Consider these points if you’re thinking about incorporating OTC hearing aids into your practice:
Explore This IssueApril 2022
Offer a range of options. Many people are unaware of the wide range of available hearing technology, and few know that an OTC hearing aid may be similar in price to an entry-level programmable hearing aid. Have a wide range of options available, at varying price points, and be prepared to explain capabilities of each in easy-to-understand language.
“Because most people have heard how expensive hearing aids are, they often assume they’re going to have to spend a couple of thousand dollars for a hearing aid,” said Dr. Moody. “I sometimes tell patients it’s like buying a car, with a wide range of options and prices. A less expensive Toyota Corolla may meet your needs, or you may opt for the upgraded technology you can get in a Mercedes.”
Charge separately for professional services. Many otolaryngology services have already moved toward unbundled hearing aid services—charging separately for the device, fitting and programming, and follow-up visits. You may want to use that approach with OTC hearing aids, whether the devices are purchased from your practice or elsewhere; however, be aware that this approach may dissuade some patients from seeking professional care. “Asking the patient to pay out-of-pocket for audiologic services may discourage the patient from returning for fine tuning of programming, which could potentially reduce their benefit and the patient’s satisfaction with the device,” Dr. Moody said. “It also potentially disincentivizes the patient from returning when they notice a change in their hearing.”
Offer a rebate that can be rolled into the purchase of another device. One obvious risk inherent to the availability of OTC hearing aids is that some people will purchase an OTC device, believing it to be the most cost-effective means of managing their hearing loss, only to discover that the device doesn’t help them at all. With hundreds of dollars already spent, they may be reluctant to seek additional care or treatment.
One way to draw patients to your practice and increase the likelihood that they’ll end up with an appropriately fit, well-functioning device is to sell OTC hearing aids and then offer patients a rebate or credit they can roll into the purchase of a programmable hearing aid if the OTC device doesn’t meet their needs. “That links patients to your practice,” Dr. Grisel said.
Team up with colleagues. Otolaryngologists should also educate their primary care colleagues about the eventual availability of OTC hearing aids. If you choose to sell OTC hearing aids in your office, let your primary care colleagues know they can send interested patients your way.