Making Economic Complements of Hearing Health, Healthy Living, and Coffee Drinking

The world observes National Coffee Day on September 29.  England (obviously the most Advanced Country in the World) gives coffee a full week of festivities, adulation and celebrations in April. Throughout the year, there are whole cultures and religions (e.g., coffee kosherology)  actively working on coffee, exploring the finer points of Starbucks on websites, examining its Official Guidelines and loyalty programs.  South Korean pilgrimages to worship “higher culture”  are a weekly event at a Manhattan coffee shop.

Hearing Economics (obviously a Most Advanced Blog) allocated two April posts to the psychostimulant that drives technological advances and world economics, not to mention health and well being.  There is an extensive, fast-growing body of literature on the health benefits of coffee ingredients.  It’s grown so large that the up-dated table of benefits won’t fit in this post and will show up next week in a post of its own.  

To quickly summarize the table you’ll see next week:  Coffee, especially paired with chocolate, is good for practically everything, based on studies that range from a few subjects to hundreds of thousands of subjects in meta-analyses.  The preponderance of evidence is on the side of coffee, except when it comes to the effects (if any) of coffee/caffeine on human sensory systems.  There–as far as I can tell–the research and meta-analyses have simply not been done to establish relationships between coffee/caffeine and hearing, vision, balance, olfaction, touch, and probably even gustatory sensations.  Alan Desmond trod this ground several months ago when he tried in vain to find research-based evidence that caffeine or coffee influenced dizziness and Meniere’s disease.  We know a lot about coffee except when it comes to our own areas of expertise. Surely it helps hearing if it helps everything else?  And what about those mixed messages on tinnitus?  Here’s hoping that our conundrums are addressed by future research efforts.  

Kona Imperial Stout

In the meantime, it is time to shed the research robes and start seriously celebrating International Coffee Day.  Many celebrations start with beer, which seems perverse if we’re celebrating coffee, but where there’s a will there’s a way.  Audiologists Asked, Coffee Creators listened.  Start the day with a mug of Coffee+Donut Stout— a “rich and creamy breakfast stout for those of us not afraid of beer for breakfast.”  Later in the day, feel free to raise a bottle of Kona Imperial Stout, a Hawaiian beer crafted from dark roasted Kona coffee beans.

Famous Or Really Good Coffee Quotes


Coffee has an enduring presence in poetry, literature, and film, although all the famous coffee movie quotes seem to be associated with war, mayhem, horror, or Starbucks.

 “Coffee is for closers.” Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (film, 1992)

“Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee.”  Anonymous{{1}}[[1]]But I’d like to take credit for that quote.[[1]]

“And if they ever find a connection between hearing loss and coffee, I’m doomed.” Comment on HearingEconomics 

“Thank you for the coffee monsieur.  I shall miss that when I leave Casablanca.”  Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca

I love the smell of coffee in the morning.  Kilgore, Apocalypse Now.  (Wait, did I get that wrong?)  

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”  Alfred J Prufrock, T.S. Elliot

“I don’t drink… coffee.” Dracula 2000  – Dracula (Gerard Butler)  

 The Economic View:  A Cup of Coffee, a Cookie and Thou–My Audiologist Forever


As usual, readers may be wondering what coffee has to do with Hearing Economics.  Besides the well-known fact that 99.9% of Audiologists cannot perform their profession without it (see quote above as testimonial to that fact), other economic variables demand consideration as well.

  • Readers of Hearing Economics know that free markets are good and monopolies are bad for consumers. Hearing healthcare providers are consumers of coffee, ergo we Demand a free coffee market. You’ll be thrilled to learn that great strides were made toward that goal recently when the Nestle monopoly on coffee capsules was finally crushed. Next to UHC’s hi HealthInnovations power play, the Nestle’s threat probably topped most Audiologists’ lists. Rest assured, the coffee free market thrives and we have one less market to fret about.  
  • Remember complementary goods? As described in a previous post, those are goods that are consumed with another good: cream complements coffee, batteries go with hearing aids.  Complementary goods can be big business — International Delight, for example, has 23% of the $1.3 Billion refrigerated nondairy creamer market and is fighting for more with its clever “What’s Your ID” (get it?) ad campaign. That’s a lot of money spent on nondairy creamer–all dependent on the presence of coffee.  If people are Willing to Pay (W2P) that much for add-ons to coffee, there must be a way to spread their W2P to hearing healthcare by linking healthy hearing and the overall health benefits of coffee drinking.  Allow me to quote from the complementary goods post:  

Why not make audiology and coffee complementary goods?  Usher [consumers] into your coffee bar/waiting area for a delicious latte and conversation with other coffee-drinking patrons.  Take pictures of your happy patients in your new aural rehab coffee bar and put the pictures on coffee cups.  Give those coffee cups to the patrons/patients.  Invite them back for free refills, batteries, hearing aid checks, hearing tests, chats with other hearing aid wearers–whenever they feel like dropping in.  That is marketing at its best — a win-win in two areas in which Audiologists are passionate — hearing and coffee.

Since writing that, I passed by a barista place IN a private practice in Philadelphia.  I was so excited! Unfortunately, it was paired with a vision center and not a hearing practice, but we can learn from others and copy their success.  Check out my candid streetside photo of this great storefront advertising:{{2}}[[2]]Please ignore my finger in the top left of the picture.[[2]]  large windows run the length of the practice + coffee establishment, inviting pedestrians and drivers to come in and savor a Capriccio’s cappuccino while receiving/waiting for eye care and products.  I’m sure you get a free coffee drink as a value add to your optometry order.  

Now, envision your Boutique Hearing & Latte Center and the complementary goods that will set it apart from your competitors with these value adds:

Edible Coffee Cup
  •  An edible coffee cup.  Besides looking and tasting delicious, the cup is practical, with “an insulated interior made of sugar icing which makes it more delicious, and waterproof.”  And, you don’t have to wash any dishes.  
  • Chocolate is emerging as the new healthy choice for reducing blood pressure and strokes.  Chocolate and coffee are economic complements and it’s only a baby step to get Audiology connected as a complementary good as well:  Your patients are  sipping their lattes in a quest for better health and will be happy to add chocolate. Plus, chocolate’s full of oxytocin, the trust-building hormone that encourages purchasing behaviors.  Can you feel the economic love?
  • Pair health and happiness with laughter by running Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars getting Coffee” on a large screen monitor.  Consumers are going to beg to get into your Hearing Latte Center.  You’re gonna need a velvet rope and a bouncer.
    Floating Coffee Mug


  • Floating Coffee Mugs for those who don’t want to eat their cups. The porcelain, non-edible porcelain cups will add a unique touch to your Latte Hearing practice. Cleanup is simple because coffee cup rings are a thing of the past.{{3}}[[3]] Full disclosure: I am one of 574 “investors” in the Floating Coffee Mug kickstarter concept. That means I paid 4 times as much as I should have for 6 cups which I hope to get someday, if the project gets off the ground. Please buy these cups.[[3]]


Please tune in next week for the updated ever-growing, almost-unbelievable list of health benefits accruing from drinking several cups of coffee day.   Also, to see one Audiologist’s pioneering, successful efforts to pair Audiology and Coffee as complementary goods.

About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.