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Audiologists or Dispensers – Part 2

In Audiologists or Dispensers – Part 1, we introduced corporate and professional business models for hearing health care, and indicated that the level of professional service you receive is linked directly to the business model of the hearing care provider you choose. 

Audiologists or Dispensers – Part 2 details the vastly different academic and knowledge requirements for audiologists vs. hearing aid dispensers, and how these differences dictate the legal responsibilities available to each group. It should be noted that audiologists fit hearing aids just like dispensers, but they can legally do much more for your hearing health, whereas dispensers are fundamentally permitted to sell hearing aids.

Audiologists

Audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree. This requires 4 years of undergraduate study in Communication Sciences (speech and hearing) and an additional 4 years of specialized academic work, including high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders.

Their extensive academic credentials, professional certifications, and licensure, allow audiologists to legally provide a full range of patient-centered care, a set of professional standards that include a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, a consultation to discuss treatment options, highly specialized hearing aid fitting and programming, and a process of post-fitting adjustments and counseling.

Profit is certainly important to independent audiologists, but it doesn’t generally dictate the patient process. Many of the diagnostic and counseling efforts that define professional standards of patient-centered care offer low-profit margins compared to hearing aid sales…but these are critical elements of comprehensive hearing care. Take away any of the links from a patient-centered chain and you also disrupt the process of end-to-end care.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

Hearing aid dispensers, (AKA hearing aid specialists) are limited primarily to hearing aid sales. They can recommend, select, or adapt hearing aids and may alter, adjust or reconstruct hearing aid specifications for functionality, such as taking ear impressions for proper fit, but hearing aid sales keep them in business. Hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they have a high school diploma or GED Certificate, pass a license exam, complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist, and earn continuing education credits (usually from correspondence courses).

Reduced standards for hearing aid dispensers have caused a rapid spread of clinics with superficially trained staff, whose primary lawful focus is limited to hearing aid sales…not audiological services.

The next and 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…and you will discover that discount can be very expensive!

Patient-Centered Hearing-Health Care vs. Sales-Centered Hearing Care

The Bottom Line

The following table compares the professional business model, represented by doctor-level audiologist such as those working at Pacific Northwest Audiology, and the corporate business model, represented by “Big Box”, manufacturing, and franchise retailers.

The bottom line is that when you select a hearing care provider you also accept their business model…and the consequences of that model. You can choose patient-centered hearing-health care by a Doctor of Audiology, or volume sales-centered care by a technician.

Given the increasing evidence linking medical, emotional, and social consequences to hearing loss, we hope the table guides you to your best choice for a hearing provider.

 

AuD vs. Dispenser table 3

Audiologist or Dispenser – Part 1

Audiology Business Models

Introduction

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

Choices and Consequences

Audiology Business Models

Introduction

We get many customers who initially responded to “Big Box” discount advertising, only to discover later that they had expensive products that didn’t help them communicate any better than they did before spending a large chunk of cash. This article was written as a response to that sad fact of life…and to give consumers the fire power they need to make informed choices. If you are in a hurry look for the Einstein Icons, but we recommend reading the entire article…it could 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 model. One model works off the proposition that profits alone are the bottom line for generating future profitability. This corporate model is exemplified by “Big Box” stores such as Costco, and their legion of minimally trained hearing aid dispensers. A competing business model assumes that customer satisfaction drives customer loyalty…and customer loyalty drives profitability and growth. This business model is typified by audiologists, who are trained in an end-to-end process of patient-centered hearing care. The following paragraphs will show that consumers adopt not only a business model, but also 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 course of professional services…but less credentialed hearing aid dispensers are legally bound to a limited set of services focusing on the sale of hearing aids.

Audiologists

Audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree. This requires 4 years of undergraduate study in Communication Sciences (speech and hearing) and an additional 4 years of specialized academic work, including high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders.

Their extensive academic credentials, professional certifications, and licensure, allow audiologists to legally provide a full range of patient-centered care, a set of professional standards that include a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, a consultation to discuss treatment options, highly specialized hearing aid fitting and programming, and a process of post-fitting adjustments and counseling.

