Hear Better, Live Better

190 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito, CA 94530
(510) 526-3824

Patient Focused. Emphasis on Understanding and Education. No Pressure.
That's our model for Long-term Success.

Our Hearing Professionals

Gregory Free

Gregory Free
HAD, ACA, BC-HIS

[email protected]

(510) 526-3824

It all started with Grandma. Born deaf in one ear, my grandmother worked diligently with the hearing-impaired and deaf communities. She and her girlfriends raised millions for the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles, and she served on its board for 40 years. This famous clinic (http://www.jtc.org/), a world-renowned provider of audiology diagnostics, education and resources for families who have children with hearing loss, gives those children the wonderful services Grandma could have used in her childhood. Thanks to Grandma, I was inspired early on to help the hearing-impaired and deaf. My first best friend, “Bruce,” was born deaf, and at that age we would play as regular kids, not yet needing verbal or sign language to communicate. After learning American Sign Language, I led wilderness trips for the hearing-impaired through Inner City Outings (ICO), taking groups rafting, backpacking and snow-camping, to enable them to enjoy nature and practice their ASL communication with one another in challenging situations. As my commitment to helping the hard-of-hearing grew, I sought pathways in audiology. While completing a B.S. in Communication at Evergreen State College, I focused on hearing aid dispensation, as I marveled at those advanced miniature computers with the microchip capacity to help their wearers with one of the most important human senses. Both of my parents were computer programmers, and I had learned computer programming at the Lawrence Hall of Science beginning at age 8. So I knew I had found my calling: to help the hearing-impaired by working with this amazing hearing-aid technology, verifying its efficiency, and providing counseling for its proper use. Even 20 years after obtaining my Arizona and California hearing aid dispenser licenses. I still love my life’s work, and I am pleased with the progress audiology, hearing science and hearing aid technology has made. And I am committed to keeping abreast of the latest developments in hearing-aid technology so I can provide the best possible hearing-aid dispensation service now and in the future. Grandma’s legacy has filled my life with great purpose—and I am so proud she remains a part of me and I can give as she did to help the hearing impaired.

Suzanne Baptiste

Suzanne Baptiste
HAD

[email protected]

510-526-3824

Communication has always fascinated me. As a public school teacher, I constantly thought about what I said to my students, how I communicated it, how they heard it, and what they thought of it, in terms of both its content and the way I conveyed it to them. In the Great Recession of 2009 I was laid off when my local division of Oakland Unified was defunded. Pondering what to do next, yet retaining my passion for communication, I was just starting my studies to be a hearing instrument specialist when a friend of mine was invited to a lunch-and-learn at the Center for Better Hearing Aids and asked me to accompany her. After the event and several follow-up visits to the Center, I found myself researching and learning about the business—unknown to Greg! I was so impressed with the Center’s goals, programs and hearing-aid technologies I finally asked Greg for a job there—and am glad I did. Having worked here for many years, I still enjoy learning about the latest developments in hearing aid technology. I am passionate about helping clients to hear better, and I feel great joy when I can improve people's lives in this way. Although the vast majority of people with hearing loss have waited years to get hearing aids, we know they would not like it if we gave them too much sound too quickly. They would feel bombarded by noise, in contrast to the quiet they had grown accustomed to. So we move cautiously and gradually to bring our clients’ hearing back gently, and to make sure they are physically as well as acoustically comfortable with their new hearing aids. We get sad when we hear that people who got their hearing aids elsewhere aren’t wearing them, because they feel burdensome in the ear and/or don’t work well. Leaving hearing aids in a drawer somewhere certainly doesn’t help anyone with hearing loss. We are all passionate about people wearing, and enjoying, their hearing aids. When they do, they communicate better—which I, as a lifelong communication specialist, love to hear!

