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October 5, 2016

The Making of Boutique Hearing

When someone suggested I start a blog I thought “Yeah right, I am not a writer.” Creative writing assignments were what I dreaded the most in school. Needless to say, I quickly wrote off (pun intended) that idea. However, the seed had been planted and I kept coming back to it. So, one day while watching HGTV, I decided to give it a try and surprised myself. I admit I am not the most fluid writer, nor do I have an unlimited inventory of adjectives to make my stories come alive. But what surprised me was the number of ideas that came to mind. Suddenly, I went from “yeah right” to “where do I start?”

Hours later the laundry was unwashed and the floor was not mopped, but I was excited about blogging. Where do I start? I love a story that starts at the end then jumps to the beginning. However, since my story is really just beginning, it’s not going to work—which means we’ll have to start at the beginning.

My name is Dr. Barbara Corbett and have been an audiologist for 16 years. I earned my Master of Science degree in audiology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and my Doctorate from A.T. Still University. Over the years I have worked in a variety of settings.

I began my career at Resurrection Hospitals which was the perfect setting for a new, enthusiastic audiologist. I was able to apply all my newly gained knowledge on a variety of patients, from newborns to lively seniors, and help treat everything from hearing loss to dizziness. Digital hearing instruments were just in their infancy at this time and I was enamored with how much they offered compared to the analog aids previously available.

I decided I wanted to know more about hearing instruments and after much thought, I accepted a position with Phonak. I learned the ins and outs of hearing instruments from manufacturing to programming. I led internal training and consulted with audiologists all over the United States. I was able to assist other audiologists in selecting appropriate hearing instruments for their patients and help them optimize the programming.

However, I realized I missed patient contact. After many sleepless nights, I decided to leave manufacturing and return to audiology. I joined the team at Hearing Health Care. I was able to once again be hands-on with patients and enjoyed getting to know them on a more personal level. My patients began to feel like family and friends.

Around this time, I was offered an opportunity with the University of Chicago Hospitals. (Pop quiz: do you know how many Nobel Prize winners have come from the University of Chicago? Eighty-nine!) This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I have worn several hats while at the University of Chicago initially running the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program and later helping establish our Vestibular Program—all while continuing to fit hearing instruments, which has always been my passion.

Through all of these transitions and advancements in hearing instrument technology, one thing has not changed. From year to year and job to job, hearing instruments continue to be fit in a small quiet room away from life’s distractions. My patients continually struggle to explain why they can hear in the office with me but not when they are in their living room or office. They struggle coming in for repeated adjustments due to time off of work, long commutes to and from the office, or reliance on others for a ride. This is what has led to the founding of Boutique Hearing LLC.

Through Boutique Hearing, I am daring to step outside of the medical box and follow the path less traveled. It’s scary heading into the unknown and often unchartered waters of change. But I feel the way health care has approached hearing loss and hearing instrument fittings is not ideal. I aim to change all of that.

I do not see patients but rather clients. I understand the challenges people face with the complexity of the fitting process. Multiple appointments for the hearing test, hearing instrument consult, hearing instrument fitting and subsequent follow-up appointments for adjustments leave people drained. So many people just give up and either put their hearing instruments in a drawer or do not proceed at all. I am frustrated when people come into my office defeated. I see a need for change and I am daring to lead the way.