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Reg McCutcheon at business Hearing Instrument Specialists in Hamilton on Wednesday afternoon. DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic

For 25 years, Reg McCutcheon of Hearing Instrument Specialists in Hamilton has helped valley residents tune in to the world around them a little better, although he faces more challenges as the years go on.

“The world we live in today has so much more noise,” he said. “I used to see mainly older men, and they worked in sawmills or farmers who worked around tractors. Now you have loud snowmobiles, and rock music, really loud speakers and iPods. I see a lot more women and younger people now as well.”

Because he has lived here for the better part of three decades, McCutcheon feels like he is serving his friends and neighbors every time someone comes in the door.

“My wife and I have seven children here and 10 grandchildren,” he said. “I’ve bought at least six houses and my kids have gone to three or four schools. I always tell people, ‘You don’t realize this, but this is not the only place you’ll see me. I’ll be in the restaurant or around town.’ I end up becoming friends with a lot of my patients.”

That is why McCutcheon says it’s so important to provide quality care to everyone he sees.

“You have an inherent desire to take that extra step to do it right,” he said. “You are treating people in your community and you are a part of the community. You want to make sure you provide the right service because they will come back.”

Two months ago, McCutcheon moved his business from his longtime downtown location to the Selway Commons on U.S. Highway 93, across from Mildenberger Motors.

“Now, I have a great view of the mountains,” he said. “I like to have a family atmosphere, not a sterile, white cabinet office feel. I used to be the national manager of a company and I didn’t like the lab coat feel of everything.”

McCutcheon moved to Hamilton after visiting friends in the area and falling in love with the community.

“I wouldn’t be anyplace else,” he said. “I came up here for vacation from Boulder, Colo. and I told my wife ‘I can’t stand this. I have to live up here.’ We bought a house after four days.”

Through all the changes the community has seen since he moved here, McCutcheon says his business has stayed steady.

“I am the only full-time, local hearing health care professional in the valley,” he said. “Over the years a number have come and gone. I do a lot of things for other providers though. Hamilton’s been good to me. I try to be kind to everybody.”

McCutcheon is in the business of providing hearing aids, and he knows that every time someone walks out of his office with a device, he will probably see them again.

“Hearing aids are a service oriented product,” he said. “Patients always come back to get the exact right fit and I take care of all sorts of other things. Wax is a really big problem for hearing aids.”

Hearing aid technology has improved by leaps and bounds since McCutcheon first started out. McCutcheon himself began wearing a Phonak model since he suffered a cochlear stroke.

“My left ear is dead,” he said. “But if there is something that I need to hear in my left ear, for example, the hearing aid in my left ear communicates with the one on the other side. It transmits the signal to my other hearing aid so I can hear it. It’s pretty amazing. So not only do I fit people with hearing aids, I wear one myself.”

Modern hearing aids reduce feedback to almost zero, and they don’t transmit loud noises such as gun shots anymore.

McCutcheon said he sees around 460 patients every year. He offers free hearing tests, and offers free service and adjustments to customers who buy hearing aids from him.

“That’s not something you are going to get everywhere, believe me,” he said. “If people buy a hearing aid from an out-of-town provider, they will have to wait for service. That’s just the way it is. And their money will leave the community. I pay taxes here and I shop locally. I’m like the old rancher. I don’t want all the land, I just want what’s next to mine.”

McCutcheon said his client base has gotten younger over the years, but people still come in too late.

“Well, normally the first time someone comes in is when the wife says ‘I’m sick and tired of having to yell for you to hear me and having the TV on at full-volume all the time,” he said. “What they should do is come in the first time they experience a hearing problem, or if they do something that might cause hearing damage. Like being around a rock band.”

McCutcheon is a past president of the Montana Hearing Society, so he is well-known in the industry. He is also a musician and he prides himself on being able to treat people who need discerning hearing.

“People come from Hawaii, California and Texas to get fitted for hearing aids here,” he said. “I love the community here and I love supporting the local community.”

Hearing Instrument Specialists will be holding a grand opening open house on Friday from 4-6 p.m. at their new location.

For more information, call 363-4363.

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at 363-3300 or david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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