Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Mary Ann Gilbert, Au.D. and the staff of Whittier Hearing are feeling so grateful, they recently launched a year-long series of activities designed to celebrate their 60-year anniversary by giving back to the residents of Whittier and its surrounding communities.
As part of the plan, nicknamed Project Gratitude, they’ve already provided a loop system for the local community theater and partnered with the local Lion’s Club to provide free hearing aids to low-income individuals with hearing loss.
“We’ve only been here this long because the community supports us – so we are supporting them,” Dr. Gilbert said.
The audiological center has been a community fixture for so long, Dr. Gilbert said she’s seen some patients for the entire 32 years she’s been with Whittier Hearing.
“Every patient who walks through the door becomes a member of our family,” she said fondly. “I always tell my staff, ‘The person sitting in the chair is your grandma, grandpa, your favorite aunt, uncle or cousin. Do for the patient what you’d do for a family member and you’ll never make a mistake.’”
Dr. Gilbert’s favorite hearing device success story involves a five-year-old girl who came into the practice years ago with moderate hearing loss. “Her family had been told she needed to go into a deaf education program, learn sign language and would never get more than a high school education,” she said. “We told them hearing loss is a hurdle, not a handicap. With appropriate amplification and hard work on her part, she could do anything she wanted.”
The patient, now a young lady, recently graduated from college. “The day she graduated from college, we got an email from her parents that said, “Thank you. If we hadn’t met you, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Dr. Gilbert has owned Whittier Hearing for the last 22 years and is currently the senior partner. She said their mission is “to help as many people as we can hear the best they can today and always in our community, our country and our world.” Other hearing healthcare professionals at Whittier Hearing include junior partner Kim Ortega, Au.D., Carole Maa, Au.D., Cathy Musulli, Au.D., Barbara Narramore, M.S. and Lana Hamburger, B.S.
In addition to the year-long Project Gratitude celebration, Whittier Hearing operates a Hearing Angels program for the community. Patients donate old hearing aids which are fit on people who can’t afford amplification. Staff also conducts grass roots educational seminars to educate residents about hearing loss and how to function better with and without hearing aids.
“This is the first generation that’s had to worry about that because they’re living so long and are so active,” Dr. Gilbert said.
While one of her biggest challenges is convincing people to accept the help they need for their hearing loss, she said today’s hearing aids deliver on their promise to providing significantly better hearing. “We can really help so many more people today return to a normal lifestyle because of the technology we have,” she said. “Because of that, I get to change lives on a daily basis – and that’s what it’s all about.”
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