Larry Solow, Ph.D. thought it would be a good idea to learn sign language when he found himself taking a college course with four deaf classmates. He didn’t realize it then, but that decision propelled him toward a career in hearing healthcare that has positively impacted his family as well as the residents of Salinas and Monterey.
Dr. Solow purchased Valley Hearing Center in 1984. His son, Jered Solow, HIS, and his daughter, Megan Solow, HIS, both work at the practice. All three are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and, because of the large population of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the community, also speak Spanish.
“I believe we really care about helping hearing-impaired people integrate themselves back into the world,” he said of his patient care philosophy. “Both of my in-laws are deaf. I saw how important communication was to them just by being family. It’s not hard to do what we do with today’s incredible hearing instruments. The rest of it is how we behave, how we understand the human interact
ion of hearing loss. My mother-in-law and wife both have hearing aids. I sure hope I treat all my patients exactly as I treat them.”
Valley Hearing Center is the only pediatric provider in three counties. “We see a tremendous amount of children,” Dr. Solow said. “We see the strides they take because of hearing aids. Now they’re normal, everyday kids.”
One of the most challenging aspects of his job is figuring out how to provide for patients who don’t have the means to pay for his services. “Our system doesn’t take care of senior teeth, eyes or hearing,” he said. “Some of my patients have waited until they can’t hear because they’re so poor. I work with service organizations and donated hearing aids I’ve refurbished to help them.”
One of his favorite hearing device success stories occurred with an immigrant woman who had conductive hearing loss since birth and had learned to lip read. “When I fit her with hearing aids, she started laughing and crying because she could communicate with her family for the first time,” he recalled. “She was beside herself that she didn’t have to lip read anymore.”
Dr. Solow said he has a very devoted staff committed to caring for those with hearing loss. In order to encourage everyone over the age of 55 to get their hearing screened, Valley Hearing Center offers free hearing screenings. They also host monthly community “lunch and learns” on topics from tinnitus, balance and other hearing healthcare topics.
“We always used to say we didn’t want hearing aids to be invisible, but maybe that was because the little ones weren’t so good,” he said of the advances he’s seen in hearing aid technology. “Now we have a new generation of people who don’t want hearing aids to be visible – and the technology is superb. They amplify sounds as soft as whispers, making them much more appealing and effective. I think that’s my favorite thing.”
Staff Writer w. Healthy Hearing,
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