From an immigrant child fleeing civil war to helping others also combat hearing loss, Heargift’s founder, Serge has a unique story.
Hi, my name is Serge. I’ve had moderate to severe hearing loss for as long as I can remember. I was born in Polo, Yugoslavia, and when I was three years old, I had a fever that damaged the hair salt in my ears. My parents noticed that when they called my name, I didn’t respond, and I ignored them, and that’s how they knew that I had a hearing problem. When I was nine years old, my country started going through a civil war, and my parents decided to move me, my sister, and the whole family to Canada; moving to a new country is extremely hard. We had to leave behind all our possessions, and we could only bring some clothes and toiletries and the little money that we had. We arrived in Canada knowing no English, and we were actually in debt, owing money to the Canadian government for travel expenses. Growing up as a kid with hearing loss was not easy. Growing up as a kid with hearing loss in a brand new country where I didn’t know the language or the culture was even more complicated. I became timid and withdrawn. I felt different from all the other kids, not just because of my hearing loss but also because I was from a foreign country and couldn’t speak the language.
I was placed in ESL English as a Second Language and special needs classes throughout my school years. My parents both got jobs, and eventually, they could afford to buy me my first pair of hearing aids. Even though the technology was subpar, and I still couldn’t understand or hear speech properly, and I couldn’t hear my voice correctly, I was thrilled to listen to sounds that most people take for granted. Sounds such as my footsteps, water dripping from a faucet, birds singing outside my window, the ticking of a clock, and even the buzzing of a fridge were all-new sounds. As I got older, I had to replace my hearing aids with new models. I tried them all; in the ear, behind the ear receiver. It seemed that I had to get a new device every two years. Yet there was never much improvement in what I wanted most to be able to hear speech properly. The hardest thing for me growing up as a young adult was not being able to hear my classmates, all my friends, and all my teachers properly.
I had a lot of questions that I asked the teacher, but there was no guarantee that I would be able to hear the answer. I became extremely self-conscious about my hearing loss, and I didn’t want to draw any attention. I hated having to wear the old, bulky hearing aids that everyone noticed, and I developed a habit of laughing whenever I couldn’t hear someone because I didn’t want to ask them, “what did you say?” constantly. I hope that they said something funny and that I didn’t accidentally offend them. Going out in groups made me incredibly nervous. Keeping up with conversations one on one is hard enough, but it is almost impossible when multiple conversations are going on, along with loud background noise. I became very anxious and thought that other people were judging me and that they probably thought that I was weird because I was always quiet. But with the support of my parents, my friends, and some great teachers, I graduated from high school and went to College. And then it happened. Before going on vacation for a week, my sister’s puppy chewed up my hearing aids.
I was dismayed. My girlfriend had to communicate with me for the entire week. I didn’t have the money to buy a new pair from an audiologist. Even with the payment plan, I was well aware of how much new hearing aids cost; having gone through six different pairs myself, I knew that hearing aids get more and more expensive every year. I was also a broke College student, working full time and paying off credit card debt and my student loans. Worst yet, I knew that not being able to hear properly would make it very hard for me to perform at work and possibly even put my job in jeopardy. When I got back from vacation, I vowed to find a solution. I worked day and night looking for answers. I contacted factories and manufacturers worldwide in Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Switzerland, and India. I ordered sample devices from all the factories and tested them out with the bit of money I had. After a few weeks, I came across the factory that produced these hearing devices that outperformed all the rest. They were small, powerful, and comfortable, but they were a fraction of the price of regular hearing aids.
I couldn’t believe my ears. These devices outperformed all the $5,000 $6,000 pairs I had previously. I was shocked to discover how well these devices work and how affordable they are. I’ve realised that hearing aids don’t need to be expensive. We assume they are because nobody has shown us any other options. The best part is I no longer need to rely on doctors or audiologists to provide me with hearing aids. I put my ability to hear back into my own hands. Not many people are aware of the advanced hearing technology that exists today. I realised that I could help people in a similar situation by providing them with cost-effective hearing devices that work just as well, or in some cases, even better than the expensive regular hearing aid. Using these new hearing devices has changed my life completely. I can now hear speech clearly, and I can even hear when someone behind me is speaking to me. I can hear a car pull up in the driveway, and I could hear my friends when we’re having conversations and joining in the fun. I enjoy my life a lot more thanks to these fantastic healing devices.
Also, I can buy backup pairs and not worry about losing or damaging my primary pair because they’re so cheap. Looking at forums and communities online, I realised that I was not alone. Many people think that hearing aids need to cost $5000 to $6,000 or more, or they live in an area where their insurance does not cover the cost of hearing aids, and for a lot of these people, $5,000 is too much money; and they choose to go without any hearing aids. I wanted to help these people and show them other options available. Now. I’m no doctor, but I believe that people should be made fully aware of all the options before making a purchase decision. That’s when I decided to start my company, HearGift. I signed a contract with the factory producing these hearing devices, and we released them to the world. Those devices are now known as the HearGift V5 Hearing aids. After getting to wear them for a while and collecting some valuable feedback from our customers, we went back to the factory, made some additions to the model, and released another device called the V6 Hearing aids.
The V6 solved many of the problems that our customers were having with the V5 model, most notably the squealing noise that comes standard with pretty much every hearing device out there. We then discovered that many of our older customers were having issues changing the volume because the devices were so small. After going back to the drawing board, we developed the V7 hearing aids, our premium hearing aids with push-button control, making it straightforward to change the volume or the sound profile. We’ve sold over 20,000 devices so far, and I could not be happier. We get incredible testimonials from our customers every day saying how much we’ve changed their lives and how much we’ve changed the lives of their loved ones. We get emails, and we get calls, we get messages, and we even get video testimonials from our customers thanking us for the healing gift devices this year in 2020. Our mission is to help even more people. We want to sell 50,000 units and allow 50,000 people to change their hearing stories. Thank you so much for reading my story. My name is Serge, and I’m the co-founder of HearGift.