Hearing Matters Podcast

MENTORSHIP and Training IMPACT Hearing Outcomes feat. Mindy Staller, Au.D.

April 11, 2023 Hearing Matters
Hearing Matters Podcast
MENTORSHIP and Training IMPACT Hearing Outcomes feat. Mindy Staller, Au.D.
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Show Notes Transcript

About Dr. Mindy Staller

I first met Mindy at my family's private practice in 2012-2013. The first conversation I ever had with Mindy was about career planning, the importance of your "why," and the different settings that make up the hearing healthcare industry (manufacturing, private practice, education, etc.). Years later, Mindy and I still stay in touch. The first conversation I had with her made a lasting impression and positively influenced my own career in hearing healthcare.

Mindy is a hearing aid user and has worn many hats in the hearing healthcare industry. However, she has a passion for training apprentice hearing aid fitters. She reports how much she loves to see the progress they make in 6-12 months time. Proper training, especially in the hearing healthcare industry, impacts patient outcomes! Mindy cannot stress enough the importance of best practices.  

Increased Awareness of Hearing Healthcare

During our conversation, Mindy mentions how excited she is for the current state of the industry, but also for the future of the hearing healthcare industry. Being a hearing aid user herself, she has experienced the evolution of hearing technology (Analog to Digital Technology). We dive into how there is so much more awareness of hearing healthcare than ever before. However, we have a lot more work to do. While we are scratching the surface and our patients are more open to talking about their hearing loss, we have an opportunity to continue to decrease the stigma associated with hearing loss. 

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Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (00:06):

You're tuned into the Hearing Matters podcast, the show that discusses hearing technology, best practices, and a growing national epidemic: Hearing Loss. Before we kick this episode off, a special thank you to our partners. Sycle - built for the entire hearing care practice. Weave - the all-in-one patient communication and engagement platform. Redux - Faster. Drier. Smarter. Verified. Fader Plugs - the world's first custom adjustable earplug. Welcome back to another Hearing Matters podcast episode. And I have to tell you, this is an episode that I have been looking forward to for a few weeks now. We have dear friend and colleague, Dr. Mindy Staller. Mindy, welcome to the Hearing Matters podcast.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (01:00):

Hi, Blaise. Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm so excited to be here.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (01:04):

I have to say, and I say this almost every time that we see each other in person. I love your energy. I love your passion. And if there's anyone to come onto the show to talk about troubleshooting and hearing technology and life with hearing technology, it is absolutely you, Mindy. So, it's really an honor to have you on the show.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (01:25):

Aw, thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (01:27):

Absolutely. I cannot believe we've known each other for as long as we have, and it literally does seem like yesterday I met you at the family's Bethlehem location. You gave me incredible career advice, and it is because of mentors, colleagues, and friends like you that I truly believe I'm on the path that I'm on. So, thank you, Mindy. Really appreciate that. And you are a Doctor of Aud -iology and a bilateral hearing aid user. First of all, what inspired you to become an audiologist?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (02:03):

I really wish that there was a very exciting and sexy story behind this, but not really. I actually found out I was hearing impaired, I think it was my junior year of high school, maybe sophomore, and went on the path to be a physical therapist when I went to college. And in the college - where I went to school, speech and hearing was under the same, so it was under health and human development. So, when I decided to go for physical therapy, they made you take electives. So, I figured there was a speech and hearing elective might as well take something that was relevant. I signed up for the class and within two weeks being in that class, I switched my major. It was, I, I absolutely knew that it was something I connected with and that I needed to be involved with. So, nothing super exciting there, but that's how I got into it.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (02:53):

Mindy, when were you diagnosed with hearing loss and fit with hearing aids? I'd love to gain a deeper understanding of your hearing story and how you got started on this hearing journey.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (03:05):

Absolutely. So, as I said, I was diagnosed at 16. It was either sophomore or junior year. Again, uh, I wish there was a time, an exciting story. I took, um, I did a hearing screening that the school offered every year for students and in a nurse's room with 30 of my closest friends, I failed my hearing screening. So, they proceeded to test me again. A few weeks later, I failed the screening again. They made me do it a third time again, I failed and they sent me to an ENT who diagnosed me with, um, a very mild low frequency hearing loss.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (03:42):

