Hearables, innovative hearing solutions, create an opportunity for holistic audiologyJuly 12, 2021
The hearing healthcare market is rapidly changing, expanding to include a new category of hearing solutions called hearables – devices that offer different types of hybrids between hearing aids and consumer electronic headsets or ear buds. The delay in OTC (Over The Counter) legislation providing guidelines for the marketing of hearing aids, promised by the FDA to be released in August 2020, has not prevented companies from announcing DTC (Direct To Consumer) hearing augmentation solutions. On the contrary, several companies, including giants like Apple, are moving full speed ahead to implement hearing augmentation solutions for people with mild to moderate hearing degradation.
As more and more companies start offering hearing solutions that are not hearing aids, and customers recognize that it is possible to find alternatives to traditional hearing aids that are prescribed and fitted by a hearing professional, audiologists will need to consider evolving in the way they manage their businesses.
What does the increase in the availability of non-traditional hearing solutions mean for audiologists?
As Kim Cavitt, AuD advised on a recent “Future Ear Radio” podcast entitled “How Hearing Professionals Can Thrive in an Expanding Market”, the best course for audiologists going forward is to “practice audiology: decouple your identity from the product and simply provide the care at a professional level.” Dr. Cavitt believes that audiologists need to adopt a more holistic approach. Instead of focusing on selling hearing aids, hearing professionals should be addressing the specific client’s requirement and counseling them on the best solution for their current hearing status. They can use their audiological expertise to diagnose the client’s condition and then help them navigate the wide variety of available options to steer them toward high-quality solutions.
In other words, this move would require a revised business model. Instead of relying mainly on hearing aid sales for income, provision of services would sustain the practice. Service might include finding ways to increase awareness regarding the importance of hearing health and closing the gap between the first stages of hearing degradation and adopting technological support.
How can audiologists stay relevant as providers of hearing solutions?
Psychological factors create resistance to adopting hearing aids, but most people are unaware that untreated hearing loss damages physical, emotional, and even mental wellbeing. Familiarity with the entire gamut of technological options, from high-end hearing aids to situation-specific hearing enhancers (like TV listening solutions) enables audiologists to offer solutions appropriate to the customer’s state of mind, as well as the condition of their ears. Since the holistic approach is also time-consuming, it would be benefit audiologists to vet the DTC (Direct to Consumer) options and then refer clients to their own e-Commerce store to peruse relevant options there. This would cut down on clinic time and keep the client at the center of the process, while providing a new revenue stream for the audiologist.
Becoming a knowledge source for customers who find it difficult to comprehend and calculate the pros and cons of different options available is an important way to stay relevant as a hearing professional.
While attending the recent “Future of Hearing Healthcare Event” sponsored by Hearing Health & Technology Matters, Kathy Folino, an audiologist at Amplifon Clinic in Niagara Falls, discovered the BeHear PROXY, a hearing enhancement neck speaker developed by Alango Technologies. Kathy reports: “I used the BeHear PROXY myself and then sent it to my dad to try out as well. I think it’s a great product. The sound quality was clear, and the volume range was great (thinking of hard of hearing clients). It was very user friendly and easy to pair the Bluetooth and start using. My dad loved using it as a speaker and he even used the headphones at times too. It improved his ability to hear the TV clearly and understand what was being said. His partner liked it too because the TV wasn’t too loud for her!”
Products like BeHear PROXY make it easy for audiologists to adopt a more holistic approach to helping people with hearing loss. It’s a great option for clients who are hesitant to get hearing aids, and/or just want something for the TV.
Individuals who became audiologists to reconnect those with hearing loss to family, friends, and nature’s pleasures will appreciate the opportunity provided by the new hearing enhancement solutions to serve more people. With their backgrounds in science and technology, hearing professionals are well positioned to help clients navigate the rapidly growing field of options. Clients will benefit from an easier path to hearing health with a trusted advisor, and audiologists will be rewarded with their loyalty for years to come.