Roberta Miller, senior director of dispenser relations at Beltone discusses her 60-year career and journey in hearing healthcare.
By Kathryn Sutherland
The “mother” of Beltone—as the company’s owners call her—Roberta Miller, has one of the longest and most successful careers in the hearing healthcare industry. Miller, who started working for Beltone on April 25, 1963, as a transcription typist, has held various positions with increasing responsibility in audiology, service, and sales throughout her tenure. She played a vital role in the development and successful launch of Beltone’s BelCare aftercare service program—which is a cornerstone of their business.
Today, she is the senior director of dispenser relations. Miller works closely with Beltone owners throughout North America, helping them to overcome challenges, addressing concerns, and celebrating their achievements. She also coordinates Beltone’s National Advisory Council and serves as the primary liaison for the President’s Club. Miller is highly respected in the industry for her work ethic, caring nature, and dedication to making each owner successful.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Miller, to learn more about her career with Beltone and her journey through hearing healthcare.
Kathryn Sutherland: Congratulations, on your 60th anniversary with Beltone. How did you got started at Beltone and in the hearing industry?
Roberta Miller: When I was in college, my sister worked for the telephone company, and her best friend was related to the Posen family, who owned Beltone. They needed an operator and receptionist, so my sister left her job to work for Beltone, and I followed .
Sutherland: Can you describe your current role with the company and what you enjoy most about it?
Miller: I am the senior director of dispenser relations, and I communicate with all of our dispensers—helping them with any issues or problems they may have. They know they can come to me with anything they may need help with, and I’ll get it done for them. I am the liaison to our dispenser network, and I enjoy communicating with them and helping them in any way I can.
Sutherland: Do you remember your first day with the company?
Miller: Yes, I remember it well. I was hired by Len Webster to work in sales service. I transcribed Dictaphone belts, and one of our regional managers, Roy Bain, used to send them in half dictated and half music which was a delight to listen to. That was the start of my career at Beltone.
Sutherland: What has kept you engaged over the years you have worked at Beltone?
Miller: I consider Beltone to be like family. We care about each other, and it’s a wonderful place to work. The company is always improving, and that keeps me engaged.
Sutherland: What has been your biggest achievement since working at Beltone?
Miller: I have several achievements that I’m proud of, including my role in developing and launching our highly successful aftercare program, BelCare, which is still in use today. I also take pride in working my way up from a Dictaphone typist to the senior director of dispenser relations.
Sutherland: Can you tell me more about BelCare?
Miller: BelCare is a program that provides free aftercare service to each patient who buys a Beltone hearing aid. Patients can go to any Beltone dispenser anywhere in the country to be serviced, and they can come back every three months to be checked.
Sutherland: What changes—whether in terms of technology, hearing aids, or the industry—stand out to you?
Miller: The technology in hearing aids has improved dramatically since I started. We’ve gone from very large hearing aids to in-the-ear CICs, bone vibrators, hearing aids in glasses, and bimodal fittings. Our new line of Beltone Achieve™ hearing aids is the best ever. Another thing that has improved, repairs are no longer an issue with nano-coating, and that’s good for everyone, especially the hearing-impaired.
Sutherland: I’ve been fitted with that hearing technology from one of your AuD professionals. It has been a good experience for me. What’s the biggest takeaway that you’ve had since your time at Beltone?
Miller: Well, my biggest takeaway since I started and now: I have the respect of our executive team, our employees, and our Beltone dispensers. They listen to me, and they look to me for guidance on various problems to help hearing-impaired people. And people say, “Why would you stay so long?” Well, because I really love the company.
Sutherland: Beltone independent owners refer to you as their “work mother.” Provide the background on what that means to you?
Miller: It means that they think of me as family. They think of me and treat me like I am capable of taking care of them. And I do take care of them, so I don’t mind being called the mother of Beltone.
Sutherland: That’s actually an honor and a lot of responsibility, right?
Miller: It is an honor, yes. I was just honored at our national meeting, actually.
Sutherland: How did that feel to be honored in front of everybody that looks up to you?
Miller: It was a big surprise as my boss, Kevin Conners, who is Beltone’s vice president of sales, came up to me during the day and said, “I want you to do a toast at the opening of the awards gala.” So, they called me up, and I gave a toast saying, “Our best days of the past year should be the worst days of this year.” And then they surprised me with a touching video montage of photos from my time at Beltone and all kinds of wonderful gifts. The most important gift was a big book filled with photos and lovely messages from people who have been in my life while at Beltone, which was so moving to me.
Sutherland: Do you want to share a fond memory from your time at Beltone?
Miller: The memories of caring for each other are always my fondest, as my work family has always been there for me.
Sutherland: I want to congratulate you on your upcoming Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Hearing Society (IHS). I understand that you’ll be there in September to receive the award.
Miller: Kevin Conners called me last week and told me about this—I was in disbelief. I told my nephew, and he said, “That’s like getting the Academy Award.” Anyway, my greatest achievement is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. I go to IHS every year. I have for many years and just love it.
Sutherland: What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the hearing industry?
Miller: Be honest and treat people as you want to be treated. If you’re unhappy, move on, but don’t bring other people down with you. And most importantly, be happy in what you do. HR
Kathryn Sutherland is the editor-in-chief and principal analyst for The Hearing Review.