ABERDEEN — Dr. Mark Scoones and the staff of the West Coast Hearing Clinic in Aberdeen are on the move to expand the services they offer to their patients.
The clinic, owned and operated by Scoones and his wife, Debbie, who is also the office manager, has served folks for more than 15 years at 1812 Sumner Ave., Suite C. But the practice will soon move to larger digs at 303 W. First St., corner of West First and K streets, across from the Aberdeen Post Office.
The practice, which initially did not include its current audiology assistant, Bonnie Curren, has grown, and space is limited at the current location, Scoones said earlier in May — which the American Academy of Audiology celebrates each year as Better Hearing Month.
With the doors estimated to open about July 1, the new location will provide more dedicated space for specific functions of the practice, Scoones said. Parking there is also “very easy,” he noted.
Scoones is also expanding his services to those with tinnitus. “I’ve had patients in the last six or eight months talk a lot about tinnitus,” he said.
Often called ringing in the ears, tinnitus can also be experienced as a sound like an insect, a chirping bird, an ocean-type sound or other noises, Scoones said. “It really varies in how their ear perceives that.”
Though he already treats patients with tinnitus, “we’re going to be adding some other testing with tinnitus patients, to kind of ‘dig in the weeds a little deeper,’” Scoones said.
Not only is tinnitus miserable to live with, it varies in degree and is difficult for patients to convey to others how it affects him or her. But now, using current technology, patients can help the audiologist know how better to help them.
“The FDA regulates tinnitus maskers, which is a device that helps generate sound that allows that tinnitus to be diminished when they wear those,” Scoones said. And now, an iPad connected to programming software for hearing aids can help the audiologist better understand what a tinnitus patient is experiencing and to fine-tune how a masker can help most effectively.
Using an iPad “programmed to the best of my knowledge” for a specific patient’s needs, with some sound that helps mask tinnitus, Scoones said, the patient can move a finger on the screen to dots in different quadrants to tell him, “that sounds better” or “nope, that sounds worse.”
“So they’re able to be part of the fitting, which is very important, not only in tinnitus evaluations but also in hearing aids,” Scoones said. And, if they return a few months later and the tinnitus is worse, “we get back on the program, and we can fine-tune it anytime.”
Using information from the evaluation, the doctor can prepare a prescription — “just like glasses but made for ears” — specially tailored to the patient’s individual needs. Evaluating “the frequency, the volume and the scope (how tinnitus affects a person’s lifestyle), “we can help resolve some of the tinnitus issues that patients have,” Scoones said.
The West Coast Hearing Clinic offers a full range of audiology services, including hearing devices, for people of all ages in both Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, “from newborn to over a hundred years old,” its website says.
It is an AudigyCertified member of the Audigy Group, which “recognizes practices that deliver outstanding hearing and diagnostic services to their patients, offer the most up-to-date technology and strive for excellence through continuing education,” a West Coast Hearing Clinic news release says.
Volunteering in high school with a speech pathology program, including helping a mute girl learn to speak her very first words, drew Scoones to a vocation that continues to impact people’s lives today.
After a year in college, he enlisted in the Navy as a seaman. In 2010, Scoones retired as a captain after 35 years, from active duty to reserves, having also served as a hospital corpsman (medic), with duties that included implementing a hearing conservation program testing and fitting earplugs. His last command was a 450-member medical unit, including doctors, nurses and others from 17 states west of the Mississippi.
In 2008, Scoones was public affairs officer for Exercise Cobra Gold, an annual multi-national joint training exercise with a humanitarian mission component that took place that year in Thailand. “I didn’t need the command experience, so I made an optometrist, who’s from Portland, be in charge,” Scoones laughed. “He’s a good friend of mine.”
“We were there 30 days,” Scoones said. “We saw 10,000 people in 20 mission days in rural Thailand.” So rural, he said, that sometimes we would have somebody get on the bus to cut branches out to get through.”
They provided medical, dental, pharmaceutical, optometric (including eyeglasses from the Northwest Lions Foundation) and veterinarian services, Scoones said, noting the Americans worked alongside people from Singapore, Japan, Thailand and Australia.
Scoones studied speech-language pathology at the University of Northern Colorado before changing his major to audiology and earning a bachelor of arts degree in audiology in 1982. He obtained a master’s degree at the University of Wyoming in 1984 and completed an externship at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Denver. His first job was as an audiologist for 52 school districts in Montana.
In 1985, Dr. Scoones moved to Grays Harbor, where he worked first in the private practice of another audiologist before starting his own and later buying and merging the two, along with another hearing care office. In 2004, he became the Harbor’s only audiologist.
After he had worked on the board of the grass-roots Audiology Foundation of America to improve professional standards, the profession became one requiring a doctorate. Scoones obtained his doctorate in audiology in 2001.
Besides being the clinic’s office manager, Debbie Scoones has been involved with the Driftwood Players and Grays Harbor College productions for years and is president of Driftwood’s board of directors for the 2012-13 season.
She’s also an old hand at acting, with 34 productions under her belt, and has been director, assistant director, stage manager and/or music director of 10 productions. One of her favorite things to do is spend time in New York each year doing research on plays. Earlier this month, she planned to attend 14 plays there — in 10 days.
Next year, Mrs. Scoones plans to direct Driftwood’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”
Though Scoones is a doctor of audiology, he said he doesn’t tell his patients what they need. “That’s not in my vocabulary,” he said. Instead, he asks them, “What do you need. Show my your lifestyle. We’ll match a technology level to your lifestyle.”
They call it ‘customization,’ Scoones said. “We match that person’s lifestyle, hearing loss, to a device that’s most appropriate that’ll get them the most benefit out of their particular lifestyle.”
West Coast Hearing also has a clinic that has operated for more than 20 years at the Willapa Harbor Hospital in South Bend. Scoones sees patients by appointment on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. An appointment at that location can be made by calling (360) 208-2373.
More information about West Coast Hearing Clinic is also available at its website at www.westcoasthearing.com. For an appointment in Aberdeen, call (360) 533-0633.