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The View from Tomorrow

This was a wildly successful event …87 registered…15 on standby…engaging speakers, a highly responsive audience, and dancing during the breaks!

PNWA and Phonak Hampton 7.20.16

What we learned…

  • Tomorrow’s hearing technology is available today!
  • Hearing loss no longer means the end of a good life!
  • Hearing loss is no longer stigmatized!
  • Hearing technology is cool…even desirable!
  • Hearing care options have never been better!

What is the View from Tomorrow?

  • Streaming audio from HDTV, iOS, Android, and other devises
  • Connecting without wires to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
  • Controlling hearing aid settings with a smart phone
  • Communicating in any environment
  • Using Apps to enrich our hearing
  • And much more!

We still have special promotional deals from this event, and we are preregistering for future events…call 541-678-5698

Look for our Open House at the end of August…more to follow!

2.19.2016

Blog fig

It’s a building! The exterior of the new Pacific Northwest Audiology Hearing Center is around 80 percent complete and you can easily imagine approaching the building on a lazy summer day…even though the temperature was 35 degrees in spotty rain showers when the picture was taken. Much progress has also been made on the interior, which was painted with an earthy beige color. Windows are framed, the ceiling is going in, and wiring is just about complete. 

In the figure above, panels 1 and 2 show the building from the NNE, and Panel 3 shows the location of Pacific Northwest Audiology relative to High Lakes Health Center. Panel 4 is a schematic of the interior office spaces and panels 5 and 6 show the view from the patient reception area toward the Innovation Technology Center, where we will have interactive displays and technology educational programs for our customers.

Progress continues on a fast track, and we are still planning to move our operations during the first week of April. Check back for updates…we will have a lot more to tell and show as time draws closer to our move-in date!

2.12.2016

Hearing Clinic Graphic

 

Walls are mostly painted, ceilings will be added next week, and the building exterior is looking better every day. Weston Technology has a great plan for fulfilling our wired and wireless technology dreams, and cooperative weather is keeping us on course for a late March move-in date. When you consider that the Universe is more than 13.5 billion years old…a couple of months is like a very small fraction of a second!

We took our staff on a field trip to the building today, and we spent a lot of time discussing how to use the spaces in innovative new ways. We are thinking out of the box in every respect, to create the best patient journey while re-imagining the hearing care experience. We will spare no WOWs! 

In the figure above, panel 1 shows the building from the NNE, and Panel 2 shows the location of Pacific Northwest Audiology relative to High Lakes Health Center. Panel 3 shows the view from the entrance vestibule toward what will become our Innovation Technology Center (purple arrow in panel 6), panel 4 shows work on the building exterior, and panel 5 shows the view toward the Innovation Technology Center from the Reception area (green arrow in Panel 6).

Panel 7 shows the entire crew. From left to right, Dr. Li-Korotky (Chief Audiologist and co-owner), Josh Korotky (Vice President and co-owner), Jackie Carey (our Office Manager), Dr. Ryan O’Clair (Audiologist), Jenny Jochum (Audiologist Assistant), and Mindy Dimitri (Doctor of Audiology Fellow). We are looking to add another Audiologist, Audiologist Assistent, and Front Desk coordinator soon!

Things are happening fast, so check back for updates…we have a lot more to tell and show as time draws closer to our move-in date!

Hearing Aids Improve Brain Function

A new study, “The benefit of amplification on auditory working memory function in middle-aged and young-older hearing impaired adults,” by Jamie Desjardins, PhD, an assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), found that hearing aids improve brain function in mature adults with hearing loss.

Texas study, hearing aids restore cognition

Previous Studies

Previous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is associated with serious emotional, medical, and social consequences, including unnatural mental decline and dementia. These disabilities often result in reduced job performance, lower income, and a generally diminished quality of life. Declining cognitive function is also associated with a loss of auditory working memory, the ability to pay attention to conversations in noisy environments. Working memory is important because it is critical for understanding speech.

Sustained hearing loss causes problems because the brain must allocate extra resources to the task of understanding speech. When this occurs, other areas of the brain associated with cognitive functions are “starved”.

As Desjardins explained, “If you have some hearing impairment and you’re not using hearing aids, maybe you can figure out what the person has said, but that comes with a cost. You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources, your brain power, in order to figure out that message.”

Purpose Of  The UTEP Study

As we age, our thinking and memory skills naturally decline. The purpose of the present study was to assess the effect of hearing aid use on the auditory working memories of middle-aged and young-older adults with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural Hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve from the ear to the brain, and isn’t typically correctable with surgery. The study included 24 adults in their 50s and 60s with bilateral (involving both ears) hearing loss who had never before used hearing aids. 

