Jumping In With Both Ears Open Name: Tony Asay, AuD, CCC-A Title: Partner, Sound Advice Hearing Doctors, Harrison, Arkansas; Co-Founder, Alpaca Audiology Hometown: Murray, Utah Tony and Sara Asay with their two sons, Blake (left) and Egan. In the year and half since opening his private-practice doors, Tony Asay has learned how ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   March 01, 2012
Jumping In With Both Ears Open
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, ASHA Leader print and online writer/editor, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, ASHA Leader print and online writer/editor, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   March 01, 2012
Jumping In With Both Ears Open
The ASHA Leader, March 2012, Vol. 17, 20. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17032012.20
The ASHA Leader, March 2012, Vol. 17, 20. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17032012.20
Name: Tony Asay, AuD, CCC-A
Title: Partner, Sound Advice Hearing Doctors, Harrison, Arkansas; Co-Founder, Alpaca Audiology
Hometown: Murray, Utah
Tony and Sara Asay with their two sons, Blake (left) and Egan.
In the year and half since opening his private-practice doors, Tony Asay has learned how to tell the difference between the little crises and the big crises. Not knowing how to get new clients: big crisis. Having to fix the office toilet so it would flush: little crisis.
“That was not fun,” he admitted, “but at least it didn’t happen in the first week.”
Plumbing woes aside, most of his experience so far has been smooth. And bumps in the road haven’t discouraged him. Surprising, perhaps, considering that mere months before he decided to open his own practice—Sound Advice Hearing Doctors in Harrison, Arkansas—he was a fourth-year student. In short, this is his first “real job.”
Wait. Did he skip a step?
“Well, I guess,” he laughed. “As students, that’s exactly what you are told—that you need experience, that you need to go out and work for someone else first. But I never bought into that. I’m a big believer in just getting out there and learning on the job.”
So with his undergraduate degree from the University of Central Missouri and graduate degree from Missouri State University, the experience of his fourth-year externship at the Arkansas Otolaryngology Center (“a really well-rounded clinical experience”), and a deep breath, Asay jumped in. Although he’s the first to admit there were some growing pains, he was prepared for the clinical aspect of running his own clinic. Hearing aid fittings, hearing screenings—no problem. The more puzzling aspects of private practice were nonclinical.
“I wasn’t really prepared for the all the coding and reimbursement, all of the advertising—you don’t get a heavy dose of that in graduate school,” he said. “I could have used a couple of business classes. This is an area that I would encourage audiology programs to consider adding, much like training for other professions such as chiropractic or dentistry.”
But once he got going, everything seemed to fall into place. Aside from seeing patients in his practice, Asay also has been able to expand the practice’s services to nearby hospitals. Now he has moved beyond hearing aid fittings to providing audiology services to nearby hospitals and otolaryngology groups.
Originally from the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray, Utah, Asay says he was never “that kid” who always dreamed of becoming an audiologist (“I really don’t think there is a kid like that”), but instead fell into the field. One summer after high school he visited his mother, who had moved to Missouri. While at a church function, he met his future wife, Sara, who had been accepted into the speech-language pathology program at the University of Central Missouri. After the two married and moved to Missouri, he decided to major in speech-language pathology as well. But after receiving his degree he realized the field of audiology seemed a more solid fit.
“The more I learned about it, the more classes I took, the more I liked it,” Asay said. Even now, in my own practice I love it—the kids, the adults, everyone I see.”
In fact, he’s so smitten with his profession, he wants to see it get better. A year ago, while he was opening his practice, he and two other audiologists created an audiology buying group, Alpaca Audiology, that harnesses the ability to buy hearing aids in bulk. Named after the alpaca—a rare animal coveted for its fleece but often mistaken for the more pedestrian llama—Alpaca Audiology sees audiologists as rare animals, too, who have more knowledge and skills than hearing aid dispensers to help their clients achieve optimum hearing outcomes.
“I’m all about educating the consumer,” explained Asay, who often “can’t tell the difference [between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser]. We hope that this group will help bring audiologists together for education opportunities, inside and outside the profession, and maybe galvanize some momentum on some hot topics like reimbursement, online testing and hearing aid sales, and insurance companies trying to bypass the audiologist and sell directly to the consumer.”
Asay plans to keep his family in Arkansas, grow his practice, and continue the effort to distinguish audiologists from the “llamas.” Looking back, he has no regrets about learning a few things the hard way.
“Yeah, now that I’ve become an audiologist/plumber,” he said with a laugh, “I don’t think there’s much I can’t handle.”
Contact Tony Asay, AuD, CCC-A, at tony.asay@gmail.com.
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March 2012
Volume 17, Issue 3