Helping people with hearing loss comes naturally for Melissa K. Rodriguez, owner of Hear On Earth, El Paso, Tex. And this shouldn’t be a surprise. The daughter of a hearing instrument specialist, Rodriguez has been involved in hearing healthcare and assisting people with hearing problems since she was 8 years old.
“When my dad was first learning the profession, he would practice on us kids. He would take my ear impression and conduct hearing tests on me, and I was fascinated by the process from Day 1. I’d bring my pink ear impressions to school and place them on my desk, because I thought they were so cool. When we had days off from school and during summer vacations, we kids would go to his office and work stuffing envelopes, filing, etc.”
As she was approaching her college years, it wasn’t easy to convince her father to allow her to get a
dispensing license and start working with clients. Eventually, she convinced him to give her a chance by working in a rural area outside Las Cruces, NM. “The first door that I literally knocked on was that of a husband and wife in Vado, NM, who had long ago requested hearing help—and it’s one of the stories in my book. I sat down with them, tested them, and ordered four hearing aids for them that day. When I returned, my dad finally saw that I was fully capable of being effective as a hearing aid provider…Frankly, I’ve just always loved grandpas and grandmas; in fact, I’ve always gravitated toward older people and simply felt more comfortable around them. I love their stories and have benefited greatly in learning from them. [My patients] have been such an education and played a huge part of my life—even apart from hearing. We’re talking about real-life experiences, and I just love the people side of this business.”
It shows. In 2012, after 22 years of experience fitting hearing aids and helping patients (including 6 years of serving on the Texas State Governing Board for the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids), Rodriguez published Hear Your Life [Greenleaf Book Group Press], a book filled with heart-warming stories about how real people have overcome personal, emotional, and financial barriers to hearing loss—sometimes on heroic terms.
What is apparent from the book is that Rodriguez’s heart is dedicated to patient care. “I think we need to lead by example,” says Rodriguez. “In fact, I think one of the key distinguishing features about my practice and staff is our level of attention and care over the long-term patient relationship. Our patient retention is extremely high. And this comes down to the culture we’ve created. When I started the practice, I intentionally went outside of the ‘shopping center atmosphere’ and converted a large older home into a clinic. It has a ‘living room’ feel when you walk in. We don’t wear white lab coats. Because hearing is such an integral part of every person’s life, I don’t really want my patients to feel like they’re going to the doctor. Let’s face it: no one likes going to the doctor. We want our patients to feel comfortable. When you get right down to it, their visit is about communication, home, friends, colleagues, and family. So, I’ve tried to build a family atmosphere not only with my patients but also with my employees. We even have two friendly dogs that come to work with us every day to make people feel welcomed.
“We’re also very focused not just on the tests and the fittings, but also on verifying the results. I wish this were the industry trend, because it’s a very important part of hearing care. We do a lot of verification testing, and we spend a lot of time with each patient making sure the fitting is right for that individual. There are so many variables [in fitting hearing aids]. It takes a lot of training, listening, and experience to be able to understand their unique situation and provide them with a customized hearing solution that works specifically for them.
“Beyond the science, it’s also extremely important to make sure that the patient understands how to use their hearing aids effectively. The real goal is to make sure they’re fully benefiting from the hearing aids and using the technology in a way that truly improves their lives. There is something of an art to moving people into a place where they can hear well again. It can be a long process. But it’s definitely worth the journey.”
Rodriguez has the experience and track record—as well as a book full of great stories—to prove it.
Melissa K. Rodriguez
Hear On Earth
201 Blacker Avenue
El Paso, TX 79902