Ultravox, which claims to be the UK's market leader in the dispensing of hearing aid devices, has been sold in a £64.5 million deal.
Amplifon, the Italian-based worldwide market leader, has acquired the Manchester-based firm which operates under four retail brands from 250 centres nationwide.
There are 16 across the Midlands including two in Worcester and one each in Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Walsall, Burton-on-Trent and Solihull.
The UK hearing aid market is characterised by a shortage of audiologists, and long waiting lists on the NHS of up to 18 months.
Yet more than 80 per cent of hearing aids are still dispensed through the NHS albeit a significant element of this is via a Public Private Partnership, of which Ultra-vox is a key member.
Increased supply, both through the PPP and direct private sector dispensers, is fundamental to achieving the Government's target of a maximum 18-week waiting time for an NHS hearing aid.
Jeff Murphy, chief executive of Ultravox, said: "We have seen continuous growth working successfully within both the public and private sectors of the market.
"Seventy-two per cent of people over 60 have hearing deficiencies and the ageing population is putting an enormous strain on the current system.
"The PPP is the first serious attempt to try and improve the long term efficiency of the market and will continue to evolve, but the role of the private sector is critical.
"Amplifon is a service-led business which will bring enormous benefits to our public and private sector customers and many exciting opportunities for our employees.
"It is a very exciting development for both us and the market generally."
Lead advisers to the deal were Paul Jones and Jon Mercer of Clearwater Corporate Finance who believe it signifies the start of a fundamental restructuring for the UK hearing market.
"Private sector sales of hearing aids have grown significantly and are expected to accelerate in the future as the NHS tries to cope with the ever-increasing demand of an ageing population," said Mr Jones.
"Ultravox, the UK number one is in a unique position to fully benefit from this change and became a 'must have' for the global market leader."
With a £57 million turnover, Ultravox has a 24 per cent market share of the UK private sector.
The company's brands are Ultratone, Sietech, Hearing Health and Active Life UK.
Since 2001, it has increased its number of high street branches from 76 to 138.
The company also operates from more than 120 day centres across the country.
Ultravox has more than 50 shareholders, many of which are employees who will share in the sale proceeds.
Amplifon, led by chief executive Franco Moscetti, turns over in excess of £347 million with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and ammortisation (EBITDA) in 2005 of £64.5 million.
Advisers on the deal included Eversheds, Lovells, and Ernst & Young.
Clearwater has offices in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Nottingham. ..SUPL: