Burbank Audiology Center Gives Hearing Aids To Ukrainian Refugees

Dr. Mary Frintner, who owns the Burbank Audiology Center, helps two children to a better life.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

It’s not exactly a miracle, but it’s pretty close.

On Monday, with the assistance of Dr. Mary Holderried Frintner, 10-year-old Lev Nuzhnykh and his nine-year-old sister Vlada, refugees from war-torn Ukraine, were fitted with hearing aids that will enhance their lives.

“Both of them are attending Washington Elementary. They are doing summer school and being evaluated for services in the DHH [Deaf and Hard of Hearing] program,” said Frintner, who owns the Burbank Audiology Center in the OPTUM building on Magnolia Blvd. and Buena Vista St., and whose husband, Steve, is a member of the Burbank Board of Education. “I was introduced to this family by another family that I see in my office. They know the individuals that are hosting this family.”

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Frintner said what she is doing is a calling.

“I started my private practice in 2000 because I was working for what I call a corporate hearing aid clinic and I felt pressure just to sell hearing aids and not take care of the patients,” she said. “We provide help to those with hearing and balance disorders. My job is to find solutions for difficulties patients are having. That comes in many forms and might include some kind of hearing device.”

Frintner went on: “We specialize in the pediatric population, but all ages of patients are seen here. The majority being children. We provide custom earmolds for hearing devices, in-the-ear monitors, musician’s earplugs, and sleep. We provide hearing devices for those with hearing loss, tinnitus, auditory processing disorders, and hidden hearing loss,” she noted. “We are the largest dispenser of non-Osseo integrated hearing devices (BAHA bone-anchored hearing aid) in the Los Angeles area, fitting four to 10 devices a month. These devices are specialized for those that cannot wear a traditional hearing aid due to being born with no or abnormally formed ear, ear drainage, ear infection. We also do mapping of cochlear implants. We work with many surrounding organizations.”

Frintner added: “We see patients for House Clinic, dispense hearing aids for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Kaiser, and Adventist Health. We also test babies that are born at local hospitals that do not pass their newborn hearing screening or babies born at home or in a birthing center that need to be screened (per state mandate),” she said. “We have partnered with Hear Aid Foundation to provide hearing aids for individuals that cannot afford hearing aids and have no access to insurance that would cover hearing devices. So, as you can see, we provide a wide variety of services for those with hearing disorders.”

Frintner also works closely with college students.

“I should also say that I take students from Cal State Los Angeles that are working towards their doctorate in audiology and train them in pediatric audiology,” she said. “After thirty-plus years of being an audiologist, I believe it is my responsibility to help the next generation of providers learn and be the best they can be.”

With the atrocities that are happening in Ukraine at the hands of Russia, these two children, with recently fitted hearing aids, represent lost innocence.

“Talk about the poignancy of these two students in need with the horror of what’s going on in their home country. It was my pleasure to test and fit these children with brand new Phonak hearing aids. Their smiles and excitement were overwhelming,” Frintner said. “They came to us with hearing aids that were very old, improperly fit, and not providing good benefit to these children. We were thankful that we were able to provide backpacks, lunch bags, books, and all the supplies they need to learn here in the US. I am hopeful that soon they will be able to go home to a safe Ukraine and help others in their country. I hope they can see that it is still good in this world and give them hope for a bright future.”

Frintner’s hearing center helps not only those who live in Burbank but other areas as well.

“Being a specialist in pediatrics has allowed us to help many of the children in Burbank and in the greater Los Angeles area. As a matter of fact, we see children from as far as Antelope Valley, Ventura, and all of Los Angeles,” she said. “We work with many of the educational audiologists and teachers of the deaf from the area to help children not just with hearing deficits but those with speech and language delays, autism and other developmental disorders.”

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Frintner added: “Hearing is fundamental to learning and we are often the first stop to make sure the child receives appropriate services. I saw a need many years ago. Children were being sent to audiologists that primarily saw adults and they were not getting the services that were appropriate for children,” she pointed out. “Children need many more appointments, a different level of testing, and services from a variety of providers. We have to coordinate with MDs, Ed, audiologists, ENTs, pediatricians, OT/PT specialists. Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not understand that children require a different level of care and have started using third parties to provide hearing aid services at adult facilities and children are ending up at our office and parents have to pay out of pocket to get appropriate services. I hope to continue to help more Burbank students and families but sometimes that is hard due to insurance problems.”

There is a clear-cut goal for Frintner’s company, and it’s called Listen Through Literacy.

“Many of the children that we see are from low-income households. All children that come to our office are given the opportunity to choose a book to take home. We encourage families to read to their children to develop a love of reading and build literacy,” she said. “These families don’t often have the extra money to buy books for their children. Lev and Vlada received three books in their backpack. We hope these will help them learn English and thrive.”

Frintner is thrilled and privileged to help be a small part of Lev and Vlada being able to lead a more fulfilled life.

“It is unique. In the past we have helped four and five families with hearing aids for their children. Mostly families with multiple children with hearing loss that could not afford devices for both children,” she said. ” A few have been refugees that are not settled yet with insurance and need hearing aids for school.”

Frintner continued: “Now with the initiation of the HACCP (Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program) those families are covered, however, there are very few facilities that work with this program,” she said. “Ours being one of the only ones in the Los Angeles area. It is a state-funded program, and it is very administrative heavy. I don’t see many organizations wanting to do that much work to receive state reimbursement which is very little.”

Being able to hear is a blessing, especially when individuals are in need of help.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“For children, it is essential to speech and language development. It is essential to learning. It is why we need to test children and detect hearing loss early. For many of my older patients it is the difference in the quality of their life no matter how many years they have left,” Frintner explained. “Some of my most grateful families are those whose parents are in their nineties, and we have allowed them to be connected in their final years.”

For Frintner, there is a purpose to her life.

“It is the reason I get up in the morning. To make a difference in someone else’s life through helping them hear better,” she said. “Understand, it’s not about the hearing device. It is about the professional that is caring for the patient. Sometimes the solution is auditory training, a remote microphone, and amplified TV headphones. But if hearing devices are a solution, they must be fitted by someone that provides best practices to make sure that the patient is getting the optimal benefit from the devices. Hearing devices can help people hear better; audiologists help people hear their best.”

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