Harmony Hearing & Audiology was established to provide a harmony of excellent service and outstanding competitive prices on hearing aids and related products. Our up front low hearing aid prices and flexible itemised service packages ensure the best value in the industry.
The Harmony Hearing Story
Our start was not easy and we have undergone considerable changes since its start in 2011. The practice was originally called Fremantle Hearing Centre as I had purchased a Unit amongst other health care practices at 15 Parry Street in Fremantle with the help of the first home buyers grant. The real estate agent promoted that the premises as zoned mixed use so would give me the option of living and working from the premises. This I did on my own for about a year. Whilst the majority of the premises was set up as a hearing clinic, one room was a makeshift bedroom/lounge room with a little kitchenette and bathroom.
Business was slow at first but enough to make a little headway and pay the mortgage. I knew that to survive I had to improve my online presence and reputation. I also had to define what I wanted my business to have a reputation for and would give it a competitive edge. During this first year, I also had a part time job at the West Australian Institute for Deaf Education WAIDE. This was in Educational Audiology which was very interesting.
Mum & Pop Shop to 4 Hearing Clinics
Just after a year of running the practice I met my wife Rachel. We’ve now been married for about 9 years. She recognised early that I was struggling to efficiently manage all the aspects of the practice from the administration, the marketing and the clinical work. She opted to help with administration. So, in the early years we effectively ran what’s called a “Mum and Pop Shop.”
With Rachel’s assistance, we gradually grew busier even whilst managing to have a couple of baby sons along the way. It occurred to me there may be opportunity to expand to a second branch or so. We kept our eyes open for someone we knew was highly professional and experienced. Amazingly Rachel got in touch with my old mentor and friend Tony Mathers through social media. Upon mentioning we were considering expanding an adding another clinician Tony expressed his interest. Tony has now been an integral part of the team for the last 6 years. It’s amazing that it’s gone full circle with once training under Tony to him now being part of our team.
Tony & Jenny Join the Team
We also employed his former admin lady Jenny Yii for the last 5 years who was in administration with Bloom Hearing Clinics. Jenny brought a wealth of experience having worked as a Client Services Officer (CSO) at Bloom with Tony in the past. She fosters great customer relationships and helps lodge applications on behalf of our clients for the Commonwealth Hearing Services Program (HSP). She also processes all claims for services delivered with the Office of Hearing Services (OHS). Jenny’s expertise and experience helps maintain our compliance in delivering the Hearing Services program to eligible clients.
Up front Prices, Transparency & Trust
Our values include honesty, openness and transparency. We strive to foster long term trusting relationships with our clients. We hope that by detailing our flexible service packages and hearing aid prices up front you can see you are getting the best value.
Our Informative non-pressurising approach
To this day most of our clients come to us through word of mouth recommendation.
Many of our valued clients express their gratitude at the life changing difference we make. They describe their appreciation for our thorough service and non-pressurising informative manner. This is evidenced in the great client testimonials and stories we have received over the years.
Early Adopters of Tele-Audiology (Remote Care)
Long before to the Covid crises we were one of the earlier adopters of Tele-Audiology, or Remote Care as we call it. Many of our clients live in the country and it’s a big commute for them to come into our hearing clinics for some fine tuning or coaching. Some live in south around Dunsborough others North in Geraldton, Broome and in recent years across Australia. Our clients appreciate a convenient quick appointment to have their hearing aids adjusted wherever they are.
We are in the process of pioneering our own method of Remote Care where the interface for live video chat and remote fine tuning of hearing aids is embedded in our website. At present we largely use the hearing aid manufacturers Apps to provide these services. We can also provide a comprehensive hearing test using our remote hearing test kit. The advent of the Covid 19 crises and the need for physical social distancing has only increased the importance of be able to provide a comprehensive array of our services remotely. It works very well and with the permission of our lovely clients have posted some Remote Care Demonstration Videos to the Harmony Hearing YouTube Channel.
