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Northland Audiology & Hearing Services: A bit of history, and a little love story…

Northland Audiology & Hearing Services, Inc. was started by W. Alver Rongstad, AuD, and his wife, Nancy, in 1993.

Alver and Nancy first met in an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) medical clinic in Auburn, Washington where Alver worked as an audiologist and Nancy a nurse. Alver was later employed at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, where he enjoyed the novelty of flying to small regional bush villages and the deep satisfaction of bringing hearing services to people who needed them. Nancy and Alver married and moved to Fairbanks when Alver accepted an offer to head the Statewide Audiology Services Program under the State of Alaska Health and Social Services Department. For the next 5 years, Alver flew to the small rural communities in the northern, coldest areas of Alaska to provide hearing services. When that state program was abruptly “defunded” in 1992, state audiology offices were closed, including Southeast Alaska’s Sitka office among others. Unfortunately, this left many people who needed hearing healthcare services in a lurch.

Seeing the shortage of local audiology services, and preferring to remain Alaskans, Alver and Nancy decided to establish Northland Audiology & Hearing Services, Inc. in Juneau. Their decision was bolstered in part because of the welcoming support from Bartlett Regional Hospital and a number of Southeast Alaskan physicians and medical providers. Thus, Northland Audiology & Hearing Services, Inc. officially opened in its doors 1993 and has been here ever since.

In 2003, when Alver was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Nancy resumed a more active participation in the business (having taken a hiatus to work in engineering for the state of Alaska.) When Alver died in 2004, Nancy hired staff audiologists in order to ensure that Southeast Alaska could continue to have audiology services locally. Nancy retired in 2018 when her and Alver’s daughter, Kaia Rongstad, became co-owner and took over the daily operations of the business. Northland Audiology continues the same philosophy and reputation for honest, professional services it has had since the beginning and continues to provide the same personalized attention and care that Alver gave every patient.

Meet the Team

Kaia Rongstad
Co‐owner

Kaia is the daughter of Nancy (Rongstad) Shima and the late Alver Rongstad, AuD, who started Northland Audiology & Hearing Services, Inc. when she was just a toddler. Kaia grew up helping around the office, left for college, and returned to Alaska in 2014 to become an integral part of the family practice.

Kaia has a bachelor’s degree from Washington State University (GO COUGS!) where she studied Speech and Hearing Sciences, Human Development and Gerontology. After college, Kaia worked in social services in Seattle for a couple of years, but knew her ultimate goal was to return to Juneau to have an active hand in continuing the mission of the business that her parents started.

Kaia has a strong passion for helping others and is committed to ensuring that Northland Audiology continues to offer needed hearing health services for Southeast Alaskans. Kaia ensures that the business will continue to run smoothly and that we will exceed patient expectations daily.

Outside of work, Kaia loves exploring the great outdoors of Juneau, rooting for the Seattle Seahawks and living life. She is also active in the community, serving as the current President of the Juneau Rotaract Club and as a general board member for the Glacier Valley Rotarty Club.

Noel Shima
Co‐owner, Hearing Instrument Specialist

Noel Shima joined Northland Audiology & Hearing Services, Inc. in 2006 and is a licensed Hearing Instrument Fitting Specialist and a co‐owner of Northland Audiology. He is also our in‐house bulldog who goes to bat on behalf of our patients when their insurance companies try to get out of “paying up” for covered services. Noel has always been known as a “people person” and it is evident that he dearly loves helping people hear better again. Noel finds his role at Northland Audiology deeply rewarding, and in fact says he enjoys it so much he plans never to retire!

Noel believes in open and honest communications and in taking the time to really listen to each person so that he can fully understand their hearing challenges and tailor a solution to best meet their needs. He believes it is important to give each person information about their options, so they can make informed choices without feeling rushed or pressured.

Noel became a hearing aid wearer himself in 2012 when he realized that music didn’t sound the way it should. (Maybe his decision to “do something about it” was also bolstered by his wife’s nudgings: “I think too much of “The Who” gave you too much of the “what?”) Noel had his hearing tested by our Doctor of Audiology, and sure enough, suspicions of hearing loss were confirmed. Noel knew it was time to start using hearing aids. He says music now sounds like he remembered it should, and his wife is happier too! He also gets a kick out of using Bluetooth® technology to wirelessly stream some of his favorite music straight to his hearing aids.

Noel grew up in Minnesota and moved to Alaska in 1982 so he is not quite a “sourdough” but he’s working on it. Noel is an avid tropical fish hobbyist and has fallen victim to MTS, multiple tank syndrome. When he’s not attending to his fish, Noel can often be found watching Twins games or working on the house he and Nancy are fixing up. Noel’s well regarded by scores of parents and kids in the community for his time spent at the soccer field, where he was a coach and official for over 20 years. Noel retired from coaching a few years ago but is considering going back, as he really misses interacting with the kids.

Dr. Mary Owen, AuD
Audiologist

Dr. Mary Owen joined our practice in 2018 due to a strong desire to return to practicing audiology in Alaska. Dr. Owen is a licensed, certified Audiologist who has worked throughout Colorado, rural Alaska and most recently at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where she specialized in pediatric and adult diagnostic audiology. In addition, Dr. Owen has a strong background in noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and hearing loss prevention.  She received her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders from the University of Minnesota Duluth and her Audiology Clinical Doctorate Degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

At Northland Audiology Dr. Owen focuses on diagnosing and treating hearing disorders and facilitating hearing rehabilitation through fitting hearing aids and assistive listening technologies. She enjoys the adventures of field clinics and love meeting her patients in their home towns through her monthly visits to Craig, Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell. Dr. Owen is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, is certified with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is a certified Dangerous Decibels Educator and has been trained for occupational hearing conservation through the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation. She even has experience working with a wide variety of animals through her animal audiology research for her doctoral degree.

When she’s not at the office, you can find Dr. Owen spending time with her friends and family. She loves the outdoors and will jump at the chance to go camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or just admire the beautiful scenery of Southeast Alaska.

Lynn Stemmerman
Patient Care Coordinator

Lynn is the cheerful voice on the phone and the friendly face who will greet you in our Juneau office! Lynn moved to Juneau in July 2015 from Kansas City after falling in love with it when they came to visit their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who were stationed in Juneau with the Coast Guard. Lynn is always guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face and she loves chatting with our patients and hearing all of their wild Alaskan stories!

In her spare time, Lynn loves exploring Juneau and is a talented photographer! When she’s not out hiking, Lynn and her husband Al love to spend time with their a maine coon, Chilkat Willie Nelson aka Chilly Willy, and their snowshoe siamese, Wrangell Waylon Jennings!