Best Practice is Good Business

Best Practice is Good Business

Brian Taylor, Au.D.

A trend ten-plus years in the making, we continue to await the arrival of over-the-counter hearing aid legislature and the impending shifts in the marketplace resulting from it. While there is no shortage of naysayers spouting doom and gloom for the profession when OTC and self-fitting hearing aids arrive, investors, whose job is to study market forces and their impact on future business, are worth paying attention to during uncertain times. This recent quote from the UK investment group, A/B Bernstein is a particularly good example.

“We do not expect OTC to disrupt traditional hearing aid market volumes in the long-term, given the critical role the audiologist plays in helping users through the selection and fitting process. However, in the short-term we do think there could be significant disruption to traditional hearing aid sales in the U.S., as users are attracted by the low prices of the devices to give them a try. Meanwhile, over the long-term we believe OTC prices could prove problematic for traditional retail pricing ($4,000-$7,000 per pair), enabling the likes of Costco ($1,400-$2,400 per pair) to gain further share in hearing aid retail.”

—A/B Bernstein Report, February 9, 2022

The main message from this investor’s analysis is that once customers have their fling with OTC, the market will settle back to business as usual with one critically important exception: Margins for the private practice audiologist will substantially erode. Besides finding alternative revenue streams from services such as tinnitus and balance, and improving efficiency by seeing more patients over the same amount of time (topics we will continue to cover at Audiology Practices), audiologists must identify ways to add value to the traditional model of hearing aid dispensing. In this issue of Audiology Practices you will find three articles that shed light on how value can be added through the dedicated application of clinical standards as well as the ability to customize various components of the hearing aid selection and fitting process. For the conscientious audiologist, following best practice is good business. ■