Connecting with loved ones from near and far and exchanging conversations with children, grandchildren, and other special family and friends brings warmth and joy to the holiday season.
However, for those straining to hear or feeling frustrated during social gatherings due to hearing loss, they are missing out on some of life’s precious moments. The hearing care professionals at Maze Hearing want to help improve the quality of life for those individuals at their close-to-home offices.
Audiologist Dr. Heather Maze-Smith opened the privately-owned practice in 2010, first with a location in Marysville that year, and then adding the Bellefontaine facility in the fall of 2010. The Bellefontaine office was first located at the Hilliker YMCA, then at a space in the downtown area, and in early 2020, moved to its current location at 250 Kent Drive. An Urbana office also opened in the summer of 2018.
Maze Hearing offers high-quality, personalized care with a medical approach to hearing loss. Patients can expect to be guided by the supportive and experienced staff on the road to better hearing, and to be fitted with the latest technology specifically suited to their lifestyle.
“Hearing loss and treatment is a journey and we are here for our patients every step of the way,” said Dr. Maze-Smith, who received her master’s degree from Ohio University and her Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida. She has more than 30 years of experience in treating hearing loss and evaluating those suffering with dizziness and tinnitus.
“We offer an individualized approach, starting with checking each patient’s insurance plan for possible hearing aid benefits.”
“This is such a rewarding field to be in,” said Director of Business Operations Mandy Oppy, who also has a longtime background in nursing. “The stories that we hear from our patients and the almost instant improvements that they experience makes it an amazing form of health care to be a part of.”
Recently with over-the-counter hearing aids on the market, such as amplifiers and other devices to enhance sound, Dr. Maze-Smith and Oppy noted the questions and confusion that these devices bring to patients. They said there are many misconceptions regarding who these devices are appropriate for and their effectiveness if individuals are not being properly evaluated.
“Maze Hearing very much believes in the medical model in diagnosing. Treating hearing loss should be performed by a medical professional,” said Dr. Maze-Smith, noting that there are various types of hearing loss. Sometimes, there is also a medical issue behind the hearing loss that needs to be examined.
“There is not a one-size, fits all approach to hearing loss, so that’s why it’s so crucial that people receive a check-up with a professional,” Oppy said.
Some of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss include: Asking people to repeat themselves often; difficulty following conversations that involve more than two people; thinking that others are mumbling or speaking quietly; difficulty hearing speech in noisy situations; people commenting about how loud your TV or radio is; stress from straining to hear what others are saying; withdrawing from enjoyable social situations more often; family history of hearing loss; taking medications that can harm the hearing system; diabetes, heart, circulation, or thyroid problems; and history of exposure to loud sounds at work or leisure.
The Maze Hearing professionals noted that oftentimes, it’s an individual’s loved one who makes the appointment for them, with the goal of wanting to improve communication and quality of life for the person who is struggling to hear.
The hearing aid technology that is currently available is revolutionary in its flexibility, ease of use and in the variety of styles available to meet lifestyle preferences and individual needs. Dr. Maze-Smith said while patients sometimes fear a stigma from others relating to wearing a hearing aid or may have to overcome a self-stigma, there is so much to gain from the devices, which today are small and inconspicuous.
The audiologist and Maze Hearing owner wears a hearing aid herself, after being diagnosed with asymmetrical hearing loss about 2 ½ years ago, she related.
After being fitted for a hearing aid, patients can expect to receive follow-up care the next week, and then in one month and following up in another three to six months to ensure their success.
In addition to the quality of life improvements afforded by the treatment of hearing loss, Dr. Maze-Smith also noted the numerous health benefits for patients, including the relationship between hearing loss and dementia.
“It is one of the health factors that can you modify to greatly reduce your risk of dementia,” she said.
“There is strong evidence that hearing loss accelerates brain-tissue atrophy, particularly in areas of the brain that auditory nerves would stimulate, but can’t because they aren’t receiving a signal due to a hearing loss. These areas of the brain are also related to memory and speech.”
In addition, individuals with a mild hearing loss are three times as likely to fall down as those without, and the likelihood of falls increases as degree of hearing loss increases. Hearing loss has also been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sickle-cell anemia, and other circulatory conditions.
Also at Maze Hearing, patients suffering from tinnitus can receive expert care and assistance with managing the condition.
“We would want to make sure the tinnitus is not medically-related,” Dr. Maze-Smith said. “We can use maskers for our treatment, and we also have observed that patients find it a relief just to learn they can receive help for the ringing in their ears.”
Individuals experiencing dizziness and balance issues also can be treated by the professionals at Maze Hearing. Earwax management and custom hearing protection are other services available.
The practice is invested in the community and its residents. Dr. Maze-Smith has lived in the Logan County area for a number of years, where she raised her family and previously worked as an audiologist at Mary Rutan Hopsital before starting her private practice.
“We are committed to our community and in providing the latest in expert care,” the audiologist and owner said. “Our staff recently attended a training seminar in Anaheim, Calif., as a way to stay on top of the best practices and best technology in the industry.”
To contact the Bellefontaine office for an appointment or more information, call 937-595-0366 or visit www.mazehearing.com.