There is no question within the hearing industry that the landscape is shifting. Changes in legislation, retail channels and care delivery models are reshaping how hearing aids and hearing solutions are prescribed and sold, driving audiologists to rethink traditional methods of clinical practice. 

In July 2019, Earlens conducted a survey with over 100 audiologists regarding three key industry trends: over-the-counter (OTC) devices, service unbundling, and advanced technologies, with the goal of identifying how these trends are shaping the future of audiology. The results shed light on audiologists’ vision of the future of clinical practice, and identify key opportunities afforded by these trends. It also outlines the strategies that audiologists are implementing to preserve and improve their professional value in the eyes of patients. 

How can a standalone practice survive within today’s intense competitive environment? Disruption is creating new market opportunities, including exciting chances to reinforce the value of the audiology profession at large. Moreover, new opportunities are creating chances to better differentiate private practices from competitors like Costco.  

When everyone within a market is providing the same manufacturers’ products, market players increasingly compete based on cost. But this is not a sustainable long-term solution. Moreover, while cost is a factor in many consumer purchase decisions, service is as well. That presents an opportunity for practices to stand out from the competition. Instead of trying to lower prices to the point where profit margins become razor thin (and providers need to compensate through additional patient volume), practices should focus on preserving a high average sales price (ASP) by demonstrating a high level of expertise that justifies the value to patients. They can do this in some cases by unbundling service costs from device costs. 

Integrating advanced technology into one’s product offering can also help. Whether spending more time counseling patients on advanced device features or helping them configure additional listening modes, hearing care professionals are reinforcing their stance as an educator and increasing patients’ perception of the HCP’s value in the process. After all, while a ‘set it and forget it’ device may be convenient to fit and sell, it offers little chance to build and maintain patient rapport. Thus, when the patient is ready to purchase his or her next hearing solution, there is little reason to eschew the Costcos of the world, since the HCP has contributed little obvious value in the hearing loss treatment plan. 

The future of audiology remains bright for those practices who can leverage the new opportunities and mitigate the new threats. That’s why Earlens recommends three actionable steps for audiologists to begin addressing the latest industry trends.  Practices must identify and activate their OTC strategy, evaluate their current service model, and use advanced technology to cultivate a service advantage. For a look at how some of today’s audiologists are doing this, read the Earlens 2019 Future of Audiology Report. 

 

Earlens is a privately held medical technology company committed to transforming the hearing experience for millions of people who suffer from hearing loss. The Earlens® Contact Hearing Solution, which uses a small lens placed directly on the eardrum to vibrate and activate a person’s natural hearing system, originally received FDA clearance following a De Novo submission in 2015.  Additional FDA clearances were granted in 2016 for wireless streaming to an Apple device, and in 2019 for the second generation of the Earlens technology that utilizes resonant inductive coupling to transmit power and data to the Lens.