A New, Renewable Hearing Aid Market for Hallowe’en

Zombies are a value stock. They are wordless and oozing and brain dead, but they’re an ever-expanding market with no glass ceiling. Zombies are a target-rich environment, literally and figuratively.{{1}}[[1]] Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead[[1]]

No doubt about it, zombies are a target market for a number of goods and services, but one that Audiologists have thus far failed to exploit in our efforts to grow hearing healthcare.  In this Hallowe’en post, Hearing Economics hopes to correct that oversight by providing readers with sufficient information to convince them that zombies are a rich, growing market for our products, if not our direct services.  

The Zombie Plight 

Normal vs Zombie Brains

More than those with functioning brains, zombies are especially dependent on their senses because their brain function is rudimentary. IUCS{{2}}[[2]]A shadowy group representing itself as ‘… a non-governmental policy institute whose primary directive is to assess, analyze, and distribute intelligence on the efficient neutralization of undead threats that present a substantial and grave risk to the human race.[[2]] reports in its unfortunately-named Zombie Combat Manual that:

“research studies and other published works have already established that the senses of the undead are highly developed and more fully utilized than they are in humans.  Although a zombie does not possess any elevated or enhanced perception in any of its five senses, it uses all of them to maximum effect for the sole purpose of hunting prey.”

Zombie research is strictly empirical and does not paint a pretty picture for this disadvantaged group.  The sad state of sensory processing and aging in Zombies is paraphrased from the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency{{3}}[[3]]You knew there’d be a Government Agency for this.[[3]] .  

Smell:   Zombies’ powerful sense of smell compensates for the weakness of their other senses.  Zombies have even more receptor cells than vampires. If the wind is right, zombies can smell humans from as far as several miles away.

Sight: due to degradation of their corneas, zombies suffer from severe myopia. In addition, they are colorblind.

Hearing: zombies go deaf within a few weeks of transformation. Efforts to rehabilitate them through ASL training have thus far proved unsuccessful.

Touch:  not much, see Stages I-III below and accompanying illustration.

Zombie Aging Stages I, II, III

Aging.  A long-held, common misconception is that zombies are immortal. In fact, the vast majority of zombies live less than one year. It is possible to determine a zombie’s age based on their external appearance; specifically, their level of decomposition, also known as necrotic degradation

Stage I: The skin is mottled and covered with open sores.

Stage II: The ears and nose are rotting away. Loss of fingers and toes.

Stage III:  Outside Audiologists’ Scope of Practice.


 The Case for Fitting Zombies with Hearing Aids 

First and foremost, 100% of zombies need hearing aids, as opposed to that 20% of hearing impaired humans who perceive a need every 5 years of so.  Every zombie is a sale and it’s an annual event!  Plus, every one of these special needs folks needs our help fast — they are not going to go home and comparison shop.  That’s because they  are truly a “targeted” market–constantly hunted down and severely disadvantaged when their pursuers are downwind, when good hearing has a lot of Utility.  The same goes for their own targeted prey–they’re going to eat better if they can hear. Zombies need binaural, directional, fully-automatic hearing aids both to survive and thrive, not to mention combating cognitive decline.  

And not just any old hearing aid off the Internet either.  Deep canal fittings are a must, since their ears are going to fall off.  Extended wear aids are highly advisable since zombies can’t be trained to repetitive tasks such as removing and inserting instruments in their ear canals; their finger tips have poor sensitivity and are going to fall off in Stage II; and visual limitations make it hard for zombies to tell left aids from right, or insert batteries.   The extended wear aids also have the advantage of being a short-term solution which works well with their one-year life expectancy.   Although the severity of hearing loss makes a case for cochlear implants, cost/benefit analysis does not favor this option, nor are there many surgeons anxious to do the procedure.  Likewise, Bluetooth accessories are not recommended.


Setting Up Practices to Serve Zombie Populations

The first thing to do is figure out where the zombies are.  You’ll find maps depicting projected standardized US mortality ratios are useful when planning store locations.

  • Besides separate entrances and exits for zombies and humans, practice survival depends on heavy investment in telehealth/telemedicine equipment and methodologies to put as much distance between providers and zombies as possible.  But, don’t forget that all services to zombies still need to be under the supervision of a Qualified Audiologist.
  • Unlike audiometric evaluation of humans, zombie populations are best evaluated by internet hearing tests.  Hearing aid fitting requires cutting edge techniques that are still in development, including some version of mail order for extended wear products.  Routine follow-up is not advised and rarely possible anyway, since zombies are always on the go.
  • If you must do on-site testing, use insert earphones with disposable inserts.
  • Equip all offices with shotguns, steel doors, MREs, and electronic banking. 


For Those Who Doubt the Un-Dead Market is Alive

Some doubt that zombies exist, but conspiracy theorists nod knowingly when the government issues a weak denial through the Centers for Disease Control:

 “CDC does not know of any virus or condition that would re-animate the dead.”{{4}}[[4]] British Week, July 14 2012 p 16.[[4]]

Sure. They wouldn’t deny it unless zombies existed.  The following is an exhaustive circumstantial list compiled to prove with impeccable logic that zombies are here and here to stay.  

1.  Sleepwalkers are actually zombies.  “Zombies among us” describes research at Stanford University that surveyed 20,000 “people” in 15 states and found 3.6% of adults were prone to sleepwalking.{{5}}[[5]]Ohayon, M et al.  Neurology, May 15, 2012.[[5]]

2.  Zombies use Google

3.  Respected legal journals discuss zombie estate planning.  You KNOW lawyers would not get involved unless the zombies were real and paid their bills.

4.  FedEx delivers antidotes for zombie attacks.  Ergo, zombies exist or there wouldn’t be an antidote.  

6.  Besides Christopher Walken, there is at least one documented case of a Living Zombie — a strange case of Art imitating Life imitating Death.

7.  Cotard’s Syndrome, where living people believe they are dead.  No report on what they eat.

8.  British Columbia’s Zombie Preparedness Week.  BC people are tough realists.  They would not spend a week preparing if zombie’s were un-real. 

9.   “If you awake from a coma, and you don’t immediately see a member of the hospital staff, assume a zombie takeover has transpired during your incapacitation.”  I wake up this way every morning.  Ergo, zombies are among us.

10.  Pro-Ears online advertisement for “Zombie Edition ReVo 26 Passive Protection Earmuffs.” Proof that the Zombie Market is alive, sort of, and kicking.

11.  With the Presidential election looming, the US has its first Zombie presidential candidate, with his own twitter feed:

  “With his finger on the pulse of the people, he is running on a platform that emphasizes…health care –“I am pro-Zombiecare. Don’t be caught dead without it.”


In Conclusion

The choice to serve zombies is an individual one. But in the aggregate, it’s in our profession’s and industry’s best interest to cater to zombies.  Now that zombies are entering politics and influencing political systems,  the time is RIPE to get on their good side –while they still have one– and make sure they legislate favorably to the hearing healthcare industry. 

 photo courtesy of laughingsquid











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.


  1. Holly, I agree with Kerry. This is a great article. We should give it more thought in this economic climate we are in.

    1. Wow– thanks so much Kerry. Praise is always welcome, especially for such a grave topic.

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