I got my “Second Notice” from the Florida Society of Hearing Healthcare Professionals, just a few days before the arrival of the latest issue of the "OtoScoop", their official publication. The notice was for dues, that I won’t pay. I’m not a member, and don’t want to be. It’s not that this society, and profession aren’t filled with a bunch of great folks, because for the most part they are. Salt of the earth, most of them, just hard working hearing aid dispensers, trying to make a living in a world of accelerating changes.
The problem is, that I don’t agree with their ideas, and positions regarding consumer protection, professional training, continuing education, Internet, and mail order sale of hearing aids, or much else that has to do with their attempts to control where, and how consumers purchase their hearing aids, or from whom, or how I get my continuing education, or how I educate, and prepare my apprentice trainees to sit for their board exam.
Their problem is, and has been continuing to rally enough specialists into believing that they are protecting the profession, and the public, when in reality all they are actually protecting is, who can sell hearing aids, and under what conditions. This, to protect their idea of what their professional turf is.
These folks are constantly beating the drums, and at every meeting pass the plate for the lobbyists, who must be ever vigilant against the incursion of those nasty Audiologists, and others, who are always trying to take away our rights to sell hearing aids, and put us out of business.
One problem for both of these groups, Audiologist and Hearing Aid Specialists, is that it’s all a bunch of crap about them protecting the public. No. It’s all about that turf war. Who can be the gatekeeper to hearing aid sales. By virtue of history, Hearing aid Specialists claim that “right”. By virtue of allegedly better, but demonstrably more extensive education, Audiologists claim that “right”.
Which brings up their second problem; Exerting their “rights” to this sacred gatekeeper status, requires removing the consumer’s right to choose.
That’s right, these professions’ right to decide what is best for your hearing healthcare, is supposed to trump the consumer’s right to chose for themselves.
These restrictions are needed because the consumer isn't smart enough to think for themselves, right?
Which leads to their fourth problem; changes in the entire healthcare delivery system. In fact the whole premise of the ACA is to make consumers more responsible for their healthcare decisions, not less, as the taking away of their options does, with their current hearing aid regulations.
Which leads to their fifth problem; the gear available today, isn’t the gear they regulated forty years ago. From cell phones to the Internet, things have changed incredibly, whether our colleagues like it or not.
Hearing aids are no longer analog, hard to fit, or remotely any more dangerous than anything else stuck in, or hung on the ear of billions of consumers worldwide, every day. Nor are they user unfriendly.
The opposite is true. They’ve become incredibly user friendly, and actually capable of being fit by the consumer themselves, via an app on their smartphone, which can already be used to control some models on the market now.
So, I’m sorry esteemed colleagues, but I’ll not drink your, or your lobbyist’s Koolaid. Even they can’t hold back the tide, no matter how much money you pay them. But, they’d like you to believe they can. They depend upon it.
The sky isn’t falling, unless, of course you listening to your lobbyists, and you are trying to rely on your gatekeeper status to drive people through your doors begging to buy hearing aids from you.
If, you haven’t noticed, our current practices, are estimated to reach only about twenty percent of the folks who could benefit from some sort of amplification, or signal processing technology.
So, answer me this if you can, or will:
What makes any professional organization think that it’s long term health isn’t tied to the health of the consumer it serves?
What makes any professional organization think that limiting consumer choice, rather than demonstrating value, and worth serves the profession?
What makes you think that your gates will hold against the forces of the market, the internet, and the overall stated healthcare policy, as well as, the lobbying power of those engaged in Internet sales?
How much would you deem enough to spend trying to protect your “rights” to this protected gatekeeper status?
Do, you really believe that so severely limiting access to better hearing is in either the profession’s, or consumer’s best interests?
I’d like to hear from those who believe they have such inherent rights, whether they are an audiologist, or hearing aid specialist.
But, please understand, this practitioner works for the consumer. My job is to help more people hear better, not to limit their choices in how they achieve that. Especially not in the lame name of protecting them.
No. I believe that what is good for the consumer, and consumer’s choice, is good for our profession. Or, at least those who are willing to let their practice standards, and the customer experiences they create demonstrate their value, rather than some shingle, or protected status.
Very simply, we are about being Patient Centered, and Results Oriented, not protecting our “right” to dictate that the consumer must come to me, or anyone else, for that matter, nor purchase anything that they don’t wish to.
It is my firm belief that our “Professional Societies” would be well served to do the same.
There is a comments section in this Blog for a reason. Should you disagree, I would honestly appreciate your views, and will gladly engage in any civil discussion.