Interesting fact: “Research shows that it takes on average, a person who starts to experience hearing concerns, seven years to go see a doctor about it,” according to Kayla G. Wilkins Au. D. owner and Audiologist at Aspire Hearing & Balance in Lakeland. It’s a statistic she knows all too well and would like to see change through education and awareness.
Originally from “strawberry town,” this Plant City native took an interest in audiology during high school through her cheerleading coach who was also an American Sign Language teacher. She learned how to sign through that teacher and had a decision to make when it came to college. Would she go into Speech Pathology or Audiology?
“Audiology is more diagnostics based. It has significantly more fast-paced results and figuring out what’s wrong, which was definitely more my personality,” said Dr. Wilkins.
After obtaining her Doctorate in Audiology, she did a residency with Tampa Bay Hearing & Balance where she worked under three well-known Neuro-Otologists (ear-based skull surgeons) along with seven other audiologists. She worked there for 5 years and expressed that the team-environment and challenging cases allowed her to learn extensively.
“My goal has always been to open up my own practice,” said the doctor, noting, “Lakeland needed an opportunity for a private practice audiologist and one who offers services for cochlear implants.”
Dr. Wilkins opened her practice, Aspire Hearing & Balance, in June of 2017 as the only board-certified cochlear implant audiologist in Lakeland. She explained why she chose to specialize in that field, “I’ve always wanted to do that even throughout my residency and then staying on with those ENT surgeons in Tampa. That is something I did all day every day was hearing aids and cochlear implants and balance testing and treatment and it was something I had a passion for. It’s really enjoyable...giving them better hearing and quality of life to be able to communicate with family and friends and do things that they used to not be able to.”
Dr. Wilkins explained what a cochlear implant is saying, “A cochlear implant is an implantable device that is for people when hearing aids can no longer do the job.” When patients come to Aspire and a cochlear implant is appropriate for that patient, Dr. Wilkins will give them options and send them to a surgeon. After the surgery, the patient will come back to Dr. Wilkins where she does all the programming.
“With an implant, you’re not hearing like you or I normally would through sound waves. You’re listening through electrical pulses and then over time with programming and rehab, your brain learns to make sense of those electrical pulses and that’s when you start to understand somebody talking,” she explained.
Though she is board-certified in cochlear implants, Dr. Wilkins offers an expanse of audiology services to her patients from Tinnitus treatment, bone anchored hearing aids, balance testing, to cerumen management.
The word ‘aspire’ is a fitting encapsulation of Dr. Wilkin’s mission for her practice. The doctor shared that her mom helped her come up with the moniker. “We really liked it because it really made it feel like the office was always aspiring to do great things, to be inventive, and educate. To be with those patients on a personal level and to inspire them to continue to grow not only in their hearing but in their life and with their families,” said Dr. Wilkins.
Passionate about the education of her patients and the public, Dr. Wilkins noted, “Hearing health is also attributed to many different comorbidities such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline, heart health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking–all of it is related and it can affect your ears.” The doctor continued, “It’s more important than ever to be able to come, get your hearing evaluated, get a baseline, make sure you’re doing okay. If there is even something mild or moderate going on–treat it, because it’s important to keep your ears stimulated which keeps your brain stimulated.”
Dr. Wilkins shared her goal for the practice adding that though they are already involved in health fairs, local events, the Chamber of Commerce and other things, they would like to get more involved with the community. On the practice’s bright future she says, “I see our practice growing. I would love to be able to open up a satellite office in different areas, I would love to be able to bring on more audiologists, I would love to be able to support multiple patients.” Most of all, Dr. Wilkins says she will continue to educate.
Aspire Hearing & Balance
635 Mid-Florida Dr. Suite 2, Lakeland, FL 33813
Facebook and Instagram @aspirehearing