CLYDE — Mountain Audiology unexpectedly closed the doors to its Clyde and Franklin offices Nov. 4, but hopes to reopen sometime in the future under new ownership, said current owner Emma Maxwell.
“I’m limited in the specific details I’m able to share, but can tell you that the practice closed for financial reasons,” Maxwell said. “After I purchased the business in late 2017, the revenue declined and the business was no longer bringing in enough each month to cover the expenses of operating the offices, paying the staff, etcetera, let alone make a profit.”
After The Mountaineer requested comment in November 2019, Maxwell responded by email on Jan. 3. She said efforts to negotiate terms with her business loan lender were unsuccessful, and she was forced to close Mountain Audiology as a result.
“I appreciate that the closing appeared abrupt to the patients, but in reality it was anything but,” Maxwell said. “I am hopeful that Mountain Audiology will reopen soon under new ownership, and regret that the timeline has been extended.”
Before Mountain Audiology can reopen, Maxwell must answer to the N.C. Board of Examiners for Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists, said Nahale Kalfas, general counsel to the board.
Notice of a disciplinary hearing has been issued to Mountain Audiology, and the case will likely be tried by the state audiology board during its Feb. 28 meeting, Kalfas said.
Alternatively, Kalfas said the board is open to the option of a settlement conference, rather than taking punitive measures against the practice in a formal disciplinary hearing.
So long as Mountain Audiology is providing restitution to its patients, a settlement conference could be heard earlier than February, Kalfas said.
“There’s the process where she needs to make consumers whole,” Kalfas said. “Our sole mission is to protect consumers.”
When Mountain Audiology closed, patients were left unsure where to turn for hearing care. Maxwell said she has negotiated an agreement with the ownership of Mountain Ear Hearing Associates.
Until Mountain Audiology reopens, patients can call Mountain Ear to schedule appointments free of charge, Maxwell said. Mountain Ear’s Waynesville office can be reached at 828-377-6223.
“I would like to express that I’m saddened by the impact the closure has had on our patients,” Maxwell said. “I want to offer assurance that I am doing everything possible to continue to ensure the best care for our patients during this difficult time.”
Under the agreement, Mountain Ear will provide hearing aid follow-up care, programming adjustments, cleaning and basic in-office care services to patients with hearing aids fit by Mountain Audiology, free of charge, Maxwell said. Find Mountain Ear online at www.mountainearhearing.com.
“I would like to extend a thank you to our colleagues at Mountain Ear,” Maxwell said. “They have been instrumental in facilitating the delivery of new aids, repairs, and providing follow up care over the past weeks.”
Hearing aid warranties follow the device, so any hearing aid or audiology office can provide coverage, Maxwell said.
For patients whose devices were in for repair when the offices closed, Maxwell said those devices have been shipped or will be sent out soon, either directly to the patients, or to a provider of their choice. Patients who ordered new devices that had not yet been fit when the offices closed can email email@example.com for assistance.
“For patient privacy reasons, a signed paper release of information form needs to be signed by the patient allowing us to provide their records to another office for any reason,” Maxwell said. “Patients may initiate this request with Mountain Ear, at any office of their choice, or by sending request by fax to Mountain Audiology at 828-627-1070. For data security reasons, requests may not be made via email.”
For updates on the status of Mountain Audiology, Maxwell said to go online to www.mtnaudio.com.
“I am greatly appreciative of everyone’s patience and support as we work through some changes,” Maxwell said. “I will reach out as more updates are available.”