Creative Destruction and the Hearing Care Professional as Entrepreneur

Holly Hosford-Dunn
May 15, 2012

Editor’s Note:  Brian Taylor, AuD, returns as a Guest Editor this week to, introduce another innovative concept.  Last time, he wrote about Concierge Audiology.  Today he writes on Mass Personalization of Services.  I think regular readers of this section will agree that Dr. Taylor’s posts fit perfectly with our “Back to the Future” series.  Welcome, Brian!

Austrian born economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) coined the term “creative destruction” to describe the method by which economic change occurred in a capitalist society. Schumpeter noted that the fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from new consumer goods, new methods of production, emerging markets and new forms of industrial organization that entrepreneurs create. In Schumpeter’s view of capitalism, entrepreneurs are the disruptive force that sustains economic progress.

Creative destruction and disruptive technology are all around us. If you were in the newspaper or recording industry 15 years ago, your profession has been thoroughly disrupted by the digital MP3 and tablet computer goliaths. There is no reason to think that audiologists, hearing instrument specialists, physicians and others associated with our industry should be immune from the forces of creative destruction and disruptive innovation.

The reality is that technology is getting so good and so cheap that many of the technical aspects of our job may soon be replaced by a machine. Just like the artisan weavers of the 18th century were replaced by the mechanical loom, audiologists may be replaced by computers that conduct accurate tests. A group called the Luddites fought the mechanization of textile production for decades and lost. You have to wonder if it’s worth fighting the disruptive forces in our profession.

The forces of creative destruction go beyond disruptive technology per se. Other professions, which once thought they were immune to the effects of outsourcing, now find themselves marginalized by low-cost workers in Asia who speak good English and have advanced degrees in science and engineering. X-rays and sonograms can be read by physicians in India for a fraction of the cost of having them read by an American radiologist. The day may come when the troubleshooting and adjustment of hearing aids is done remotely from another country by professionals with advanced degrees.

These last two paragraphs illustrate a very narrow, techno-centric view of the hearing care professions…one that I certainly don’t agree with, but that is widely held by many within the hearing care professions.  While I commend the efforts of anyone willing to fight to maintain barriers to entry into our respective industry professions, I wonder if some of that energy could be better devoted to creatively engaging the marketplace in new and better ways of adding consumer value. Taking a page from Schumpeter, I propose that hearing care professionals of all stripes bring new services to market that cannot be replaced with technology or duplicated by lower cost outsourced labor. It’s time to rally around the mass personalization of services.

There are three areas where the personalization of services by audiologists and hearing instrument specialists cannot be duplicated by machines or outsourced labor. All three of these personalized services require face-to-face interaction with a patient/customer:

  1. Consultative Selling – using evidence-based practices to identify a hearing loss and uncover an individualized solution
  2. Personal Adjustment Counseling – working with a patient over a relatively extended period of time to unearth the emotional underpinnings of their hearing loss and helping the patient and family cope with it as they age.
  3. Individualized Rehabilitation – working with the patient to “retrain” their brain in the communication process and helping them become more proficient communicators.

When hearing care professional are able to wrap a memorable and engaging experience around these three core competences, they will create value than cannot be duplicated by disruptive technology or outsourced labor. Capture the entrepreneurial experience and unleash the power of creative destruction in your practice!

Brian Taylor AuD


Brian Taylor, Au.D is the Director of Practice Development and Clinical Affairs for Unitron. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices and the author of Consultative Selling Skills for Audiologists published by Plural.

  1. Terrific blog, Holly. I enjoy reading your Blog each month.

    I had a thought on your suggestion that the profession identify new value-add services to bring to market. Wouldn’t this require un-bundling from the product price so that the consumer can understand the value of these services? Or are you suggesting that practitioners merely begin adding the services but keep the ‘single-cost’ model.

    What about this question:

    1. Holly Hosford-Dunn Author

      Pricing is such a complicated area — one I haven’t gotten to yet in these Blogs, mainly because I feel the need to go thru more Econ 101 posts first. For instance, how can we talk seriously about pricing without knowing about Supply Schedules and their interaction with Demand Schedules. How can we talk about Pricing without knowing the difference between Price Makers and Price Takers? SO… to address you question — I’m not advocating bundling or unbundling right now. Adding services (and covering their cost with some ROI built in) that make you more competitive is a good thing to advocate in any type of model, as far as I’m concerned.

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