OSWEGO — Kristopher Rookey and Clayton D. Andrews III, licensed, certified hearing specialists, both of Oswego, have brought the modern world of hearing aids here, and are intent on providing this area with affordable hearing care and excellent service.
“A couple years ago, we decided we wanted to bring affordable hearing healthcare to Oswego, NY,” 30-year veteran of the business, Andrews, said recently at their Bridge Street office. “I knew what they were asking for prices in Oswego County, and Kristopher agreed with me, that the price was far too much for a set of hearing aids. Most of our patients come in, who have bought hearing aids before, they go, ‘Is that for one hearing aid?’ No, it’s for two hearing aids. And we offer strong guarantees. They say, ‘How can you do this?’ Well, one of the reasons is Kris bought a very big practice. So that gave us buying power to negotiate with the manufacturer. It’s about a 50-year-old office. It’s a very big practice. What surprised us was how fast our business model took off here. We were thinking maybe four or five patients a month. No, no, no. The referrals are coming in. People are telling us constantly, people are driving from Syracuse to see us, lots through referral, because we feel we do a pretty good job, a lot because we’re part of this community. They know us. We’re the only ones dispensing hearing aids in this community who are actually from this community. We’re not from Syracuse, or Mexico, or Rochester, or wherever. We live here. We are part of this community. So, that was really the idea of this business, really a community-based business. We’re involved with the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve sponsored basketball teams from the community. We’re very open about our pricing and our structure. You either have to have large margin, low patient load, or lower margin and large patient load. We were going after that model, and it’s worked so far.”
They opened here in September 2019. COVID-19 was on no one’s radar yet. Now, with a business model that counts on having a lot of patients, COVID-19 could really hurt a business that may have to cut down on the number of patients they’re allowed to see at once.
“We have enough funds that we can last a long time,” Andrews said. “We’ve made sure we’re prepared for this.”
“We do hearing tests, hearing exams,” said Andrews. “We do wax removal in a very safe, non-invasive way. This has been a big hit so far. We do ear protection, swimmers’ ears, musicians’ ears, hunters’ ears, custom hearing protection, shooters’ ears. They wear them. They’re electronic. They can hear the game. When they shoot the gun, it compresses the gunshot, so it’s protecting their hearing, but it’s still allowing them to hear what’s going on out there. We do quite a few of those. We have sleepers’ ears, so if you have somebody that’s bothered by noises or somebody that snores, we have little plugs that go in.”
As Rookey put it, they want Upstate Hearing to be “your one-stop shop for your hearing healthcare.” They take almost all insurances and are presently working on accepting Medicaid.
They also repair hearing aids in their own repair lab. As Rookey said, “If it’s feasible, we can repair it here.”
Andrews emphasized something of which he was obviously proud. “We don’t charge veterans for service,” he said. “We always ask if a person is a vet. We put it right in their file. Even if they didn’t get their hearing aids from us, cleaning of their ears, retesting, reprogramming, repairs that we can do in-office, which there are a lot of them we can do, we never charge a vet. It’s part of what we do.”
About 95 percent of people will get two hearing aids, Andrews said. “Most hearing aids now are designed to work together. They’re looking for noise, they use mathematical formulas. In the old days, they were both amplifying, so if somebody’s talking over here, there’s head shadow effect. Now hearing aids can sense where the speech is coming from, and they use mathematical formulas to offset the gains of the other ear so that it’s natural. Furthermore,” he said, when you have hearing loss, 95% of the time, it’s in both ears, unless you’ve hurt your ear.
“Most of the time, people who have hearing loss do not realize how bad their hearing loss is,” Andrews continued. “They just don’t recognize it. It’s usually the loved ones around them that are suffering more than they are. What happens is one of two things. A loved one can’t take it anymore and they drive them in, or they suddenly have hit that gradual point that now it’s really affecting their lives, and they have to do something. That’s usually the case.”
Andrews spoke a little more about what makes Upstate Hearing different and special.
“Another thing we do,” he said, “we let people try before they buy. We say try the hearing aids for a week, bring the hearing aids back, they give us data.” Upstate Hearing can read that data into a computer and analyze it.
“The hearing aids can look at seven different listening environments,” Andrews said. “We can talk with you about the data, we can talk about your hearing lifestyle, we can talk about your loss, and then we can talk about what the cost of hearing aids should be.”
“They’re now Bluetooth,” said Andrews. “I can answer my phone (with the hearing aid), and I can hang up.”
You can Bluetooth into the audiobook on your phone. It can connect to your TV in high-fidelity stereo.
“You can control the TV for yourself,” said Andrews. “That’s a big problem when your significant other has a significant hearing loss. They can’t watch TV together.”
They’re pretty much waterproof now, and they can do noise canceling. And cosmetically?
“We can make the hearing aid completely disappear. We match up the hair to it,” Andrews said.
“After you wear them for awhile,” he continued, “you forget you even have them. That’s when you know you have a good hearing aid. It’s like a pair of comfortable shoes, you don’t recognize them.”
And lastly, they’ll take your new hearing aid back within 45 days for any reason and give you all your money back.
“We’re here because we care,” Rookey concluded. “We’re here to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why we’re here.”
Upstate Hearing is located at 45 1/2 Bridge St., Oswego. Their phone number is 315-312-0097.