"DIRECT-MAIL HEARING AIDS Survey of direct-mail hearing aids suggest higher-than expected value to consumers"
Did this headline and article brand Dr. Kochkin as an industry heretic?
I’ve often written to question, comment, or thank Dr. Kochkin, for his detailed survey work on what consumers’ think about us, our industry, and it’s products, how well they work, and most importantly, how they value us, our services, and our products.
I’ve been following Sergei’s work for almost thirty years now, starting with his standard’s setting Marke Trak surveys of hearing aid use, purchases, and purchaser demographics and data.
Everybody, who’s anybody within the hearing aid industry either follows Dr. Kochkin’s work, reading and studying it directly, or they’ve heard about him in continuing education classes. As his surveys are incredibly detailed, statistically accurate, scientifically validated, and replicable.
Sergei, earned his PHD honestly, with impeccable research, analysis and work. Up until these headlines, those in our industry who follow him, may have clucked, shook, or scratched our heads over a particular nugget, of insight, or knowledge that we didn’t, or hadn’t thought about. But, his work was taken, as spot on, and truly insightful by our industry, and has been, since the first Marke Trak survey was published back in 1985.
Honestly, I try to read and study all of his surveys. Their insights help me to better define what is important to our consumers and helps to keep us centered on what our Patients actually experience. Not, what we’d like to think, that they think about us, or products, and how they value us.
Now however, almost everyone in our industry is screaming about the Internet, and direct to consumer sales models of Health Innovations, and other mail order purveyors of hearing aids. There is a loud industry wide clamoring, and lobbying push, for ever tighter regulations, and cross state enforcement actions. Given this, the headline, and accompanying article, statistics and analysis, cannot be be seen by these same folks, as anything but, pure heresy.
Sergei’s Survey isn’t just out of key with the Song being sung by those trying to shore up the gatekeeper system, this is like singing “We Shall Overcome” at a cross burning Clan rally.
This is definitely information that our professional societies, and organizations not only didn’t want to hear, they wouldn’t want spread.
It seems that there were far too many in our industry with an agenda that doesn’t really track with the consumer’s views, beliefs, or the data. We see clearly now that better hearing value is not to be recognized outside of the present, highly defended gatekeeper/medical model dispensing method we are forced to accept at present, due to FDA, and state regulation of all hearing aids, as medical devices.
This data, is so challenging to the prevailing orthodoxy, given that this survey dares to actually survey, and compare what consumers think, and what value that they perceive, and achieve from purchasing their hearing aids outside of our mandated, gatekeeper system.
Will this article forever brand Dr. Kochkin as an industry heretic?
For thirty years Dr. Sergei Kochkin’s Marke Trak, and other surveys have been, and are the go to, consumer science behind how our industry, and professions make decisions, policies, strategies, and most importantly, justify the regulations that limit the distribution, and access that define the current hearing aid delivery system.
Now that there is definitive data, that challenges these claims, and the positions of the very industry that has up until last year embraced, and totally supported Dr. Kochkin’s work, we see that our industry actually hasn’t read past the headlines, and into the meat of Sergei’s work, where the true value lies.
Is our industry so afraid of the data, that they shot the messenger a year before the message was published?
Is Dr. Kochkin being burned at the proverbial stake, for taking a position that exposes the industry’s presumptions for what they are?
For me, I’m going to take the early twentieth century philosopher, comedian, and cowboy Will Rogers said circa 1918 when he advised, “It ain't what a fella don’t know that hurts him. It’s what he knows, that ain't so, that hurts him.”
I’ve read the entire article, and begun to study the data. It’s great work. It reveals much, much, more than the headlines might suggest, and actually breaks down who, values what, and, why in their hearing aid purchases.
I’ll bet on Sergei’s work over the presumptions of my industry and colleagues, any day.
Studying it reminded me of the wise words of my father, a scholar and educator who touched many lives in his journey through life. He gave it at a time when I was particularly full of myself, over a well earned, but over bragged accomplishment, he looked at me and said simply,
“Son, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
I most certainly think dad’s words would be great advise to ponder here for my learned, incensed, and highly, irregular colleagues.
This survey certainly doesn’t scare, or upset me, but rather greatly, informs us, and let us know that being Patient Centered, and Results Oriented dispensing, is exactly what discerning, and value conscious consumers are looking for.
For performance in noise, comfort, convenience, quality, and care, the survey clearly shows that the age old axiom still applies, “You get what you pay for.” As mail order consumers rated their gear’s performance significantly lower in those environments, than those who sought professional help in the selection, and fit of their gear.
The survey also clearly indicated that if you are a consumer looking for cheap, analog gear that will give the most basic functions of amplification, then mail order may be the way you want to go. As the vast majority of instruments sold via mail order are analog, with a volume control.
Those consumers who had purchased hearing aids by mail were mostly male, over 75, and have an educational level of high school, or less. They expected less of their gear, and weren’t willing to pay more. Yet they still found value in the gear that they did get through their internet, or mail order purchase.
They also reported that the gear they bought, did relatively well in quiet environments, but performed poorly overall in the more complex, social settings, such as restaurants, groups etc. It also indicated that they were much more likely to be purchasers of a single, rather than, a pair of hearing aids.
The survey also showed that those who expected much more from their equipment were very disappointed with certain aspects of mail order, and that those who chose instead to deal with a hearing professional got better overall performance, especially in noise.
The survey further revealed that consumers too, were satisfied with the value of their gear, even though they may have paid many times more than the older consumer who expected much less, and ordered through the mail.
The survey showed that the perceived consumer value of any fitting, is all about meeting the expectations of the particular consumer in question.
The data show that there was no indication that those purchasing, via mail, or online were less satisfied with their purchases, or that they were somehow put at greater risk of harm, than those being fit through a professional.
Hardly heretical information, unless you have an agenda, and didn’t want to hear the part about those consumers who were happy to obtain their hearing aids, and satisfied with their purchases, even though they went without that mandated participation of a local professional.
Thanks again Sergei for the great work.