Eye, ear specialists team up to offer seniors one-stop care

A Kennewick audiologist and a Pasco optometrist have teamed up to launch a new business model to make it easier for seniors to receive care.

The Columbia Basin Hearing Center and Mid-Columbia Eyecare Center will host the other doctor once a week, starting in mid-February.

Nicholas Gubler

Optometrist Nicholas Gubler will do eye exams in Kennewick.

Audiologist Shannon Aiello will do hearing exams in Pasco.

“I’m taking one of his rooms, and he’s taking one of mine,” Aiello said.

Aiello knows Gubler through the Abundance Healthcare Alliance, a group of independent wellness practitioners focused on prevention instead of “treating individual health fires,” said Aiello, who founded the alliance in 2019.

Shannon Aiello

When the ear and eye specialists learned they shared many of the same senior patients, they hatched the plan.

“It’s something that’s been done in other places but not in the Tri-Cities yet,” Gubler said. “We thought it would be a great to service to the elderly population.”

After all, hearing and seeing loss become more common with age.

Aiello hopes the one-stop shop for eye and ear health means patients won’t skip their annual wellness exams. Hearing exams should be held annually, same as eye exams, she said. This allows audiologists to treat hearing loss early and to provide tips to prevent it.

“Numerous research shows that losing your hearing and getting cut off from world around you, there’s a higher chance of developing dementia. Same thing with vision, lose one or both, and you can become cut off from outside world,” Gubler said.

Consolidating their care has other benefits.

Aiello said her patients frequently lament about having to travel to multiple doctors on different days, their weeks filling with doctor appointments.

Senior patients also often rely on public transportation to get to appointments, which can eat up a chunk of their day, she said.

Aiello said patients who care for partners who must be dressed, fed and then driven to appointments – a lengthy process that can take several hours – said they’d be grateful for a one-stop shop.

“We’re really excited to see what this is going to offer our senior population at both of our clinics,” she said.

Aiello said she’s also pleased the collaboration will give her clinic a footprint in Pasco as there aren’t any other hearing providers in the city.

Mid-Columbia Eyecare Center, which has been on Court Street since the early ’80s, observes its 40th anniversary this year. Gubler has worked there for nearly 10 years.

Columbia Basin Hearing Center, which opened in 1978 and has an office in Walla Walla, launched a mobile hearing clinic last year that makes house calls to patients.

Aiello said the service has been well received but the center needs more providers before it can expand.

Her husband, longtime audiologist Neil Aiello, plans to retire April 1 after a 30-year career. Shannon said she is actively recruiting for an audiologist.

“We’re going to have a huge year of growth and be able to help more people,” she said.

She’s excited about what the future holds. New at the hearing clinic is a device called Earlens, a nonsurgical, implantable hearing device. “It’s been a game changer. It’s so much better than a hearing aid,” she said.

Anticipating a successful collaboration with Mid-Columbia Eye Care, Shannon said her five-year plan includes expanding the building on their existing Kennewick property to add additional services from other providers that could benefit her patients.

“This collaboration is a tip toe into it and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot of lessons as it grows. It lays the groundwork for future collaboration and a bigger model in the future,” Shannon said.

Mid-Columbia Eyecare Center: 4403 W. Court St., Pasco; 509-547-9695; mceyecare.com.

search Columbia Basin Hearing Center: 4015 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick; 509-736-4005; columbiabasinhearing.com.

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