Losing the ability to communicate is a frightening prospect, and audiologist Melissa Wikoff knows firsthand the challenges that come with hearing loss. She grew up with two grandfathers who suffered hearing loss as veterans of World War II.
“Their hearing aids would always feedback,” Wikoff said. “I would hug them and hear their hearing aids whistling. I remember calling them, and the hearing aid would ring, and they would have to put someone else on the phone. I got into the field because I knew it shouldn’t have to be like that.”
Her East Cobb business, Peachtree Hearing, is establishing itself as a full-service audiology boutique. Wikoff aims to address all aspects of hearing loss and to provide the finest care possible.
As a full-service practice, Peachtree Hearing doesn’t need to send patients to different places for tests and services.
“From the moment I started studying, I knew that I wanted to do something different,” Wikoff said. “I’ve seen a lack in full-service testing. There’s a big influx of big-box stores, and you can go get a hearing aid there, but they don’t treat you like a member of their family.”
Wikoff graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in speech and hearing sciences before earning her doctor of audiology degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She also has studied in Belize, Spain and California.
She runs the business with the help of her husband, Josh, an Atlanta native. Now in the technology and software industry, he grew up as a member of Congregation Etz Chaim, participated in BBYO, lived in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces.
“We want it to feel like a spa or a boutique,” he said. “We don’t want it to feel like you’re walking into a cold doctor’s office. People should come in and feel comfortable and not have to worry about getting their hearing checked. A huge percentage of the population has hearing loss. Not everyone does something about it, but it’s not something that should be stigmatized.”
There’s a stigma attached to hearing aids, she said, and the process of losing hearing and seeing an audiologist can be frightening. “No one wants to come see me. We don’t want it to feel scary and clinical.”
It’s evident when looking around her office that the aim is to be inviting, from the colorful artwork to the cappuccino machine to the baby-blue booth where hearing tests are conducted.
Wikoff acknowledges some challenges in the recent opening of her practice. “In school they teach you all about being an audiologist,” she said. “They don’t teach you anything about being a business owner. I never took a single business class.”
Some of her days are filled with clients, she said, but others see her working more as a business owner on tasks such as marketing.
Her priority is to grow her clientele, Wikoff said. “My goal is to make hearing not so scary and cold and not such a mystery. I want to get people hearing better.”