Audiology Concepts is located in RC Hospital and is now accepting patients
Rebecca Thiesse, Au.D, grew up in Olivia and graduated from BOLD High School in Olivia. This summer, she moved back to her hometown. In July, she opened up a new audiology office in Olivia called Audiology Concepts, and she is now accepting patients.
“Coming back to live in Olivia is something that I always said I never wanted to do, and now that I’m here, I’m really excited to be here,” she said. “It is funny how that works.”
Thiesse said she has gotten a good response from the community since word got out that she is coming back to open the new office.
“The area has not had an audiology office in the past,” she said. “People have to either drive to Willmar, drive to Redwood Falls, or Hutchinson or Marshall. And we are able to provide a more intimate facility for hearing healthcare than some larger facilities are able to do.”
“Our new office is located right at RC Hospital in Olivia,” said Thiesse. “There is a great mutual relationship between us and the hospital. It gives the physicians someone to refer to, and it also gives me someone to refer to right in the same building.
Thiesse’s road to becoming a Doctor of Audiology wasn’t a straight one. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris, in 2007 with an English degree and spent a semester teaching at a college in Italy. She then came back to the U.S. and started working on her master’s degree in journalism, that included a newspaper internship at a newspaper in Iowa. It was around this time in her life that she decided to take a completely different path.
“I took a few electives in the speech/language/hearing department because they sounded interesting,” she said. “After those classes, I decided I wanted to take more classes, so I did.”
Thiesse kept taking classes and eventually went to the University of Massachusetts and earned her doctorate in Audiology. She graduated in May. Thiesse did her externship (like a residency) with Dr. Paula Schwartz at Audiology Concepts in Edina. They also have a location in Burnsville.
“Dr. Schwartz and her husband have run their own private practice for over a decade,” she said. “And they have been in business for 25 years.”
At the end of the externship, Dr. Schwartz offered Thiesse a job with the premise that she would open a new location outside the Twin Cities. After looking at several communities, they agreed that a good spot would be Olivia, Rebecca’s home town.
Audiology Concepts provides hearing services and products and offers specialities in tinnitus, pediatric audiology (Burnsville location), auditory processing disorders; hunters protection custom products and musician monitors. As an independent audiology practice, they are able to offer hearing aids from a variety of top manufacturers, including Oticon, ReSound, Unitron, Widex, Phonak, Starkey, Lyric and more. Diagnostic services include comprehensive hearing evaluations, pediatric hearing tests and tinnitus assessments.
“Audiology Concepts has a really great patient-centered model. We make time for you as a patient. We don’t say, ‘sorry, we can’t get you in for several weeks,’” said Thiesse. “Dr. Schwartz had a great relationship with her primary care physicians and that is something that I would like to continue at the Olivia office.”
Part of that patient-centered model includes a custom-made hearing booth.
“We have a hearing booth that was built with the customer in mind. A typical hearing booth looks like you are sitting in a giant freezer. They are kind of scary looking,” she said. “The one built for us is much more comfortable and friendly for patients.”
Once tests are done on the patients to find out the cause and extent of the hearing loss, solutions are explored. It is getting the patients to come in for the tests that can oftentimes become difficult. Thiesse said there remains a stigma about hearing loss among seniors, and there really shouldn’t be. She says better technology has changed everything.
“Hearing aids don’t make you old. Not hearing and withdrawing from things can make you old,” she said. “Hearing keeps you active, keeps you engaged.”
And there are many people who believe that they just simply can not be helped.
“We have people who tell me that they had their ears checked 10 or 20 years ago that they just have to live with their hearing loss because there is nothing that can be done with it. They say they have a ‘dead ear’ and are stuck with it,” she said. “With the way technology is now, there are so many options to treat. You do not need to use big clunky hearing aids that make squealing sounds anymore. They are really small, and they don’t squeal like they did. They are almost invisible. Technology has really come a long way with hearing technology in general, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids.”
One area mentioned above is tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears.
“Some people aren’t really bothered by it, and others are very bothered by it,” she said. “It is often accompanied with hearing loss. Some people ask their ENT about it, and they are told that their is nothing that can be done medically or physically to help this condition. There are things you can do. We can’t cure it, but we can manage it.”
Thiesse enjoys many aspects of her profession, but the most rewarding part happens when a patient is able to leave the office with better hearing after suffering for years.
“It is a great feeling,” she said. “The best part is watching the patient interact with their family members that they haven’t been able to interact with for a while. You get them back to hearing and the family members just light up. It feels great to know that you have helped improve someone’s life.”
Thiesse said one thing that often happens to those with hearing loss is they start disengaging from interactions. She said is it common for seniors to stop going to have coffee with their friends because they can’t hear the conversations. Getting their hearing back often gives them the confidence to get back into those social circles.
What causes hearing loss? Lots of things, said Thiesse, including damage to the ear drum, structural damage inside the ear, malformations and more. The important part is that the cause of the hearing loss is detected and then methods of improving that hearing loss are implemented.
“There are so many causes of hearing loss,” she said. “While everyone might have similar symptoms of hearing loss, no hearing loss is the same. The good thing about today’s technology is it tries to personalize to what that person wants to hear and what that person needs to hear.”
The newest Audiology Concepts office is located at 611 East Fairview in Olivia. Office hours are Monday-Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. -12 p.m. For more information on Audiology Concepts, visit their website at www.audiologyconcepts.com. For an appointment at the Olivia office, call 320-523-1085 or email Dr.Thiesse@audiologyconcepts.com.