That’s Where the Money Is

Mike Metz
October 24, 2017

That response is attributed to Willie Sutton, a famous bank robber of the 1940s and 1950s, when asked why he robbed banks.  I have quoted it a couple of times during my career, not because I robbed banks, but because it is, in essence, brash and logical. 


The Logic of Efficiency


It also has some vague application to the hearing aid field—not the robbing aspect, but rather the underlying logic of efficiency.  This efficiency thing is also at the heart of directed mailings, advertising, and appeal to people who have an obvious need. It’s also at the center of ads for cars, dishwashing detergent, and even medicine.

For quite some time I have harbored the thought that, were I still in the audiology business, I would look closely at what I had to offer to those people who fail in their attempt to use amplification.  Imagine what kind of consumer response you would get if you placed an ad that said something like:

There is no lack of data about the real “market penetration” of hearing aids, the instrument return rate for “lack of benefit”, and attempts to explain why a significant number of patients fail in their attempts to hear better.  There are also indications that support the lack of proper testing and the setting of instruments as an explanation.  One thing is abundantly clear:  people fail despite their output of time and money.  And, while that’s where the desire is, it’s not very efficient when it comes to providing help.


Try Again With Those Who Try


Perhaps it might prove fruitful and efficient if some clinicians attempted to “fix” those patients who have shown that they were willing to try hearing instruments but failed, for some reason, to gain sufficient benefit.  After all, they took the first step. 

Maybe there are methods or procedures that would suit them better.  Maybe there are simple solutions to help them benefit from their outlay in time and money.  Perhaps if some of these “failed” patients were “rescued,” this would demonstrate that appropriate audiologic care does indeed make a difference.

Many studies that have shown “first fit,” faulty, or absent probe measurements; inappropriately programmed instruments; and the like have proven unsatisfactory to many with hearing loss.  We should also not have to be reminded that many clinics that follow “best protocols” have a very high degree of success with their amplified patients. 

Those “best protocol” clinics and clinicians could provide a great benefit if they were to solicit “difficult” patients who failed with their hearing aids.  Proving that adding astute clinicians to data-driven procedures solves a lot of problems may go a long way towards demonstrating the skills and advantages of good audiology.


That’s Where the Money Problem Is


In contrast to Willie Sutton’s statement, money should not be the principle driver of any approach to helping people use hearing devices.  While there must be a consideration of reimbursement, patients who have tried and failed using amplification would seem to have pursued hearing aids despite the cost.  And, their failures reflect on all of us.  There is another saying that roughly translates “rumors of failure travel faster than rumors of success.” 

For Audiology, perhaps the appropriate rephrasing of Sutton’s statement could be something like:  “That’s where a greater need is.”  Proving the value of generating data and realistic expectations, then applying the best practice protocols to patients who have failed in their attempts at amplification, may be a good first steps.  We already know that these patients have taken a first step toward help, and they deserve an explanation of what happened.  We seem to be training new clinicians to follow correct protocols, but there also seems to be a lot of sellers out there who are not following these “rules.”

If audiologists provide value, shouldn’t they try harder to prove it to those who have failed?  The worst outcome of such a program would be that some of these patients would know why they failed.  The best outcome would be successful patients who understand the benefits of data, protocols, and knowledgeable professionals.  Either way, audiology wins.

You guys are smart—you figure out what such an approach is worth in terms of reimbursements, advertising, and good will.  And efficiency.


feature image courtesy of the FBI

birdsong hearing benefits

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