In the 1950s, measles damaged Sharon Rothwell’s hearing. She was five years old when she got her first hearing aid. It was the size of a four-inch box and fit into a specially sewn pocket in her slip. The device connected to her ears through wires.
She hated it.
“It didn’t work out because the other kids would make fun of me, and they would yell into the box. So, I quit wearing it,” recalls Sharon.
Despite limited hearing, Sharon still managed to thrive. She learned to compensate by looking directly at who was talking and following lips and facial expressions.
She graduated from nursing school, worked as a nurse in hospitals and academia, and raised a family. It wasn’t until recently, at age 66, that Sharon decided to give hearing aids a second chance.
“One of the individuals I work with has a severe hearing problem and wears hearing aids. One day, I asked her, How are you doing with those? And she said, Oh, they’re awesome!” says Sharon.
The co-worker recommended her audiologist, Drianis Duran, AuD, at Gulf Coast Audiology, and Sharon made an appointment.
After a thorough evaluation and testing of Sharon’s hearing, Dr. Duran determined the loss was treatable through hearing aids. She prescribed Phonak Audéo™ V 70 hearing aids that automatically adjust to different listening environments and enhance speech understanding.
“Sharon has a moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. It’s basically like hearing underwater; everything is muffled,” notes Dr. Duran.
“When we first turned on her new hearing aids, there were tears,” says Dr. Duran. “She said, Why didn’t I do this sooner? Are you telling me that I was missing all of this?”
“I call them my ‘new ears,’” comments Sharon about her new hearing aids. “It’s been an amazing experience. I can hear the kids on the playground across the street. I can hear the birds. I can hear the blinkers in my car. I didn’t know that flip-flops made noise, but now I hear them.”
Sharon works in a hospital, where she educates nurses. Her hearing aids have changed how she once coped with hearing loss. “I was in a boardroom with forty-five people, and I didn’t have to turn my head to see who was talking. I could hear everything,” she shares.
The technology of her hearing aids is light years from the box-like device she wore as a child. The Phonak hearing aids also aren’t noticeable. “When I went back to work, I said, I got my ears. And everybody said, Well, where are they? I have short hair but you still can’t see them,” says Sharon.
Her resistance to hearing aids – and later astonishment at the difference they make – isn’t so unusual, says Dr. Duran.
“Technology has changed so dramatically over the years that there is virtually something for every type of hearing loss,” explains the skilled audiologist. “Mostly, people think, I’m doing good enough. But when you don’t know what you’re missing, how can you tell?”
Sharon praises Dr. Duran for her knowledge and compassionate care.
“Dr. Duran is so professional and concerned and wants to make sure everything is right. She doesn’t let you leave until you have every question answered,” she enthuses.
Sharon’s retirement from nursing is just around the corner, and she’s looking forward to a busy, new life chapter. She and her husband plan to do more boating and traveling. She wants to garden and spend time with their grandchildren.
“I wish I had looked into getting hearing aids before now. I compensated for so long and missed out on so much,” says Sharon. “Dr. Duran helped me come around. She’s just awesome.”
John Gee was dining out recently when he realized he could carry on a conversation in one of the most challenging environments for people with a hearing loss: A noisy, bustling restaurant.
“You learn how to fake conversations when you have a hearing loss. You know, you shake your head at appropriate times,” he notes. “But this time I noticed there was quite a bit of noise in the room and I managed to have a conversation without faking it.”
John and his family moved from Michigan to Fort Myers in 1982. Alongside his wife, Ann, and their son John Jr., he has a thriving real estate agency on Sanibel Island. His work was a prime reason for seeking treatment for hearing loss.
“I’m a business person, so obviously my hearing is important,” he relates.
John gives credit to his new hearing aid system, and especially the audiologist who recommended it, Drianis Duran, AuD.
John’s severe hearing loss in one ear started before he was in elementary school, possibly due to a childhood illness. However, he didn’t begin to wear a hearing aid until 10 years ago and that was for his “good” ear. His better ear had developed an age-related hearing loss.
