Healthy Hearing conversation | Dr. Phyllis Stern-Weisman
Phyllis Stern-Weisman, Au.D., is a self-proclaimed “dinosaur” who has worked as an audiologist for more than 40 years. Her friends, many of whom are settling into retirement, frequently ask when she will join them. Her answer? “I want to be here when the new stuff comes out,” she says with a laugh. “They’re going to have to drag me out of here!”
A tailored approach for every need
They probably won’t. After all, she owns the place. Plus, patients at North Suburban Hearing Service in Niles, Illinois wouldn’t want her to go. Not only does she provide a customized hearing experience which focuses on their individual hearing needs, they also know Dr. Stern-Weisman will do what it takes to make sure they can hear their best. That includes making home visits when necessary to hook up assistive listening devices if necessary and doing a little “creative financing” for those with limited financial resources.
“I have never told a patient ‘no” because of cost,” she said, explaining that becoming an audiologist was never about the money. “I always make sure they walk out with something that works for them. I’ve had patients pay off hearing aids at $25 per month. There are just ways of making it work.”
But first she has to get them through the front door.
One of her patients, an occupational therapy assistant, was struggling to hear his patients. “He was wearing his mom’s hearing aids that weren’t for him,” Dr. Stern-Weisman explained, “and suffering from some depression. Funding was a major issue so I said ‘let’s not look at cost. Let’s just see if it works.’ I put the new Oticon Opn on him and he sat in my office and cried. He could hear what I was saying even though I turned my back to him. He called the other day and said ‘Now I can hear what my patients are asking me’.”
“That’s why you need to see your audiologist and talk about what your needs are,” she emphasized. “Just keep an open mind about what you can do.”
Business is personal
Her patient care philosophy likely stems from experiences she had as a young girl, watching her hearing impaired brother struggle in school. Other children called him names -- like ‘retarded’ and ‘wrong way’ -- and bullied him. When his hearing loss was finally detected in kindergarten, his speech had been permanently affected. “I wanted to become a pediatric audiologist so this wouldn’t have to happen to anyone else,” she said. “Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person, it also affects their family and their friends.”
Dr. Stern-Weisman began losing her own hearing in her right ear when she was just 28, and then her left ear when she was 30. Because she wears hearing aids herself, she understands when her patients complain they don’t hear well in restaurants or need the television turned up louder than others in the room may prefer. “I’m a pretty good guinea pig,” she jokes. “I like to keep up on the research and see what’s out there. It helps my patients, but it also benefits me.”
The future of hearing care
With the retirement question out of the way and her husband, Sherwin, dealing with the day-to-day “business stuff” of owning a practice, Dr. Stern-Weisman can concentrate on her favorite aspect of being an audiologist -- working with people. “I thrive on working with people,” she said. “Seeing each person and trying to figure out what they need -- I like that. The technology that is out there right now is mind blowing. It makes it fun because you can open so many doors. I think everything coming down the pike is very exciting.”
“Now, if we could just say ‘beam me up, Scotty’ and be there, that would be great.”
We can’t promise you’ll find an audiologist with a sense of humor like Dr. Stern-Weisman, but we are fairly confident there is a hearing healthcare professional in your community who is just as passionate about helping you hear your best. If you don’t already have someone you trust, search our directory for hearing centers in your area.