My column in the Hearing Journal

At 4MyHearingBiz, courtesy of CareCredit, we get questions from hearing care professionals regarding how to run a successful practice. We hear everything from “How can I compete against the ‘Big Box’ retailers like Costco?” to “How can I offer lower-priced hearing aids and still make a profit for my practice?” and more. Experts provide the answers!

The goal of our “Ask an Expert” column is to get your questions answered by the people who are in the know—experienced, successful hearing practice owners, practitioners, and others who have first-hand knowledge about the business of hearing care.

Elissa Sorkowitz-Lejeune, HIS BC-HIS
Elissa Sorkowitz-Lejeune is a licensed hearing instrument specialist (HIS), and a partner in the highly successful, family-owned Royal Palm Hearing Aid Center in Florida. She has worked in the hearing care industry for more than 25 years, in all aspects of private practice, and also has hands-on experience in hearing instrument manufacturing. She has worked closely with all the major hearing instrument manufacturers and suppliers over the years, and continues to stay abreast of the latest available hearing aid technology.

As a private practice owner, how can I differentiate myself from the ‘Big Box’ retailers like Costco? Do I need to change both how my practice operates and also how I market the practice in my community?

It’s remarkable how many people go to Costco to buy hearing aids. It’s here to stay, for sure. What you need to understand is that the average user buys at Costco, or ‘Big Box’ one time. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost on a daily basis someone comes in who has bought at a Big Box store and is ready for the next step. Obviously, hearing deficits do not go away–they continue to deteriorate and get worse. Big Box stores are what I call “a training bra.” Honestly, this is the same way I feel about PSAPs. Each of these is essentially “a training bra” for a longterm problem. Luckily, people get smart and realize they need more support, and more customization in their hearing care. Those people who buy from Costco can still become your clients.

The way to differentiate yourself from Big Box retailers like Costco is to take these people under your wing and make them understand that hearing loss is a longterm health issue that needs ongoing customized care. Explain to them the way that you work from the beginning. You are with them every step of the way in their hearing journey. That means personalization of their particular problem. You are giving them back quality of life with connectivity and personalization.

Answers to your questionsOne thing I can tell you for certain after being in the hearing industry my entire life, is that there is no particular solution that is the same for any patient. I see each of my patients at least every three months for adjustments, cleaning, and tweaking. I explain to them that 95% of the time that when their hearing aids are not working, it’s wax.

Letting your patients know that you are going to take care of their equipment perpetually is key to their success as users. Service is the key and the lifeline of your practice. Don’t let your patients go a day without hearing as much as possible–this commitment to care that is personalized to each individual is how you can win in the age of the “Big Box” retail giants.

Have a question? Please feel free to post a comment in our “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this article. We encourage readers to pose one or more questions for one of the experts to answer in the near future.

The “Ask an Expert” column is provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community by CareCredit, The Hearing Review, and various contributors from the hearing healthcare industry.

Image credits: RKG Photography; © Roman Motizov © Ilianamihaleva |




Hearing loss affects a broad cross-section of society, including celebrities! There’s no reason to ever feel alone if you’re hard of hearing, because you really are in good company. Here we list just ten of the many famous personalities who suffer from hearing loss.

1. Bill Clinton

This former US President started wearing hearing aids in both ears in 1997, in the midst of his second term in office. His age and the band-playing days of his youth were both contributing factors to his high-frequency hearing loss. Before he started wearing state-of-the-art hearing aids, Clinton complained of not being able to hear properly in crowded rooms.

2. Whoopi Goldberg

In 2011, Whoopi Goldberg made her private struggle with hearing loss public, telling the National Enquirer, “I attribute my own hearing loss – which, by the way, is suffered by thousands of people in varying degrees – to years and years of listening to music so loudly and so close to the delicate ear drum.” Goldberg wears hearing aids to help her hear low tones.

3. Halle Berry

Halle Berry was a victim of domestic violence in the early 1990s, and as a result has lost 80% of hearing in her left ear. She has spoken publicly about both hearing loss and domestic violence in the past.

4. Ben Cohen

Former English rugby union winger Ben Cohen was diagnosed with 33% hearing loss in both ears in 2004, as well as tinnitus. His hearing has since worsened to around 50%. He initially did not wear hearing aids, preferring to lip-read. He finally started wearing aids at the urging of Elton John, and has not looked back. “I use them a lot,” he told Hearing HQ magazine. “They have changed my life.”

5. William Shatner

Famed actor William Shatner has suffered from tinnitus since the 1960s, after he stood too close to a special effects explosion while filming an episode of Star Trek. Shatner told the American Tinnitus Association, “There were days when I didn’t know if I would survive the agony [because] I was so tormented by the screeching in my head.” He eventually sought professional help and his condition has improved.

6. Peter Townshend

The legendary guitarist and songwriter of The Who, Peter Townshend spent years and years surrounded by loud music. As a result, he suffers from noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. It’s not surprising his hearing was affected – the Who once played the ‘Loudest Concert Ever’ on 31 May 1976, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. He now wears hearing aids.

7. Phil Collins

In 2011, acclaimed musician Phil Collins called the music business quits, due to his failing health and diminishing hearing. After almost 40 years of live concerts and studio sessions, he suffered from sudden hearing loss, which he described in the German weekly paper Die Zeit: “I was recording in the States and had spent the day singing in the studio. Then I collected my daughter from school. We got home, had something to eat, played a video game. Then suddenly my ear went ssssssssshh. Within a second my left ear simply closed down. As if I had been underwater. I tried to clear it by pinching my nose. But it made no difference. So I thought it would sort itself out. But it didn’t.”

8. Eric Clapton

Another music legend, Eric Clapton was once renowned for his loud live sets and would simply declare to those who complained, ‘That’s the way I play.’ Unfortunately, his penchant for turning up the volume is the reason he suffers from tinnitus today. He has learnt to protect his hearing using earplugs, and thankfully his condition is not worsening.

9. Brian Wilson

While most musicians owe their hearing loss to years of exposure to excessive noise, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson has had little to no hearing in his right ear since early childhood. Despite this early setback, he still went on to be a hugely successful and iconic musician.

10. Leslie Nielsen

Known for appearing in cult comedies such as Airplane! and the Naked Gun, late actor Nielsen suffered from sensorineural hearing loss. He was legally deaf and wore hearing aids for most of his life. He never allowed his hearing loss to slow him down, however – he will still go down in history as one of the funniest comedians of all time!