A forgotten clinical foundation
Using study data in marketing can be inherently problematic. Often the message is fear, plain and simple. Do this or the dreadful thing might happen. I think the message has real validity, I think the medium and the terms of reference are the issue. Recent evolution of our understanding of untreated hearing loss and its possible co-morbidities has led to a plethora of possible messages. The question is how are we to use them?
An example of the use of contentious information is actually available to us, although by now it has probably slipped our mind. Auditory deprivation and its effect on an untreated ear was contentious years ago but is now accepted. It also probably should have led to and supported a growing campaign to of awareness for untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline.
A growing correlation
I am sure that we are all aware of the growing correlation between uncorrected hearing loss and degenerative neurological diseases. The weight of study evidence is increasing almost monthly for a suspected link between untreated hearing loss and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Marketing through fear
Although the study evidence is correlative at best it hasn’t stopped some of our profession and the press seizing on it. The tabloid press for some pretty lurid headlines and some hearing healthcare companies for marketing exercises. In essence this activity is marketing based on fear. There is no real untruths told, but nevertheless the waters are muddied slightly.
We as clinicians understand correlative, your average Patient may not quite understand the nuance or full meaning. Enough about that though, fear as a tool ear is a time-honoured tradition in marketing. I read an interesting paper on its effect versus other marketing methods which I will share another time.
A forgotten clinical foundation
Although the link between uncorrected hearing loss and degenerative neurological loss has received much attention of late. Perhaps it should have been much more obvious to us many years ago. A great deal of evidence in relation to untreated hearing loss and declining cognitive functions was actually available to us.
Untreated hearing loss and auditory deprivation
In 2003 a well laid out paper was published in the International Journal of Audiology by Stig Arlinger, a member of the Department of Audiology in University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden. The paper called “Negative Consequences of uncorrected hearing loss-a review” cited many studies supporting its conclusions that uncorrected hearing loss had a major combined effect on the overall health and welfare of a subject. At the time the thrust of the paper was seen to be an argument for bilateral fitting over monaural where needed.
I remember reading the paper in 2007, it and many of the articles it cited became foundation points in my clinical practice. At that time the fitting of hearing aids binaurally was if not a contentious issue a difficult one. Many Patients were sceptical as it seemed were many associated medical professionals. Now, the fitting of binaural hearing aids is an accepted norm, how things change.
The effects of long-term auditory deprivation on an untreated ear are well documented and accepted internationally. The cognitive effects and possible co-morbidities of untreated hearing loss are also well documented. Even now a better understanding of co-morbidities with hearing loss is evolving.
Using those messages
When we use this information in Practice, it is inherent upon us that we do so in a clear manner with simple explanation. In a message that is factual and clearly understandable, with all of the nuances clearly explained. When we use these messages in marketing material, it is essential that we do so. It really is incumbent on us as medical professionals to do so. I think that is what most of us would like to see ourselves as.
Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss-a review;S Arlinger, International Journal of Audiology 2003; 42:2 S17-S20