Cognitive skill trends can be measured by changes in working memory, the ability to process information during conversations. For the present study, cognitive tests were used to measure the working memory, selective attention, and speech processing speed of study participants before and after wearing hearing aids. 

Study Results: Hearing Aids Improve Cognitive Function

Results from this study indicated significant improvements in the auditory working memory of participants after 6 weeks of hearing aid use. Why is this important? Using hearing aids in the early stages of age-related hearing loss, even mild hearing loss, can have a positive impact on working memory performance. 

According to Desjardins, “Most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime. Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids and they are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening. They may not be able to perform their job as well. Or if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”

An Allied Study

Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux France found that “Use of hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elderly people with hearing loss”. 

The bottom line of this study? Hearing aids appear to have a positive effect on thinking and memory functions, by restoring communication abilities and promoting social interaction, qualities that are known to reduce isolation and resulting depression.

Final Comments

Hearing impairment is one of the most common health problems in the United States. It affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans between 45 and 64, but only 1 in 5 people who need hearing aids actually wear them. That means 4 in 5 people with hearing loss are tossing dice that only allow bad outcomes.

Our take-away from these studies? We have choices and those choices effect the way we live. We urge older adults with hearing loss to seek qualified treatment by a Doctor of Audiology.

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!

2.5.2016

Blog Graphic Final

Walls are ready for paint, ceilings are ready to be added above, and the building exterior is taking shape. The building is properly wired, Weston Technology is  helping us plan a full course of wired and wireless technology, and we are still on course for a late March move-in date.What could possibly go wrong?

In the figure above, panel 1 shows the building from the NNW, and Panel 2 shows the location of Pacific Northwest Audiology relative to High Lakes Health Center. Panel 3 shows a view down the north hallway, toward the front entrance of the building (blue arrow in figures 3, 4). The right side of Panel 3 shows hearing the aid fitting and consultation rooms, while the offices on the left are where the new soundbooths will earn their living. Panel 5 shows the view down the south hallway, with administrative offices on the left side (yellow arrow in panel 4). The green arows in Panels 4 and 6 show the view toward the waiting and reception areas from what will be our Innovation Center (more later), and the purple arrows in Panels 4 and 6 show the view toward the Innovation Center and Conference room.

Things are happening fast, so check back for updates…we have a lot more to tell and show as time draws closer to our move-in date! 

1.25.16

Blog Pic

It’s January 25 and most of us have already broken our New Years Resolutions, so we can all relax and get on with our lives. Actually, Dr. Li and I are always striving to live better, serve others better, and have fun while we are at it…so we can enjoy friends and New Years without guilt!

Progress continues at a steady clip on the building; the sheet rock has created walls, electrical systems are in place, and we are still on target for a late March move-in date. But, wisdom from ages past dictates that “stuff happens when you least expect it”…so we are prepared to adapt and conquer.

In the figure above, panel 1 shows the building from the NNW, and Panel 2 shows the location of Pacific Northwest Audiology relative to High Lakes Health Center. Panel 3 shows a view down one of the hallways (blue arrow in figure 4), and Panel 5 shows the view down the other hallway (yellow arrow in figure 4). The bottom orange arrow in figure 4 shows the view toward the waiting area from what will be our Innovation Center (more later), and the top orange arrow in figure 4 shows the view toward the Innovation Center and Conference room.

Things are happening fast, so check back for updates…we have a lot more to tell and show as time draws closer to our move-in date! 

01.13.16

01.13.16

Our white Christmas and white New Years are behind us and 2016 is well in the race to 2017. But as Robert Frost said “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But we have promises to keep, And miles to go before we sleep, And miles to go before we sleep.”

Progress continues steadily on our new building; insulation is going into the walls in preparation for dry walls next week, and our IT partner, Weston Technology Solutions is coordinating with Taylor NW to ensure a good IT infrastructure. We are running a bit ahead of schedule, despite the occasional rain, snow, and ice…and it looks like we are on target for a late March move to the new building.

In the figure above, panel 1 shows the building from the NNE, and Panels 2 shows the location of Pacific Northwest Audiology relative to High Lakes Health Center. The arrow in panel 2 shows the orientation of the photo in panel 1. Panels 3 and 4 show views of the interior as denoted in panels 5 and 6 respectively.

Check back often. Walls will be up next week and things are happening fast. We will continue to update the building progress every week!

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