Recently, Dr. Duran recommended switching to a BiCROS system that makes speech easier to understand for John’s type of hearing loss. It allows for dual-sided hearing, despite a severe loss in one ear. A hearing device worn in the poorer ear picks up sound and relays it to the hearing aid in the better ear.
He first consulted Dr. Duran, on the advice of a friend, four years ago.
“You’ll find me raving about her. Her service is very good and you sense that she cares about you,” he explains.
John’s experience shows how simply getting a hearing aid isn’t enough to guarantee better hearing. It’s equally important, if not more so, to choose the right audiologist who has knowledge and experience and offers excellent customer service.
“We develop relationships with our patients,” notes Dr. Duran. “We try to get to know who they are and their needs. Their jobs, regular activities and leisure activities are all important in recommending the best hearing instrument for them.”
When obtaining new hearing aids, Dr. Duran’s patients are scheduled for return visits during an evaluation period. During this time, any concerns are addressed and patients learn how to get the most from their hearing aids.
“The more patients learn about their devices, the more empowered they’re going to be,” emphasizes Dr. Duran.
Patients also are encouraged to return for check-ups every six months, where hearing aids can be inspected and cleaned to ensure their effectiveness. Any changes in hearing can be evaluated along with making adjustments in digital programming of the hearing aids as needed.
“Dr. Duran is very patient and skillful at explaining things,” reports John. “For instance, I’m not real good with technology but she showed me how to make adjustments to my hearing aid.”
He also appreciates that Dr. Duran employs a licensed audiology assistant who is accessible through a quick phone call and can address any issues with hearing devices right away.
As with many of her long-term patients, Dr. Duran’s dedication and skill has earned John’s loyalty.
“Anytime I have an opportunity to recommend Dr. Duran, I go out of my way to do that,” enthuses John. “She doesn’t just sell you a hearing aid. She provides better quality hearing for people who need it.”
When Vanessa Flynt started searching for a new audiologist, she recognized a name a colleague had recommended years before: Drianis Duran, AuD, at Gulf Coast Audiology. Vanessa, who is 38, has worn hearing aids since early elementary school.
“I was very upset with the treatment I was getting at the usual place I went and decided to find someone else,” she recalls. “I saw Dr. Duran’s name and said, Hey, I’ve heard of her before. Let me check it out.
“I called to make an appointment and the receptionist was extremely friendly. Working in a small business myself, I know that customer service is important. I felt warmly welcomed right away,” relates Vanessa, whose family rents and sells bicycles on Sanibel Island.
Carefully listening to patients is a key aspect of care at Gulf Coast Audiology, where leading-edge testing and hearing instrument technology are provided in a warm, inviting environment.
Because Vanessa has worn hearing aids since a very young age, she has experienced technological advancements in the devices over the years.
“New ones are going to automatically seem better and she would probably say, Oh my gosh, these are great,” notes Dr. Duran. “But my job is to make sure they aren’t just better. I want them to be optimal.”
Dr. Duran started by asking Vanessa lots of questions in order to fit her with the best hearing aids for her lifestyle. Unlike hearing aid dispensers that carry one brand, Dr. Duran chooses from a variety of manufacturers to match the needs of each individual she sees.
“That was one of the things that I found so different about Dr. Duran’s office,” recalls Vanessa. “She asked me all about what kinds of things I do. I’ve found with other audiologists, they would just say, This is the hearing aid you need.
Dr. Duran informed Vanessa that her hearing loss is such that she’s a candidate for in-the-ear or behind-the-ear hearing aids which gives them some flexibility, and asked if she has a preference.
“I said, I don’t know. No one has ever asked me that before.”
Vanessa started out by trying devices that fit discreetly behind her ear. A plus were the Bluetooth® accessories that allowed her to stream audio from music or movies from her iPhone® and iPad® directly into her hearing aids.
Even though she loved them, she had reservations.
“The Bluetooth options are an amazing technology and I used them a lot. But in my day-to-day lifestyle, I was finding difficulty using the telephone. I wore in-the-ear hearing aids before, and I said, I think I need to go back to those, even though they aren’t Bluetooth accessible.”
