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For Camp Hill man, hearing aid business is personal

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on Allander, left, is CEO of a regional Beltone Hearing Aid franchise based in Camp Hill. His daughter, Taryn Allander, started two years ago as the company's digital marketing manager and is now vice president.
on Allander, left, is CEO of a regional Beltone Hearing Aid franchise based in Camp Hill. His daughter, Taryn Allander, started two years ago as the company's digital marketing manager and is now vice president. - (Photo / )

Hearing issues are all too real for Ron Allander, a board-certified hearing instrument specialist.

When the Camp Hill resident’s eldest daughter, Taryn, contracted a gastrointestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis as an infant, she underwent surgery to remove part of a damaged bowel and was prescribed Vancomycin to fight the infection.

The antibiotic adversely affected her hearing and, in 1998, at the age of four, Taryn was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss.

“Taryn was attending preschool in Camp Hill and when we had her hearing tested, the test came back ok. About six months later, we received a call from the teacher stating that she thought Taryn was having trouble, so we had her re-tested,” said Ron Allander.

After the results came back, Taryn was fitted with hearing aids, but Ron and his wife Brenda had many questions.

As Ron educated himself on his daughter’s hearing loss, he felt compelled to help others struggling with similar situations, so he quit his job at UPS and began working for a hearing aid specialist.  He opened his own practice in 2006 and later joined the Illinois-based Beltone chain. Founded in 1940, the company serves customers at 1,600 locations across North America.

When people think of hearing loss, the elderly are generally the first group that springs to mind but younger people also can be affected.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately two out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. And one in eight people aged 12 years and older experience hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. The institute estimates that about 28.8 million of U.S. adults could benefit from the use of hearing aids.

After starting his local Beltone business, Allander grew from two to nine offices in just two years, earning him a “Rookie of the Year” award in 2015.  Today he oversees 14 Beltone Hearing Aid Centers, serving 10 counties in Pennsylvania and one county in Maryland. Local offices include two in Cumberland County, one in Dauphin County and four in York County.

After her diagnosis, Taryn Allander progressed through the East Pennsboro School District.

“Everyone was so supportive,” said the 24-year-old, who went on to graduate from York College with a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing.

After graduation, Taryn worked at NAI CIR as a marketing assistant before joining her father in the Camp Hill office. She is the company’s vice president and doesn’t hesitate to pitch in where needed.

“Sometimes if the patients come in and need help changing batteries and the hearing care practitioner isn’t there, I can step in and help,” said Taryn.

Customer sometimes are surprised to learn that she, too, wears hearing aids. But then they tend to feel a kinship through a shared challenge. “Many seem relieved to share their frustrations with someone who knows what they’re going through,” she said.

According to Dave Hutcheson, director of marketing and communications at the Hearing Loss Association of America, people who become hard of hearing wait an average of seven to 10 years to seek treatment and only one in five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.

The association advocates for individuals who are affected by hearing loss and works with companies that help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing.

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, that’s a lot of people who may be putting off visiting an audiologist. “It’s important to remember that hearing loss is permanent; there is no “cure” and it can’t be reversed,” said Hutcheson.

And a little education goes a long way when it comes to hearing loss.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is very common and is increasing at an alarming rate,” said Hutcheson “Teens are listening to music through earbuds at unsafe levels, workers are exposed to loud machinery and other noise in the workplace, and our military personnel are frequently in close proximity to gunshots and bomb blasts,” he added, noting that hearing loss is the No. 1 compensated disability among returning veterans.

The good news, according to Ron Allander, is that baby boomers tend to be more proactive than those who came before them. “They are more likely to take the test if they feel they have an issue,” he said.

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