Updated: Aug 5
I've been contacted by two ex HearFocus customers recently as HearFocus have gone out of business and they can no longer get service for their hearing aids.
I have done a little investigating to find out what's going on.
HearFocus, based in Cardiff, have indeed permanently closed, leaving their customers without care. Some of those customers will have hearing aids that still have a manufacturer's warranty, and their original paperwork should tell them what those dates are. Alternatively, the manufacturer can confirm it. Since manufacturers don't deal directly with the public though, they will need a new audiologist to take over their care and servicing*.
Prior to going out of business, HearFocus purchased a lot of GN Resound hearing aids cheaply, and sold them cheaply under their own flag. I have seen the aids and they still carry Resound marks, so you should be able to identify what you have.
Hearing and Mobility were the main company performing hearing tests, with HearFocus supplying aids by post, programmed to the test results from H&M's audiologists.
Very low prices, only £2,500 for a pair of rebranded, older model GN hearing aids. I charge £3,995 for a pair, how do I sleep at night, you might wonder, when hearing aids are obviously so cheap!
Well, the company are selling old tech they've bought cheaply. That's why they don't want to tell you the real brand name, because you'll find out it's outdated and will soon be obsolete.
They are programming an aid to a test result on a screen, but they are not seeing the person or taking into account their current preferences or past history. They are not calibrating or fine tuning (you can't, if the customer isn't there). They are not observing the customer's comfort levels, they're not listening to their experience or concerns. They are not tweaking the fitting of the aids, they are not looking at the shape or size of the ear and changing the dome to get the most comfortable fit. They are not doing any follow up appointments to check the patient is hearing as they should be. They are certainly not doing several follow up appointments - which is necessary when you have a customer who is having problems adjusting to amplification.
They are not gradually increasing volume, they are not creating a plan such as introducing frequency lowering strategies to ensure the customer hears those precious sounds for as long as they are able.
The worst part of all this is, you won't understand what you're missing out on. You'll think that this is just "what hearing aids are like". Nasty, tinny, too loud. You'll think that if you can't follow a conversation it's just because "your hearing is quite bad" or the other lines that are trotted out to excuse poor service or speed up an appointment.
I wore aids for 15 years before I found Widex aids, and when I wore them for the first time, I cried a little. Things sounded like I remembered and it was so beautiful to hear like that. I was sorry for the years I spent without it, and I was so grateful to have it back. I want everyone to have their hearing as good as it can possibly be. It makes me happy to do so.
"Internet" companies are looking for customers with a certain type of loss (mild/moderate) which can be fitted with domes. Even if it can't realistically be fitted with domes, they're fitting it with domes, because they are cheap, easy and can be sent in the post. So if you have more severe loss (or you develop it over the next few years) you're not going to be able to hear properly with your bargain hearing aids.
I understand the pressures we are all facing with inflation and the cost of living, but I can't understand this business model. See the reviews and you'll see several happy ones (mild hearing loss, first time they've worn the aids), and a lot of unhappy ones.
We are so lucky to have something as wonderful as the NHS. You can have basic but decent hearing aids, fitted and calibrated at the local hospital. You don't need to have this hybrid service that serves no one. The NHS has its limitations as I have said previously, but no one needs this no man's land of poor service pieced together from obscured companies.
When I create my pricing, I assume a number of hours of service for fitting, fine tuning, following up, retesting, refitting and repairing over the years. This equates to quite a substantial price when you factor in the cost (£000's) of the high quality, cutting-edge hearing aids I procure on your behalf. You may find it easy to adjust, or you may need a lot of support. When you choose private healthcare it is expensive but it should be amazing.
Buying expensive aids without quality service is absolutely the worst of all worlds. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And in the case of HearFocus, it was. There are dozens like them out there though, advertising aids at prices that seem unbelievable, knowing that the service will be non existent and not serve anyone's best interests.
*I provide service for third party aids and get the best performance possible from them. It is better if we select aids right from the start with your needs in mind, but do contact me if you want to see what's possible with what you have.