It’s a textbook scenario. When a wife brings her husband in — often under protest — for a hearing test, the response is one Tim Mavy has heard before.
“I can hear just fine,” the husband will grumble. “People just need to stop mumbling.”
If it seems as though more and more people around you are mumbling, it might be time for a hearing test, says Mavy, as the gradual hearing loss of certain sound frequencies can mask and distort others. And not being able to hear the conversation around you is no joke, he added, as it can be very isolating and lead to tuning out and shutting down.
Sadly, he added, many wait as long as seven years before coming in to finally address their hearing problem.
“I’ve been that person,” he said. “I know what it feels like. It’s lonely.”
While in his mid-20s, Mavy began to notice he needed to turn the TV up. While in class at Sacramento State, he moved from the back of the class to the front because he couldn’t hear. At large family gatherings he just “gave up” trying to follow the conversation and often went into another room by himself.
“It happened within a matter of months,” he said. “My family definitely noticed.”
It turned out that Mavy has a genetic condition in which the tissue in his inner ear doesn’t regenerate. At age 26 he was fitted with hearing aids, and it changed his life. Suddenly he was back in the loop of daily conversation.
Mavy’s successful experience inspired him to pursue the field of hearing aids. A native of Auburn and a graduate of Bear River High School, Mavy took a leap of faith and moved his wife and children to Chicago, where he worked and trained for a large hearing aid company. The rigorous state licensing exam and training provided him with a solid foundation in the field, but the icy wind blowing off of Lake Michigan made the Mavys long for California and their large extended families.
Upon moving back, Mavy again began the rigorous — yet different — process of obtaining his hearing aid license, only this time in California. In January 2013, he began working with Allan Krosner, who had owned the Nevada County Hearing Aid Center in Nevada City for more than nine years. Krosner was ready to retire and had been looking for the right person to take over his beloved business.
“Allan wanted to sell to someone he trusted because many of his longtime customers became his friends,” said Mavy.
“I actually think my old customers like Tim better than me,” he said with a laugh.
“He’s been involved with hearing aids for a long time; he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s even more patient than me.”
Both Krosner and Mavy say they have a distinct advantage in their field as they both wear hearing aids themselves.
“Wearing hearing aids makes it much easier to do what I do,” said Mavy. “I can test drive all the new ones and give people an honest assessment.”
Gone is the stigma of yesteryear’s hearing aids, he said, as the past 10 years have brought significant technological advances. Many hearing aids are visually discreet, and the mechanics and software have reached the point where there is something for everyone.
Nonetheless, Mavy stressed, hearing aids are only as good as the person fitting and programming them, as fine-tuning and customizing each set is essential. Inside his shop, Mavy is fully equipped with a repair room and insulated sound room, where he offers free hearing tests. In order to stay abreast of the latest technology, he said, he’s a self-professed “geek” and regularly attends workshops, trainings and classes put on by manufacturers.
After fitting customers with hearing aids for the first time, Mavy said it’s fun to hear their reactions when they come back a week later for a routine adjustment.
“They’ll say things like, ‘My cat makes noises,’ ‘My refrigerator is so loud’ and ‘I never knew the blinker on my car made a sound,” he said. “Some people even notice the rustling of their clothes; they’re suddenly tuned into things they’d never heard before.”
But the best part of his job, he says, is when his customers no longer feel isolated.
“It’s wonderful when someone comes back in and says, ‘I can finally talk to my grandkids,’” he said.
“‘I can actually hear my wife.’”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.