Not long after starting my own practice I saw another independent company Value Hearing’s adverts in the West Australian newspaper headlined “Save $3000 on Hearing Aids” At first, I thought this was clever as it was a clear competitive edge and point of difference. It occurred to me that there was little choice as a new business to also advertise competitively on hearing aid price, but I didn’t want this to be my main point of difference. I know this is a dangerous game and as the old saying goes “live by price, die by price.” To the consumers benefit they catalysed a price war in the hearing industry in Australia and very quickly many companies have popped up all over the place aiming to get a foothold with their price undercutting approach. To name a few more; Economy Hearing, Half Price Hearing, Hearing Savers, Hearing Aid Prices and Spec Savers Audiology. They’ve all gained a foothold by focusing primarily on cheap hearing aid prices. In choosing the name Harmony Hearing, I wanted to get away from the price war and give a message that’s more of a balance of professional service and affordability.
Rise of the Independents
For many years’ these larger firms had a real monopoly on the Australian market. Being largely manufacturer owned they actually acquire their hearing aids at a fraction of the price they sell them to most independents. But ironically still charge a higher price than the independents. One main advantage to you the consumer is that you aren’t just being steered into that manufacturer owned clinics single brand of hearing aid. The independent practice can source from any of the leading brands with relatively unbiased guidance to match the latest and best hearing to your unique needs.
The Which Report
An independent company in the United Kingdom called Hearing Aid Org have done a competition comparison between the independents and some big manufacturer aligned and owned chains.
They illustrate “The Which Report” that shows the best consumer rated hearing aid providers in 2021. Which is a UK company that promotes informed consumer choice in the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services and raising awareness of consumer rights. They claim to offer independent advice.
To obtain these results, Which surveyed over 1572 of their customers to give consumers a better idea of the best hearing aid providers out there. Digital hearing aid users were asked about their experiences with different retailers with questions about which outlets offer the best hearing tests, the greatest choice of product and who offers the best value for money.”
According to the Which Report for the fourth year in a row local independent Audiologists come top. The 2021 survey shows independent hearing aid clinics like us are rated the highest by hearing aid consumers coming in at 86%. Some key findings were:
- Rated excellent with 5 Stars in most categories
- Rated “4 Star” for staff professionalism and customer service and hearing aid suitability and value for money”
- In the U.K. some independents were found to be more expensive than the big chains, but they were rated better value due to the whole package and aftercare received.
Although this is a UK report most of these companies are also in Australia with similar business models. So, I think the comparison holds true between Australian Independent clinics and these large chains.
For a full report on these company comparisons see: https://www.hearingaid.org.uk/articles/the-which-report-best-hearing-aid-providers-for-2021
It’s evident with a quick Google search there’s somewhat of a price war going on in the hearing aid industry with many companies focusing almost exclusively on the “hearing aid” product as the solution to people’s needs. Their marketing focus being cheap hearing aid price. Sure, hearing aids can be beneficial for people with hearing loss but they shouldn’t be the only focus. It isn’t necessarily the best idea to go for cheapest price. It’s important to realise that hearing aids are only as effective as they are fitted and maintained. This requires professional ongoing service to get maximum benefit. So, you are not simply buying a white good like a toaster but more of a medical device and also entering a service relationship. We believe that although it’s important to get a fair and competitive price on the product combined with the professional service with quality aftercare. So please avoid focusing on just the hearing aid price but also look at the customer reviews and track record of the company. We believe there’s “so much more than low hearing aid prices.” We encourage you to weigh up all you are receiving including the level of professional care warranty and aftercare.
Most larger companies in Australia hide their scarily high hearing aid prices. They will not disclose their hearing aid prices whether you enquire online or by phone call and ask for a quote.
They operate by enticing you into their clinics with either a free hearing test or under the guise of assisting your application for a Hearing Services Voucher. They assume they’ll build your trust and in being a health field you will not question their prescription and bother to shop around. The old saying “It pays to shop around” does apply in the hearing health care industry, especially to hearing aid dispensing clinics.
