Dr. Linda Gonya-Hartman, of the Hearing and Ear Care Center of Mount Joy and Lebanon, will admit that owning a business is “not for the faint of heart.”
Thanks to her many years of hard work and dedication, she now has two successful full-time locations where she can provide audiology services for her clients, and she knows she is the person she was meant to be.
“I don’t always feel it, but I am stronger than I think I am,” she said.
Born and raised in Lebanon, this married mother of two recalls that while in high school, the local hospital had a club that was designed for students who were interested in a medical career.
“Each week we visited a department in the hospital to expose us to various professions,” she said.
Although she knew she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, with a focus on math and science, Gonya-Hartman wasn’t sure which direction to take.
“I actually was leaning toward radiology, but speech pathology and audiology were a close second,” she said.
During her first trimester in college, she had to participate in several externships.
“At one of these, my supervisor guided me toward audiology based on my interests in math and biological sciences,” she said. “Once I took my first audiology class, I knew that was where I was headed.”
Gonya-Hartman obtained her bachelor’s degree at Penn State in deaf education, her Master of Science in audiology from Ohio State, and her Doctorate of Audiology from the former Pennsylvania College of Optometry, School of Audiology, now known as Salus University.
“I lived in several states before returning home in 1989 to begin my career as an audiologist with a local ear, nose, and throat specialist,” Gonya-Hartman said.
When she decided to leave the ENT office, many of her patients sought to follow her, so she opened an office in her home for three years.
“Once it became too much, I moved to the location I am in today,” she explained. “The business grew from a full-time office in Mount Joy to two full-time locations.”
Four days a week, Gonya-Hartman sees patients, spending the fifth day on administrative work. It can be a challenge managing offices in two different locations, but she is grateful for a staff she can rely on to handle things.
“I am fortunate that I have a colleague who was in private practice before she came to work with me, so she and I are in concert when it comes to managing and running a business,” she said.
A big part of her work involves educating people on how impactful hearing loss can be on their day-to-day interactions with others.
“I constantly face people in denial about their hearing loss or how much it affects their quality of life,” Gonya-Hartman said.
Her biggest challenge comes when she is working with a patient who is facing hearing loss so devastating “that there is little I can do to improve or help it,” she said. Yet her best days come when patients return for their first follow-up visit and they are experiencing a marked improvement in their hearing, enabling them to enjoy relationships once again.
“To feel their happiness and know that I had a hand in improving their quality of life is the best feeling,” she said.
There are steps everyone can take to help preserve their hearing, including monitoring noise exposure.
“It is important … to know that once the damage occurs to your hearing, it is irreversible,” Gonya-Hartman said.
She can’t stress strongly enough the importance of using hearing protection anytime the noise level forces someone to yell in order to speak to someone next to them. Additionally, there is a link between diabetes, heart disease, and hearing loss, so “managing your health in general is always a good idea,” she said.
Another way to protect against hearing loss is to begin having regular hearing tests around the age of 50.
“The earlier you treat hearing loss, the better it can be managed,” Gonya-Hartman stressed.
Making a positive difference in the lives of her patients is an important aspect of the work that Gonya-Hartman does, and part of that work involves giving back to not only her local community, but to the global community as well.
“I am extensively involved with Rotary International, having twice served as president in the Mount Joy Club,” she said. “Currently, I volunteer at my son’s school as the president of the LC (Lebanon Catholic) Performing Arts Alliance.”
In addition to her local volunteer work, Gonya-Hartman recently traveled with her son on a mission trip during which “we provided hearing health services in an underdeveloped country,” she said.
“It was a humbling experience for me. We tested adults and children for three days. After, we fit them with hearing aids, they were so grateful and crying because they could hear their spouses and children again. It was an enlightening experience for my son as well. It is those moments that make me grateful for the gifts God gave me.”
Gonya-Hartman takes her position as a leader in her chosen profession very seriously and feels great responsibility to help build a sense of community.
“Each of us belongs to a community, and we are responsible for its growth or decline,” she said. “The sense of community is something that is lacking in our society today. It is one of the underlying causes for many of the issues that we face not only in our town, but as a nation as a whole.” BW
Photo caption, above: Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid, which has direct pairing to smart phones and devices.