Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Many things have changed since Denise Parrish, Au.D. began her audiology career more than 40 years ago — hearing aid technology, insurance coverage and the average age of her clientele to name a few. But one thing has remained a constant. Dr. Parrish and hearing aid specialist Ron Sutton are bullish about their patients and they are willing to do what it takes to help them hear their best.
“We are really patient advocates in this office,” she says about the staff at Manatee Ear Center in Bradenton. “We spend a lot of time with our patients because we want to maximize the usable hearing they have. That’s what makes us different from the others.”
Advocating for her patients means working closely with them from the beginning of their hearing health journey to the end. That includes checking insurance benefits and filing claims for those who have coverage, working closely with primary care physicians and specialists to educate them about hearing loss, and holding hearing aid manufacturers accountable for the claims they make about their products.
Technology fits busy patient lifestyles
Manatee Ear Center serves the residents of Manatee and Sarasota Counties in Florida. Dr. Parrish said their patient base is mostly older adults, many of them veterans and tinnitus sufferers, although they’ve also seen an increase in the number of 60 year-olds who are still in the workforce. “Our patients are busy,” she says with a laugh. “They’re always going somewhere. They have to work us into their busy schedule.”
That’s just one of the reasons Dr. Parrish is excited about the latest developments in hearing aid technology, saying that receiver-in-the-ear (RIC) devices like the Oticon Opn™ have been a “game changer” for those who need hearing aids. The technology makes it easier to understand speech in difficult listening situations where there’s a lot of background noise.
“We offer everything,” she said, adding that Manatee Ear Center is a multi-line dispensary which offers free listening demonstrations. “We ask that our companies do what they say they are going to do and that their hearing devices hold up. We give loaner aids so patients do not go without hearing aids if theirs is out for repairs. We don’t want anyone going without their hearing aids.”
Early career inspiration
Originally a speech therapy major, Dr. Parrish switched her focus the moment she began taking audiology courses in college. “That was it for me,” she said. “As much as I loved language therapy, I did not just want to do articulation therapy for the rest of my career. Audiology was where it was at.”
Her love for the field was cemented during graduate work at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis where she says she worked with some of the giants in the field. She obtained her Au.D. at the University of South Florida. That was more than 40 years ago, when hearing healthcare professionals were adjusting hearing aids with screwdrivers. Today, hearing aid algorithms have improved the ability to hear in background noise to such degree, Dr. Parrish describes it as “magical” for her patients.
Dramatic changes in patients’ lives
“We love technology,” she said. “It’s pretty dramatic. Around here we smile a lot. Now I have so many tools in the toolbox to help these patients.”
Some of Manatee Ear Center’s biggest success stories are with people who had sudden hearing loss in one ear and had been told by other hearing healthcare professionals they couldn’t be helped.
“They were told they would have to live life with hearing in just one ear and we’ve given them balance,” she said. “These patients are doing well and they become my hearing advocates. They let their doctors and friends know that hearing aids are wonderful. They make a difference in your life and you don’t want to do without them.”
If you aren’t hearing your best and are looking for a hearing healthcare professional like Dr. Parrish who can advocate for you, search our directory of professionals. Even if you don’t live in Florida, chances are, there’s a hearing center in your community with staff dedicated to helping you and your family hear their best.