Brenda Cowan of The Ear Depot is changing the conversation around hearing loss

Provider of hearing health care focuses on the needs of the client

Brenda Cowan and her colleagues at The Ear Depot are primarily focused on understanding their clients' hearing health care needs. From their three locations in Peterborough, Bancroft, and Barry's Bay, they offer professional hearing testing, tinnitus solutions, earwax removal, and hearing aids. (Photo: The Ear Depot)
Brenda Cowan and her colleagues at The Ear Depot are primarily focused on understanding their clients' hearing health care needs. From their three locations in Peterborough, Bancroft, and Barry's Bay, they offer professional hearing testing, tinnitus solutions, earwax removal, and hearing aids. (Photo: The Ear Depot)

There’s nothing wrong with Brenda Cowan’s hearing. In fact, she’s happy to lend you an ear if your own hearing is failing … and even if it isn’t.

The owner and operator of Peterborough’s The Ear Depot has one goal: to change the conversation around hearing loss.

Brenda Cowan, owner and operator of The Ear Depot, is a Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist who opened her first practice in 1991. (Photo: The Ear Depot)
Brenda Cowan, owner and operator of The Ear Depot, is a Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist who opened her first practice in 1991. (Photo: The Ear Depot)

The Ear Depot’s roots begin in 1982 when Brenda applied for a job as a receptionist at a local hearing aid company. She interviewed well, and the owner asked her if she was interested in becoming a Hearing Instrument Specialist rather than a receptionist. Even though formal education in the field was not required at the time, she decided to attend Sheridan College to obtain it.

After nine years working as a Hearing Instrument Specialist, she opened her first practice in Peterborough in 1991. She moved in 1993 and rebranded as the Peterborough Hearing Aid Dispensary, and purchased an office in Bancroft the following year, expanding to Barry’s Bay in 1997.

Things were going well enough, she says, until the industry began to change. Corporations were moving into the market, and the focus was changing.

“The changes weren’t all for the good,” Brenda says. “I didn’t like was I was seeing and I didn’t like what I was hearing, pardon the pun.”

What Brenda was hearing was that sales of hearing aids were trumping service. It was becoming less about helping the client and more about money.

“It was all about the sale,” she says. “We’re all about the service.”

Brenda had a choice: fold or fight. Since she isn’t a ‘folder’, she leased a vacant building, rebranded her company to be called The Ear Depot, and refocused her business on the client rather than the hardware.

At The Ear Depot’s three locations (Peterborough, Bancroft, and Barry’s Bay), Brenda and her colleagues Matt Paige and Cindy Handke now also consider lifestyle of their clients. What are the signs their hearing might be becoming impaired? What kinds of noise do they regularly expose themselves to? Are they at risk for hearing loss?

“We are about ‘conversation made easy’,” Brenda says, repeating the company’s new motto. “Conversation can mean different things to different people. You have to consider the client’s lifestyle to know their needs.

“If you’re in a nursing home, conversation may mean hearing the nurse. If you’re a CEO of a business, you need to hear every single detail or you could miss a crucial detail that could cost the company.”

That, by the way, actually happened. A simple detail, missed, was a quarter-million-dollar error. That CEO needed precision hearing, and Brenda uses that example to prove the importance of looking beyond a standardized hearing test and the sale of a device.

Beyond serving clients who may or may not need a hearing device when they first visit, Brenda says she is trying to change the public conversation about hearing loss. Recent evidence is showing a link between hearing loss and dementia, cognitive decline, depression, impaired memory — even life span.

The health benefits of hearing-loss prevention are becoming clearer, and Brenda encourages everyone to treat their hearing as they treat their eyesight. To that end, The Ear Depot offers free seminars for the public every second Thursday.

The Ear Depot is located at 236 Parkhill Road East in Peterborough (705-749-0707), 229 Hasting Street North in Bancroft (613-332-3754), and 12 Dunn Street in Barry’s Bay (613-756-9550). For more information, visit www.theeardepot.com or email info@theeardepot.com. You can also email Brenda Cowan at brenda@theeardepot.com and connect with The Ear Depot on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Jeanne Pengelly

Jeanne Pengelly is a television and radio news journalist with a Master’s Degree in Journalism.

Even before she got her first typewriter at age 12, she had decided she would be a writer. Highlights of her career include founding the McMaster University creative writing journal, living in a remote northern community on James Bay where she edited a newspaper and trained young television journalists, and being a non-fiction nominee for the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association.

Jeanne’s many interests include creative writing, photography, music, teaching, needlecrafts, fitness, and golf. You can follow Jeanne on Twitter @JeannePengelly.

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