Beltone opens Suffolk shop

Published 9:56 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

Opening a Suffolk office for her Beltone franchise has been a breath of fresh air for Bari Grohler.

“The people in Suffolk are just so welcoming,” she said from the company’s small, new office in a building at 4488 Godwin Boulevard, halfway between Chuckatuck and Route 58. “I’ve just been amazed that everybody’s been so helpful. You people in Suffolk are really nice.”

Establishing the newest of her six Southside Hampton Roads Beltone retail locations has been “a walk in the park,” compared to challenges and expense of doing so in other parts of the area, Grohler said recently.

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From zoning exceptions to landlord relations, the entire process of opening a new retail outlet for Beltone’s hearing aid business has been easier in Suffolk, said Grohler, whose family has been involved with the hearing-improvement company for the past 55 years.

Beltone itself is in its 70th year of helping people to hear the world around them.

For Grohler, it’s more than just a business to run.

“It’s a really gratifying career,” she said. “I’m really passionate about it, about restoring the quality of life to people.”

She recalled a customer at one of her other locations, a retired detective from New York, who had been wrestling with hearing loss. He was “a very proud man” and had avoided getting hearing aids for many years, Grohler said. The change in the man’s life once he got the instruments, she added “was so eye-opening, it was amazing.”

But his words to her afterward made an even greater impact.

“He said his handicap wasn’t his loss of hearing — his handicap was not doing anything about it,” she recalled.

That’s a common problem among people with hearing problems, Grohler said. Many people see hearing loss as unavoidable evidence that they are getting older, and there are vanity issues involved with hearing loss that don’t exist with deteriorating eyesight.

While most of Grohler’s clients are 65 or older, a large portion of the hearing problems that Beltone treats in the Hampton Roads area is not age-related at all. In fact, noise-related hearing loss — especially as a result of exposure to military activities — leads the list of hearing problems the company deals with locally. Hearing loss caused by medication also is a growing problem, she said.

The good news is that many people with hearing problems can be helped, and Beltone has a variety of options available to those people. From hearing aids that will amplify sounds and conversations for homebound folks to those that can help active people hear and locate sounds from 360 degrees around them in just about any environment, the company offers solutions designed to fit just about any lifestyle and budget. Low-end aids run about $1,000 each, Grohler said, and high-end ones can cost $4,000.

The company offers free hearing tests by appointment and accepts all major insurance plans. If Beltone is not a provider for a client’s insurance, Grohler said, she will give the client a discount on the equipment. Furthermore, clients can get lifetime care and maintenance of their aids at any of Beltone’s 1,500 locations around the nation.

The Suffolk location will be open on Tuesdays by appointment, Grohler said. For more information, call 484-7111.