Give the People What They Want, Part 2

Brian Taylor, AuD
Brian Taylor, AuD

“Signal & Noise” is a bimonthly column by Brian Taylor, AuD.

Products and services that work relatively well for 25% of adults with hearing loss do not effectively address the wants and needs of the other 75%. The price and process of obtaining them are not in alignment with the needs of many. (paraphrased from Part 1)

 

A  System to Enhance Day-to-day Function

 

Figure 2.
Figure 1.  An additional 12% of the adult population who may have hearing difficulties and normal audiograms can be added to the bottom of the segmentation triangle. This data comes from Trembley et al (2015)

The clinical delivery system we have built over the past 50 years to address the needs of the top 25% (see Figure 1) offers very little of value to a huge, largely untapped, segment of the market. Using the data in the triangle of Fig 1, it is estimated that more than 20 million Americans with milder hearing loss don’t find much to value in the current delivery system.

A faster, smarter, even cheaper hearing aid — along with several office visits — is unappealing to this market. Remember, most in this group believes they do not have a hearing problem; they simply need a little boost here or some extra help there.

A new and innovative delivery system, providing a variety of high quality products (hearables){{1}}[[1]]. For more information on hearables see the cover story in the Nov-Dec issue of Audiology Today[[1]] might be an attractive alternative to those patients who desire enhancements in day-to-day communication.

 

In the Field of Opportunity, It’s Plowing Time Again

 

An arms-length, rather than a relationship-based service delivery system, is needed to captivate this untapped segment of the market. The opportunity is actually greater than 20 million Americans with milder loss. When you examine some of the new research,{{2}}[[2]]Tembley, K, Pinto, A., Fischer, M. et al (2015). Self-reported hearing difficulties among adults with normal audiograms: the Beaver Dam offspring study. Ear and Hearing, Nov-Dec.[[2]] estimating 12% of adults between the ages 21 and 84 have self-reported hearing difficulties and normal audiograms, there are, at least, another 5 million Americans who might be attracted to an arms-length value proposition.

There seems to be some fertile ground downwind from the top of the triangle for those entrepreneurial audiologists willing to offer some different or unique service delivery options. What does an arms-length transaction look like? It might include a branded website where patients can shop for a selection of vetted hearables{{3}}[[3]]Hearables include PSAPs, wearable augmented reality devices, amplification smartphone apps and directed audio devices[[3]] and complete an on-line functional communication assessment; ultimately, they would be funneled to a clinical practice where they are guided through their options using a patient decision aid{{4}}[[4]]You can find an example of a patient decision aid in this article: Taylor, B., & Weinstein, B. (2015, July). Moving from product-centered to patient-centric care: expanding treatment options using decision aids. AudiologyOnline, Article 14473.[[4]].

Unlike a relationship-based transaction conducted over several visits to the clinic, an arms-length transaction is a one-time event. It’s a more anonymous transaction and requires very little clinical time. Nevertheless, audiologists must find ways to add value to the process of helping these patients enhance day-to-day communication function. It’s a radically different skill set compared to the relationship-based transaction.

 

The Rise of Entrepreneurial Audiology

 

Re-regulation of the industry will open doors for more competitors to enter our professional space. More competition, it is hoped, will spark innovation – both technological and service delivery innovations.   In the hands of an entrepreneurial audiologist there will be plenty of opportunities to create a new and exciting arms-length value proposition to stimulate demand.

In 2016, the next Signal-to-Noise column will examine some of the following issues:

  • How does audiology own “quality control” in the ear?
  • What new tools, beyond the pure tone audiogram, traditional hearing aids and routine clinical check-ups, are required to address the needs of 25 million Americans, many of them healthy agers who demand hearing enhancement to their daily activities?

Bountiful opportunities wait. We must seize them.

 

Brian Taylor, AuD, is Senior Director, Clinical Affairs, for Turtle Beach/Hypersound.   He continues to serve as Editor of Audiology Practices, the quarterly publication of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. During the first fifteen years of his career, he practiced clinical audiology in both medical and retail settings. Since 2005, Dr. Taylor has held a variety of leadership & management positions within the hearing aid industry in both the United States and Europe. He has published over 50 articles and book chapters on topics related to hearing aids, diagnostic audiology and business management. Brian has authored three text books:  Fitting and Dispensing Hearing Aids (co-authored with Gus Mueller), Consultative Selling Skills for Audiologists, and Quality in Audiology: Design & Implementation of the Patient Experience.  His latest book, Marketing in an Audiology Practice, was published in March, 2015.  Brian lives in Golden Valley, MN with his wife and three sons.  He can be reached at brian.taylor.aud@gmail.com or brian.taylor@turtlebeach.com.

feature image courtesy of Cambridge in Color



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.