A hearing care professional asked me how I could support best practice hearing care with one breath, and then support self fit hearing aids and the idea that we may not sell hearing aids in the future with another? I would like to say it is because I am a contrary bastard, but that would not quite be the whole truth. It is firstly because I am probably a consumer advocate first and foremost, and secondly, because I know that innovative disruption will do what it does without our assent. Finally, thirdly, because I believe that the consumer needs as they see them are what we should try to meet as healthcare professionals.
Are You Stupid, Unethical or Just Lazy?
So what is my position? My position is that hearing aids should be fitted using best practice hearing care, that includes in-depth hearing tests, Quick-SIN and Real Ear Measurements. To not do so is a failing on the part of a provider who is selling a product and service. To not do so is ignoring all the available evidence that shows the strategy leads to better fits and happier customers. To not do so, is to not provide the customer with the best available service. According to conventional wisdom, most providers are failing to do it. Are they stupid, unethical or just lazy? Not sure really, but I am sure they can come up with their own excuses.
Right For The Consumer & The Profession
Offering best practice hearing care is the single best thing to do for customers. It means that you are providing the very best service that you can provide in accordance with the latest evidence. With modern hearing aids and ancillary equipment, doing so means that more people with hearing loss have better expectations of their devices and those devices reach those expectations. That equates to happier customers, as simple as that. It is what is right for both the consumer and the profession. Not using best practice hearing care is why historically, we have had so many unhappy customers. Which leads me onto:
Consumers Have The Power
The power is in the hands of the consumers, the profession is just along for the ride. Many within our profession haven’t listened to consumers, they ignored the satisfaction rate, they ignored the hearing aids in the drawer, they ignored the pricing argument. They acted like the gravy train would continue forever. Businesses that don’t listen to consumers get disrupted, it is really as simple as that. Technological innovation plays into the hands of the consumer more often than not.
Digital innovation initially disrupted information flow. The first wave democratised information that was once jealously guarded within business silos. The second wave of digital innovation disrupted business models that were rife for it. Consumers applauded that disruption and adopted the technologies because they made sense, they were easier, offered greater convenience and were often cheaper.
We are beginning to see the effects of that second wave of disruption within hearing care. The advent of online retailers of hearing devices, direct to consumer business models, the over the counter act, the introduction of ear buds that act like hearing aids, the increasing customisation of audio for hearing loss to improve accessibility, apps to improve speech intelligibility in noise, all of these things are products of that second wave. They exist because the consumer wants them, and once there is an unserviced consumer need, someone will step in to fill it.
Innovation as a Boon, Not a Threat
I support all of these things because I see how valuable they can be to consumers. I also believe that we should be introducing them into our practices as part of our strategy to meet the needs of different consumers. Because if we are the healthcare professionals worried about the hearing health of the masses in the way we allege we are. Well, then we shouldn’t be focused on just one solution for the myriad of problems that confront us. A great analogy is that when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The current explosion of innovation should be seen as a boon to us, not a threat.
Talk About it All, Offer it All, be The Health Care Provider You Are Supposed to be
Yes, if their hearing loss would be best assisted with an amplification solution well then we should discuss that with them. However, if they aren’t ready for that, don’t send them away without some sort of solution. Because if you do, you are neither serving them nor yourself very well. If you aren’t meeting their needs in some way, well then you aren’t relevant.
Talk about it all, offer it all, explain it honestly and guide them to a solution that they are happy with at this time. If they want a cheap starter self fit
A Healthcare Provider That Happens to Sell Hearing Aids
That’s the difference between being a healthcare provider that happens to sell hearing aids and a hearing aid salesperson that dabbles in healthcare. One is someone who is prepared to offer the best solution or set of solutions for the needs of the person in front of them. The other has a hammer looking for a nail. If you have set your business model up with a bundled pricing structure, well then what you have is a hammer looking for a nail. However, if you charge fairly for your services in an itemised manner, well then your business model is about offering hearing care.
To say to someone that if they don’t want hearing aids that we can’t help them is ridiculous, the profession and its representatives shout about how they are advocates for people with hearing loss, is that only when they are buying hearing aids?