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Bad Company - The Rise Of The Hearing Care Intermediaries.

I was contacted last week 8 times by a company who want me to work with them. They operate as Hearing Aid Clinics but are actually a lead generation company, covering travel, retail and real estate.

Companies like these appear to be genuine hearing care companies, they will contact you and offer you an appointment. They will have a script to make them sound like they know what they are talking about. They 'partner' with audiologists who are having problems getting customers, and they charge the audiologist if you go to your appointment.

Sorry, where did you say you were based?!

This also allows audiologists to work further afield. So they might rent a room in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Huddersfield over the course of a fortnight. You won't know, because they will just say, for example, "we're based in Brighouse and can get you in next Tuesday".

If all goes well, you buy hearing aids and your fitting and follow ups are booked for subsequent Tuesdays. So far so good.

What happens when your hearing aid gets blocked up and you cannot fix it yourself? What happens if it stops working, or has started squeaking in a frankly embarrassing way and needs adjusting? You then find out that actually, this chap only covers this area on Tuesdays. Next Tuesday he is busy doing the 8 tests HearWhatsit have booked for him. But we can get you in the following one. Or you can drive to his house in Armley and drop it off.

Please, please avoid these awful companies like the plague. They are inserting themselves in the market and using aggressive techniques to cold call often vulnerable people. They are not accountable for your happiness or your purchases and they have nothing to do with audiology.

These companies may show you a picture of the audiologist who is in your area, but they don't show you the details of the company you are actually making a contract with (because it's not them!). Their testimonials are often for an audiologist at a different location, because they are national. If it is the same clinic, it might not be the same audiologist they are working with this week.

These are not to be confused with companies like Hidden Hearing, who do actually employ audiologists. However they are also stretched thin, covering the widest area possible to fill up their clinician's diary. If you have a need for these companies, ask them how often they are here, and if that is a commitment from them as part of your contract. Read the fine print!

I'm based in Brighouse, I have lived here for 41 years and if you purchase hearing aids from me, I have a 24-hour target to fix repairs and keep a slot free every day for this.

I cover around a 6 mile radius from my home, and I do home visits, but I will always be based in Brighouse and care very much about establishing a reputation here based on having the best service around. It's not as good as a tempting headline offer, but my customers keep on coming back to me, and I earn their trust by looking after them.

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