Practicing for Now…or Later

I would bet that every hearing care office that dispenses hearing aids has read almost every article published concerning PSAPs.  If fact, I suspect that many audiologists and dispensers have offered opinions widely and often.  I suspect many of these opinions are anti-PSAP or anti-OTC. 

That position is understandable—dogs are being kicked.


At Times Like This, A Prospective View Comes in Handy


Consider the following opinion piece by Siligman and Tierney, published in the NYTimes on May 22 of this year:


We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment

We are misnamed. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, the “wise man,” but that’s more of a boast than a description. What makes us wise? What sets us apart from other animals? Various answers have been proposed — language, tools, cooperation, culture, tasting bad to predators — but none is unique to humans.

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation.

…A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.


The authors go on to tell of how this prospective view affects us more than we ever thought, and how it should be nurtured and expanded.  But, most of all, it should be understood.


Audiologists Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment Either


Now, you are likely asking, is there a lesson here for audiology and the issues that confront the profession now and will certainly continue into the future? 

What is the most common concern of most audiologists?  Individually, what would be your answer at present?

  • Not enough time to read all the journals?
  • Not enough time to employ the “best practice” recommendations?
  • What will I wear to the next AAA gathering? (And, who will buy me lunch?)
  • Is my ad in the Sunday paper big enough?
  • How can I “beat” that office down the street?
  • How much does my yearly gross have to be in order to sell my office at a hefty profit?

In the day-to-day operations of any office, issues like patient/consumer satisfaction, cash flow, budgeting, advertising, physical plant concerns, and the like, seem to take all of a person’s time and energy.  These concerns are necessary to assure business success.  Likewise, less physical and more esoteric (future) concerns are equally important, and perhaps even more important to patients and for future practice viability.

I hope that most clinicians have more professional concerns than the last four items on the list above.  I hope that some audiologists have concerns that could be included on a “homo prospectus” list.


Building a Prospectus on Who We Are


One of audiology’s large and looming problems—at least in my way of thinking—involves “niches.” As a field, we looked at others and modeled our behavior after the way they did things.  For a while it worked out nicely.  But, this shared model seems to be under siege and will likely be disruptively replaced with something new.  I think many of us tried to occupy a niche that did not suit our range of abilities.  Audiology allowed others to define our niche.  Perhaps we did not think prospectively.

Developing one’s own professional niche is important.  Thinking ahead to determine and plan for that niche is essential.  And providing a rational base for the future of that niche is critical. I suspect that anyone in the “Homo Prospectus” group is already planning for the coming changes.  And, I suspect that many who were not in the “Prospectus” group are now somewhat regretful.  The prospective group will find opportunities in the coming order, and those opportunities may not be in the dispensing niche in which many are now positioned.

I find that there are lessons and suggestions in many places—not surprisingly, even in the New York Times.  I am amazed that all these people write things that describe my chosen career, that seem to reference my colleagues, and clearly apply to me.  Finding these articles is a joy.  While that may not necessarily put me on the “homo prospectus” side of things, it sure does give me pause to think about the future.


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About Mike Metz

Mike Metz, PhD, has been a practicing audiologist for over 45 years, having taught in several university settings and, in partnership with Bob Sandlin, provided continuing education for audiology and dispensing in California. Mike owned and operated a private practice in Southern California for over 30 years. He has been professionally active in such areas as electric response testing, hearing conservation, hearing aid dispensing, and legal/ethical issues. He continues to practice in a limited manner in Irvine, California.