Wales Hearing Center has special hearing event Dec. 3-7

Forty-four years ago, Sgt. Gregory Wales was discharged from the United States Air Force and returned to Minnesota with his wife and three children.

The Alexandria office of Wales Hearing Center is located in downtown Alexandria. Contributed photo

The employment office in Alexandria required him to interview with potential employers before they would allow him to collect unemployment benefits. One of those potential employers was Minneapolis Acoustical Instrument Company, MAICO, a manufacturer of audiometers and hearing aids.  MAICO had been providing free hearing tests to Minnesota State Fair attendees since the 1950s and had a number of potential hearing aid wearers in Pope, Grant, Douglas, and Stevens counties they wanted Wales to follow-up with.  After a brief training from MAICO and completion of the International Hearing Society’s hearing aid course, he was calling on the leads provided by MAICO, evaluating hearing and fitting hearing aids.

“In those days, hearing aids were analog technology selected for users based on different specifications which were matched up to the user’s hearing loss,” said Wales. “A popular style was one which was constructed within the bow portion of the user’s eyeglasses.  Another, for more severe losses, looked like a small transistor radio, complete with wires that led to earphones in the ear.  The technology was limited, and the art and science of hearing aid fitting were limited also.”

Most notably, said Wales, the whistling noise that hearing aids often made with the analog technology could only be reduced by tightly fitting earpieces that restricted the output of the hearing aid’s sound in the ear. The result was often physically uncomfortable, he said.

“The tightly fitted earpieces also had the negative effect of denying the users of any residual good hearing they had and restricted them to only hearing sounds processed by the hearing aid,” he said. “Users often complained about the sound of their own voice.”

In recent years, the application of digital technology in hearing aid signal processing has been as revolutionary as it has been in cell phones and personal computers.

Gregory Wales gives an exam. Contributed photo

“Modern hearing aids have open technology which does not block off the ear canal and does not whistle,” said Wales. “They don’t replace the user’s natural hearing, they supplement it.

The limitations of analog technology have been eliminated, he said, and  have been replaced by a much more natural and comfortable sound.

“The sophisticated signal processors in the hearing aid’s microchip provide such superior results in a noisy environment, it’s not unusual for a normal hearing person to ask a hearing aid user, ‘What did they say?’ and the hearing aid user will tell them.  One hearing aid manufacturer today boasts ‘Our NX chip processes 500 million instructions per second for better speech processing and noise reduction.’”

Wales has stayed current with the upgrading of technology to program hearing aids and has been active in developing and improving the profession of hearing instrument dispensing.  He successfully lobbied for regulation and recognition of hearing instrument dispensers by the Department of Health in Minnesota.  And long before Minnesota law required a 30-day trial of hearing aids with the privilege to return for a refund, Wales had that as standard practice.

Wales was appointed by the governor to serve on the Hearing Instrument Dispenser Advisory Council at the Department of Health.  He served as the president of Minnesota Hearing Healthcare Providers for 10 years and currently serves as their director at large.

John Christopherson has joined the Wales team and is currently receiving training. Contributed photo

Gregory Wales started Wales Hearing Center nearly 45 years ago and has been a driving force in its growth and development since it first opened its doors in Alexandria. Wales Hearing Center is a family business with three generations and four locations (Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Long Prairie and Morris). John Christopherson, of Alexandria, is currently receiving training to work with Wales Hearing Centers.

The first week of December, Wales Hearing Centers is inviting people with hearing difficulties to schedule a hearing evaluation at one of their four offices.

“From Dec. 3-7, we will introduce people to EVOKE, the most advanced hearing solution available,” said Wales. “Plus, we will meet with you for a complimentary, one-on-one consultation to discover why you may be experiencing difficulties with your hearing.”

Some of the common effects of hearing loss, said Wales, includes hearing but not understanding certain words, difficulty understanding conversation in noisy environments, such as parties and restaurants, frequently asking people to repeat themselves, and having to turn the TV up louder in order to hear it.

“In addition, we will take the time to review both your medical and hearing history, which may reveal common problems, including damage to the eardrum, fluid accumulation in the middle ear and other conditions that may make it difficult to hear clearly.”

Also part of the five-day event will be a free, live demonstration of Widex EVOKE.

“Hear for yourself how the advances in hearing technology can drastically improve your quality of life,” said Wales.

Micah Wales manages the Fergus Falls office. Contributed photo

There is no charge for these services, but Wales encourages people interested to call to reserve a spot today as appointments will be limited.

“In the spirit of the season, Wales Hearing Centers would like express a big thank you to all who have placed there hearing into our care and wish all a blessed holiday season!” said Wales.

The Wales Hearing Center in Alexandria is located at 1501 Broadway Street. The Fergus Falls office is located at 1304 West Lincoln Ave., Suite A. The Long Prairie office is located at 127 Central Avenue and the Morris office is located at 10 East 6th Street. The phone number for all locations is 320-219-2415.

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