10/2/2019 8:43:00 AM Local company serving more than just hearing impaired today
If you haven't looked into the advancements in hearing devices, even over the last couple of years, you're in for a big surprise, says Nicholas Raymo, owner of Southwest Hearing Technologies with offices in Windom, Worthington and Pipestone.
Indeed, hearing devices are no longer just for the hearing impaired. For instance, Raymo has been working with businesses to provide their employees with molded hearing protection that look like molded hearing aids but actually provide protection from high-decibel noise. Southwest Hearing Technologies also has options available for those looking for hands-free digital device capabilities.
However, whether you're looking for hearing protection, enhanced hearing or hands-free communication, Southwest Hearing Technologies no doubt has just what you're looking for.
The company, originally known as Southwest Hearing Aid Center, has been in business for 26 years. Started by Glad Henning, Raymo joined Henning almost a decade ago and when Henning retired, she sold the business to Raymo in 2014. He changed the name to Southwest Hearing Technologies.
"We switched to Southwest Hearing Technologies because of the advancements that were happening," Raymo explains. "It's not just a hearing aid any more, it's a way of life. We were starting to see transitions into madefor- iPhone hearing aids and more devices to track your health and wellness aspects."
Although the business is based in Worthington, a branch office has been in Windom for the past 16 to 17 years.
The business has been in its current location at 1011 4th Ave., for the past seven years. "We're here to help people all the way through it," Raymo says.
Originally, the business was set up to provide hearing aids to help people hear better. Today, the industry is much more and Raymo is living proof. He is not hearing impaired, but wears hearing aids, which allow him to answer his phone hands-free, talk to his smart echo device and track his steps throughout the day.
He also can translate 27 languages into English through his hearing device. That allows him to serve a more diverse population in Southwest Minnesota. Almost all of those features are connected to a smartphone app.
"Everything is right at the tip of your finger, off a smartphone, or you can tap sensors on the hearing aids," Raymo says.
"The other nice part about these - and it's a recent thing - is that we now have fall-detection built into our hearing aids," Raymo continues. "If I was to pass out at my desk, working here alone one evening, my wife would have an alert sent to her. My father is connected to my contacts as well, so they would be able to call and get me help.
"Very soon there are going to be heart-rate monitors as well. It's not just about hearing any more. Better hearing is a priority, but health and wellness is now part of it as well."
Cost and insurance
There is a price, of course, for those options. Raymo says hearing aids can run from as little as $750 per unit to as much as $4,000 per unit and can offer features, looks and styles to fit every lifestyle.
But before anyone dismisses the idea of hearing devices because of cost, Raymo notes that Southwest Hearing Technologies can help with insurance aspects, finding different state programs or programs through organizations to help fund the purchase.
"In 2019, we've never seen so many programs for people with hearing aids," Raymo says. "There are a lot of insurance coverages, or third-party coverages that people have no idea exist any more. Those are the things we really look into to try and help people, financially.
"The biggest thing we can do is sit down and have a consultation about what are your expectations as the consumer."
You, lifestyle and budget
Raymo says that his business is built on matching the devices to each individual's three very basic needs - you, your lifestyle and your budget.
"You is your hearing loss. What is it we're working with?" Raymo explains.
"Your lifestyle? Nobody knows that better than the individual we're working with. We have those conversations about what do you want to hear better, where do you want to hear better.
"But it's got to fit your budget. People really live according to budgets for a majority of the time. Hearing is a vital thing and if we can afford a little bit, we find how to make that work. If there are no limits, we try to find, does it make sense? You can buy all sorts of products, but if they don't work for you and your life, they're not worth anything to anybody."
Raymo says that when an individual sets up an appointment with him at one of the three locations, he will take the person through a questionnaire, trying to get to know them and learning what hearing difficulties, if any, the person has. He then takes the person through a hearing evaluation, which includes several different tests.
He also discusses options that might be available that, again, meet "you, your lifestyle and your budget."
Once Southwest Hearing Technologies has matched the person with the hearing devices he or she needs, several additional appointments will be set up to "fine-tune" the match.
"We have to put your personality into the hearing aids," Raymo says.
"They're not just something you put in one time and they're perfect. You've got to personalize the hearing aids to react to what the person wants. We work right along side you."
Raymo says that what's most popular with those seeking hearing devices is the technological advancements that have been made in hearing aids. Many are wanting the devices that connect to smartphones, echo devices and those that track health and wellness.
Raymo also points out that if technology is not something an individual embraces, they make very simple and automatic hearing devices. But even the technology in lower-end devices is greatly improved over what was available even just five years ago.
Protection and hands-free
Raymo also has been working with individuals with no hearing impairment. With the Minnesota Legislature passing a hands-free cellphone law that goes into effect in August, people may want Bluetooth devices that meet the law's standards.
Raymo can work with them. "We can go a more economical route for individuals by molding specific ear molds to their Bluetooths," Raymo explains. "It's as simple as going down to your local Verizon store, buying a Bluetooth device, bringing it to us and having us custom mold a piece for it.
"A majority of our patients are getting hearing aids with Bluetooth capability built into them, so they're set up and ready to go."
He's also worked on the preventative side of hearing. He's molded hearing protection for members of the Worthington trapshooting team and molded racing receivers for local stock car drivers, which allows drivers to communicate with flag men and members of their own pit crews.
"On the hearing protection side, we can do custom molds in your ears that look like a hearing aid, but they're circuitry is set up to shut down to protect your hearing once it hits a certain decibel level," Raymo explains, noting that the hearing protection cancels once the decibel level drops.
Raymo says the highest level hearing protection devices run about $1,200 a pair. On the other hand, custom-molded hearing protection can also be as little as $35 per unit. Available for education
Lastly, Raymo says that Southwest Hearing Technologies is available for customers' education. "Use us as a resource. Whether you do business with us or not, don't hesitate to ask those tough questions," Raymo says.
"If you see something in a magazine, or in an ad, or something that your kids gave you, don't hesitate to bring it to us. We'll gladly help you understand what the differences are and what's out there for you.
"If it's a financial resource that you're burdened with, reach out to us because there are a lot of programs out there. "It you truly want to hear better, we'll find a way to help you."
This is a paid advertisement part of our June 2019 Progress Edition