You Have To Hear What You're Missing

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For Sally Culwell, owner and administrator of Rim Country Audiology, Payson stood out, even before she considered starting a business here.

"I didn't know Arizona had so many trees," she said with a laugh.

Payson's mild natural climate was appealing enough on its own. Its business climate was an added bonus to Culwell, who has worked in all different facets of the audiology industry since 1970.

As an audiologist, Culwell works under local doctors, conducting quality hearing tests and dispensing hearing aids based on the latest technology.

"Since Payson is sort of a retirement-oriented community, when I was first starting out, I checked with the chamber. Something like 50 percent of the population is over fifty," she said, obviously happily surprised.

Much of her clientele is in the retirement-age group, so with statistics like that, Culwell knew she had found the right town. She pulled up her Tucson roots and moved with husband, Dr. Don Culwell, to Payson.

In September 2001, she set up office for Rim Country Audiology in her home. Culwell sees many positives in having her business in Payson.

"The benefits are for the older people, who can be provided amplification for their communication needs," she said. "I like to stress communication. People say, ‘Well, it's all right if I can't hear.' They don't realize they're out of the communication loop."

Helping people re-establish communication with those around them is at the top of her list of advantages for her customers.

"Since I'm in my home, I have no overhead, and I can give very good prices," she said. "If not, (patients) have to go down to the Valley," she said.

In addition to that, Culwell adds a one-on-one element that she believes is needed to give patients the good service they need.

"I have a lot of medical training, so the benefits are helping the doctors and helping the people. And my benefit is I get to do what I love."

And what of the challenges?

"I'm pretty much over the challenges now," she said. "The main challenge would be doing adequate advertising, to build up my reputation. Another challenge is keeping up with state-of-the-art technology."

In the past decade, audiology has taken more than a few giant leaps forward.

"I don't know how we can get much better right now," she said. "They have come out with digital, programmable hearing aids. If you buy one when you're 50, and then five, 10 years later your hearing goes down, you don't have to buy a new hearing aid."

Instead, the customer can go back and have the hearing aid reprogrammed to make the hearing aid stronger.

"(Digital hearing aids) are more expensive, because it takes a lot more time on my part, and the circuits are expensive," she said. "But in the long run, the patient doesn't have to fork out a bunch of money every five to 10 years."

With flexible hours and a schedule based on appointments and doctors' references, Culwell might seem to have an easy job. But take into consideration the fact that she is not only the contact person for Rim Country Audiology, but also the secretary, sales rep, bookkeeper, business manager, and the one conducting the hearing evaluations. You have to wonder, how does she ever find the time to play bridge with friends twice a week?

"I'm the only audiologist in all of central Arizona," she said. "I see people from Heber, Overgaard, Tonto Basin ... of course Pine and Strawberry. There's Happy Jack, on the way to Flagstaff. I've had two patients that come in from there. So, I'm getting a nice reputation established."

To learn more about improving your hearing, call Culwell at (928) 468-6023.

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