There are many businesses in Sunny
Tsawwassen that are so friendly that you'd think it's run by a "mom
and pop" family. In the case of the Tsawwassen Hearing Centre,
located just off 12
th Avenue on the south side of 56th
Street, it really is a family-run business.
Following in the footsteps of his father who runs a clinic in Abbotsford, Mark Nickel opened the business along with his wife Shawna in 2013, and together they operate as a husband and wife team that has come to be seen as one of the best hearing clinics in Delta. Backing up that claim, the business has taken home three awards in five years through the Delta Optimist Reader's Choice Awards.
"It's such a loyal community and very small business focused," says Shawna, talking about choosing Sunny Tsawwassen to open a business. "We looked at different communities to see if the need was underserved but Tsawwassen was top on the list."
It probably helps that Shawna grew up here, knowing the community well and understanding the potential of the business in an area with many seniors.
While his wife is the friendly face of the Tsawwassen Hearing Centre, greeting returning customers and finding ways to reach out to new ones, Mark handles the technical details of helping people restore their hearing.
As a hearing instrument practitioner, Mark was trained by the College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of British Columbia. He says typically there is a gap of seven years between the time when hearing loss occurs and a patient will seek help.
That's partly because hearing loss can be so gradual that we don't notice, but also because people are naturally resistant to accepting something is wrong with our bodies. However, Mark says that's just a natural part of getting older.
"Just like your vision, things go as we age. Our bodies start to break down. The ear is a delicate organ."
Inside our ear is an organ called the cochlea, which has millions of tiny hairs that vibrate with sound waves to produce noises which our brains interpret. As people get older, those hairs recede and disappear, just as they do on our heads.
"If a person with hearing loss addresses it now, as opposed to in seven years, it's a much smoother transition," says Mark. "The adaptation period is shorter."
Once they've been fitted for a hearing aid—which these days are tiny and nearly invisible—Mark says his clients are amazed at what they realize they were missing out on.
Some people report being able to suddenly hear things like birds chirping or other animal noises in the forest. But the biggest improvement is being able to hear family members.
"Their grandchildren will run up to whisper something in their ears and if they can hear it then they're not missing those precious moments."
Technology is improving rapidly in hearing aids so that many of them can be calibrated to make hearing a gradual return, rather than submit people to a sudden cacophony of noise they aren't used to.
"Then, every couple of years they can check their hearing aid and get it adjusted if their hearing changes," explains Mark. "It's the same way your glasses prescription changes."