As an audiologist, you have probably been aware for some time now that over-the-counter hearing aids were coming. And now, they have hit the market. So what does this mean for you as an audiologist, as well as for your practice?
If you are like many others in the field of audiology, the introduction of OTC hearing aids seems like a very likely disruption to the field. However, the truth of the matter is that over-the-counter hearing aids will not disrupt the profession of audiology. Rather, OTC hearing aids stand to disrupt the current hearing aid industry. For example, hearing device companies that have, in years past, developed more and more advanced and expensive devices stand to be disrupted by the convenient and affordable – yet limited – options presented by OTC devices.
Even these companies do not have to stand idly by as OTC hearing aids disrupt their business and take a chunk of their customers. Some hearing aid companies have chosen to create device models that compete directly with the OTC options.
And as for audiologists? Will your profession be suddenly obscure once over-the-counter hearing aids are widely available? Since you provide more services than devices alone, the answer should be a simple no. However, the threat felt by many audiologists points to a greater problem within the field.
This problem is well articulated by Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD. She writes, “The real threat to audiology is the perception of the public that ‘hearing health care’ and ‘hearing aid’ are synonymous. The perception that OTC hearing aids stand to disrupt audiology exists because the term ‘audiology’ has become interchangeable with ‘device.’”
As she says, the true problem is that much of the public does not see a need for audiologists beyond prescribing and providing a device. The solution to this problem is to demonstrate the value of your profession beyond simply providing hearing aids. Emphasize the importance of hearing health care and how it extends beyond receiving hearing aids to manage hearing loss. Encourage patients to visit you to have their hearing health and ability evaluated, even if they will then select an OTC hearing aid.
In fact, you can take advantage of the up-and-coming OTC hearing aid business in your own practice. Rather than sending patients to pharmacies or big box stores to get their devices, you can offer over-the-counter hearing aids right in your own office.
In addition, you can work to build value and demonstrate to the public and your patients that audiology is not an irrelevant, unnecessary field. You can show that you do not exist only to provide hearing aids. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Thanks to the introduction of OTC hearing aids, hearing loss is being discussed in the media at a greater rate than before. Take advantage of this! Direct the conversation on hearing to the importance of audiologists and how you provide value.
- Emphasize the importance of having a professional hearing evaluation before deciding to use any hearing device – OTC or otherwise.
- Make sure people understand that an inappropriate hearing device is just as detrimental as no device.
- Support advocacy efforts that will improve the public’s access to quality hearing health care and will impact audiologists’ reimbursement.
- Make your “invisible” services, like patient counseling, visible by billing for every service provided and itemizing.
By following these steps and building value in your profession, you can ensure that your field and your business are not threatened, but rather bolstered, by the introduction of OTC hearing aids. To learn more about how you can take advantage of this exciting time of change and innovation in audiology, we invite you to contact us today at AudiologyPlus. We are dedicated to helping your business succeed.