Breaking the sound barrier


Alleya Cheng, founder and chief audiologist at Soundlife Hearing Group, providing consultation to a customer at her centre.

Soundlife Hearing gives the hearing impaired a chance to make real connections

IN 2016, Alleya Cheng started healthcare centre Soundlife Hearing, with the aim to improve audiological care. With extensive work experience across different sub-fields of audiology in the health industry, Cheng had noticed a gap between the audiological approaches taught in universities and what was being offered in the market.

“There was a need for better treatment and it was then when I decided I would start a centre to provide the best services for people with audio issues,” said Cheng, founder and chief audiologist at Soundlife Hearing Group.

After graduating as an audiologist from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Cheng went on to work in various capacities in the health industry for a decade. During this time, she has picked up accolades including JCIM Creative Young Entrepreneur Award (CYEA) and Woman Glamour Award in 2021.

Today, she can confidently say that her mission to promote hearing healthcare as part of a healthy lifestyle – and removing the stigma often felt by hearing impaired persons and hearing aids, as well as empowering people who suffer from hearing loss – has been a success.

Soundlife Hearing’s clients include individuals from all age groups who suffer from hearing loss, but in particular the elderly, aged 60 and above, who require hearing aids to regain their hearing ability.

In 2017, Soundlife Hearing became the audiological service contractor for Manipal Hospital. The same year it also began providing home service for hearing aid clients.

Today it has two retail centres – in SS2, Petaling Jaya which opened in 2018, and in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam, just established in January this year.

“We have continuously kept expanding our audiological services. We started with just the pure tone audiometry hearing tests, real ear measurement (REM) hearing aid verification tests and focus ed mostly on hearing aid-related services such as prescription, fitting, tuning, servicing, verification and validation tests,” Cheng explained.

“But today, we also own middle ear, inner ear test equipment, we do sound-field testing and have started cochlear implant services as well.”

Cheng said that Soundlife has helped thousands of clients, many of whom were living in silent misery, whose family relationships were at risk of being broken due to isolation and the inability to communicate.

“We have helped them gain the ability to hear again, and hundreds of families have been able to rebuild a personal connection with their loved ones,” Cheng shared.

“It’s always incredibly rewarding to see clients who earlier walked through our doors with a limited ability to hear, be able to smile again and communicate with the people around them, who don’t have to raise their voices anymore!”

Cheng and her team of audiologists.Cheng and her team of audiologists.

Soundlife Hearing is not a large organisation; Cheng shared that including herself there are only eight employees, all of whom are women.

“In our profession, 90% of audiologists are women,” Cheng said. “Soundlife has very strong core values such as caring, going the extra mile and instilling a sense of responsibility. We find that women have more patience when it comes to handling patients – most of whom are either elderly or very young children,” she said.

“The elderly who suffer from hearing loss get depressed and agitated easily. Dealing with them requires more attention and care because they can become very impatient with their new hearing aids or even forgetful when it comes to learning instructions on how to use these new gadgets.”

While hearing tests are conventionally required to be performed in person in a sound-treated room by a qualified audiologist, the pandemic has forced Soundlife to offer online audiologist consultation and virtual hearing tests.While hearing tests are conventionally required to be performed in person in a sound-treated room by a qualified audiologist, the pandemic has forced Soundlife to offer online audiologist consultation and virtual hearing tests.

When Covid-19 struck, the centre faced a few challenges. Hearing tests are conventionally required to be performed in person in a sound-treated room by a qualified audiologist to ensure their reliability and accuracy. But with the ongoing pandemic, some clients were reluctant to visit in person even with Soundlife’s designation as an essential service.

Not wanting to be limited by circumstances, Soundlife began to offer online audiologist consultation and virtual hearing tests in April 2020. Virtual hearing tests had already been in the market for a while but it's usually self-tested by users without proper guidance.

The pandemic compelled Cheng to figure out how she could still serve clients who were afraid of venturing out of their homes. By developing an online approach within audiological standards, customers just needed to connect via a laptop with a good Internet connection, in a quiet room with a pair of headsets, for consultation.

“Via Zoom, our audiologists would then take over their laptop remotely and conduct the test. With this, we are able to ensure the accuracy of the test up to 85%. Although virtual assessments cannot replace a conventional test for diagnostic purposes, it still allows us to proceed with the hearing aid trial and fitting with an estimation of the hearing loss level.”

With the latest Bluetooth hearing aid technology, the app even allows audiologists to test and administer settings in real-time, thus enabling them to remotely serve existing hearing aid wearers all the way in Johor and Indonesia.

Balancing the books with Xero

With Cheng and her team so busy treating clients near and far, they are grateful to others who are able to help them simplify their everyday business tasks. And that’s how cloud accounting platform Xero entered the picture.

“Xero was introduced to us by my accounting provider, ” Cheng shared.

“I started with Xero in 2017 when I first engaged Caltrix accounting services to close my yearly accounts for the business. Prior to this, we were using Excel to manage our invoices and we were struggling as we were not able to track the stocks in our business accounts in a timely fashion.”

When they compared the work done by Caltrix using Xero, Cheng decided she would enlist Xero’s services too.

“I like Xero because of its clean interface which allows us to create invoices/bills and organise them in a professional way; it hardly has any downtime or bugs, it’s fast loading and provides very accurate accounting information.”

Cheng said she is able to check details over the app on her mobile phone or laptop and send invoices easily to her clients with just a click anytime, anywhere. “Xero has also become part of my digitisation programme to minimise unnecessary use of paper and storage.”

One of her favourite things about Xero is that it can publish the management accounts in seconds, and allows one to view the profit and loss accounts, and balance sheets instantly. As Soundlife operates in different locations now, this is a godsend.

“With this accessibility I am able to make more sound financial decisions because I have the information at my fingertips. Using Xero has also reduced errors and allows me to track my business progress such as sales performance and expenses much more efficiently.”

Cheng said the procurement process has been simplified and her employees are able to create purchase orders which are directly captured in Xero.

“This allows us to keep track of our inventory along with payment statuses to our vendors, compared to previously when we had to create POs using Excel and capture this information into our manual accounting system. Back then, there were naturally many challenges when it came to reconciling payments to vendors.

“Likewise, issuing invoices and tracking down payments or refunding customers was another time-consuming process. But with Xero, everything is traceable and it has saved so much time!”

In the next 10 years Cheng hopes to expand her business nationwide and open outlets in various cities across the country.

“Our target is to open three more branches in the next three years around Klang Valley. More clients, more vendors, more invoices. But we’re counting on Xero to be there for us.”

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