New audiologist sets up practice in Island communities

Audiologist Sam Bruser has set up an office in Little Current on Water Street. The Pheonix Audiology owner stresses that his is not a retail operation, but seeks to find the best solution for its clients. photo by Michael Erskine

MANITOULIN – There are few more isolating things to face in life than the loss of the ability to hear. Hearing loss can have a profound impact on an individual’s social and mental well-being. Manitoulin resources to deal with hearing challenges just got a major boost with the arrival of Sam Bruser and his company Phoenix Audiology on Island shores. 

Lively-based Phoenix Audiology has recently opened offices in Little Current and Gore Bay. While the company has a number of locations, Mr. Bruser and his wife Sam have made an interesting discovery.

“It just flashed through my mind that I like this office best,” laughed Mr. Bruser. “There is more going on here than in Sudbury.”

In fact, being actually based in Lively, the commute to Manitoulin is barely an hour and 15 minutes to Little Current. A bit of a longer run to Gore Bay and Mindemoya, but Mr. Bruser said he doesn’t mind the Island jaunt. “Rain, sleet or snow, we get here,” he laughed. “Not a sick day in 10 years.”

The services provided by Phoenix Audiology start with diagnostics. Mr. Bruser is an audiologist; that entails a master’s degree in his field. “If a person walks into a doctor’s office they are going to have a concern, a request, I have the diagnostic battery to be able to address anything,” he said. It’s an important distinction that helps set his business apart from others. “We don’t just sell hearing aids.”

Mr. Bruser explains that the process includes a flowchart, addressing health issues as well as hearing issues. “You track down the health chart to make sure they are okay,” he said. “Then, if they do have a hearing loss, you address the hearing abilities; we are equipped to deal with that.”

With 25 years under his belt as an audiologist, there are few questions a doctor can ask him where Mr. Bruser has to defer. He noted an example of a patient that day who presented him with two hearing aids. One didn’t do anything to speak of, and the other only did a little. 

“I asked what they had paid for them, they said $7,000, and they were thinking of upgrading,” he said. “But there was almost no hearing loss in one ear and only minor loss in the other. My initial assessment was right—they weren’t doing much for them at all. Who was the fool, no the criminal, who gave them hearing aids? There is a big conflict of interest there.”

Mr. Bruser said he wound up having to send that client away. “I told him, ‘you are not getting hearing aids from me, if I can’t put you in a better position’.” While selling hearing aids tends to be the first order of business for many audiology clinics, that isn’t the Phoenix focus.

Finding the right solution for each client takes precedence over sales of equipment. “That is how it should always be done,” he said. “We aren’t in the retail business; we are in the business of helping people to improve their hearing.” That doesn’t always mean expensive hearing aids are the answer.

“It starts with competent diagnostics,” said Mr. Bruser. He stressed the importance of working with Island doctors as part of a team to find the cause, and then the solution, to the patient’s issues. “I know most of the doctors on the Island, and I hope to get to know more because with me, they know what they are getting. It’s very important, health first, then we can see if nana needs a hearing aid.”

That being said, a patient does not need a referral to seek the audiologist’s services. “You can just walk right in and make an appointment,” he said. 

The company is looking at other locations across Manitoulin, such as Manitowaning and Wiikwemkoong. “People shouldn’t have to travel more than 25 minutes to see someone,” he suggested.

Hearing is so important, he notes, quoting Helen Keller. “If you are blind, you are removed from things, if you are deaf you are removed from people.”

Phoenix Audiology is located in Little Current at 28 Water Street and in the basement of the Gore Bay Medical Clinic. Clinics are held at least monthly in each location and they can be reached at (705) 805-9630.