In my last post I told the sad, sad story of how we thought we had a compelling business case for the creation of a hearing loop distribution company. We had a “ringer” (in more ways than one!) for a partner and we were going to import and distribute home loop systems to hearing care professionals. Since we had years of experience providing home loops in our own practice we were convinced that everyone would be a winner. Patients would enjoy the increased functionality of their expensive devices, providers would have happier patients and fewer returns and we would have created a side business to help put the kids through college. As the story went, we were an abject failure. Was it the messengers, the messaging, the timing? We still don’t know. What we do know is that the installation of the loop system was the most often reported barrier to providing loops to patients.
Our Secret Sauce
With 1600 installed home loops, how is it that we were able to accomplish what others couldn’t or wouldn’t? I would now like to introduce Cliff. Cliff has been a family friend and hearing aid user for many years. Cliff retired from his career at the regional gas company, but he loves to work. It didn’t take any arm-twisting at all to add Cliff to our team as our home loop installer. He knows hearing loss, hearing aids, hearing loops, and he’s handy.
But, lest you think loop installers are hard to find, let me introduce Will, Zack, Skip, Lee, Nathaniel, Dustin, Dan, Dean, Ray, Ross and Adam. These fine gentlemen ranged in age from 16 to 70 when they functioned as our installers. This group of individuals included charming and responsible teenagers, audiologists, young fathers looking to make a little extra money, hearing aid users, various handy patients, and employees. All were trained and equipped to assess the suitability of the environment regarding EMI (electromagnetic interference, estimated to be present in less than 5% of homes). All were trained in the simple technique of running a wire to create the “loop”. All were trained in how to adjust the loop amplifier to maximize audibility. All were trained in how to reinforce what we had demonstrated in our office…….except now, the patient was in the comfort of their own home! “Sit where you normally sit and push this little button on your hearing aid”. These loop installers get to experience the “wow” effect that we all love when we are sitting with a happy patient. Each installer trained the next in the “apprentice” style. Self installation of a home loop system may be out of the question for most of our patients, but a clean-cut, eager teenager or retired handy patient can do it usually in under one hour.
Large loops have gotten a great deal of press in the last few years. Patricia Kricos chose to make it part of her agenda as president of AAA. HLAA, always big loop proponents, co-sponsored a simultaneous meeting devoted to looping during their 2011 conference. The New York Times ran an article dealing with hearing loops that was widely read. Large loops are terrific at providing greater access for hearing aid users in theaters, churches, ticket counters etc. Large loops are terrific at garnering PR for a local practice. Large loops are just plain terrific and we have installed over 35 in our county in churches, community rooms, classrooms and at bank counters, among other locations. Installation of the larger systems does take a higher level of expertise than home loops, and for those projects we use a general contractor along with our own pro audio knowledge.
As terrific as large loops and the accessibility that they provide are, people with hearing loss are most often found in their homes. Television is a big part of their lives and of our culture. T-coil equipped hearing aids and a home loop provide enhanced accessibility to televised content. Clear television signals are just as important to many hearing aid users as hearing well at church or in the theater; it’s all important!
In our practice we are approaching 1900 installed home loops. We just never could really accept the fact that installation was the only reason our colleagues wouldn’t loop their patient’s homes. There had to be other reasons, but that’s the ONE that we heard over and over. On the other hand , maybe there is only ONE Cliff…..and only ONE Will, Zack, Skip, Lee, Nathaniel, Dustin, Dan, Dean, Ray, Ross and Adam….just sayin’ :).