Photos by Libby Rogers
“Service, service, service” is what sets this small business apart from other surrounding offices in the field of audiology; and, also that it is a family affair, owned and operated by father/daughter duo Dr. Phillip Allred and Dr. Christie Cahill, both doctors of audiology. In addition to family ownership, another special aspect of this practice is their Huntsville roots. Dr. Allred moved to Huntsville from Utah in 1975 and started a family here, meaning that Christie has spent her entire life in Huntsville. “I knew I wanted to stay here and give back to my community,” Dr. Cahill says when discussing her choice to follow in her father’s footsteps. After working for him for 10 years as an office manager, she knew she wanted to go back to school to pursue an advanced degree and to pursue a medical career. Christie attended Lamar, which turned out to have one of four audiology programs in the state. After starting the program, she knew it was her calling.
Christie is the owner and head audiologist at Family Hearing & Sensory Neural Center. The practice has been standing for nearly 37 years, with Christie being the owner for four years. Phillip Allred, her father, started the practice after he had originally taken a job at Sam Houston State University as a professor of audiology. In 1979, a doctor asked Dr. Allred to help with some ENT diagnostic work here in town, and this side business venture would eventually turn into opening his own clinic. In 1981, the university closed the speech pathology/audiology program, which is when Dr. Allred began to practice audiology fulltime and ended his career as a professor.
Dr. Cahill broke it down to explain the concept behind what they do for their patients and what audiology is. “As audiologists, we are concerned with the ears, the process of sound through the ears, and how that affects our ability to communicate with others,” she explains. Hearing is a special sense in that it heavily affects so many other aspects of our mental and emotional health, like body function and our emotional state. Unbeknownst to most of us, hearing loss can be an indicator of heart problems, tumors, and other issues along the central nervous pathway.
Dr. Cahill specializes in the vestibular system, the part of the ear that helps us remain upright. She reaches behind her for a visual aid and unfolds a diagram of the entire inner ear. She specializes in dizziness, treating patients with dizziness and imbalance problems by correcting the issue in office or referring them to another doctor based on what treatment is needed. Dr. Cahill will see anywhere from 5 to 12 patients in a day, most of them having dizziness issues and some seen for follow-up care.
When I ask Christie what sets their practice apart, her answer had no hesitation, “Service, service, service. We are very passionate about taking care of our patients. When a patient comes in, we make them feel at home, and we go out of our way to help them to the best of our ability.
There are times I give patients my cell phone number and tell them to call me if they have any issues or questions. The other day, I came up to the office on a Sunday morning to print something. A patient saw that I was at the office, and she came by real quick to ask me to clean her hearing aid because it wasn’t functioning for her. Little things like that show our patients that we are accessible and here for them.”
Aside from their mission to care for their own patients, the practice is also involved in the community. The good nature of this office reaches beyond its walls to better the people of this town, specifically those who require these services. Christie has been a Cub Scout leader, a youth leader in her church, and is also involved in Rotary Club. The office pays visits to Carriage Inn the last Friday of every month and Creekside assisted living the first Friday of every month. At both facilities, they donate their time to do hearing screenings for those who need it.
The biggest part of what they do on these service trips is take care of everyone in the facility, whether they are their patient or not. The team will go in and clean hearing aids, make sure they are working properly, change batteries, and fill those needs to improve the hearing of everyone who needs it. “Hearing aids aren’t like glasses. They need constant upkeep, constant parts changed; they’re little computers. These small electronic parts can break or get plugged up with wax, so we go in and clean them, and those people are back to hearing again like they did when they were brand new,” she explains.
Service-wise, they see a variety of ages and patients: newborns who failed their newborn hearing screening, ages 3+ for hearing tests, kids with fluid behind the eardrum due to an infection, and (of course) adults. They prescribe hearing aids and do all of the upkeep. Christie likes to see her patients at least every four months to make sure the devices are functioning properly, and this service is available for the lifespan of the equipment.
What Christie says next perfectly illustrates her passion for helping others in audiology and changed my entire perspective of the gift of hearing. “The awesome thing about what I do is I get to see lives change. I’ll have a patient whose body language is just downward and depressed, and I get to sample hearing aids on them. They don’t even realize it, but they’re sitting up straighter, they’re conversing, and when the aids are taken off, their whole mood goes downward again. We are designed to connect to each other and have those relationships. We’re not designed to be alone, and when you have hearing loss, you’re alone.”
Lastly, I ask Dr. Cahill what is special about her practice. “I have an amazing staff. They are trained to take care of the patients, so even if I’m not available, they are here to help. They get tons and tons of positive reviews from our patients, and I don’t think you could find a staff in the medical field that treats people better. We will bend over backwards. If we don’t have space for a patient and they need to be seen, I will use my lunch hour, or we will squeeze them in somewhere.” Accessibility makes all the difference in the medical world, and solely from my encounter with this staff, I would steer my loved ones through their front doors if any hearing issues ever arise. You are greeted warmly upon entering, and the genuineness is easy to sense. After meeting with Christie and her staff, I feel confident that you could trust the Family Hearing & Sensory Neural Center to take care of you and your family.
1911 22nd Street
Huntsville, TX 77340