Vanessa was nervous about making the request, despite the fact she was within the 30-day trial period. She needn’t have been. Dr. Duran insisted Vanessa try the second pair for a full month. Moreover, the original pair would be reserved in case Vanessa found they were the best choice after all.
In the end, Vanessa did choose the Bluetooth-compatible devices. They are amazing, she says. She can easily hear her husband and young daughter now, even in noisy environments or when her back is turned. Dr. Duran is helping her find solutions to make talking on the phone easier.
The detailed knowledge and thoughtful attention Vanessa receives from Dr. Duran and the staff at Gulf Coast Audiology have made her a patient for life.
“They really care. It’s not about selling you hearing aids; it’s about your experience as a person and if you can really hear better,” reports Vanessa. “They just treat me like family.”
Jill Burmester lost all hearing in her right ear two decades ago from surgery for acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve. She learned to cope but it wasn’t always easy. Gone was her ability to detect exactly where sound was coming from; she couldn’t hear anything to her right.
“If I was on a walk and somebody called out to me, I had absolutely no idea where the voice was coming from,” confides Jill. “I’d be spinning around on the sidewalk looking rather silly.”
Single-sided deafness also made it harder to carry on conversations, especially in noisy places, despite perfect hearing in her other ear.
Jill is now a retired school secretary who spends winters in Fort Myers to escape the Wisconsin cold. Last winter, she noticed her “good ear” was beginning to wane. “I told myself, I need to do something about this,” she recalls.
She consulted board-certified audiologist Drianis Duran, AuD, at Gulf Coast Audiology. After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Duran diagnosed a 20 percent hearing loss in Jill’s left ear. Dr. Duran also told Jill something that surprised her: She might benefit from a hearing system that restores two-sided hearing for people who are deaf, or have a severe hearing loss, in one ear. The technology can’t reverse deafness in the “bad ear,” but picks up sounds originating on that side of the head and allows the brain to perceive the deaf ear is hearing them.
During Jill’s office visit, Dr. Duran put the equipment in Jill’s ears to demonstrate. “Dr. Duran turned on my receiver and said, I’m going in the other room and will make a noise. You tell me what the noise is,” remembers Jill.
For the first time in 22 years, Jill detected sound in her bad ear. “I heard it and I almost cried,” she reveals.
“Approximately, sixty thousand people in the United States confront the problem of single-sided deafness every year,” says Dr. Duran. “It’s an issue many people live with, but there are a lot of misconceptions about this type of hearing loss.
“Causes can be acoustic neuroma, like Jill had, or a viral infection or head trauma,” she continues. “Unfortunately, a lot of health care providers have followed the approach of do nothing. But patients with single-sided deafness can be helped.”
The technology that helped Jill is a CROS hearing system. CROS stands for Contralateral Routing of Signals. Jill’s model is the Phonak CROS II.
“The CROS system streams sound from the ear that cannot hear to the ear that has hearing ability,” explains Dr. Duran. “As long as we have one ear that is normal, or with hearing loss that can be treated, we can transmit sound.”
The device’s algorithms accommodate how quickly the brain maps sound traveling from one side of the head to the other; this allows sound to be perceived in the deaf ear.
The digital system communicates wirelessly and resembles hearing aids.
“Even with my short hair, you can’t tell I have hearing aids,” enthuses Jill.
Her ability to detect the direction of sound is tremendously improved, she reports, along with how well she hears overall.
“Just the other day, I was at a meeting and somebody behind me on my right-hand side said something and I heard it. I just smiled and thought to myself, Okay, I’m getting it. I’m hearing everything.
“Dr. Duran knew exactly how to evaluate my hearing,” affirms Jill. “Getting this hearing system is the best thing I ever did.”
Very professional and caring group. The whole procedure went perfect from the beginning till the end.Posted by Denise Rivera on Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Fantastic experience. Dr. was fantastic. Knowledgeable. Didn't try to sell me something I did not need. I would recommend.Posted by Jake Petruska on Tuesday, August 16, 2016
I had broken a wire on a Phonak device, they repaired it in a matter of 10 minutes, didn't have to send it away. Very...Posted by Ed Hilferty on Friday, July 1, 2016