Profit is certainly important to independent audiologists, but it doesn’t generally dictate the patient process. Many of the diagnostic and counseling efforts that define professional standards of patient-centered care offer low-profit margins compared to hearing aid sales…but these are critical elements of comprehensive hearing care. Take away any of the links from a patient-centered chain and you also disrupt the process of end-to-end care.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

By contrast, hearing aid dispensers, (AKA hearing aid specialists), can recommend, select, or adapt hearing aids and may alter, adjust or reconstruct hearing aid specifications for functionality, such as taking ear impressions for proper fit. Hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they have a high school diploma or GED Certificate, pass a license exam, complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist, and earn continuing education credits (usually from correspondence courses). Reduced standards for hearing aid dispensers have led to a proliferation of clinics with superficially trained staff, whose primary lawful focus is limited to hearing aid sales…not audiological services.

 

choices and Consequences

ENT Physicians

An increasing number of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physicians are using audiology as a supplementary service to boost their bottom line profits. This is accomplished by hiring audiologists and/or dispensers to administer basic audiological exams, often with dated equipment, to support their surgical requirements. Since ENT physicians focus on surgical solutions, you shouldn’t expect broad audiological support at an ENT clinic.

Corporate Hearing Centers

The hearing health market is expanding. In response…the number of corporate hearing centers is also increasing. Why is this important? Because corporate hearing centers (many owned by hearing aid manufacturers) are motivated by the dictates of corporate growth and bottom-line profits, and these profits are achieved through hearing aid sales…not diagnostic or rehabilitative services. Large corporations are purchasing independent practices across the country, often stripping them of important diagnostic capabilities, and staffing their new hearing centers with non-audiology staff, including hearing aid dispensers.

“Big Box” Stores

Using the power of their marketing wealth, corporate retail giants like Costco are repositioning hearing care as a commodity based solution. These stores are typically staffed by hearing aid dispensers, and their business model is dominated by profit concerns...so don’t expect a full range of audiological services at any of these Big Box giants.

 The Bottom Line

Hearing aid dispensers and audiologists are both licensed to fit and program hearing aids…but that is where the similarities end. There’s a vast difference in education and training requirements between Doctors of Audiology and hearing aid specialists. This training edge allows audiologists to pursue a rigorous process of professional diagnosis, treatment (including hearing aid fitting, programming and verification), and rehabilitation. In contrast, most hearing aid dispensers work for large corporations such as Costco, and must, by law, concentrate their efforts on a narrow range of services, including hearing aid sales, fitting, and programing.

It is important to understand that corporations are motivated to control the distribution of hearing care, and profit margins dictate their treatment process. They are not in the business of marketing comprehensive audiological services to consumers because their corporate model lives and dies by sales and profits. Since they are “bottom liners” they are primarily in the business of selling hearing aids.

Choices 2

Choose Your Business Model

There’s an ongoing struggle between opposing business philosophies to define the scope and practice of hearing care. Most Audiologists believe hearing care should be patient-centered and managed by Doctors of Audiology. This business model emphasizes an end-to-end process of professional services, including consultation and diagnosis, hearing aid fitting and programming, validation of hearing aid functions with advanced technology such as Speech Mapping, and post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation.

Opposing business models …represented by hearing aid dispensers, hearing aid manufacturers, and retail giants such as Costco …are much more focused on high profit margin sales. With these business models, hearing care is managed primarily by non-audiologists and hearing aid sales defines their bottom line …often at the expense of professional audiological services. Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) practices are also in the mix, as they increasingly train technicians to perform basic audiometric and vestibular testing under minimal supervision to support their primary focus of surgery. So…if you need hearing care…choose your business model!

Need Hearing Care? Choose A Business Model!