Being 16, being diagnosed with hearing loss. That's a lot to handle when you're in high school. How did you go about accepting that you did have a hearing loss?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (03:54):

I, I think I'm a little bit of an anomaly in the sense that, um, I just ran with it and I accepted it. Uh, it was not something that I felt captured by. I felt like it was just another part of me. And I also think because of that point, my hearing has changed drastically since then. But at the time I feel like it was so mild. So, even though I was diagnosed, I feel like it wasn't necessarily impacting my life as much as, as much as, as someone would've thought. So, I literally was fit within six months of finding out I was hearing impaired.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (04:34):

And then being fit. So, being fit, 16, when you were fit with the hearing technology at that point in time, what was your experience like with the technology? Because years now it's like light years ahead in terms of technological advancements, but what was your initial reaction to being fit with hearing technology and what did you like most about the hearing aids? What did you like least? It's interesting to know the, the evolution of having worn older hearing technology to the new age hearing aids today.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (05:08):

So, I think you're trying to age me on here because when I tell this, you're gonna know where I fit in here. So, when I was fit, the rationale on fitting someone was one aid and then if, and then a second aid at a later date. So as I said monaurally and then binaurally - at that time, custom analog, ITEs contain your enthusiasm there, <laugh>, that's what was available.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (05:35):

So, which ear did they fit you with first then Mindy, and what was that like? I mean when we talk about binaural summation and the head shadow effect, were you experiencing any of that when you were just fit with one hearing aid at first?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (05:49):

That's a really great question. I believe it was my dominant ear, uh, in the sense that I'm right-handed. So, because my hearing loss is completely symmetrical, they fit my right ear first. And then six months later, my last year I uh, I don't remember feeling off kilter or um, an issue, but it was very long ago and I've been wearing hearing aids for so long that it's just now more normal for me to be wearing hearing aids than not. So, I don't know that I can tell you exactly what the experience was like back then.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (06:21):

And Mindy, if there is anyone who absolutely loves their hearing technology, it is absolutely you. Every time you've come to the office, you just rave about the advancements in technology. And I'll never forget the last time, one of the last times that we saw each other at the office, we actually put your hearing aids in the Redux and following you were like, "wow, they sound so much clearer." So, that was cool to see um, someone who's been wearing hearing technology, uh, for more than 15, 20 years, to then experience...that was really cool. Now, when we talk about the evolution of hearing aids and thank you so much for sharing with us when you were fit with the technology and that the rationale was "let's fit you with one hearing aid first and then the second at a later date," was there a specific technology or year when you upgraded your hearing aids and thought to yourself, "wow, these hearing aids sound amazing. The advancements in hearing technology are insane," for lack of a better term, share that experience with us.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (07:31):

So, going all the way back to the beginning, I think that there are actually two points in my hearing journey that I will say stand out to me. Um, with that in mind. The first would probably be, I'm just going to say early nineties and leave that right there. Um, as I stated, originally I was fit with analog ITEs. There was this amazing, uh, evolution called the um, audio zoom where they were analog programmable hearing aids, but they had a remote control that can activate multiple microphones. This is very high tech back then. And when I went to college, I actually was fit with those for the first time outside of just my traditional, um, analog ITEs. So, having those microphones work changed the way I was able to function in school. Fast forward, I wanna say around 2011 maybe? The introduction for me personally of Bluetooth technology within my hearing aids changed the way that I communicate 100% and it continues to evolve as technology has gotten better

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (08:45):

To, to hear, especially in the nineties when we talk about the ability to have the directionality. It's sort of like the adaptive directionality today, right Mindy, that pretty much all of the manufacturers have in their hearing aids - the ability for the hearing aids to scan and then essentially put a beam form where the speech source is coming from. You experienced that version 1.0 to now, it's like light years ahead. So, you wore analog hearing technology and you now wear digital hearing technology. Did you prefer the sound quality of analog versus digital? Because some patients I've worked with have said, "I really miss the way that digital, or I'm sorry, that analog hearing aids sounded like." Which sound do you prefer or do you think there's not much of a difference? I'm curious to know.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (09:38):

