1. What Skills Do You Need In The Audiology “Real World” That You Didn’t Learn In School?
While audiologists learn many critical skills in school, certain things can’t necessarily be taught by a college or medical school professor.
The best audiologists have “soft skills” – or interpersonal skills – that aren’t part of a university curriculum. For instance, the most successful audiologists are compassionate, personable, friendly, and patient. They have a good “bedside manner,” making customers feel comfortable and building their trust. They patiently answer customers’ questions, explaining their diagnoses and next steps clearly, without using complicated terminology or industry jargon.
Teamwork is another important soft skill in the audiology industry. In addition to building strong rapport with customers, audiologists must work seamlessly (and cooperatively) with their colleagues. Collaboration is a big part of working in a hearing clinic.
As anyone who has ever worked in a hearing clinic can tell you, time management is essential to an organization’s success. If an audiologist continuously runs behind – and keeps their next customers waiting for long periods – those customers will likely be frustrated, unhappy, and looking for a new audiologist! While many key lessons are taught in school, some inherent skills aren’t offered in any curriculum.
2. How Will Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids Impact The Audiology Industry?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed a ruling for OTC hearing aids in response to consumer and governmental demands for more affordable, accessible hearing aids in the United States. Now that this regulation has passed, hearing aids can be sold online and in stores directly to consumers (DTC) who have mild to moderate hearing loss.
Consumers can get these OTC and DTC hearing aids without a hearing examination or a fitting by an audiologist before buying OTC hearing aids. When consumers choose to have a hearing exam, their audiologist can determine whether an OTC hearing aid device would be useful to correct their hearing loss.
While the availability of OTC hearing aids might feel threatening to hearing clinics, there are some significant benefits to this option. Multiple studies show that the average person waits 7–10 years after first experiencing hearing loss symptoms before seeking professional help. Studies also link untreated hearing loss with an increased risk of depression, isolation, and loss of cognition.
The goal of OTC hearing aids is to provide easier, more convenient, and affordable access to hearing aids, with the hope that more people will purchase hearing aids to help mitigate their hearing loss.
However, the rise of OTC hearing aids does NOT mean the downfall of hearing shops. There are many situations where people will still need to see an audiologist, such as when they have complex medical needs, have more severe hearing loss, or they need a customized solution. In these cases, an audiologist can work with these individuals to create a comprehensive hearing care plan.
3. How Does Hearing Health Impact Overall Health?
There has been increasing recognition that hearing health is a critical component to overall health, which is a very good thing!
Hearing loss can affect a person’s health in a variety of ways, including physical, mental, and emotional.
For instance, there’s evidence of a link between hearing loss and decreased brain function or cognition. One theory is that hearing loss leads to decreased input to the brain, so there’s less processing, resulting in cognitive decline (a “bottom-up” approach). Another theory is that cognitive problems may impact a person’s ability to process sound, contributing to hearing loss (a “top-down” approach).
Scientists are also exploring the link between hearing loss and the development of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It’s possible that the social isolation and reduced mental stimulation that often comes with hearing loss experience may contribute to this mental decline.
There’s also a link between hearing loss and increased depression. When people experience hearing loss, they may struggle to communicate and feel more isolated, lonely, and sad as a result. People with hearing loss often withdraw from social settings, which can worsen mental health issues, like depression. The connection between hearing loss and depression is particularly concerning among older adults with hearing loss. About one in five have symptoms of clinical depression, according to a 2019 study.
It’s essential for hearing loss to be identified and treated so people don’t experience the various detrimental effects like those described above.
4. Why Don’t Some People Consider Hearing Health a Critical Part of Their Overall Health?
Unfortunately, even though hearing loss has been associated with numerous health challenges, some people still don’t consider hearing health to be an essential aspect of their overall health.
In a recent survey of 1,250 adults aged 50–80 years, when asked about 10 common health conditions, hearing loss was ranked near the bottom (third to last) in importance. Additionally, the survey showed that people were more than twice as likely to visit their veterinarian for their pets’ annual health maintenance than to see an audiologist for a hearing examination.
In fact, 28.8 million people in the United States that could benefit from a hearing aid don’t have one.
Audiologists must continue to work to raise awareness about the importance of hearing health. What’s more, we must convince key audiences, including patients, referring providers, payers, regulators, and legislators, about why hearing care is such an important aspect of overall health.
We must also empower consumers to get hearing exams and see an audiologist to diagnose and treat their hearing loss. This will help them avoid the various health issues that can result from poor hearing.
5. How Do You Build A Great Audiology Team?
The key to success is to find team members that have the necessary credentials, skills, and experience, as well as the “soft skills” that the job requires – friendliness, compassion, the ability to work as a team, time management, strong communication skills, etc.
Many hearing clinics are currently struggling to hire enough people in today’s challenging business climate. As the labor shortage continues, there are more job openings than there are candidates to fill them. This is true across all industries and sectors, including audiology.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2029 the audiology field will experience job growth of 13%, resulting in an expected 15,600 open audiologist positions.
While the rapid industry growth is exciting, there’s also grave concern that there will not be enough licensed professionals to fill those jobs. So, as trained audiologists are in short supply, how do you ensure that you’re hiring the right people?
