TEXARKANA, Texas – It’s the end of an era on West Third Street.
Dr. Tom Burns, an audiologist since the mid-1970s, is retiring. He has spent his entire career at the same downtown location, fitting people with hearing aids and helping them hear more clearly.
“Missing people will be the hardest part of retirement, those relationships you form along the way,” he said.
Burns began working for his father at the Acousticon Audiology & Hearing Aid Center while still in college. He went on to obtain a master’s and a doctorate while working full time.
Burns holds a certificate of clinical competence from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology.
Helping people with hearing aids is a family affair.
In 1948, Tom’s grandfather, Andrew L. Burns, and his father, A. L. Burns, saw an ad for a hearing aid office in Little Rock, and it sparked their idea of opening an office in Texarkana. . After 12 years of renting office space from the Texarkana National Bank, they purchased their own building in 1960 at 214 W. Third St.
“We’ve worked from this location ever since,” Burns said.
While in high school, Burns worked at Wadley Hospital as a nurse and aspired to enter the healthcare profession.
A struggle with chemistry one semester in college made him rethink his decision, so he turned to his father for advice.
“My dad invited me to work that summer in the hearing aid office and see what I thought about it,” he said.
While working that summer, Burns studied to become a licensed hearing aid dealer. Returning to school in the fall, he decided to specialize in Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology and worked summers in the office until he graduated.
Burns graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Science. Realizing that the hearing aid industry was moving into the field of audiology, he began working toward a Master of Science in Audiology in the summer of 1979.
“I went back and forth to Commerce, Texas for Saturday classes,” he said.
He completed his master’s degree in 1983 and 16 years later had the opportunity to pursue a doctorate in audiology through the University of Florida’s distance learning program.
Burns and his father remained business partners for 28 years, until retiring from AL in 2003.
When Tom Burns retired this week, two longtime office workers also retired. Accountant Norma Broomfield has worked at the office for 60 years and Betty Waldrep for 50.
Broomfield started while a student at Texas High. Waldrep was a longtime patient, wearing hearing aids since she was 16. She does clerical work for the office. Both women worked with AL Burns and watched Tom grow.
The field of audiology and hearing aid technology has come a long way since Burns began working in this field.
“In 1974 it was inconceivable that we could use computers to fit hearing aids,” Tom said. “In those days, computers filled an entire room, and now I have a laptop to fit hearing aids wherever I travel. I can test someone’s hearing, then turn around and have the hearing aid fitted. ‘computer to hearing aid.’
Hearing aids can now be charged like a mobile phone. They can also be compatible with a person’s cell phone, so anything streamed through the phone can also be streamed through the hearing aid.
Today, hearing aids also come in all sizes, shapes, and even colors to match hair and skin color.
Burns plans to travel in retirement, do yard work and participate in activities at First Baptist Church on Moores Lane.
Dr. Kelly Pack of Professional Hearing Services in Texarkana acquires Burn’s patients.
“I know they are in good hands,” he said.