As 2015 ended, we saw the findings of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on needed innovation in the hearing healthcare space. 2016 saw the release of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) report on how to make hearing healthcare more accessible and affordable and the Food and Drug Administration stance shift on requiring medical clearance for amplification. Finally, 2017 brought us passage of the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act. I knew, in 2017, that the profession of audiology needed a 21
century makeover. As a result, I created a monthly blog series titled “Solving Audiology Issues through Action”. Each month we tackled a different “problem” and different potential solutions to that issue.
The sad or funny thing, depending on your perspective, is that so little has changed in three years that I could re-release these articles again, unedited, and they would still be relevant. Audiology has done little in the past three years to address the systemic issues that plague and threaten this profession I hold so dear. Actually, given the experiences of 2020 so far, I think the needs may now be greater and the situation may be becoming even more dire if action isn’t taken soon.
COVID-19 exposed how technologically stagnant we have become and how, in our quest to hold onto provider delivered assessment, we have tied our own hands with regulations that do not allow for improved innovation and access. Providers and industry are to blame for limits being placed on remote or self-assessment. The technology exists but the regulatory allowances do not. The pandemic also exposed how willing we were to accept the label of “non-essential”. This was very discouraging to me as, from my vantage point, there was a middle ground that many were, again, unwilling or ill prepared to grasp!
The protests related to racial inequalities in the US have illustrated how we lack diversity in our own practices and profession. And, while women make up between 80-85% of audiologists, their voices are often belittled, dismissed or ignored when we demand change. These latter two issues, racial and gender equality, have been discussed for decades now but have produced little, if any, actionable results.
I am typically an audiology optimist, who sees opportunity around every corner. I am a “half glass full” kind of gal. Sadly now, while I still see the opportunity, I now I see other entities and professions who are more open, more equipped, and most importantly, more willing, to evolve and expand to fill a niche we refuse to take on. These entities have singular, focused leadership and a clear mission. Audiology lacks both!
Please understand, I respect and admire those audiologists who have focused their practice on the delivery of evidence based, consumer centered hearing aid delivery and who provide true value to those they serve. The problem is that there are significant numbers of audiologists who, on one hand disparage Costco, Sam’s Club and Lively and their delivery while, on the other hand, continue providing service and care that is not superior to those entities and at a significantly higher cost. Why would a consumer seek face to face, provider driven? audiologic care when the care they receive little resembles “audiology”? The title or education does not make the provider; the expertise, care, service and value does. We have lost sight on what makes us, us and different.
What will it take for audiologists to wake up? Evolve? Expand? Change? The OTC implementation is just around the corner. Apple is arming Air Pods with amplification. New entrants are sitting on the sidelines waiting to enter the space. We have the tools and technology to create a more disruption proof business and, most importantly, we have the education, training, skills and licensure, in many cases, to be a THE force in the communication, hearing and vestibular spaces. I just do not understand what is holding people back. I do not buy that it is monetization because all of this care can be monetized. I see providers do it every day!
Colleagues, this is a call to “arms”! This is a call, once and for all, to fulfill the destiny and goals of the AuD because, if we don’t, this has all been for naught and our profession will sit on the precipice of destroying itself from within! We are NOT victims here! WE hold the power to change this trajectory! Just will we?