Audiology Business Models

Introduction

You may not be aware of it…but when you choose a hearing provider you are also choosing a business model. One model works off the proposition that profits alone are the bottom line for generating future profitability. This model is exemplified by “Big Box” stores such as Costco and a legion of minimally trained hearing aid dispensers. The competing business model proposes that customer satisfaction drives customer loyalty…and customer loyalty drives profitability and growth. This business model is typified by audiologists trained in an end-to-end process of patient-centered hearing care. The following paragraphs will show that business model implementations are strongly related to the education requirements necessary to lawfully provide various audiological services. Well credentialed audiologists can pursue a full course of professional services…but less credentialed hearing aid dispensers are legally bound to a limited set of services focusing on the sale of hearing aids East Inflatables.

Audiologists

Audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree. This requires 4 years of undergraduate study in Communication Sciences (speech and hearing) and an additional 4 years of specialized academic work, including high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. Their extensive academic credentials, professional certification, and licensure, allow audiologists to provide a full range of patient-centered care, including a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, treatment options, and post-fitting counseling. Profit is important to independent audiologists but it doesn’t generally dictate the patient process. Many of the diagnostic and counseling efforts that define the standard of patient-centered care offer low-profit margins compared to hearing aid sales…but these are critical elements of comprehensive hearing care. Take away any of the links in the patient-centered chain and you also disrupt the process of end-to-end care.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

By contrast, hearing aid dispensers, (AKA hearing aid specialists), can recommend, select, or adapt hearing aids and may alter, adjust or reconstruct hearing aid specifications for functionality, such as taking ear impressions for proper fit. Hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they have a high school diploma or GED Certificate, pass a license exam, complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist, and earn continuing education credits (usually from correspondence courses). The reduced requirements for hearing aid dispensers has led to a proliferation of clinics staffed by individuals with superficial training whose primary lawful focus is hearing aid sales…not audiological services.

ENT Physicians

An increasing number of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physicians are using audiology as a supplementary service to boost their bottom line profits. This is accomplished by hiring audiologists and/or dispensers to administer basic audiological exams, often with dated equipment, to support their surgical requirements. Since ENT physicians focus on surgical solutions, you shouldn’t expect broad audiological support at an ENT clinic.

Corporate Hearing Centers

The market for treating hearing disorders is expanding. In response…the number of corporate hearing centers is also increasing. Why is this important? Because corporate hearing centers (many owned by hearing aid manufacturers) are motivated by bottom-line profits, and these profits are achieved through hearing aid sales…not diagnostic or rehabilitative services. Large corporations are purchasing independent practices across the country, often stripping them of important diagnostic capabilities, and staffing their new hearing centers with non-audiology staff, including hearing aid dispensers.

“Big Box” Stores

Using the power of their marketing wealth, corporate retail giants like Costco are repositioning hearing care as a commodity based solution. These stores are typically staffed by hearing aid dispensers, and their business model is dominated by profit concerns...so don’t expect a full range of audiological services at any of these Big Box giants.

The Bottom Line

Hearing aid dispensers and audiologists are both licensed to fit and program hearing aids…but that is where the similarities end. There’s a vast difference in education and training requirements between Doctors of Audiology and hearing aid specialists. This training edge allows audiologists to pursue a rigorous process of professional diagnosis, treatment (including hearing aid fitting, programming and verification), and rehabilitation. In contrast, most hearing aid dispensers work for large corporations such as Costco, and must, by law, concentrate their efforts on a narrow range of services, including hearing aid sales, fitting, and programing. It is important to understand that corporations are motivated to control the distribution of hearing care, and profit margins dictate their treatment process. They are not in the business of marketing comprehensive audiological services to consumers or exclusively using audiologists as their providers. They are “bottom liners” so they are in the business of selling hearing aids.

Choose Your Business Model

There’s an ongoing struggle between opposing business philosophies to define the scope and practice of hearing care. Most Audiologists believe hearing care should be patient-centered and managed by Doctors of Audiology. This business model emphasizes an end-to-end process of professional services, including consultation and diagnosis, hearing aid fitting and programming, validation of hearing aid functions with advanced technology such as Speech Mapping, and post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation. The opposing business model is much more focused on high profit margin sales, and is represented by hearing aid dispensers, hearing aid manufacturers, and retail giants such as Costco. Under this business model, hearing care is managed primarily by non-audiologists and hearing aid sales defines their bottom line …often at the expense of professional audiological services. Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) practices are also in the mix, as they increasingly train technicians to perform basic audiometric and vestibular testing under minimal supervision to support their primary focus of surgery. So…if you need hearing care…choose your business model!

