AUDIO… what a significant and important function to our everyday lives. Now imagine living in a world with no audio. Better yet, imagine living in New Orleans with no access to sound. Laughable, right? Well, it may sound silly at it’s face but how many of y’all really think about the importance of the term audio, or audiology? Probably not most. It’s just a part of most of our lives. But what if we were to throw Drake into the audiology conversation? It might catch your attention a little more, and a little closer to where it should be. Especially if you’re a New Orleans musician, active in the Mardi Gras scene, or just a regular second line attendee. Whether you realize it or not, audiology is multi-faceted and should be paid close attention to . But, why? Let’s ask an expert, Dr. Lana Joseph.
Meet Dr. Lana Joseph: a veteran audiologist and the one responsible for Drake’s audio/in-ear system, ultimately bringing New Orleans the best possible sounding Drake. Outside of the hype on Dr. Joseph working with Drake, she is a strong, successful business woman and career audiologist. Read our insightful interview below where we talk about her speech struggles growing up, the role of an audiologist, and her future business goals for herself, her business and the city of New Orleans.
NG: Tell me about yourself and your business:
DR. JOSEPH: My name is Dr. Lana Joseph Ford. I am the Founder and CEO of High Level Speech & Hearing Center in New Orleans. When I was little girl I had a speech impairment. For years, I was bullied and teased because of it. Therefore, I turned that very terrible experience into a 7-figure business and now have the privilege of earning a living by doing good for other people, and making a difference in my community.
NG: How long has High Level Speech & Hearing Center been in business?
DR. JOSEPH: I first opened High Level Speech & Hearing Center on January 18, 2016 to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr’s Day. I thought- what better way to commemorate such a courageous historical figure, than to open a community-based speech and hearing clinic to help change people’s lives.
My first location, that opened on MLK Day, is in Harahan (5640 Jefferson Hwy). Two years later, and again on MLK Day, January 15, 2018, I opened my second office location Uptown (4219 Magnolia Street, Suite 101).
NG: Tell me more, generally, about what an audiologist does. What are some of the kinds of areas that you work in (in terms of audiology and ears)?
DR. JOSEPH: An audiologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance disorders for people of all ages. My youngest patient was 18 hours old and my oldest patient was 104. In my Audiologist role, I get to work directly with adults and children to make sure their speech, hearing and balance is healthy and optimal.
A typical day in my audiologist role could involve seeing 8-15 patients, educating the patients and their families on the importance of speech, monitoring hearing and balance health, performing hearing test or balance assessments, and fitting patients with hearing aids.
Our company strives to provide our patients with the most high level hearing aid technology. We also make custom earpieces for musicians, and offer customized ear protection devices for flying, swimming, and noise protection. These have made a huge difference in our patients who have recurrent ear infections or sensitivities that make flying and swimming a dreadful experience for them. We also work with several musicians and have even earned the privilege of working with Grammy award winning clientele.
NG: How did you come about wanting to become an audiologist?
DR. JOSEPH: My passion for audiology stems from my childhood experience as a young girl growing up with a speech disorder. When I was younger, I had a hard time pronouncing words. I was bullied and teased for this, and resulted in low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. It took a while before my mother was able to get me the speech therapy services I needed, 8 years to be exact. I was placed on a very lengthy waiting list in the Jefferson Parish Public school system. When I finally did receive speech therapy, within only three months of speech therapy my speech improved drastically.
My turning point…My first public speech was in high school, where I attended Ehret. My teacher Mr. Duplesis, from my medical academy class at Ehret, asked me to speak in front of a group of teachers and community leaders to advocate on behalf of the program. I was nervous, but I nailed it! And that was the turning point for me. That’s when I truly realized the impact that speech therapy had on my life.
Several years later, I started High Level to spread awareness on issues of communication disorders and to help young children obtain early intervention services so that they have an opportunity to overcome speech and hearing difficulties sooner in life.
NG: DRAKE – How did you come about getting to work with Drake? Was he just seeking an audiologist while in New Orleans?
DR. JOSEPH: The Drake experience was really a story of being the right person in the right place at the right time. I was actually at my office working late, as I tend to do as an entrepreneur, when I got a phone call from one of my friends Nathaniel Dorsey, who owns a Bausey Urgent Care Clinic in New Orleans East. He told me someone from Drake’s team was looking for an audiologist to make custom ‘in-the-ear musician plugs’ while he was in New Orleans.
When I first received the call I thought for sure, “This is a hoax, but I’ll roll with it and see where it leads me”. About six hours later, I was backstage at the Smoothie King Center creating custom ear plugs for Drake and his entire OVO team. I was nervous at first (maybe even star struck) because it’s not everyday that you get the chance to meet a world class super star. But when I put on my white coat, that world class superstar became one of my patients and I was just his doctor. He was just like with any other patient, and my focus was still on making sure his hearing health was well taken care of.
