Though well-qualified as an audiologist, with more than 10 years of professional experience, Ron Trounson, co-owner at Ear Health in Auckland, says growing up in a household with his deaf mother is where he acquired his most valuable credentials.
“My mum had meningitis as a child and lost 100 per cent hearing in one ear and most of her hearing in her other ear. She lip-read her way through school and when hearing aid technology finally became available, used hearing aids,” says Trounson, who lived in Hauraki in early childhood.
As a child, Trounson learned how best to communicate to hard-of-hearing people – speaking in a lower and slower voice, avoiding mumbling and using more straightforward language when appropriate.
Before becoming an audiologist, Trounson earned a Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Auckland and worked in Brazil for 10 years. The South American sojourn added to his communication skills.
“I lived 10 years in Brazil, working on major projects that required me to communicate with people from all over the world, so you learn how to adjust your communication style depending on who you’re talking to,” he says.
“Brazilians are very social. So now I basically ‘chin-wag’ all day as part of my job.”
And the ‘chin-wagging’ has become one of Ear Health’s points of difference.
Large audiology franchises can be impersonal, and patients often see a different audiologist each time. But at Ear Health, patients see either Trounson or business partner Soren Thompson.
“We remember you, our previous conversations and your device preferences. We’re small, local and personalised,” Trounson says.
Ear Health offers earwax removal, which many audiology clinics don’t provide. The build-up of ear wax can render even high-quality and expensive hearing aids ineffective, so Ear Health has the latest equipment and qualified technicians to remove the earwax.
“We have everything under the one roof, so you don’t have to go somewhere else to get your ears cleaned, only to come back and have the device fitted or adjusted.”
Devices have become more sophisticated over the years, with the most recent of them looking like gadgets from a James Bond movie – essentially going unseen in the ear.
Trounson says demand for these “almost invisible” devices has increased since Covid began because masks have added another complication for people who might already have their hearing aids and glasses on their ears.
Insurance companies prefer the hidden aids, too: “So many people have lost hearing aids when they pull off their masks.”
While some aids can be hidden in-the-ear, other models look like wireless earbuds or “AirPods”, prompting Trounson to describe them as “more like jewellery for the ear”.
In recent years, hearing aids have come a long way, and the new hybrid earbud-style hearing aids are a great example.
These hearing aids connect to a phone with low-powered Bluetooth and are much more comfortable to wear than hearing aids that sit deeper in the ear canal. They also provide a better listening experience than in-the-canal hearing aids while much less visible than behind-the-ear models.
The new earbud-style hearing aids are an excellent option for people with trouble hearing and are a great way to stay connected to the world around them.