MONROE, CT — Wendy Cooke and Michael Gill, who grew up in Darien and have been friends since high school, recently opened the Coastal Hearing Aid Center in Suite 1A of the clapboard building at 388 Main St.
Prior to their joint business venture, Gill was working for a meal-prep company and Cooke, a hearing instrument specialist of 17 years, was a customer.
“I would go to her office and see the joy she had helping people with their hearing loss,” he recalled. “I wanted to do it too.”
Cooke said she always looks forward to the interactions with her clients. ”I get to take the time to learn things about the patient and get to know them,” she said. “We do this with care and compassion.”
The friends opened the Coastal Hearing Aid Center together in January. Gill, who lives in Trumbull, loves the new location.
“It’s a perfect spot and easy to get to from numerous towns,” he said. “Obviously people in Monroe, Newtown, Easton and Trumbull love it as we’re neighbors. But we’re seeing that people in the valley and mid-Fairfield County find it a much easier drive and overall experience.”
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sundays.
“We strongly suggest making an appointment,” Gill said. “We also operate a mobile division, so we’re not always in the office. That being said, you won’t have to wait long for an appointment, we can typically see you that same week.”
The Coastal Hearing Aid Center mobile division partners with and visits assisted living facilities and senior centers in the area, where they perform hearing tests, give educational talks, sponsor events or just participate in activities.
“Education comes first,” Cooke said. “People don’t realize that hearing loss is serious and can have serious repercussions with respect to mental health, speech recognition and overall quality of life. The decision as to whether or not to wear hearing aids is ultimately up to the individual. We just want them to have all of the information necessary to make an informed decision.”
A grand opening
On March 31, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth and Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Monroe Economic Development Commission members attended an official grand opening for the Coastal Hearing Aid Center.
After Kellogg and Cooke cut the ribbon during a ceremony, the first selectman said, “on behalf of the town of Monroe, welcome. We are overjoyed that you’re here. We wish you many years of success and anything we can do to help you out along the way, please let us know.”
Kellogg introduced Holsworth and told Gill and Cooke to reach out anytime.
“My thanks to the Chamber and our Economic Development Commission for being here today,” Kellogg added.
“We’re looking forward to having a positive impact on the business community as a whole and helping those in Monroe and surrounding towns is something that we’re really excited about,” Gill said.
The new business recently became a member of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
When patients visit the Coastal Hearing Aid Center, they see Cooke in the treatment room.
“We’ll do testing and Wendy will take that data and prescribe a hearing aid that’s best for your hearing loss,” Gill said, adding the first test is a visual one.
Cooke performs an otoscopy, looking in the ears to ensure she can see a clear path to the eardrum to make sure there is no excessive wax or something else that would require a medical referral. A vast amount of the time that is not the case, according to Gill.
Then the patient is taken to the sound booth for audiometric testing.
On March 31, Rick Smith, a member of the Monroe Economic Development commission, sat on a chair inside the booth and wore a set of headphones.
Outside the room, Gill sat at a desk and watched Smith from a window. Every time Smith heard a sound through the headphones, he had to push a button right away. Gill tracked his performance on a computer screen. This testing is done to measure the extent of the client’s loss and to help determine its origin.
“Oftentimes people hear low frequencies better than high ones,” Gill said. “When this happens it impacts how clearly we hear, not the volume of what we hear. You can hear that people are talking, you just can’t make out what they are saying. This is noticed most often in a noisy environment like a restaurant or around a dinner table.”
Once the testing is complete, Cooke reviews the data and determines whether or not amplification is needed and, if so, the type and style. She will then use that data to program a pair of hearing aids for the patient to trial at home.
“I have found that allowing the patient to borrow the hearing aids takes some of the mystery out of the process and allows them to use them in their own environment before having to commit to a purchase,” Cooke said. “It’s like buying a car, but getting to take it home and drive it around for a month before making any decision.”
When the trial is over and it is time to order hearing aids for the patient, Cooke takes special care to make sure the devices will have the ability to accommodate any additional hearing loss the patient may develop over the next several years. She said she believes a hearing aid can last six-to-eight years.
The Coastal Hearing Aid Center expresses a commitment to “compassion, service and convenience.” To book a hearing consultation, call 475-231-1010, send an email to [email protected] or visit its website.