Joanne Brenner

Joanne Brenner
HAD

[email protected]

510-526-3824

My membership on the Center for Better Hearing team is due in large part to my good fortune of early exposure to hearing aids. In third grade, my best friend usually hid in the back of the classroom so as to not be called upon by the teacher, and this was traced to a hearing impairment. So she was fit with a pair of hearing aids. We went to a small school, and all of the kids were really excited when they learned that my friend got the help she needed for her hearing. We all knew she had a problem, but we didn’t know the degree to which hearing aids would help her participate in group discussions and socialize with us more often. This was how hearing aids changed her life. My friend later went on to become an advocate for the hearing-deprived, and she has helped many families in underserved communities with their hearing loss. My observation of my friend’s transformation from hearing-impaired girl to champion of the hearing-impaired inspired me to work for an audio video company while attending college, and later to become a Licensed Hearing Aid Specialist. Ever since then, my clients’ reaction to being fit with hearing aids for the first time has always been meaningful to me. I love to watch their faces when they can clearly understand what people are saying to them. My favorite part of what I do each day is turning on my clients’ hearing aids and seeing their eyes light up when they find themselves effortlessly hearing their loved ones, spouse, friends and family! This impact is so rewarding for me that I fall in love with this industry daily. After 21 years at the Center for Better Hearing, it still hasn’t gotten old, and I look forward to making a difference in the lives of many more people who will come to the Center to get their hearing.

Nicole Skinner

Nicole Skinner
HAD

[email protected]

(510) 526-3824

I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare; I just wasn’t sure which specialty would be the one for me. I learned about the field of audiology while checking off a requirement for my high-school graduation, which was to job-shadow a professional in a field of interest for a day. Audiology wasn’t in my sight until my mother started having ear issues. She ended up seeing an audiologist, and during her appointment she managed to set up a day for me to shadow her audiologist. While spending the day in the office, sitting in on appointments, observing hearing tests, and noticing how personal the appointments could be when the audiologist discussed hearing aids with patients, I immediately knew I had found my calling. From there, I received an Associate of Applied Science degree in hearing instrument technology at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Washington. I moved to the Bay Area in 2018, which led me to the Center for Better Hearing. Along with the amazing sunshine that is out for most of the year, I now get to work next to my friendly, caring, talented work colleagues, learning from their 20+ years of experience in the hearing industry. Today I enjoy working with people through their struggles with hearing impairments and witnessing how hearing aids can drastically change and improve their lives. It is especially rewarding for me to see how I have helped people to change the way they communicate with loved ones and to reintroduce themselves into activities they had shied away from due to hearing difficulties. 

Olivia Free

Olivia Free
Office Manager and Patient Care Coordinator

[email protected]

(510) 526-3824

Having just moved to the Bay Area, I am delighted to be a member of the Center for Better Hearing family. I started here with years of customer service experience emphasizing alternative health and wellness. Although my education focus was on nursing and massage therapy, I have found a similar sense of fulfillment witnessing our patients’ journeys to better hearing, and I am enjoying my exploration of the different forms of patient care while helping them on their journeys. Here at the Center, particularly through patient feedback, I am learning just how essential an improved state of hearing is to one’s quality of life. I have always valued the importance of clear communication and hearing everything the other person says, and I have now seen firsthand the difference better hearing can make in our patients’ daily lives, relationships and overall well being. It is especially rewarding to be a part of a team as dedicated to client satisfaction as the Center. They are truly committed to educating the community about the effects of hearing loss and keeping up to date on the latest research and technology to best inform our patients of their hearing improvement options. It makes all the difference for me to be surrounded by people who put their heart and soul into their work, and we are so lucky to be able to do so with our wonderful patients. I look forward to meeting you, hearing you, and helping you hear!

Louise Erickson

Louise Erickson
Patient Care Cordinator

[email protected]

510-526-3824

I have been an active team member of the Center for Better Hearing since its inception in 2002. What drives me to do my best in that role is the interest in helping people with hearing loss that I share with the rest of my team and my pleasure in getting to know our clients, hearing their stories, and assisting them in improving their hearing. I have had that passion since I began working with seniors at age 14, and now I love working with people of all ages to help them hear clearly again. Yes, the positive effect of well-fitted hearing aids on a client’s quality of life makes working at the Center for Better Hearing with such a dedicated, caring staff very rewarding for me. I have lived in Europe and the Middle East, where I have also helped many people recover their hearing, and I still enjoy international travel with my husband and domestic adventures with my dog in my spare time. I am happily married to a University of California Professor of Applied Linguistics, and we have two wonderful children.