The overlap between otolaryngology and hearing aid dispensing is really quite significant, added Neil A. Giddings, MD, of Spokane Ear, Nose & Throat in Washington. Our audiologists are trained to obtain medical information, so it is not uncommon for a patient to come in to get a hearing aid and wind up seeing one of our rhinologists as well to get treated for sleep apnea or sinus problems.
Explore this issue:November 2006
What do otolaryngologists need to do in order to raise awareness and enhance this potentially rewarding and clinically significant aspect of their practices? Marketing and advertising.
First, you also have to decide what exactly you want to be in the hearing health care industry, Dr. Giddings said. If you just want to sell hearing aids, you can do the same things the hearing aid dispensers do-you can take out big ads and you will probably get more hearing aid sales. But, if you want to be a leader in the community whom people look to so they can be sure they are getting the correct medical care and are getting fitted correctly, then it takes more than that and it takes higher standards.
How do you maintain those higher standards and compete with the aggressive and high-visibility marketing and advertising tactics of the non-physician hearing aid dispensers? You don’t try to compete with them; you try to set yourself apart from them.
The hearing aid dispensers advertise all the time in the newspaper, and some of them may be unethical. So, how do we compete against them? Dr. Giddings continued. My feeling is that, as otolaryngologists, with all of the technology available to us, our ability to diagnose problems of the ear and the trust that our patients put in our expertise, the real question should be, ‘How can the hearing aid dispensers compete against us?’
Their inherent credibility and position in the community is the most valuable marketing tool otolaryngologists have, Dr. Green noted.
Probably under-recognized and undervalued, but a significant part of the potential for otolaryngologists in dispensing hearing aids, is that we are respected members of our communities, he said. People will listen to their doctor. The white coat gives you the respect that will enable you to prescribe a hearing aid to someone and be confident that individual will wear and utilize the hearing aid.
Although many physicians feel that advertising and marketing their practice somehow diminishes their credibility, Dr. Giddings believes it is an important and effective way to raise awareness of the otolaryngologist’s presence in the hearing aid industry. He admitted, though, that there was quite a bit of initial apprehension in the office when his practice began advertising.