That's a really good question. So, my hearing loss has progressed from when I was first diagnosed. So, the rationale fitting me with a very mild low frequency loss of 16, I now have a severe flat hearing loss. So, I feel as if as I've evolved with my hearing loss, technology has changed with me. So, I'm not the same hearing individual that I was when I was first fit. So, that's a little bit difficult for me to answer, but I will say that being fit so early, having my loss progress, I'm definitely a power junkie. Um, we've talked about that and my hearing aids are set more linear. So, I'm going to answer you by saying I think, I love the features in the hearing aids of as far as noise reduction, capability of microphones for adaptive directionality, but I love more linear sound, so more along analog. But I love the features in the digital hearing aids.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (10:42):

Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And when, when I think back to working full-time with patients, Mindy, that was usually the response from the majority of the patients that have had experience with analog technology. They like more of a a linear sound cuz it's sort of parallel to the analog, and then again, now having the benefits of the digital hearing technology, it's absolutely incredible. You are not only a hearing aid user and you not only work in the hearing healthcare industry, you also have a passion for training. And I've seen this firsthand, I've experienced this firsthand. You're so well respected in our industry and I, I truly do believe it's because you are absolutely a go giver and just all around amazing person. So, just a shameless plug there. And, you really do have a passion for teaching and training, and you're so good at teaching. And how important is that in today's day and age, especially as it relates to hearing healthcare. Share with us your experience as a trainer, what you like most about training and teaching, uh, because I believe you had eight years of training experience at one of the, the retailers I believe. So, kind of share that experience with us, what you love about teaching and training, and what the day-to-day looks like there and why training's so important in this industry. As we talked a little bit before hitting record today.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (12:14):

I have had um, a pretty wide experience with training. It hasn't all just been in a quote unquote "training realm." I've worn different hats in the industry. I'm extremely fortunate for that. And many of my different positions have allowed me to train in one way or another. So, you know that when I first met you, there was a training capacity to what I was doing. But as I evolved, one of my larger positions that circled around training was helping to train apprentices. And if I have to say which part of training is the...resonates the most, it's absolutely taking someone who may know very little or have little background, and getting them all the way to the point where not only from a theory perspective but a clinical perspective, are able to fully evolve into a practitioner. That was extremely rewarding.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (13:11):

So we, we talk about this a lot here on the Hearing Matters podcast is transfer of information and process of duplication. And you being so, so good at teaching and training, you've essentially duplicated yourself and your skills into those, Now hearing instrument specialists, do you think that's one of the reasons why it's so rewarding to know that the patients that this hearing care provider sees are going to experience best practices?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (13:42):

I think you just hit it when you said best practice. I'm a little bit of a stickler for best practice and I feel like being able to share that information and that knowledge, but not just what you should do but how to do it, and how patients respond best to it, and having people or trainees I should say, fully understand what you mean by that when they're not really in that position. That to me is probably the biggest takeaway from when I was training. So it, it really was not only helping them with the information but execute what they were doing day to day.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (14:22):

And Mindy, before we started this episode today, we were talking about Meghen Okken, who's also a part of the Hearing Matters podcast and she is a hearing care provider at Audiology Services in Nazareth and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And we were talking about, and I was just extending my gratitude on, you know, thank you for all you've done and continue to do it from a mentorship standpoint because when we talk about training and educating and why that's so important, well there are individuals just entering this industry and we wanna make sure that number one, the patient is safe and the patient is gonna be satisfied with their hearing technology. And one way to ensure that one of the many ways, I should say, to ensure that is making sure that the apprentice is receiving that standard of care, that first class mentorship. So, I wanna thank you for showing so much passion and excitement for Meghan and she so appreciates it as well because I know firsthand being new-er in the industry and you are a apprentice fitter, it can be a little nerve-wracking at times cuz this is something that's new. So, thank you so much. When we talk about advancements, Mindy, and you've been in the hearing healthcare industry and you've worn many different and incredible hats in the industry, what excites you the most about the future of hearing healthcare?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (15:55):

I would have to say there's a few things that excite me the most. Uh, I am, I am exceptionally excited to know that there is so much more education around hearing healthcare, hearing loss, um, minimal hearing loss. The information is so readily available and people are becoming more accepting. And to me that is unbelievably exciting because I can only see how much better it's going to be if we were able to fast forward and see what it's gonna be be like five to 10 years from now. Just increased awareness and education excites me. And then I think if I had to pinpoint a few others, obviously the advancements in technology, we just touched upon that. Obviously I started off with analog ITEs, we've come a long way, um, and we're only going to get better. So, obviously hearing aids at this point never bring your hearing quote unquote back to normal.


