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Audiologist or Dispenser – Part 1

Dr. Li-Korotky
Latest posts by Dr. Li-Korotky (see all)

Audiology Business Models


We have many customers who initially responded to “Big Box” discount advertising or hearing aid franchise promises, only to discover later that their discounted products weren’t as cheap as the promises that brought them into the store, and their expensive new hearing aids didn’t help them communicate any better than they did before laying down a large chunk of cash. As it turned out, most of the problems were caused by minimally trained technicians with little knowledge of hearing science, or the inherent complexity of matching hearing aid technology to individual hearing loss. To the store’s benefit, however, many of these technicians were quite adept at selling lots of hearing aids. 

This article was written to give you the fire power you need to make informed choices, and to save you from considerable frustration and disappointment.

You may not be aware of it…but when you choose a hearing provider you are also choosing their business goals. The two business models that I will discuss here are the corporate and professional models for hearing care…and your choice will determine the level of professional service that you receive.

The corporate business model demands high profitability and sustained growth through market share dominance, often accomplished through corporate mergers and “buying the competition.” It is important to understand that corporate profits come mainly from hearing aid sales…not professional service! This sales driven approach represents the business strategy of  “Big Box” retail giants such as Costco, and national networks of franchised and corporately-owned hearing aid retail outlets such as Beltone, Miracle Ear, American Hearing, Connect Hearing, and others. To maximize corporate profits, most of these hearing aid outlets are staffed by minimally trained hearing aid dispensers (AKA hearing aid specialists)…all focused on high profit hearing aid sales.

The professional business model puts a much higher priority on serving the total hearing needs of customers. It assumes that customer satisfaction drives customer loyalty…and customer loyalty drives profitability and growth. This business model is practiced by audiologists, many with a doctor degree, who are trained in an end-to-end process of patient-centered hearing care.

The following sections will show that when you shop for hearing aids you are adopting a business model…and the consequences of that business model. It will be shown that hearing care business models are strongly related to the education requirements necessary to lawfully provide various audiological services. Well credentialed audiologists can pursue a full range of professional services, but less qualified hearing aid dispensers are legally bound to a limited set of services focusing on the sale of hearing aids.

Next week we will post Part 2 – Audiologists. Following weeks will provide the truth about dispensers, Big Box corporate culture, hearing aid franchise stores, ENT surgeons,  and Online hearing aid sales. You will come to understand business models and their consequences. You will discover that a discount can be very expensive!


Decisions and Consequences