Their Aggressive Marketing Practices
Some of the big national operators engaged in some very questionable marketing practices. The use direct mail and even cold call you based on your age demographic and even pension status. You may wonder how they attained your contact detail and its often through buying a data base of them from other unscrupulous marketing companies. Is this ethical even legal? If you do fill in their online forms with your contact details (email and/or phone number) be prepared to be contacted relentlessly by their remarketing campaigns. Many of my clients express their frustrations of being bombarded like this having made a mere enquiry in the past.
The Harmony Hearing Difference
At Harmony Hearing we provide the highest quality of hearing health care. Your primary sense of hearing deserves access to the best hearing aid technologies and services to maximise long term benefits. Our Audiologists are highly experienced and afford generous appointment times whether delivering services from our state of the art hearing centres or by Remote Care. We offer up front transparent prices with our hearing aid products and flexible service packages so you can be assured you are only paying for what you need and getting the very best value. Our independence give us the freedom to offer you unbiased guidance and all the world’s best hearing aid technologies at the most affordable prices. If you or a loved one are suffering from hearing loss I encourage you to contact us today for a free no obligation discussion. The results will be life changing.
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Audiologist Andrew’s Autobiography
It’s probably one of the most challenging things to write about one self in an earnest manner and without sounding conceited. Marketing books tell me it’s good to let your audience know who you are and the search engines like it too.
Moving into the field of Audiology was a lingering idea for a number of years. I had
grown up with my parents in medicine and hearing care. My Dad Dr Alastair Mackendrick is an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist (Otolaryngologist), my Mum Jennifer a Nurse and my Step Mum Pam Gariel’s an Audiologist. Together Dad and Pam established and built up Western Hearing Services. It was a good example of how the business can be done well. They eventually sold Western Hearing to Oticon (Demant Holdings) approximately 15 years ago. Pam stayed on to manage it for 5+ years after its sale. Western Hearing has now been vertically integrated and rebranded as part of the Audika hearing clinic chain. My Dad has recently retired from surgery but still consults and performs a medico-legal advisory service. I remember going in to watch my Dad perform a couple of operations. One was a confronting sinus passage operation where I can still can hear the “chock, chock” sound of chisel on bone. Another a very intricate micro-surgery Stapedectomy. It’s amazing that such a tiny prosthesis can help regain middle ear function. My step mum has started her own practice again under her name Pam Gabriels Audiology and Tinnitus Management.
Sport Science – Teaching – Ear Science
In my late teens and twenties health and physical fitness was an intense pursuit and I embarked on two years of the Bachelor of Human Movement course at the University of Western Australia, but then withdrew to work at BC the Body Club in Claremont as a Gym Instructor for a couple of years. I then went back to Uni. to instead go on to complete a Bachelor of Sport Science course at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup. During these studies, I ran a personal fitness training business in Perth for nearly a decade. It had a bit of a corny name “Jet Fit” which stemmed from the idea to try and have a gym at an airport. I actually applied to the Sydney Airports Corporation to lease space but they deemed it unviable at the time.
Moving on to do the Graduate Diploma of Education (Grad. Dip. Edu) is often a natural progression for students who do Human Movement or Sport Science degrees. Much of the course component is learning to teach P.E. Once I completed the Grad. Dip. Edu, I went on to work as a high school teacher for four years at various school in W.A. I mainly taught middle school general science as well as upper school (Year 11) Human Biology as well as a Health, P.E. and even filled in for some Maths teaching. I worked for around a year teaching in Geraldton at the Carson Street Secondary College and Schools around the Perth metropolitan area. It was challenging working with teenagers. My last year teaching in around 2006 was at Duncraig Senior High School. It was a great school with relatively appreciative students and kind supportive colleagues. They offered me another contract, but the opportunity came up to do the Audiology course. I thought well if I don’t like Audiology I can go always retrain and go back to teaching.
