by Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- For more than four decades, Richard Polhill has dedicated his career to helping people hear better.
The former hearing aid manufacturer now sells hearing aids at his Port Orange office, Professional Hearing Solutions, which has operated on Clyde Morris Boulevard in Port Orange since 2009. Mr. Polhill does not use a one-size-fits-all approach; instead, he customizes each device for each client based on the person's hearing needs and lifestyle requirements.
"It's a combination of meeting the needs of the client, helping them hear better and comfortably, (and) the instrument has to fit their lifestyle," Mr. Polhill said. He gave the example of golfers, saying they would need a device that can help them hear in the outdoors and can weather windy conditions.
The most important benefit of using a hearing aid is socialization, Mr. Polhill said. Those who have a difficult time hearing can feel isolated because they cannot communicate well.
"If we can't communicate, we are alone," he said. "People with hearing loss have to try harder to understand what goes on around them."
That often means they need things repeated multiple times, or for someone to yell directly in their ear. But this difficulty can fatigue family members, and Mr. Polhill said it goes as far as separating couples.
Mr. Polhill acknowledges his hearing aids won't work miracles and cause a person to have perfect hearing. He asks his clients to set "realistic expectations" for them, saying that people with hearing aids will miss things just as people with normal hearing do.
Mr. Polhill began his career in 1978, building and repairing custom hearing aids for Starkey Laboratories in Eden Prairie, Minn. Over the next 17 years, he worked for three manufacturers as a technician, supervisor, production manager and operations manager. He moved to Florida to help Starkey Laboratories open a manufacturing facility in Miami.
He changed his career path from building hearing aids to selling them in 1995 after he married his wife. The Polhills moved to Port Orange to be closer to family, but he found no hearing aid manufacturing opportunities existed in the area upon his move.
So, Mr. Polhill got his license to dispense hearing aids, working for both small, family-run businesses as well as large corporate operations to sell the devices. His experiences selling hearing aids for both types of companies inspired him to open Professional Hearing Solutions.
"I finally decided ... it was time to do it for myself," Mr. Polhill said.
He said working for himself proved to be the best thing he's done in his career.
"I've had some great jobs, but nothing compares to what I do now and the relationships I have with my clients and the ability to help create positive outcomes (for them)," he said.
Professional Hearing Solutions offers more than just hearing aids. Mr. Polhill offers complimentary hearing tests; in-home testing for seniors who cannot drive anymore, are bedridden or live in nursing homes; and ongoing maintenance to keep a person's hearing aid running in working condition for the longest possible time. He also offers free batteries with new purchases for a one-year period.
Mr. Polhill also advertises a money-back guarantee. Florida law requires a minimum 30-day trial period for hearing aids from the day of delivery, but some specialists don't advertise this, leading customers to believe the devices are not returnable, he said. Other specialists charge fees for returned hearing aids, which is permitted by state law. Mr. Polhill does not charge return fees, which he said gives his clients peace of mind knowing they could try the hearing aids risk-free.
Mr. Polhill said the main thing that sets him apart from other hearing aid specialists is he works to understand his clients' needs before fitting them with a hearing aid.
"We take the time required to listen to our clients, to find out what they need and what they want and focus on providing that for them," he said. "Sometimes that's all it takes."
Professional Hearing Solutions is at 4550 Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite B, Port Orange. For more information, call (386) 265-4769 or visit www.richardpolhill.com.