About the Author

Dr. Ha-Sheng Li-Korotky is the President and co-founder of Pacific Northwest Audiology (www.pnwaudiology.com), based in Bend, Oregon. The Doctor is a nationally acclaimed clinician and research scientist, with AuD, PhD, and MD credentials and more than 100 scientific publications.

Hearing Health

A healthy hearing system is important because it allows us to connect with the world, but untreated hearing problems can have a devastating effect on our overall health and happiness.

This is the first of a series of articles that will explore hearing health for all age groups while revealing the medical and emotional consequences of untreated hearing loss. We will also provide tips for improving your hearing and overall health.

This first issue will clarify the difference between Audiologists and “hearing aid dispensers”. Subsequent issues will explore 1) age-related and noise-induced hearing loss, 2) the consequences of untreated hearing loss and the benefits of treating the problem early, 3) assessment and management options for tinnitus, 4) evaluation and management of balance disorders and, 5) cutting-edge treatment solutions for hearing disorders inflatable human spheres.

Audiologists Vs. Hearing Aid Dispensers

Audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree, requiring 4 years of undergraduate study and an additional four years of specialized academic work, including specialized training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. Their extensive academic credentials, professional certification, and licensure, allow Audiologists to provide a full range of professional services, from consultation and diagnosis, to hearing aid fitting and programming, to post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation.

By contrast, hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they 1) have a high school diploma, 2) pass a license exam, 3) complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist, and 4) receive continuing education credits.

The scope of audiological practice will continue to grow due to rapidly progressing technology, a rising baby-boomer population, and increasing collaboration with physicians. Professional collaboration will become more important because hearing loss can signal underlying medical conditions and Audiologists have the diagnostic capability to uncover this potential.

The bottom line: if you suspect a hearing problem, seek the services of an Audiologist…your health may depend on it!

About the Author

Dr. Ha-Sheng Li-Korotky is the President and co-founder of Pacific Northwest Audiology (www.pnwaudiology.com), based in Bend, Oregon. Pacific Northwest Audiology has been a dream-to-reality story for the doctor, who is motivated by a strong belief that hearing health is a vital part of a good life.

Dr. Li-Korotky earned an MD with an emphasis in otology and otolaryngology, a PhD in audiology with a thesis on Age-Related Hearing Loss, and a Clinical Doctor of Audiology degree (AuD).

Dr. Li-Korotky is an adjunct associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and a fellow of both the American and Oregon Academies of Audiology. The doctor is also a member of the American Auditory Society and the American Tinnitus Association.

Why Choose an Audiologist?

The Struggle For the Heart and Soul of Hearing Care…

The following “hot-button” article was co-authored by Dr. Li-Korotky and Josh Korotky. It explains how hearing care is being repositioned from a patient- to a profit-centered standard…and why you should care.

There’s an ongoing struggle between opposing business philosophies to define the scope and practice of hearing care. Audiologists and professional audiology organizations such as the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (an organization that promotes independent audiology managed practices) and AuDNet (a nationwide network of independent audiology practices) believe hearing care should be patient-centered and managed by Doctors of Audiology. This business model emphasizes an end to end process of professional services, including consultation and diagnosis, hearing aid fitting and programming, and post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation.

The opposing business model is much more focused on high profit margin sales, and is represented by hearing aid dispensers, hearing aid manufacturers, and retail giants such as Costco. Under this business model, hearing care is managed primarily by non-audiologists and hearing aid sales represent the bottom line …often at the expense of professional audiological services. Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) practices are also in the mix, as they increasingly train technicians to perform basic audiometric and vestibular testing under minimal supervision.

