The ability to hear sounds, recognize spoken words and enjoy what happens around you is often taken for granted. At Hunter Hearing Center in Plymouth, Hearing Instrument Specialist Neil Hunter understands how troubling it can be when the ability to hear is impacted by illness, injury or even the aging process.
“My son, Adam, has a severe hearing loss in his left ear,” Hunter says.
Adam’s hearing loss was not detected when he was an infant and toddler, but his parents noticed that he walked later than their other children and he was prone to ear infections. When he started school, the hearing loss was discovered and Adam was determined to be a candidate for surgery and fitted with hearing aids, which his father says Adam disliked.
“Adam’s situation led me to do what I am doing today,” Hunter explains. “It helps me better understand everyone who walks in through my door or when I walk through their door.”
Hunter sees clients at his office at 568 Oak Street in Plymouth or makes house calls to people who are inbound or cannot come to the office. Many of the people he consults in their homes are Amish.
The practice has about 200 patients ranging from Plymouth to the north side Fort Wayne and even to South Whitley.
“My patients are like family,” he says. “With all my patients, I spend more time to get them to where they need to be.”
He has learned how to adapt the way he operates his business to accommodate lifestyles, such as helping his Amish patients use hearing technology that fits into their way of life and does not compromise their beliefs. Innovations in technology make it easier to find compatible devices for everyone and help make his business mobile, too.
Hunter left a career in orthopedic sales for a new career in helping people improve their hearing. He is trained to do hearing testing and fitting for hearing aids, and as he explains, “anything an audiologist can do.”
When someone is experiencing hearing loss, which can be gradual, there are some signs that family members can watch for, Hunter advises. It is often difficult for a person who is experiencing a hearing loss to share what is happening. “No one wants to lose their hearing,” he says.
“Some signs are easy to pick out,” he says. “Such as having difficulty understanding people on the phone or when the television is up too loud for others in the household.”
But there is another sign that is important to notice, one that can make a difference in the quality of life.
“The big one is when you start seeing people withdraw from conversations,” he explains. “They don’t participate, and they stop going out.”
Hunter says studies have shown that being able to understand what a person is hearing keeps the brain active. Research shows that there is even a link between being able to hear and understand can slow the progression of dementia or Alzheimer’s, he says.
Sometimes the problem with an elderly loved one’s hearing is not related to lack of hearing but more as a cognitive function.
“Ultimately, people want to understand what they hear,” he says. “We always need to establish what our goals should be with each patient.”
Taking precautions to minimize hearing loss should be a priority, he says. People who work around loud machinery in factories or noisy environments should be especially concerned. Earplugs and other noise canceling devices are a wise place to start, but sound can travel through a bone, so these alone might not solve the issue, Hunter cautions.
“Wear ear protection whenever you can,” he says. “Do everything you can to preserve what you have.”
After becoming licensed and certified, Hunter worked in Georgia for a few years before moving back home. He is from Plymouth, a graduate of Plymouth High School. He is married to Keshena Hunter, and they have four children, John, Erin, Adam and Sara.
Owner Neil Hunter and Olivia Schwab
To find out more or to schedule a visit, a doctor’s referral is not required. A hearing test takes about 90 minutes and can be scheduled with office staff Olivia Schwab by calling Hunter Hearing Center at 574-540-2526. Hunter Hearing Center is located at 568 N Oak Dr in Plymouth. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.