For Lori Dailey, the main reason why she chose to go into audiology was her passion to help other people.
"When you fit them with hearing aids, I mean, I've had people tear up. People come in and they're like, 'I just hate when I have to take my hearing aids out at night,'" she said. "And so just to help people hear and stay connected with the world is just really gratifying."
Since 2012, Dailey has been owner of Professional Hearing Center in Fremont, located at 415 E. 23rd St., Ste. A. She works as an audiologist at the company, which has offered diagnostic hearing tests and hearing aids for more than 35 years.
Dailey has been in audiology since 1988, when she graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The field involves diagnosing and treating hearing loss or damage to prevent any future issues.
Hearing, Dailey said, is incredibly important for people's overall health and well-being.
"If untreated, hearing loss is linked to depression, isolation, early or onset dementia, just a whole lot of health issues," she said. "Because to hear and be connected with your friends and family in the world is so very important."
In 1997, Dailey started work at Professional Hearing Center, which was owned by Evelyn McKnight at the time. The audiology field was much different back then, she said, as hearing aids used analog technology.
"Although they were good, they helped people, they're much better today," Dailey said. "So with all the new digital technology, hearing aids have come a long way, but they will never replace that normal, natural hearing people were born with, but they certainly do help to keep you in touch with your friends and family."
After 15 years at Professional Hearing Center, Dailey said McKnight had reached a point in her life where she wanted to exit the company and focus on other parts of her life.
"She knew she wanted to leave the place and her patients in good hands, and so she asked me to purchase the place," she said. "And so after much thought, I finally decided to purchase the business, and it was a great decision on my part. I haven't regretted it at all."
The bulk of Professional Hearing Center's business is fitting hearing aids. Although it provides full, in-depth hearing diagnostic evaluations for the fitting, Dailey said the company also deals with services for other matters of medical attention.
"We do deal some with dizziness, so that's kind of another area of audiology," she said. "So we've done newborn baby screenings, which if they didn't pass the screening before they left the hospital, then the doctors would refer them over here."
Additionally, Professional Hearing Center also offers Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hearing testing at local factories to monitor any changes in hearing due to noise exposure.
During her time at Professional Hearing Center, Dailey said she's seen big changes come to the audiology field.
"A lot of people used to complain about feedback with hearing aids, so it was that whistle that you always heard in people's hearing aids, they were constantly whistling," she said. "And now with the digital technology, we really don't have many problems with the feedback issues."
Dailey said hearing aids have become more sophisticated and easier to program for her patients.
"Because of the digital technology, we can increase gain for soft sounds and decrease it for loud sounds, whereas before, we couldn't do that," she said. "So we can make the hearing aids sound much better and more comfortable for patients."
Much like how phones have evolved, hearing aids are now able to track brain and body health through artificial intelligence. Dailey said they can also detect falls and translate multiple languages for their users.
"People, if they're really tech-y, can get in and they can program their programs within their hearing aids and just have a lot more control of their hearing aids if they want," she said. "But we can still keep it really simple too, which is very important for many people."
As well as audiology itself, Dailey said she's also seen Professional Hearing Center grow in the eight years that she's been owner, including an increase in testing for veterans.
In addition to the Fremont location, Dailey opened a Wahoo location in 2014 and purchased an Omaha office in 2018. She also recently hired a second audiologist to help her with her patients.
"We've got the three locations, so between just our regular hearing aid patients, referrals from doctors for diagnostic audiology reports, the veterans," Dailey said. "So to run the two clinics, it's a lot easier now with a second person."
With the experience between the two of them, Dailey said many hearing instrument specialists don't have near the training as audiologists do.
"We both have our audiology degrees and have gone through a lot of schooling to be able to do that, so we can do a lot more than a dispenser can and just have the training and the background and do a better job," she said.
Like other businesses across the country, Dailey said Professional Hearing Center was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But we're seeing people starting to come back out," she said. "And we do definitely take precautions; we wear the masks and we sanitize and try and do all those things that are necessary to keep people safe."
Dailey said Professional Hearing Center prides itself on customer service, something she attributed to growing up in a small family business. With this, she said the center has been able to find success in its 30-plus years in Fremont.
"And we sell good hearing aids too; we don't sell really cheap, cheap hearing aids, because they can get those online or any place else," Dailey said. "So we make sure that when we do fit people, we fit them with good, quality hearing aids."
With many of Professional Hearing Center's patients, Dailey said they don't realize how bad their hearing was until visiting with her. But she said it's all worth it to see the smiles on their faces when they put hearing aids on.
"Sometimes patients will say, 'Well, I don't want to bother.' Well, they're not a bother," Dailey said. "We just want you in here, and we want you hearing well."