When Ilse Kolenbrander arrived in New York 5 years ago, one thing struck her in particular: in America, there is no such thing as a shop that exclusively offers advice and solutions for people with hearing problems. In her native The Netherlands, there are many retail formulas that sell over-the-counter hearing aids. And Ilse should know, because she has been, together with her sister Lisette, the owner of exactly such a formula for many years.
Exactly such a formula? Not exactly. Écoutez – because that is the name of Ilse and Lisette’s company – offers much more than just hearing aids. But more on that later.
Anyway, the idea was that Ilse would stay Stateside for 3 years and then return to Holland. Being a woman with strong ideas on how to help people with hearing issues – and not one to miss out on business opportunities, of course – she decided to stay and introduce hearing solutions ‘the Ecoutez way’ to the American people.
So what, exactly, is the big difference between the United States and the Netherlands? In America, the process of finding aid for your hearing problems is completely medicalized. When your hearing seems to be deteriorating, you go to visit a doctor – after making an appointment, of course. You first have an intake interview; then you are invited to come back in a few weeks to undergo a hearing test; and finally, four weeks later again, you can go pick up your hearing aid.
The care you receive in the process is mostly fine. It’s just not very customer-oriented. Not like the way Ilse was used to in the Netherlands, and certainly not what you can expect from Écoutez. Ilse explains: “The reality I encountered in the United States was one I knew from the Netherlands. From 20 years ago, that is. Since then, the branch has evolved in my country into something completely different. My experience in the US was quite a trip down memory lane.”
It was this experience that set her off on an adventure that will soon reach its destination: the opening of Écoutez’ first American boutique for first class hearing advice and hearing solutions. A one-stop shop that you can visit without an appointment, where you can have your hearing tested on the spot and where you can get advice about your specific issues. A shop that you can leave again in the possession of a hearing solution that allows you to feel comfortable again in your own environment. To re-invigorate your life. To re-join society. A shop, incidentally, that you can also visit if you don’t really need anything. We are always in for a chat and our coffee is always freshly made.
With Écoutez, we want to make the life of anyone with hearing problems a little easier. A little more comfortable. And we feel you shouldn’t be distracted by endless paperwork or discouraged by processes that make you feel like a patient, a burden. Because you’re not. You’re just someone who needs a little bit of help. Someone who deserves the best. We plan to offer just that, in a safe and friendly environment.
Écoutez aims to be more than a high-end hearing boutique; we want to build a community, a safe haven. A place where you can feel sure of a first class treatment and where you can feel at home, too. And a place that offers a low-threshold opportunity for you to take friends or relatives that might need hearing help, advice or just a kind word.
After a lot of searching, Écoutez has selected Dallas, Texas as its home away from home. A friendly, entrepreneurial city that has really made us feel welcome. We expect that our shop will open before the end of 2018; within 2 years, we hope to have a total of 3 shops in the area.
So: watch this space! Would you like to receive more information in the mean time? Feel free to register for our newsletter. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us or send us an email: Ilse@ecoutez.nl
Hope to see you soon at Écoutez!