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Sound Expertise: Hearing the World Around You

At Second Chance Hearing Center, Inc., patients literally do get a second chance at life. Having hearing challenges can often make people feel isolated and depressed, but when given the right treatment, connecting with others becomes much easier.

Offering a wide range of services, the audiologists and doctoral externs at the center can assist with multiple aspects of hearing deficiencies.

“We are unique,” says co-owner Dr. Alison Burks, Au.D. “We do more than handle age-related hearing loss and hearing aids. We complete many diagnostic hearing tests for physicians in the area for people who need pre- and post-surgical hearing tests, and we’re the only providers within Ventura County that work with cochlear implants.”

Additionally, they incorporate vestibular, or balance, testing into their practice.

“Most people in the aging population have balance issues, but it’s not always just age related,” she says. “It could be the balance organs within the ear system that are affected and some of these can be treated.”

Here, Dr. Burks gives us more information about herself, hearing issues and her practices in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard, which she co-owns with Dr. Sharla Morales, Au.D..

Q. What inspired you to become an audiologist?

A. In high school, I was working as a cashier in a grocery store and trying to communicate with a deaf family. The only way they could communicate was through sign language, so I started taking sign-language classes. I planned to study deaf education, but during my college career I quickly discovered that I wanted the more medical aspect of hearing impairment.

Also, my grandmother wore hearing aids my entire life and now my mother wears hearing aids, so there’s a genetic component in my family.

Q. What are some of the latest advancements in hearing technology?

A. Over the past five years, the advancements in technology have been dramatic. Hearing aids have gotten smaller and have become more sophisticated with Bluetooth® technology and wireless capabilities.

However, I always say you can buy the best hearing aids on the market, but if you don’t have a great audiologist who knows how to program them, they’re going to end up in a drawer. It really starts with the audiologist and our training on how to work with the technology.

Q. Do you find younger people are coming in more and more? Why?

A. Actually, hearing aid manufacturers are catering to a younger population because we’re seeing an industry shift to younger people receiving hearing aids. They need to hear well in order to work. They need to be able to communicate effectively in meetings and conferences and with other employees.

Many 40- and 50-year-olds are now coming in for hearing aids when it used to be 60- and 70-year-olds. The 40-year-old has to compete and hear just as well as a 25- and 30-year-old.

Q. What are some common myths about hearing devices?

A. With hearing aids, there is a lot of marketing that is misleading. They’ll say hearing aids will give people 100% clarity like normal hearing, or they will not hear background noise when in a restaurant. But, just like with normal hearing, they’ll hear the noise, but learn how to filter speech from noise. Hearing aids are much better now in filtering but cannot eliminate noise unless fit with an accessory.

Some of our patients complain that hearing aids don’t work. They are upset because they’ve already bought one or two sets that never worked. Again, it goes back to accurately fitting and programming. Often, we have them bring in their current hearing aids which just need to be reprogrammed to the correct prescription for their hearing loss.

Another big myth has to do with cochlear implants. A lot of people think it involves brain surgery or it is major surgery. The surgery itself is typically about an hour-long outpatient procedure.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about helping your patients improve their hearing?

A. Getting a patient back to a good quality of life. Having them be able to communicate with whomever they want—friends, family, coworkers. When you give them hearing aids that are programmed correctly, they become a whole different person.

To schedule a consultation or learn more about Second Chance Hearing, visit SecondChanceHearing.com or call 805.8704498.

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