Are we victims of our own stupidity? Hell yes!
In the minds of the consumer, particularly the new consumer, hearing well has become all about the product and not about the process. We as a profession internationally are responsible for this state of affairs. Our marketing strategy and business model has encouraged this concept. We are in fact to blame for our current situation because we have not made it clear to the buying public that hearing better is about a process. About a product delivered with skilled work and an ongoing process involving much more than just technical servicing. I am afraid we are the victims of our own stupidity.
I have many interesting conversations in the ether, where are we going, what is the future? I don’t think we can really tell with any certainty, because there are so many possibilities. Possibilities that we now know, but also possibilities that we don’t. As technology changes and evolves it will present us with completely new possibilities for the delivery of products and indeed our services.
Self fit is becoming a reality, as we speak at least one company is gearing up for trials. Within some academic circles there is a growing call for self fit low cost instruments. The call is based or justified on not just the needs of the low income third world market place but also low income demographics everywhere. Is there a call for self fit in the wider customer demographic though? Possibly not right now, but there was no real call for smart phones when they were first launched either. If self fit becomes a main stream reality, where does that leave our profession?
Is it possible that we will become simply physiologists, involved in the simple testing of a physiological function? Will we then retreat into tinnitus therapy and VNG? I don’t think so, even if self fit becomes an accepted main stream enterprise, there will still be many that will not follow the DIY route. There will also be many who may self fit and then look for professional intervention. One way or the other I have no doubt that in some way we will be involved in the process.
Perhaps we will continue to work in Practices that are similar to the ones we work in today? It is possible though that Practices may be more akin to phone shops of today in the future. I made a throw away comment on one of the forums recently about the future of hearing instrument purchase. It boiled down to a shop assistant saying something like “The audiology team say that anything in the red range is suitable for your loss, the red range has four levels of technology at differing price points. If you would just like to choose your style and colour our audiology team can fit it”.
The more I consider it, the more I think it may well be a possibility. The merging of technologies is moving hearing instruments from medical device technology towards consumer goods technology. This combined with our historical ineptitude at putting ourselves at the centre of the process of hearing well has encouraged this state of affairs. The questions are, what are we to do about it, should we do anything about it, can we do anything about it.
My answers are there are many strategies we can follow, I think we should, I fear that we can not. I am beginning to be of the belief that the future of our profession, like your brand, is in the hands of the consumer. The consumer assisted and fuelled by evolving disruptive technology will have a large impact on the future of our profession. We can’t stop the evolvement of disruptive technology, it will happen and it will directly affect our profession. The question is, what will we do in response to it? I think it is an imperative that we take every step possible to place ourselves at the centre of the process of hearing well. How do you plan to do it today?