So…why does this matter? Why should you seek an audiologist…especially when large retailers offer heavily discounted products and services?

This article will explain why you should care. You will also come to appreciate the real price you pay for discounted products and services. Read on…

Hearing Aid Dispensers are NOT Audiologists

Hearing care has been morphing from a patient-catered to a profit-centered paradigm as large corporations use their purchasing and marketing wealth to redefine industry standards. This has led to a proliferation of clinics staffed by individuals with superficial training whose primary focus is sales. In addition to corporate hearing centers and professional audiologists, the hearing care industry also contains a growing segment of minimally trained non-audiology specialists who also concentrate their efforts on hearing aid sales. To understand why this is an unfortunate trend, we need to first understand the difference between audiologists and non-audiologists, and the important role of patient-centered care.

Audiologists must earn a Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree. This requires 4 years of undergraduate study and an additional 4 years of specialized academic work, including high-level training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. Their extensive academic credentials, professional certification, and licensure, allow Audiologists to provide a full range of professional services, from consultation and diagnosis, to hearing aid fitting and programming, to post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation. Take away any of these services and you no longer have comprehensive hearing care!

Hearing aid specialists recommend, select or adapt hearing aids and may alter, adjust or reconstruct hearing aid specifications for functionality, such as taking ear impressions for proper fit. Hearing aid dispensers can sell hearing aids in many states if they:

  1. have a high school diploma or GED Certificate
  2. pass a license exam
  3. complete a brief apprenticeship with a licensed hearing aid specialist
  4. earn continuing education credits (usually from correspondence courses).

To sell hearing aids in Oregon, hearing aid dispensers must complete the following in addition to obtaining a high school or GED diploma and passing a license exam:

  • They must complete the International Hearing Society’s (IHS) Distance Learning for Professionals in Hearing Health Sciences…
  • and 520 hours of practical training in specified core competencies

The Bottom Line: Hearing aid dispensers and audiologists are both licensed to fit and program hearing aids…but that is where the similarities end. There’s a vast difference in education and training requirements between Doctors of Audiology and hearing aid specialists. This training edge allows audiologists to pursue a rigorous process of professional diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation…but hearing aid dispensers must concentrate their efforts on hearing aid sales, fitting, and programing.

A hearing aid specialist may tell you that they provide “professional” service, but this is a self-serving interpretation of their qualifications. Regardless of their claims, the expertise and training of non-audiologists are technical at best…they simply don’t have the academic credentials, professional certification, or license to identify themselves or act as audiologists.

The Future of Hearing Care

All things being equal…the scope of audiological practice should continue to grow due to rapidly progressing technology, a rising baby-boomer population, and increasing collaboration with physicians. Professional collaboration should become more important because hearing loss can signal underlying medical conditions and Audiologists have the diagnostic capability to uncover these potentials. Articles discussing the diagnosable potential of serious underlying illness can be found here, and here, and here.

But…all things aren’t equal! Read on…

Corporate Retailers Follow the Rainbow

The following statement from NOWiHEAR (a nationwide network of independent professional audiology practices) sums up the problem: “The market for treating hearing disorders is expanding, and as a result, the number of corporate hearing centers is increasing. Across the country corporate interests are buying up independent practices, often stripping them of important diagnostic capabilities, and staffing their new hearing centers with non-audiology staff.”

In a recent article, “Are We (Still) Asleep At The Wheel? An Update from Seven Years Ago”, Dave Smriga (founder and President of AuDNet, Inc.) indicates that as corporate retailers continue their quest to acquire and manage larger segments of the United States hearing care provider market, the relative number of independent and autonomous practices will continue to decrease. The Pie Charts (left), indicate that the percentage of independent hearing care providers (self-directed and under no obligation to purchase products from corporate suppliers) have decreased from 46% of the 11,000 locations in 2004 to 23% of 12,000 outlets in 2011. That’s a 45% drop in just 7 years!

