They put patients first with a combination of new-age products and old-fashioned customer service – and with eight locations all over South Texas, Carla Hoffman and the Hearing Aid Company of Texas clearly have the formula for success.
By: Sarah Tindall
Photos by: Dustin Ashcraft
Carla Hoffman never thought she’d be working in the health care industry, nor did she ever think she would be able to make such a huge impact on people’s lives or find her work so rewarding. When you hear her talk about her patients, it’s like she’s talking about family, and she gets choked up every time she tells you about the life-changing events that happen in her office every single day.
Hoffman’s mother and father-in-law founded the Hearing Aid Company of Texas more than 25 years ago, and now Hoffman and her two brothers-in-law run the company. This family-owned and operated business has maintained a strict policy of treating all patients as if they, too, are part of the family since its inception. That extends to the rest of their employees, as well, whom Hoffman says are hired based on their “can do” attitude, core values and ethics and “customer first” treatment.
This old-fashioned customer service, combined with the new-age products the Hearing Aid Company has to offer, has resulted in a successful, thriving business. With eight locations all over South Texas, the company has grown to be the largest family-owned and operated hearing health care provider in the area, as well as the most beloved.
“We strive hard every day to put our patients first and do things right. If we do the right thing every moment of every single day, this is how we measure success,” says Hoffman, the recipient of the Hearing Aid Dispenser of the Year Award at the 66th annual THAA Convention.
Hoffman’s story started years ago in the snow of Minnesota, where she grew up. A trip down to South Texas in 1993 to visit her sister and get some respite from the wintry weather was momentous; her sister asked her why she was going to stay up there in the cold when she could move down here and be close to family, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hoffman moved to Corpus Christi and started work on her MBA at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She fell in love, got married and has been here ever since. Her career in health care came along because of family, also. After she gave birth to twins, her father-in-law, the founder and CEO of the Hearing Aid Company of Texas, asked her to step in and help out in the back office.
“We had such a small staff back then, with only three non-family employees,” she says. “I thought I never wanted to do anything health care related, but then God said, ‘You think you have a plan, but not so!’ I knew the day I arrived that this was my calling.”
Hoffman goes on to tell the story of how she knew that her career in the hearing industry was meant to be. “I walked in that first day, and there was an older man waiting to be helped in the front office. Everyone was busy, so even though I had no experience whatsoever, I knew I needed to figure it out and help him, using my customer service background to do my best. I took his hearing aid into the lab, said a prayer and figured out how to take it apart and get the two ports cleaned out. They were full of earwax! I didn’t even know to check them to see if they were working, but they were squealing, so I figured it must be a good sign.
“I took them back out to him, said another prayer asking that they would work, and he popped them back in and could hear! He was so grateful, and told me he had come in to get them repaired because his daughter was coming into town, and they hadn’t talked in years. Now he could talk to her! I saw what a difference it made in his life, and I was hooked.”
That was 1999; that same year, Hoffman went back to school to get the technical degree she needed to be a hearing aid specialist at the Hearing Aid Company. She spent two years training under her father-in-law and brother-in-law at Hearing Aid Company of Texas, passed her boards to become certified and trained for two more years before becoming fully licensed.
Since then, the Hearing Aid Company of Texas has expanded its product line from only two hearing aid models to encompassing the full range of audiology devices available. They are now able to offer their patients any hearing device from any major manufacturer in the world. The company is also a full diagnostic clinic, where patients can get everything from preliminary to full testing. But some things never change: The Hearing Aid Company of Texas has always offered free hearing checks and free cleaning and in-house repairs on their products, and they still honor that tradition to this day.
The most important thing to know, according to Hoffman, is that a hearing aid is a very specialized and individualistic piece of equipment. “These are not like cheater glasses that you can pick up at the pharmacy and use,” she says. “No two human ears are alike, and therefore, the way we choose, fit and program a hearing aid is very unique to the person, much like a prosthetic limb. We base our choice of device on many things: lifestyle, communication needs, work or volunteering, family members’ needs, dexterity, eyesight and cognitive comprehension, to name a few.”
This means that Hoffman and the staff must identify medical issues that will affect hearing down the road, including things like heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk, to determine what a patient’s hearing needs will be, because all of those conditions can affect a person’s hearing over the long term. Therefore, it is imperative that the staff at the Hearing Aid Company of Texas is well educated and ready to address all of these concerns with their patients, while at the same time ensuring that patients feel comfortable and at ease during treatment. “You don’t just buy a hearing aid from us,” Hoffman says. “You get hearing health care for life.”
And that attitude is what has kept their business expanding for the past 25 years. Hoffman enjoys making meaningful change happen in the lives of her patients every single day.
“There’s a reason we keep tissues in all of the exam rooms,” she explains. “When a child hears a mother’s voice for the first time, or someone gets tested and realizes the reason they did poorly in school was because they just couldn’t hear the teacher like the other kids, or someone hears a spouse for the first time in years – those are amazing moments that our patients have every single day. We’ve fixed hearing aids in the middle of the night so a dying man can hear his loved ones tell him goodbye. We have a 24-hour hotline for that very reason – that’s how important what we do is to us.”
Thanks to advances in technology, the devices themselves are easy to conceal and affordable. Hoffman recommends that everyone come in at age 40 to get a baseline hearing test. The patient’s hearing can then be monitored every few years to see if there has been any change. Early intervention and treatment allows people to live their entire lives able to hear and enjoy living.
But improving the quality of their patients’ lives isn’t all that the Hearing Aid Company of Texas is doing. Hoffman goes on to explain that “I used to say that what we did was not saving lives, but we’ve identified and referred so many cases of skin cancer, tumors, heart disease, diabetes, you name it, that now I know that we do. We also have patients tell us we’ve helped save their marriage. We take our jobs and our patients’ lives very seriously, and it makes us proud to come to work every day.”
Hoffman’s job also keeps her extremely active in the community. She and her family support many local charities, especially those that make a difference for her patients: the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and – most especially, of course – the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center.
For more information about the Hearing Aid Company of Texas or to find out how to schedule a visit, go to www.hearingaidcompany.com or call 800-571-3058.