By Keldine Hull
Dr. Melissa Alexander, founder of Alexander Audiology, diagnosis and treats patients with varying degrees of hearing loss. With two full time practices in Solvang and Santa Monica that service over 2,500 people, Dr. Alexander is one of the leading audiologists in the state. “I take someone who doesn’t know that they’re handicapped by their hearing loss or somebody who is extremely aware of their handicap, and I fit them with something that’s benign and easy to use. In five minutes, I can turn their life around.”
After getting her first degree in political science, Dr. Alexander decided to explore working with her stepfather, an ear, nose, and throat doctor based in Los Angeles. She became inspired by an audiologist her stepfather worked with. “I was really drawn to the profession. He got to get to know patients, hear different stories, and really get to help them on a daily basis. I ended up going back to school to get a second Bachelor’s Degree in Sciences in Communicative Disorders and then went to graduate school. I got my doctorate in audiology after that.”
What differentiates Alexander Audiology from other practices is their round the clock service to patients. “I don’t just do diagnostic hearing testing and hearing aid fitting. I give a concierge type of service. I can meet patients in their homes and their offices. I work on weekends and holidays and patients have my cell phone number. When you have a sense, like hearing, and on Saturday something suddenly goes wrong, and you can’t get the hearing aids to work, you really need to have someone who’s available to you to take care of you. We provide that service. Nobody in the area does that.” In addition, Dr. Alexander does pro-bono work, servicing those who need hear aids but don’t have the means to get them. “My concern isn’t that you obtain and pay for hearing aids; it’s that I can treat your hearing loss if you need hearing aids. I see lots of patients that financially can’t afford instruments. Hearing aids range in price from $1,000 a piece to $3,000 a piece depending on how sophisticated the hearing aid is. Most people need two hearing aids. I have a program where people can donate their hearing aids to charity. I’ll refurbish them through the manufacturer and donate them to someone who needs them. I present a lot of lectures, and so I see Holocaust survivors and their families. I work with them at no charge. I also work with MusiCares, which is a foundation that provides services to musicians who have had a rough time, whether it be drug and alcohol addiction, or financial trouble. We make custom musician ear plugs for them and do hearing testing.”
Hearing loss is a condition that can affect anyone, from newborns to geriatrics, and Dr. Alexander encourages patients to be proactive when it comes to their hearing. “Hearing loss is insidious so it happens in many cases gradually over time. In most cases, because it happens over such a long period of time, you really don’t know what you’re not hearing. Everyone should have a baseline hearing test starting in their 40’s unless they feel that the hearing is compromised even prior to that. We’re seeing patients get fit with hearing aids younger and younger. Most of the time it’s due to noise exposure and you don’t even realize. We used to think, even when I was in graduate school ten years ago, that hearing loss was an age- related phenomenon. But it really isn’t. We’ve done lots of studies of patients in societies like Los Angeles and New York where there’s noise around you and areas like Papau New Guinea, non- industrialized areas where people are not exposed to noise. We find that most of the time, we’re seeing patients with noise exposure. That combined with genetics really is the root cause of most hearing losses. We have to put down the stigma that hearing aids are for old people or because you get hearing aids that means you’re aging.”
The kind of dedicated care that Dr. Alexander offers to her patients through Alexander Audiology requires time and focus but helping someone reclaim their ability to hear makes it all worth it. “It’s incredible, it’s the root of why I love what I do. It truly is instant gratification, and it’s giving somebody a sense, a physical sense, that connects them to the world. All of a sudden you realize that running water makes noise, and there are things in the environment that make noises that you weren’t aware of. Whispers are audible. It’s very rewarding to be able to give that to a patient instantly and have them hear.”
To learn more about Alexander Audiology, visit www.alexanderaudiology.com or call 424.738.3778.