Transitioning to Audiology
Being another science I find Audiology and all things to do with sound and technology very interesting. Like all body systems, the Auditory system is truly miraculous and the more you find out the more you realise just how incredible a system it is. I believe it hints at more going on than pure Darwinian natural selection. I am still so impressed and amazed at how sound energy is converted or transduced into neural information. One amazing aspect is how the three rows of outer hair cells called Stereo Cilia are known to be “electro-motor” in that they move or “twitch” to actively amplify the very faintest of sounds (vibrations) and also act as shock absorbers to dampen much higher intensity loud sounds. This also serves a protective function. This gives us a huge dynamic range where we are able to hear the very faintest of sounds with little energy whilst also being able to cope with very high intensity or loud sounds. Not to mention how we can perceive such a broad frequency range of sound with all its minute subtleties. The whole intricate system has to all work in perfect Harmony despite life’s insults. It is remarkably resilient but is still vulnerable to damage and natural change.
I like that I can quite readily make a difference in people’s lives. To help them improve their hearing and communication ability which improves their relationships, quality of their lives and those of people around them. We are lucky to be living in these times of modern science, technology and medicine which is rapidly advancing and improving. I think there just needs to be greater priority to making health services and technologies more equitable and accessible to people from all walks of life. I mean what’s the point of space tourism if we can’t feed the kids on the ground.
Take the current COVID crisis for example with its emerging strains. There’s been more of a world movement to collaborate and utilise some of its best science and medical resources. Necessary vaccines are being developed in record time despite controversies.
I can barely imagine how much more suffering and sense of hopelessness there would be in the world without such emerging solutions. Similarly, the best researchers and engineers have collaborated to bring incredible advances in hearing technology and alleviate suffering due to hearing loss.
Keeping it Professional
Every industry is vulnerable to rapid and often involuntary change. Industry disruptors can be good and bad. There are concerted efforts made by professional bodies such as Audiology Australia and the Office of Hearing Services to regulate professionals and maintain quality control. However, the hearing health industry still has many grey areas and is vulnerable to opportunists that sometimes do more harm than good in the long run.
Over the last 10 years we’ve managed to gradually build up and run Harmony Hearing in the face of fierce established competition, rapidly evolving technologies and industry disruptors. Audiology is considered a paramedical field where diagnostic hearing tests results were immediately relayed to the G.P or hearing Specialist to determine what medical intervention could help or whether hearing aids could be of benefit. It gradually morphed into a field where this didn’t necessarily happen.
Admittedly income from hearing aid sales is the most lucrative part of running a hearing practice. To some degree the hearing aid manufacturers that own big chains of hearing clinics take advantage of this. They perpetuate the marketing message that the hearing aid product is the solution. They intentionally blur the focus from a holistic health priority to one of commodity provision.
Coming into the industry after being a high school teacher for four years was a real eye opener. In my last year of the Masters of Audiology course at UWA I was lucky enough to get posted for practical placement and training with a small Perth and Mandurah based practice called Advanced Hearing Care that was owned by a kind gentleman Geoff Simmons. He’d run his business for over 30 years and my clinical supervisor and teacher was with Anthony (Tony) Mathers. We soon became friends and he was an excellent mentor. He taught me the practical aspects of being a clinician. During the time, I expressed my enthusiasm for the sport of kitesurfing and gave Tony some lessons in the summer months and to this date he and friends have a real passion for the Sport. It was a real win, win.
My First Audiology Job
Upon graduation from the Masters of Clinical Audiology I was lucky enough to be offered a part time job with Advanced Hearing Care at their East Victoria Park branch and they set up a little extra clinical room for me to see clients from with some “at elbow” assistance.
It was a very positive experience working alongside Tony and their supportive admin team.
Being Vertically Integrated
Within a few weeks of landing the job Geoff informed us all to our surprise he was in fact selling to an Oticon owned chain of hearing clinics called AudioClinic and retiring. This was at first concerning for all staff, but Geoff reassured us that despite change of ownership our jobs would be preserved as part of the sale agreement. Geoff’s business was vertically integrated into the much larger company. I suddenly found myself working for this great big national company with over 100 branches across Australia. Although daunting at first it did open up the opportunities to work in more varied places as they had sites all over Western Australia. After a few months, I put in a request with my nice new boss and clinical manager to work from one of their most long established branches which was on Barrack Street in the Perth CBD. I worked from the Barrack Street branch for around 4 years. Because it was their CBD located branch it wasn’t quite as busy as some of their other branches so I had to cover many of their visiting and country sites to top up my schedule.
