An interesting WSJ opinion article and its subsequent Letter to the Editor led to the following statement: "A hearing aid is one-third product and two-thirds process." - Roy Sullivan, Ph.D.
I couldn't agree more and there is more to it.
The continuum of care for those with hearing loss is quite broad with questions that need to be answered such as:
A suit off the rack may work for many (maybe even most) but does it fit just right for everyone?
Hearing loss is a disability, and often an invisible one, but handicap varies greatly.
So, why am I not worried about disruption in the hearing healthcare industry?
Because a hearing healthcare professional's task should be to assess a handicap from a disability and to improve quality of life.
How one does it and with what technology doesn't matter nearly as much as starting the process and reducing handicap. We should focus on solving problems and not always forcing a top down sale.
An example: I know family members that, based on lifestyle, work history and daily communication, likely have significant hearing loss.
Are they interested in finding out?
Why? For the same reason they wear "cheaters" for reading glasses. The impact and "need" isn't there for them yet despite them having the financial resources to easily acquire hearing instruments.
Could they do better with hearing aid technology, absolutely.
Will they? (Well, We'll see.)
Well what DO they want?
(Ready for it?)
To hear music in their steam shower.
Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. For them the most pressing quality of life issue is being able to hear music while in their new steam shower. Not the TV, not conversations at dinner. At the present time, they use other strategies to make those situations work for them.
So, do I try to point out to them that this is a sign of hearing loss? That all the other more expensive solutions they should focus on and get instead; that will help in many more practical situations? (even though it has been discussed before and fell on deaf ears?) - *sorry, pun intended*
Or do I just FIX the problem (which, I did with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker).
"But, you are under serving their loss". (Maybe, But Am I Really?)
"Solutions other than hearing aids and/or certain ALDs are not what we should focus on" (Well, Why not?)
Fixing an immediate issue demonstrates trust and the willingness to listen, assess, and provide the solution they want/need right now.
Steve Jobs famously said: “A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” While that may be true for his industry, and as this author points out "that’s not the domain in which most businesses play."
We will always have the option to give patients and clients customization. Typically that means custom programmed fittings and ear molds, etc. fitted to the individual consumer.
However, we can also work under a broader umbrella and provide customization by offering solutions to their hearing loss that improve their quality of life, even if it is a small, more basic step and not a leap that may be overwhelming.
Think outside the box, because in the end patients and clients will appreciate the effort and come back for their future needs when they feel you are targeting their immediate needs and goals and not what we think they should do or have.
We have an obligation to educate our patients and consumers on the best solutions for their loss, but we also have an obligation to provide solutions, whether they are hearing aids, TV sound bars, PSAPs , or even a Bluetooth speaker for the shower, that meets their current needs.
So, while Disability and Hearing Loss will vary from patient to patient, in the end reducing Handicap and improving Quality of Life is the focus that will give the best outcome, and help earn a repeat patient/client.
Articles & Definitions Mentioned/Discussed in this Article:
Definition of Disability:
1: a : the condition of being disabled
b : limitation in the ability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment; also : a program providing financial support to one affected by disability <went on disability after the injury>
2: lack of legal qualification to do something
3: a disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage
Definition of Handicap:
1: a : a race or contest in which an artificial advantage is given or disadvantage imposed on a contestant to equalize chances of winning
b : an advantage given or disadvantage imposed usually in the form of points, strokes, weight to be carried, or distance from the target or goal
2: a : a disadvantage that makes achievement unusually difficult
b sometimes offensive : a physical disability