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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

As more and more people suffer from hearing problems, one family-run hearing care business that started in Ipswich plugs gaps in the regional market

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:17 30 July 2018

Karen Finch, managing director of Hearing Care Centres. Picture: Tony Pick

Karen Finch, managing director of Hearing Care Centres. Picture: Tony Pick

© 2017 Tony Pick

As it celebrate its 20th anniversary, a family-run business which offers hearing care services from 25 centres across Suffolk and Norfolk is embarking on an ambitious expansion plan.

The Hearing Care Centre. Picture: The Hearing Care CentreThe Hearing Care Centre. Picture: The Hearing Care Centre

As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, a family-run business which offers hearing care services from 25 centres across Suffolk and Norfolk is embarking on an ambitious expansion plan.

The Hearing Care Centre (HCC) is opening new satellite clinics in Attleborough, Halesworth, Harleston, Hethersett, Hoveton, Watton and Norwich, with more set to open later in the year, to respond to increasing demand from an ageing population.

The company was founded by Karen Finch in 1988, when she quit her job as an audiologist to establish company in Ipswich “to provide local, holistic, ethical hearing care.”

“I was a single mum with two small boys and had to mortgage the family home to fund the venture,” said the 53 year-old. “I had to fight every step of the way in what was a care sector dominated by men.”

The Hearing Care Centre's audiology team. Picture: The Hearing Care CentreThe Hearing Care Centre's audiology team. Picture: The Hearing Care Centre

Mrs Finch wanted to provide the full range of hearing care in a sector in which she believed too many competitors put sales figures first.

The business remains a family affair, with one of Mrs Finch’s sons responsible for business operations and marketing and another looking after the company’s centre in Hadleigh. Her husband, auntie and niece are also on board.

The centres employ 25 staff, but recruiting hearing aid audiologists is difficult due to a scarcity in the region.

HCC provides standard hearing care services as well as employee screening for firms to meet Health and Safety regulations.

The company has also introduced a new service in earwax removal, with demand increasing due to a reduction in NHS surgeries offering the service.

Experts warn that 15 million people in the UK will be affected by hearing loss by 2035 due to an ageing population and growing noise pollution. “Ultimately, this is leading to a higher number of people seeking our services each year,” explained Mrs Finch. “The advancement in hearing aid technology and the general reduction in the stigma of wearing hearing aids has also seen our numbers increase.”

Despite the expansion, HCC’s market share remains small as 83% of people’s hearing care needs are met free by the NHS.

National firms such as Boots and Specsavers have a majority of the remainder, with 2.5% for independent providers such as HCC, said Mrs Finch.

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