It’s not unusual for different types of eyecare providers to combine forces. But what about adding another healthcare specialty alongside an eye practice? Could it work? It has for Fred Meserall, whose business Frederic Meserall Vision & Hearing in Haddonfield, NJ, has offered both vision care and hearing aid services for 60 years with great results.
THE IDEA: Frederic Meserall Vision & Hearing was founded in 1946 by Meserall’s optician father, who’d made glasses for soldiers during World War II and decided to stay in the business. By the 1950s, Fred Meserall Sr. had added hearing services, too. Fred Meserall Jr. says his paternal grandfather had suffered hearing loss from working in a factory, and that had an impact on his dad.
“Having a father that was struggling with hearing loss made my father more sensitive to the needs of the hearing impaired, and when the opportunity to add hearing services to our practice came along he enthusiastically embraced it,” explains Meserall, who became an optician like his father and followed his dad into the family business.
THE EXECUTION: On the eyecare side of the practice, Meserall runs a full-service optical with both an optometrist and ophthalmologist on staff. The business focuses on high-end eyewear, premium lenses and computer glasses, as well as helping hard-to-fit patients.
Meserall became a New Jersey licensed hearing aid dispenser by taking a two-year certificate course and a state test. “We can dispense, test and do everything basically that an audiologist would do,” Meserall says. (He doesn’t fit kids with hearing aids, since pediatric cases generally go through a specialist.) Son-in-law Ray Hooley has joined the optical business, and he’s currently training in hearing services, too. And just as eyecare pros help people save as well as correct their sight, Frederic Meserall Vision & Hearing both conserves and enhances hearing. The practice makes custom earplugs for patients, especially discerning music lovers and musicians for whom off-the-shelf ear protection is unsatisfactory. “If you buy over-the-counter earplugs, the frequency response doesn’t come through correctly,” Meserall explains. “We make some custom ones that filter everything the way the sound should be.”
THE REWARDS: Although few businesses offer both disciplines, Meserall says vision and hearing services seamlessly work together in his practice. People who have been coming to him for eyecare realize they’re not hearing as well as they used to, and they turn to someone they already know and trust with their senses.
“When they have a relationship with someone they’ve been (coming to) for 10, 20 or 30 years, it’s kind of a natural fit for them — they already trust us because it is a large expenditure,” Meserall adds. (An average pair of high-end progressive eyewear at the business sells for $1,000 to $1,200, while a pair of hearing aids costs $3,000 to $6,000.)
While it takes money to add hearing services to a business, Meserall says it’s worth it. “It can be a profitable section of your business,” he says. But it’s not just about the money, he adds. Like helping people see better, “it’s a giving-back thing, too. It gives you a good feeling.”
Do It Yourself: Help People Hear Better
➤ Are hearing services a good fit for you? Think about your demographics. “You need to have some people coming through the door that are (in their) 50s and plus,” Meserall says.
➤ Find out about licensing requirements and regulations, which (as with eyecare) will vary from state to state.
➤ Savvy hearing specialists ask questions about how people use their hearing — on the job, in hobbies, etc. — and how hearing loss is affecting their life.
➤ Meserall says testing and consultation takes about an hour. Be prepared to do counseling. People can be reluctant to do something about hearing loss since it’s a sign of aging.
➤ If you partner with an audiologist or licensed hearing aid dispenser, take time to find someone who’s a good fit for your practice and has respect for older patients.
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of INVISION.