Tinnitus is a well-known but commonly misunderstood symptom of an
SPONSOR PROFILE: Melissa Baker: Pursuing A Vision for Helping Others Hear
Sioux Falls audiologist Melissa Baker and her husband, Tyler, founded their business, Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids, with the mission to devote the care and time needed to address the hearing concerns of patients. Melissa, a Custer, S.D. native, says, “I wanted to create a family dynamic with patients of all ages and stages that is established on trust and my South Dakota values.”
Melissa’s grandfather Jack Carr from White River, S.D. was a rancher and worked in Fort Pierre. “He was around a lot of machinery and loud cattle his whole life,” she shares. “He told me his first cattle roundup was when he was 4 years old and traveled from Valentine, Neb. to Omaha in 1928. He had a hearing loss, and we always talked about his hearing aids.” His hearing impairment inspired her passion to help people with hearing loss.
While attending the University of South Dakota, Melissa met her husband, Tyler. His grandfather Clayton Baker also had a severe hearing loss. “Tyler’s Grandpa Clayton served in World War II and started a sawmill logging business in Rockerville, S.D. (Baker Timber Products). Exposure to loud noises caused his hearing loss. “Between these two people in my life—my grandpa and Tyler’s grandpa, I knew I wanted to help people hear better,” says Melissa.
After graduating from USD in 2004, Melissa completed her clinical fellowship in Indianapolis, Ind. at a company called Prime Source Healthcare Systems Inc. There, she had the opportunity to travel to different hospitals, assisted living centers, and nursing homes. “I saw around 20 to 35 patients per day for seven years. I learned a lot about hearing, hearing aids, and people,” explains Melissa.
Tyler and Melissa returned to South Dakota in 2011 with their children. They knew Sioux Falls was a great city to raise a family. Melissa worked in a private practice for two years then was recruited by an ENT business, where she worked for nearly five years before officially opening her own business last year. “I knew that only I could carry out my vision to provide service the way I believe people deserve to be served and treated. I love being personal with my patients, helping them with their individual needs, and truly caring for them the way they deserve.”
In addition to hearing assessments, hearing aids, and hearing aid repairs and services, Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids offers:
- Earwax Removal
- Customized Earmolds and Earplugs
- Musician’s Earplugs and Monitors
- Customized Bluetooth devices or custom wired devices
- Hearing Care for Infants and Children
- Tinnitus Evaluation, Treatment, and Management
- The Latest Hearing Instrument Technology
- Custom Fit Hearing Protection
- Diagnostic Testing for Middle Ear Disorders
- Hearing and Listening Counseling
- Hunter Ear Protection and customized ear protection
- Aural Rehabilitation
- Amplified Listening Devices
- Pediatric Hearing Service
- OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) Hearing Testing
- Acoustic Reflex Testing
- Repair Hearing Aid Lab
- VA Services Working with LHI and VES
- Hearing Aid Batteries and Other Ear and Hearing Aid Supplies
Melissa says the hearing aid industry is continually releasing new technology and advancements to help people hear better. “I think of my grandpa’s hearing aids decades ago. Even now, it changes so fast—especially when I look at hearing aids three years ago and how much they have changed! Now, hearing aids are rechargeable, Bluetooth compatible, can stream phone call conversations through the cell phone and even be remotely adjusted from anywhere in the world! It’s pretty amazing, really!”
The technical advancements can be especially helpful for people who live in rural areas. Melissa explains, “The latest technology is important for people that live far away. As we all know, the weather in the Midwest can get bad, and the drive may be an inconvenience. Today’s hearing aid technology allows me to remotely adjust hearing aids, so patients remain in the comfort of their own homes. Other hearing aids give the patient the capability to make the adjustments as well.”
Because of the nature of farmers’ and ranchers’ work as well as construction workers, they are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Melissa explains that being able to hear properly is vital for their safety—from being able to hear the important equipment alarms, normal operation of heavy equipment, as well as in their lives.
Melissa shares a true story about a patient of hers. “He had called his doctor who informed him to take a larger dose of medicine. Luckily, he told his wife, a retired nurse. She thought that sounded off and called the doctor’s office. Sure enough, he heard the information incorrectly. He almost tripled the dose of his medicine.”
Without proper hearing protection, the loud sounds some people are frequently exposed to while operating heavy equipment, power tools, ATVs, etc., can cause permanent damage to their hearing. Additionally, they are also at risk for developing tinnitus, or a ringing-in-the-ears sensation. Some people hear a “buzz” or a “humming” or other sounds. Tinnitus can be present with or without hearing loss, and while not life-threatening, can seriously deteriorate the quality of life for an individual.
Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids includes four employees who work alongside Dr. Melissa Baker. Her husband, Tyler, is Co-owner and Office Manager. Renae Luitjens, hearing instruments specialist and Stephanie Ochowicz, business manager play key roles in providing highest quality of patient care. Melissa jokes that her mother, a retired teacher, is also part of the team and often “substitutes” for an employee, if needed.
Melissa visits three nursing homes once each month, and Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids is involved in Feeding South Dakota and a member of the Sioux Falls Noon Sertoma Club. “Sertoma Club is a service organization that helps people with hearing loss.”
If you’re concerned you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, you are not alone. Because hearing loss can come on gradually, it’s often the people around you who notice your hearing problems before you do. Typically, it takes people an average of seven years to seek treatment.
If you exhibit the following symptoms, consider visiting Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids sooner than later for the health benefits of your brain:
- You hear mumbling when people are speaking to you
- You have to ask people to repeat what they said
- You laugh at jokes even though you may not have heard the details
- You frequently complain that people mumble
- You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended
- You play the TV or radio louder than your friends, spouse or relatives
- You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone
- You find that looking at people when they speak to you makes it easier to understand
- You miss environmental sounds, such as birds chirping or leaves blowing
- You find yourself avoiding certain restaurants because they are too noisy
- You hear a ringing sound in your ears, especially when it is quiet.
If you’re not experiencing hearing loss, finding the right ear protection is still vital for everyone— to not only perform their jobs but also to prevent hearing loss. If you need additional information or assistance in purchasing earplugs, consider visiting Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids. They can evaluate your hearing concerns and ensure you find the right product for your specific need.
Melissa Baker M.A., CCC-A, FAAA, Clinical Audiologist
Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids
429 W 69th St, Sioux Falls, SD 57108 (Waterfall Plaza next to Tinner’s Restaurant on 69th St/ Minnesota Ave.)
Melissa Baker and her husband, Tyler, and their three children: Ryan (12), Sean (9), and Sydney (4) reside in Sioux Falls. Her parents, Kay and Bruce McKee, and her sister, Kristin and her husband, Ryan, also live in Sioux Falls with their children. Tyler’s parents live in Rockerville, S.D.