Hear to Help A California audiologist rehabilitates hearing aids to give back to her patients and community. In the Limelight
Free
In the Limelight  |   May 01, 2016
Hear to Help
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is a content editor/producer for ASHA. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is a content editor/producer for ASHA. shutchins@asha.org×
Article Information
Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   May 01, 2016
Hear to Help
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.21052016.22
The ASHA Leader, May 2016, Vol. 21, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.21052016.22
Name: Nola Aronson, MA, CCC-A
Title: Owner, Advanced Audiology
Hometown: Santa Clara, California
Yes, you can build a profitable and growing business while using some of those profits to help people in need. Just look at Bill Gates.
Audiologist Nola Aronson’s private practice might not make as much money as Microsoft, but she also mixes business smarts with a giving philosophy to better serve patients, employees and local charities.
Aronson started in 1982 in a speech-language pathology graduate program at California State University, Long Beach. But during her first year she switched to audiology because “the immediate result from helping people with hearing loss was so gratifying,” she says.
After working with children for several years, Aronson launched a private practice in 1987. From the start, her business plan included ways to give back. Whenever Aronson fits patients with new hearing aids, for example, she asks them to donate their current models. She refurbishes those old ones, then fits them for free on patients who can’t afford them.
Aronson understands the high cost of getting fitted for new, custom hearing aids as well as the growing prevalence of cheaper, off-the-shelf options. Recycling these older models allows her to compete with a broadening marketplace and keeps landfills a little less full.

“I’m not selling a hearing aid. I give patients solutions to their problems and I never want them to stop wearing their hearing aids because they feel like they can’t afford a new battery.”

The trend toward hearing aids becoming a product instead of a medical service worries her, however. Buying random hearing aids at big-box stores or using a personal sound amplification product without the guidance of an audiologist saves money in the short term, she admits, but can potentially cause more problems if used incorrectly. She offers the example of people with mild hearing loss turning PSAPs up too loud for long periods of time—which might actually damage their hearing.
Another of her patient programs includes free lifetime battery replacements and cleanings with a hearing aid fitting. Aronson belongs to the American Hearing Aid Associates and follows its best practices guidelines, which encourage members to provide complimentary repairs such as these. She plans to continue offering these free services as long as she’s in practice.
“I’m not selling a hearing aid,” she says. “I give patients solutions to their problems and I never want them to stop wearing their hearing aids because they feel like they can’t afford a new battery. My services include complete hearing health care, not nickel-and-diming people.”
Aronson feels patients, insurance companies and even government agencies regard hearing health as less urgent than other health issues. Both for the benefit of people with hearing loss and the growth of her business, Aronson hopes to change that attitude. To generate this shift in mindset, Aronson recently launched a wellness campaign encouraging anyone older than 50 to get a hearing screening.
Her office offers free screenings to anyone, but especially encourages those at risk of age-related hearing decline to get screened, creating a baseline hearing report to compare with future screenings. In addition, Aronson explains, it provides proof of healthy hearing for anyone needing to demonstrate hearing damage to an insurance company.

Aronson’s office offers free screenings to anyone, but especially encourages those at risk of age-related hearing decline to get screened, creating a baseline hearing report to compare with future screenings.

As part of this campaign, Aronson arranged to perform screenings in physicians’ waiting rooms using a portable device. A physician marketing representative spreads the word about this service. Aronson and her rep started working with four primary care physicians they already knew. Although she initially encountered some resistance, once Aronson demonstrated how many patients already experience some hearing loss, physicians welcomed her into their waiting rooms.
Beyond these programs, the altruistic audiologist earmarks part of her profits for charities. Also the savvy businesswoman, she maximizes opportunities to promote these groups and her practice at the same time.
Aronson champions breast cancer awareness month in October (she survived the disease herself) by donating a portion of her proceeds to Circle of Hope—a support organization for cancer patients. In honor of Veteran’s Day, she does the same for Habitat for Heroes—a group building affordable housing for veterans—throughout November.
Aronson also lectures, writes articles, talks to local business groups and gives interviews on the importance of hearing health and hearing aids to mental health, quality of life and clear communication.
“No matter how small or sleek hearing aids become, people still feel a stigma around wearing them,” Aronson says. “But it’s communication, and if you can’t communicate, you can’t get along in the world.”
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
May 2016
Volume 21, Issue 5