Clinician or Travelling Salesman?
At one stage for AudioClinic I was cycling between Barrack street and monthly visits to Northam, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Armadale and Gosnells. I had to pack all the clinical equipment, hearing aids and parts into a big suitcase and set up and pack it all up again almost daily. I quite enjoyed the stays in these country towns for two or three nights at a time. I once drove as massive circuit from Perth to Kalgoorlie and on to Esperance but it was very tiring. The company would mostly fly me in and I’d pick up a hire car at the airport. This was a bit of an adventure, especially my trips to Esperance as I’d also pack my kitesurfing equipment and after a day of work at the regional hospital I’d often zip down the coast in the summer months to go kitesurfing in the lovely crystal clear blue waters of the incredibly picturesque bays of Esperance. With barely the thought of a shark in my mind.
Travelling Sales Fatigue
After doing the circuit for a few years I began to get a bit wary and feel like a bit of a travelling salesman. I wasn’t sure exactly how my role had morphed from what was supposed to be an allied health care role to more of a product sales focused role. The company coached us to believe fitting hearing aids was fulfilling our health care roles.
We were gauged monthly and annually on our performance which was measured in units of hearing aids sales and we were on a commission system based on a percentage of profit. I recall some of the senior Audiologists with the company were on higher percentages than me and even won $1000+ bonuses at the end of the years for the biggest numbers of units sold. When I was completing the Masters of Audiology I had no idea of the level of commercialisation of the industry and that working for such a large company was so sales driven. It was largely managed by people with business experience and not directly by people with hearing health care experience. They trained a top down sales process. We were privy to the profit margins of the company as our commissions were based on this. I was always be-wildered by the mark up of this manufacturer owned chain. Being around 800%. This company has since changed name having been vertically integrated themselves into the even bigger international company called Audika.
Although I appreciated my great experience with AudioClinc and the good training we’d had, I decided to risk going out on my own to see if I could make it work for myself.
It occurred to me that their top-heavy management structures and extensive marketing was where a significant proportion of their huge profits had to go. For the several years, I worked for them I wondered if I could do it more efficiently myself and at a fairer price. Even from my perspective I thought they were very high priced electronic devices where “Premium” devices were fetching an asking price of up to $13,400. I hate to bite the hand that fed me but I do feel this was and still is too steep. Some say it could be considered price gouging. I wasn’t nearly as adept at selling these high-end devices as some of my colleagues at the time. I remember one work associate was relentless and he came across as a bit of a used car salesman. I recall how he went on a caravanning holiday and recounted to us how he thrashed around the park drumming up prospects. The company loved him and he was awarded the end of year bonus’s several years in a row.
Why Harmony Hearing
I established Harmony Hearing in the aim of maintaining a balance of best practices with professionally staffed hearing clinics. Still provide relatively low hearing aid prices without necessarily having to be the cheapest. The name Harmony Hearing was chosen to imply the harmony you gain from better hearing and improved communication with those in your life. I wanted the name to indicate the benefits attained rather than the product and its price. You want the outcome and to leave the process to the professionals.
Health First Approach
Another goal was to maintain a health first approach. My original mission statement being “caring to protect and rehabilitate your hearing.” Coming from a Sport Science and fitness background I’m an advocate for preventative health care practices. They are even more important than rehabilitative practices. One of my catch phrases is “It’s never too late to protect your hearing.” Even short bursts of noisy activity such as drilling a hole in the wall can be damaging so please keep those ear plugs or ear muffs handy.
Learning About You
We enjoy learning about your unique lifestyle, communication needs, preferences and budget and try to match the best solution to those needs. It’s more of an informed choice approach rather than a prescriptive approach.
Staying Flexible & Agile
I have known all along the importance of staying flexible and agile with the business model and keeping my eyes open to industry change where some opportunities die and new ones emerge. There’s a delicate balancing act in maintaining professional standards, obligations to regulating bodies and remaining competitive in a constantly changing business landscape.