But as somebody who's been wearing hearing aids, I know the benefits and I can only imagine how much better it's going to be, um, with all of the R&D going into technology at this time. So, that's super exciting to me. And then I think just more access. I think people are more open. There's more access to individuals receiving hearing healthcare. So, I think the education and the awareness together along with access to me, that's super exciting. Cause there are so many individuals out there that are not where help is either not available to them at this point or they are not reaching out for the help that they may need. So, my hope and what makes me excited is how much better that that is going to be moving foward.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (17:48):

Mindy, I love it and, and I I can feel the passion coming through your voice right there. And, and it's so true and so important when you talk about education. I think back to the year mm, 2006 really when a lot of the TPAs started coming out and you know, websites back then were like becoming really sleek and more digital marketing was happening. I think there's more education now than there was even in 2006. And what do I mean by that? I mean that there's so many key opinion leaders, key thought leaders now that are utilizing their social platforms to release the correct information as it relates to hearing healthcare. What would you say your experience, and let's even, let's go back to 2006, 2006 to today. Do you think there is a lot more education and more accurate information maybe online than there was in, in oh six?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (18:57):

I think the only way to answer that is absolutely, and I think you touched on it when you said social media presence, so not o- again, being that it is not viewed as much of a stigma now, people are more open to discussing it, they're more open to sharing information about it, they're more open to sharing with each other about their experiences. So, education is happening on so many levels, but obviously with social media being as fast as it is right now, practices, sharing information, uh, whether it be Insta or Facebook or companies on LinkedIn, I can't go to LinkedIn on any day right now and not see something from one of the major manufacturers, uh, about their product and not even really about their product, but more bringing awareness, um, on some level about hearing loss. So, I truly believe that there are so many reasons why education, um, has or presence has accelerated, um, even in doctor's offices. I feel like back when you said in 2006, I would go in and there wouldn't be any posters or informational pieces. I think now I, I go into multiple offices where, uh, regular physician offices where there's multitude of information available. It's now being viewed as something that everyone should be paying attention to.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (20:30):

I agree. 110%. And you know what Mindy, what I love so much about today's day and age in hearing healthcare is there is so much information out there to assist consumers in making an educated decision. Because 20 years ago, obviously, you know, you had hearing healthcare providers who were thought leaders in the industry, but they didn't have any competing social media presence to compete with them in and of itself. And the reason I bring this up is because I remember being in private practice full-time, the majority of the patients coming in have most likely gone to Google, typed in hearing aids are going to ask you about X, Y, and Z manufacturer. And I think that, that is such an awesome conversation to have because number one, you're talking to a patient who you know is already motivated to do something about their hearing loss because they wouldn't have researched about it otherwise.


And they're genuinely curious. And I love the fact that so many hearing care providers today are not playing defense with that. They're more or less playing offense and saying, you know what? This is a team-based approach here. We're gonna work together, of course I'm gonna make a strong recommendation to ensure that you are fit with technology that fits your type and degree of hearing loss and lifestyle. But what are you looking to accomplish? And, and praising them and thanking them for doing their research and due diligence. Cuz there wasn't much of that 15, 20 years ago, which I'm, I'm so excited that we have more access not only to the technology but information as well.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (22:10):

