For me, hearing healthcare is more than a business. . .
On a summer day the year I had turned 25, I was tasked with helping a local Hearing Aid specialist set up an RV testing station at the rural mall where I managed maintenance. His name was Charlie Gillam. Charlie was a traveling salesman and regular at the mall, each month setting up his RV and testing patients all day before packing up and heading to his next destination. He and I would make small talk as we connected the electrical wires and got his sound booth working, but that day in 1975 was different. That was the day Charlie would ask me about my own hearing loss.
The warm sun beat down on our backs as we worked and I told Charlie my story. College had been difficult for me, but not because I wasn’t smart (though I didn’t realize it then). I dropped out after my first abysmal semester. I had difficulty hearing the teachers. My hearing aid (I just wore one) was clunky and noticeable. It did not fit in with the sexy and swanky demeanor I wanted to project as a college man.
I didn’t tell Charlie this, but when I first dropped out of college, I was convinced I was a failure. Deeming myself not smart enough for “book learning,” I had jumped on the chance to work at the mall. Because I was good with people, it wasn’t long till I was promoted to manager. It was an okay living, though I had just met the woman I wanted to marry and was worried about being able to provide for her.
Because of my experience with school, I lacked confidence in myself. I had been successful at the mall, but wasn’t sure I was cut out for much else.
Once we finished getting his vehicle set up, Charlie jumped into the back and said, “Bary, we’re going to test your hearing.”
Charlie fitted me for two hearing aids and offered me a job. I didn’t know it then, but he had changed my life dramatically. Not only did he help my hearing, which skyrocketed my confidence, he set me on a new path that I continue to follow to this day. Witnessing the positive changes in the lives of my first few patients made me realize there is nothing else I would rather do in this world. I want to help people. I want to make a difference.
Letting go of my preconceived notions about my abilities, I went back to school and finished my undergrad and set my sites on grad school.
Not long after graduation, Nina got pregnant with our first child. She had a child from a previous marriage and having children of our own wasn’t in the original plan. I spent years in school, taking a class or two a semester, but eventually finished my master’s in my 30s and my doctorate in my 40s.
It’s been a long road, but it’s been so worth it. Hearing is a passion of mine. If you’ve been considering getting your hearing checked, believe me when I say, it can change your life overnight.