Get the Big Picture on Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

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By now you’ve heard plenty of buzz about over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. The countdown is on, with FDA regulations due to be released in August 2020. There’s no question device prices will drop, an undeniably attractive option for many patients. Hearing aids can run $5,600 on average, with most not covered by health insurance. But the long-term costs of improper fitting and performance MUST remain part of the conversation.

Now is the time to talk OTC with patients and staff – and prep your practice for what comes next.

1. Emphasize the Outcomes

Let’s be honest – some patients will immediately feel like it’s all about money (as in, you want more of theirs).

That couldn’t be farther from the truth, but it’s important to acknowledge the undercurrent and address it head on. When the conversation begins, always emphasize the outcomes. This will ensure the patient knows they are being heard and, most importantly, their hearing is being prioritized above all else.

Acknowledge and understand the money side of things. Many older adults are on fixed incomes, and thousands of dollars for hearing aids can be a real hardship. They may decide to delay treatment on this reason alone.

2. Outline the Risks

There are no quick fixes or shortcuts for achieving long-term success with hearing aids. It’s important that patients and front-line office staff, even receptionists and assistants, know and understand the risks of choosing (and using) an OTC device without proper professional guidance.

Education is the name of the game! Consider tools that keep the message top of mind in a variety of ways:

  • E-mails and/or direct mail to current patients outlining your perspective on OTC products
  • New content on your practice website and social media feeds
  • Informational posters, brochures and handouts for your office
  • Newsletter articles (if your practice has one)
  • Outline public relations (PR) opportunities with local news outlets

If you haven’t already, make sure to address OTC devices at your next staff meeting. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of how you articulate the pros and cons to patients and their families.

Like the idea of creating educational emails, posters, direct mail and brochures? Get your marketing team started brainstorming ideas, then budget accordingly and make things happen.

3. Evaluate Your Process

You didn’t get into audiology to sell things… you’re here because you’re passionate about helping people! Still, OTC devices will change the sales revenue side of audiology in a variety of ways.

Now is a good time to take a look at your internal processes. Map out the steps your patients go through as they progress from initial appointments to diagnosis, hearing aid fittings, adjustments and follow-up appointments. Put yourself in their shoes… in which ways, and at which stages of their patient journey, could they be tempted to choose an OTC solution?

Once you outline the “danger zones,” you can make a plan for reinforcing your practice value proposition with educational materials, streamlined services, lower prices, or a combination of all three.

You might also discover inefficiencies that, when eliminated, could allow you to lower prices on certain devices, too. Be creative and consider what’s coming… the main selling point for OTC devices will be how much faster and cheaper they will be to acquire.

Every audiology practice is different. Preparing for OTC devices to enter the market starts with understanding your unique situation and proactively telling your story – before patients make their minds up for you.