The Story of Francis Slabber & Associates & The Hearing Clinic

In the eighties ENT’s concerned about mis-diagnosis/inappropriate fitting of hearing aids campaigned to clean up the business and as part of this drive The Hearing Clinic was born. The company was officially registered in 1991 by Janet Steer with the support of ENT husband Dr. John Steer.

Francis Slabber joined in 1999 and when HPCSA regulations demanded a change of name, the partnership of Francis Slabber, Janet Steer and Associates was formed.  Janet retired in 2010 and the name Francis Slabber & Associates became the name we now use.

Our team today includes 5 audiologists and 4 support staff members and 5 branches.  Each of the audiologists has a field of audiology that she focusses on, over and above all the typical audiology services offered at all of our rooms, which allow us to offer a comprehensive service.  As a team we do our best to offer our skills with ethical and caring service at reasonable prices.

These days you pick up any newspaper or magazine and you’ll find all sorts of special offers for listening devices and hearing aids. Attempts to introduce a chain store approach to the business of fitting hearing aids has impacted largely on the quality of service, the extent of care and the long-term personal relationships formed between hearing aid wearers and their audiologist.  Regular staff turnaround means that relationships have no opportunity to grow and therefore patients are treated more as passing customers than life-long friends.

A hearing instrument is a serious investment and furthermore, it doesn’t go for ever and requires ongoing maintenance. More complicated than the fitting of spectacles, initial guidance and long-term monitoring are all part of the responsibilities of dispensers of hearing aids.  Once-off, online and over-the-counter sales offer the wearer no ongoing management.

It’s important to understand that a hearing loss is a sensory loss which often involves the loss of auditory processing skills as well as possible cognitive losses.  This means that hearing aids need to be chosen appropriate to the person’s needs, not only their actual hearing loss, but also physical abilities, mental abilities and appropriate to their lifestyle needs.  None of this can be done on an “instant-fit” principle.  These are issues that need to be discussed, examined and usually discovered over time and should the hearing change, which it often does; the hearing aids will have to be readjusted accordingly.

People often struggle to understand that a hearing impairment cannot be cured by wearing a hearing aid, but it rather aids what’s left.  Without applying all the diagnostic knowledge and years of experience, one’s chances of getting it right instantaneously, or ever, are small.

How does one get to be a dispenser of hearing aids? Thirty years ago the fledgling industry was controlled by people with a very basic training in audiology and the theory of hearing aids. Since then through the efforts of Audiologists, the training and standards required for entry into this specialized field have been set and require the relevant university degree. Furthermore, all practicing hearing aid dispensers in South Africa must be registered with the HPCSA. Participation in CPE – continuing professional education, is another requirement.

Hearing aid manufacturers assist enormously with practical training. As their products become more sophisticated, training workshops are organized to introduce the new technology and so keep dispensers abreast of developments. The range of instruments available is enormous and caters for all types of hearing losses and budgets. Currently all hearing aids and hearing aid components are imported though repairs are done locally.  Long-term relationships are formed between manufacturer and dispensing practitioners which allow for improved service delivery.