I agree and I love what you just said about the provider making the strong recommendation. Consumers are going to come in and I agree with you having that background of doing your Google search or your informational search, that's wonderful, but they are still looking to the providers to be the expert. And if the providers truly show their expertise, and even if somebody comes in and says, "I would like ABC brands," but that's maybe not the brand that the provider works closely with, they have a trust factor with, they have a good rapport with and a good track record, it's okay to let that patient know that I, your expert provider believe this is the right product for these reasons and this is the avenue we're gonna take based on your needs and what you've given me. There's such an opportunity to take the information they find because they've already done half the work for you

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (23:08):

"A" plus. This is why you are such a thought leader <laugh> in our industry. And you know, cuz I I think that you also have to, when we touch upon that patients will more or less wait seven to 10 years to actually address their hearing loss. Making it the best experience possible for these patients is so important. And I know that's what you talk about with, uh, apprentices that -"Listen, you- this needs to be the best hour, hour and 15 that your patient has all day because they've seen you, they've spoken to you, and they're going to do something about hearing loss."

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (23:46):

You only get a first impression once. And if you finally have somebody in your office, like you just said, has waited seven to 10 years, you, it, it should be our responsibility as providers to maximize that experience and really help that patient begin their journey if this is their first step

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (24:05):

Being in the field, you've obviously helped and continued to help with fittings and, and things of that nature, but what would you say is your favorite appointment? Is it the first appointment, first fitting? What is your favorite appointment and why?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (24:21):

Oh, that's a good one. Um, I would say as an audiologist, there are some schools of thought that getting the patient to embark on their journey and move forward with amplification is the best feeling. I believe that the real journey begins at that first fitting because a lot of people made up their mind even before they actually decided to move forward. But truly making their first real experience with, with hearing aids a good experience, being confident in your programming skills, make sure that you counsel correctly, um, and making sure that that patient is truly set up for success, to me is the most meaningful appointment that you are gonna have with your patients.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (25:09):

I'd have to say that that is probably my favorite appointment as well because they really are embarking on this new journey. They're providing their brain now with so much more support. And it's usually, you know, I'd always have to bring my Kleenex to those appointments. Mindy, we have students who tune in to the Hearing Matters podcast and when we talk about providing information and educating the community, we're so grateful to be doing this on a global scale and so grateful to have you partnering with us and joining us on this episode. To any undergrad collegiate students who have interest in becoming a hearing healthcare provider, what advice would you give them?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (25:54):

I think it's almost simple in the sense that I think they should find a mentor, um, even if it's someone to speak to that might be in the field. I, I know a ton of colleagues that are more than willing to have an open conversation with someone to help mentor them, guide them, help them - if you have the opportunity to shadow, to see if this is really something when you're in it that you really wanna do. I think that would be extremely beneficial. Um, I also would say to any undergrad that is thinking about going for their AuD at the moment, to know that there are many different roads to take in this field. I think most people just think of fitting and testing, um, as the only, uh, avenue and there is so much available, um, in the field of audiology. And then I think honestly first, first and foremost, find your passion and know your why. And I think those things will lead you to, if this is something that you feel in your bellies, that it's just a calling. I, I feel like for those individuals, it's such a gratifying experience of helping others to better their lives. So, I would say find what your passion is, know why you're doing this, and then connect with whatever avenue that takes you on.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (27:15):

I love that, Mindy. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and uh, I know if there's any students who are interested in learning more about the hearing healthcare industry, you know, would love to have the opportunity to connect them with you. I know, just, I know how passionate you are and super grateful for all that you do for the hearing healthcare industry, Mindy. And grateful for our friendship, and really thank you so much for joining us on the Hearing Matters podcast today. Before we sign off, do you have any last words hearing healthcare related?

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (27:47):

I, I think as we stated, I'm just super excited for where this is going, wh- where the field is going, where audiology is going, where the industry is going. I think there is so much ahead of us. I feel that there's been some turmoil in the industry recently, but I truly believe the industry as a whole only has a very bright future.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (28:10):

I couldn't agree anymore with you, Mindy. You are always welcome on the Hearing Matters podcast and looking forward to connecting in person in the very near future.

Mindy Staller, Au.D.  (28:19):

Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate this opportunity.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (28:22):

You're tuned in to The Hearing Matters podcast. Today, we had Dr. Mindy Staller talk all things, hearing aids and hearing healthcare. And until next time, Hear Life's Story.