Working with Drake and his team was an awesome experience, not just because I got to meet Drake and his team of awesome artists, but because it opened my eyes to realize just how important my skills really are. I did such a great job that Drake’s sound engineer still keeps in touch with me and has designated me to work with all of his artists.Dr. Lana Joseph on working with Drake
NG: How is Drake as a person?
DR. JOSEPH: Working with Drake was great. I was starstruck for maybe 3 seconds when he first walked into the room. But I remained very professional because I knew that I was highly qualified to do the job. I didn’t even ask him for a picture because in that exact moment, I was his doctor and his was my patient. I removed his celebrity from that moment and refused to allow anything to hinder me from caring for him as a person. Once he realized that my intentions were to only be his doctor, I earned his trust. He was friendly and personable. He was like any other patient and fascinated in a goofy way by the thought of what I was going to see when I looked into his ears with my otoscope. It was fun and I look forward to working with him again.
NG: Tell me more about the importance of audiology when it comes to artists and rappers. (i.e. – what was is that Drake needed done by you while in New Orleans)?
DR. JOSEPH: Good speech and hearing health are important to musical artists like Drake for several reasons. First, their performance depends on their anatomical health. Having damaged vocal cords or hearing loss could have negatively impacted Drake’s performance that night, and reputation. Second, having unhealthy speech or hearing could make cost of music production more expensive. For example, artists that struggle to hit notes will likely end up spending a lot of money on sound track edits and paid recording time. I’m married to a musician, so I know that editing software and recording time could be expensive. Because musicians livelihoods truly depend on their ability to sing and hear, at High Level, providing services to musicians has become a common practice of mine.
It’s especially common for me to see musicians once they’ve reached the age of 55. Unfortunately, by this time, their exposure to loud music has caused them to have noticeable hearing loss, which is often characterized by them saying, “I can hear you, but can’t understand what you’re saying”. This form of hearing loss can only be treated with amplification. So it’s important for artists to wear hearing protection in the presence of loud noise, and have an annual hearing test to mitigate the risk of hearing loss.
Ways to mitigate your chances of getting hearing loss:
1 – Annual hearing checks: Just like you go to the dentist yearly to get your teeth checked, and the eye doctor to get your yearly vision exam, you should also come to the Audiologist to have your hearing checked. Because hearing loss occurs gradually, it’s important to have a baseline hearing test performed to identify your risk of hearing loss. The sooner it’s identified, the sooner, we can do something about it.
2 – Hearing protection: At High Level, we encourage our patients to utilize hearing protection whenever they are in the presence of loud noise. In New Orleans, this can be pretty often. Hearing protection can be in the form of foam earplugs or noise reducing headphones. Mardi Gras, for example, is a very loud festival especially when the large marching bands are passing by. As members of the audience, we enjoy the loud music for a short period of time, however, the drummers and trumpet players in the band must endure the noise for several hours while marching. All musicians deal with the risk of exposure to loud noise. But many people complain that they don’t like the way typical foam ear plugs or noise reducing headphones fit on their ears. So at High Level, we make noise reducing ear molds which are custom made to the individual shapes of our patients’ ears for a better and more comfortable fit. Our patients absolutely love these!
NG: What kind of services to do you provide at High Level Speech and Hearing Center?
DR. JOSEPH: We provide a large variety of speech, hearing and balance services for children and adults. Some of our services include speech therapy, feeding and swallowing therapy, public speaking, hearing aids, and vestibular testing for balance disorders. We have a mobile health team that specializes in onsite speech, hearing and balance services at local schools, daycares, nursing homes and corporations.
NG: Future business and audiology goals?
DR. JOSEPH: It’s our vision to become one of the top providers of speech, hearing and balance services in the United States. In the future we hope to continue our community service efforts, provide hearing aids to patients that cannot afford them, and to expand our capacity to provide mobile services. We have a long way to go before we are able to expand to this level of growth, however, experiences such as my encounter with Drake and the level of satisfaction that we receive from our patients daily, are proof that we are well on our way to achieving our goal.
After having interviewed the successful Dr. Lana Joseph, I can’t help but shout GOALS! Living in such a musically-diverse city filled with artists, knowing the ins-and-outs of audiology seems to be of some importance. Audiology isn’t something that immediately jumps to most of our minds, but after learning about the importance of it, more should. Artists! Be sure to stay on top of your audiology game, and contact Dr. Lana Joseph going forward for those services.