Keep in mind that there are significant financial repercussions involved with bad hires, including costs for onboarding, training, and recruitment expenses for their replacements. Besides these “hard costs,” there can also be “social costs” associated with poor hires, including decreased staff morale (no one wants to work with a terrible hire), poor customer ratings from having a less-than-ideal experience at your hearing clinic, negative word-of-mouth, and damage to your hearing clinic’s reputation.
While hiring top talent can be challenging, it should be a top priority.
Be open to offering training for prospective employees with less experience and considering people from similar job profiles that would be interested in audiology.
Hiring the right people comes with a whole slew of benefits: you’ll boost customer loyalty and ratings, you’ll increase word-of-mouth referrals, your internal staff will be happier (and more likely to stay), and you’ll improve key business metrics, including sales, profits, and hearing aid return rates.
6. How Can Tech Solutions Help My Clinic Succeed?
Working with manual systems – or outdated/disjointed tech stacks – won’t help hearing clinics excel. These inferior systems are prone to error, inefficient, and (importantly) won’t provide critical data necessary to make informed business decisions.
Instead, it’s wise to use integrated tech solutions to help your business (and your team members) succeed.
A complete portfolio of solutions makes it easier, faster, and more accurate for audiology professionals to do their jobs.
For instance, a good Practice Management Software – Auditdata Manage – helps hearing clinics boost efficiency and provide exceptional care with integrated clinical management, customer relations management, scheduling, marketing, stock control, reporting, financials, and more. The Manage system is fully loaded, offering everything a retail audiology business needs to maximize its success. A key feature – the advanced scheduler in Auditdata Manage – allows you to easily book resources (clinicians, space, equipment) for the exact amount of time you need, increasing productivity and efficiency.
Auditdata’s Measure is a portfolio of audiological equipment run by advanced software that lets you manage and optimize your clinical workflows based on data-driven insights. Measure includes audiometers that deliver all the testing protocols to drive clinical quality and the customer experience. Many audiometer types are available, including portable tools that are invaluable if you conduct hearing exams out in the community. Measure provides all the testing module types you need, including pure-tone and speech audiometry, as well as a Real Ear Measurement module.
Reminders and notification nudging features allow clinicians to focus fully on each client and not get distracted trying to remember what comes next in the exam. This also helps ensure that important steps aren’t missed or forgotten, especially when clients have many questions that may take discussions off-track. Manual and outdated tech systems don’t provide helpful features like this!
And rely on intuitive reporting tools, like Auditdata Discover, an analytics platform that makes your business transparent by providing metrics that empower you to make fact-based decisions.
Use a portable iPad screening tool like Auditdata’s Engage to pre-qualify leads and ensure that your hearing care professionals only see customers with hearing loss, which means your clinics will have a very high conversion rate. Pre-qualifying leads with a screener means that your clinic’s audiologists can prioritize customers with proven hearing loss and avoid wasting time on appointments for people with proper hearing. And Engage integrates seamlessly with Manage, so you can seamlessly follow the captured leads throughout their entire hearing care journey.
Technology allows clinics to access a variety of helpful features and functions that boost productivity, efficiency, and key business outcomes. If your clinic hasn’t yet switched from antiquated systems, reach out to see how easy it is to switch to an integrated, user-friendly solution, and get advice on your specific case.
7. How Can I Market My Hearing Practice Or Clinic?
Maintain internal marketing efforts for your current customers, such as sending out regular newsletters and mailings, to keep them informed of any news about your clinics, audiologists, or products. This content can also educate them on relevant things happening in the industry.
Word-of-mouth referrals are powerful, with 92% of consumers around the world saying they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Create a friends and family referral program that rewards current customers for referring their loved ones to your clinics.
Social media is a very effective way to engage with customers, prospects, referral sources, community partners, etc. Select a few key channels – such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – and post content regularly. Content could include information about your audiologists, the products you offer, your upcoming community events, success stories, links to your media coverage, and relevant articles (like the benefits of treating hearing loss). Engage with your social media followers, answering their questions and responding to their comments on your platforms.
Blogging is also a great opportunity to show your expertise in the field and boost the visibility of your webpages. Blog about the topics that matter to your key audiences, such as proper hearing aid storage, cleaning, and troubleshooting. Consider writing about the questions that your customers ask most frequently during appointments and about the topics that matter the most to them, such as hearing aid options at different price points.
Conducting community outreach can also amplify your marketing efforts, so be visible in your local area. Hold open houses and invite the community to attend. Sponsor community events, such as local concerts (which have an obvious hearing component to them). Have a presence at health fairs, where you can educate attendees about the benefits of proper hearing. Visit workplaces to talk about hearing health and, if appropriate, offer hearing protection.
If doing all these things simultaneously feels overwhelming or unrealistic, pick a few to start and add on when you can. Read our Marketing Guide For Hearing Care Professionals.
The audiology industry is facing numerous changes, from external factors – like the addition of OTC hearing aids – to internal issues – like trying to hire new staff members during a global labor shortage. It’s important to be mindful of industry trends and external forces that could impact your shop and your customers. Auditdata always works to stay current on relevant news and to answer your most pressing industry questions.
Auditdata helps hearing care providers improve clinical care ear by ear and drive their business performance and growth. Our data-driven, connected solutions help customers in all stages of the hearing care lifecycle. For more information about Auditdata’s integrated, intuitive, user-friendly tech solutions for audiology shops, please get in touch with us.