HHTM Hearing News Round-up: This Week’s Notable Stories

With so much news happening to report on, this week we bring you a synopsis of timely news items that may be of interest:


Age-related Hearing Loss Continues to be a Huge Burden


An online report from The US Burden of Disease Collaborators, recently published by JAMA, indicated age-related hearing loss continues to be an onerous burden for individuals as well as society. The study look a careful look at several measures of population health, including disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).  DALYs is a universal metric researchers and policymakers use to compare different populations and health conditions over time

According to the epidemiological study, the category, Hearing Loss –Age Related and Other Hearing Disorders, Years Lived with Disability increased by almost 10% over a 25-year period and ranked #9 in leading categories of disability. Over a 25-period Hearing Loss –Age Related and Other Hearing Disorders has maintained its number 9 ranking.


Also, note that other co-morbidities independently linked to age-related hearing loss, such as falls, depression and diabetes also made the Top-10 list.


This research underscores the need for hearing care professionals to get actively involved in screening the hearing of adults at earlier ages and to collaborate with other medical specialties in the awareness and treatment process of these burdensome conditions.

  1. Low back pain
  2. Major depressive disorder
  3. Diabetes mellitus
  4. Other musculoskeletal
  5. Migraine
  6. Neck pain
  7. Anxiety disorders
  8. Opioid use disorders
  9. Age-related and other hearing loss
  10. Falls


A New Business Model?


Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, a cloud-based software company, writes at LinkedIn that the product economy is over and is being replaced by the subscription economy. He compares the rise and fall of the linear Old Business Model (shown on the left in the Figure below) to the rising concentric New Business Model.

Driven mainly by high speed connectivity and smartphones, he argues that the economy is rapidly changing from a product-centered economy to one that is subscription based.


Figure: Old vs. New Business Models, Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora


Comparing these two business models, Tzuo says:


“It summarizes the shift under way. On the left side, you have the old model, where companies used to focus on ‘getting a product to market’ and selling as many units of that product as possible: more cars, more pens, more razors, more laptops. They did this by getting their products into as many sales and distribution channels as possible. Of course, there must be a customer on the other end buying all this stuff, but often you didn’t really care who they were, as long as more units flew off the shelves. But that’s not how the modern company thinks. Today successful companies start with the customer. They recognize that customers spend their time across many channels, and wherever those customers are, that’s where they should be meeting their customers’ needs. And the more information you can learn about the customer, the better you can serve their needs, and the more valuable the relationship becomes. That’s digital transformation: from linear transactional channels to a circular, dynamic relationship with your subscriber.”


Hearing aid manufacturers have been talking about the indelible needs of customers for years. Tzuo’s thesis should not be earth shattering information. One recent take on how AI and machine learning may disrupt current hearing care business models was astutely summarized by Chris Heddon, CEO of Resonance Medical in a two-part HHTM series, here is part one.


Doctors Feeling the Pressure to Upcharge


I’ve spoken to many audiologists and hearing instrument specialists over the years, many employed at retail companies, who believe they are incentivized to place the needs of the business’ shareholders over the needs of the patient. Off the record, many think business operators focus too much attention on the short term needs of their retail chain’s investors, often at the expense of patient care.

Like the first story, these opinions should not be terribly surprising to hearing care professionals, many of which have been managing the needs of big-business and patients for almost 20 years. Now, for a variety of reasons, other medical specialties are beginning to feel the ethical burden of juggling corporate profit motives with patient care.

A June 12 MarketWatch article by Emma Court examines the ominous trend of powerful, private-equity and venture-capital groups plunging into the world of dermatology, and how the motive for ever-larger shareholder profits can influence the quality of care delivered by physicians.


More Negative PR for Starkey


Just when many thought the memories of the now infamous Starkey embezzlement trial were fading, a Forbes article, relying on expert opinion and documents from the early-2018 trial shows how a lack of oversight from leadership can erode company values. It is not a pretty picture. Read the full story here at Forbes.