Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) and hearing device accessories as well as a page featuring funny stories from patients and audiologists about their hearing loss journey. Dr. Fisher herself travels to music venues to custom fit earmolds for musicians such as Roger Daltrey, Kenny Rogers and Lady Gaga. She is a popular guest on Chicago radio and television stations and is frequently quoted in the newspaper.
“My goal has always been that Hearing Health Center is the place to go whenever you experience any kind of hearing problem,” she said. “There is hearing help for everybody and it’s important to educate them about better hearing and the importance of their ears. If you weren’t born deaf, you depend on your hearing for talking, laughing and telling secrets. It’s how we belong.”
Better hearing for all
For those who don’t qualify for public aid and can’t afford hearing treatment, there’s the Fisher Foundation. The foundation provides hearing aids, conducts community seminars to promote hearing awareness and donates ear protection to members of the military. Staff also provide hours of time and service to patients. The nonprofit organization accepts donations on its website.“There are people who fall through the cracks, and I will help them all day long,” she said passionately.
As her practice grows, Dr. Fisher is committed to maintaining consistency and quality of care, even as that challenge takes her away from seeing as many patients as she used to. When she does see patients, she’s known for her “tough love” approach that leverages her confidence in hearing aids as a solution for hearing loss and the knowledge that her patients will thank her for encouraging them to seek treatment.
“I was with some of my staff at a charity event when a young woman in her 40s came up to me,” she remembered. “In front of my staff she said, 'I will never forget you. You changed my life. You told me I had to do this. You wouldn’t let me leave until you helped me. Because of you I heard my fiance propose.' It was so beautiful to have my staff hear that. What a difference you can make in someone’s life.”
If you aren’t hearing as well as you used to, find an audiologist like Dr. Fisher who is committed to helping you hear your best. If you don’t already have a hearing healthcare professional, search Healthy Hearing’s directory for a hearing center you can trust in your community.
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