Using the power of their marketing wealth, corporate retail giants like Costco are repositioning hearing care as a commodity based solution. Their stores are typically staffed by hearing aid dispensers, but they advertise a staff of “licensed professionals”, a label that could be misleading, especially when you compare the relaxed academic and license requirements of hearing aid dispensers with the rigorous standards upheld by audiologists.

It is important to understand that corporations are motivated to control the distribution of hearing care, and profit margins dictate their treatment process. They are not in the business of marketing comprehensive audiological services to consumers or exclusively using audiologists as their providers. They are “bottom liners” so they are in the business of selling hearing aids.

ENT Physicians Want a Slice of the Pie

Medical Economics published a series of 12 articles for physicians on “Adding Ancillaries: Boosting the Bottom Line”. The report indicated that ancillary services are one of the easiest ways to increase the revenue of a medical practice. With reimbursements either decreasing or remaining stagnant, the report states that offering patients additional services will boost revenue, increase the quality of care to patients, improve patient satisfaction, and attract new patients.

So…an increasing number of ENT physicians are using audiology as an ancillary service to boost their bottom line. This is accomplished by hiring audiologists and/or dispensers to administer basic audiological exams to support their surgical requirements. Since ENT physicians focus on surgical solutions, you shouldn’t expect broad audiological support at an ENT clinic. For comprehensive audiological services, you will be better served by an independent audiologist, because they are in a better position to manage your total hearing care needs, including referrals to ENT physicians.

Discussion

Large corporate retailers, hearing aid manufacturers, and hearing aid specialists are not typically in the business of comprehensive hearing care. The scope of their efforts are determined largely by bottom line economics, so they are motivated primarily by hearing aid sales.

By contrast, independent audiologists are trained to use an inclusive process of patient-centered care, involving a thorough patient assessment, comprehensive diagnostic tests, treatment options, and post-fitting counseling. Profit is important to independent audiologists but it doesn’t generally dictate the patient process. Many of the diagnostic and counseling efforts that define the standard of patient-centered care offer low-profit margins compared to hearing aid sales…but these are critical elements of comprehensive hearing care. Take away any of the links in the patient-centered chain and you also disrupt the process of end-to-end care. You may perceive that you are receiving good service from non-audiologist practitioners but you are no longer receiving comprehensive hearing care.

A Matter of Choices

If we accept a commodity driven future for hearing care, the scope and effectiveness of professional audiological services will be sacrificed to support greater bottom line profits. Shifting the hearing care standard from patient-centered care to profit oriented product sales carries a very real cost to consumers. When you add the price of lost health care services to the discounted products offered by “bottom-liners”, you will discover that you are paying a very high price for your discounted product!

There’s nothing inherently malevolent about the business model used by corporations or dispensers…all are trying to survive and flourish at their particular level of engagement, and all are attempting to provide the best level of service within their capability and business model. But independent audiologists have a professional agenda…and most won’t sacrifice the notion of patient-centered care for a rigid profit margin. That is why they were willing to “slug it out” at Universities for 8 years to obtain the highest level of academic achievement. As consumers, it is up to us to decide the real price we are willing to pay for the perception of a product discount, and the level of professional service we require.

So…the future of hearing care is in the choices we make now. If you suspect a hearing problem, seek the services of an Audiologist…your health may depend on it!

Dr. Li-Korotky has AuD, PhD, and MD Credentials

Dr. Li-Korotky is the President and co-founder of Pacific Northwest Audiology, based in Bend, Oregon. The Clinic has been a dream-to-reality story for the doctor, who is motivated by a strong belief that hearing health is vital for a good life.

Dr. Li-Korotky earned an MD with an emphasis in otology and otolaryngology, a PhD in audiology with a thesis on Age-Related Hearing Loss, and a Clinical Doctor of Audiology degree (AuD).

The Doctor is an adjunct associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, a fellow of the American and Oregon Academies of Audiology, and a member of the American Auditory Society and the American Tinnitus Association.

Dr. Li-Korotky has 20+ years of clinical and research experience, with more than 100 scientific publications, so she is exceptional qualified to evaluate and treat the full spectrum of hearing disorders for all age groups, using the most advanced technology and treatment solutions available.