Do we Need “Aud-ticians”?

What’s the most enjoyable health-related appointment you regularly make?

For me, and many others I’m sure, its going to the optometrist. The point-blank puff of air to the eyeball isn’t pleasant, but checking out the selection of eyeglass frames is. You get to try on the coolest fashions, the wackiest designs, and have fun while doing it.

Should the future of hearing care look more like what eye care currently does? Imagine this scenario:

A patient enters the hearing clinic. They check in with the receptionist, fill out the paperwork, and are asked to wait for their appointment. They wander around the clinic, looking at the latest fashions and styles of hearing aids. These hearing aids are all out in the open, sorted nicely by manufacturer and style along the walls of the clinic. There are a wide range of colours and styles displayed – but absolutely nothing flesh-toned. There are hearing aids geared towards fashion and style, some geared for durability and active lifestyles, and some aiming to be super discreet. People are able to pick up the hearing aids themselves, try them on, check out how they look in a mirror, and compare different models side-by-side. An employee can check what size of dome they might need, or walk them through possible custom fit options. Eventually, the audiologist is ready for the appointment and the patient goes through their evaluation. At the end of the appointment, they return to the front area of the clinic to continue looking at different hearing aids and further discuss their options with the audiologist.

So what are the advantages of this approach? Here are my arguments:

  1. Even before the appointment begins, the patient is trying hearing aids on. They are visualizing themselves with the devices even before a diagnosis is made. Even something as simple as being sized for domes can be influential, because for the patient it feels like they’ve already taken the first steps.
  2. Hearing aids are prominently displayed. In this case, they’re viewed as fashionable and not hidden away like something to be ashamed of. This normalizes their use and could likely help lowering the average age of first purchase.
  3. People can become more familiar with hearing aids. They’re able to touch them and hold them and feel the way they fit behind their ears. Even if they don’t need hearing aids on the day of their appointment, they’ll be more comfortable accepting the devices at a later time if required.
  4. We can accelerate the fitting cycle. Generally people go 5 years or more between purchases of hearing aids. If those coming in regularly for services get more exposure to the newest models of devices, some might be encouraged to buy new hearing aids sooner.
  5. People can see hearing aids as a fashion accessory. When you go to the optometrist, there’s usually there’s an optician to help guide you through the process. Often they’re a little eccentric and are wearing big, funky glasses that you think would look ridiculous on you, but somehow their confidence lets them pull it off. Their comfort with the products makes you, the user, more comfortable with the products too. What if we introduced a role for an “Aud-tician,” someone whose job is to help guide you through the aesthetic aspects of hearing aids? They could encourage people to go big and loud, or help them find a discreet solution if they prefer.

What do you think? Is this too far-fetched or is it exactly what we need?

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