Observations

D_Strom.jpg (8295 bytes)This issue of The Hearing Review provides a decade’s worth of customer satisfaction data compiled by Sergei Kochkin, PhD, and Knowles’ MarkeTrak consumer surveys (see page 14). Over the years, this information has been indispensible for understanding the underlying factors affecting consumers’ attitudes toward hearing aids. The information presented in this issue has a “good news, bad news” ring to it. The good news is that advanced programmable-type hearing instruments—particularly models employing directional microphones (about 10% of all hearing aids in the field)—are making a positive impact in terms of customer satisfaction. The bad news is that there is still a long way to go toward solving hearing-in-noise complaints for the majority of clients, and overall satisfaction ratings haven’t budged in 10 years. This may well become a landmark article in understanding the hearing instrument market, and one we think readers will find very interesting.

Kudos to Callier: This summer, I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of the UTD/Callier Center for Communications Disorders in Dallas to interview a few of its faculty, clinicians, and hearing scientists. The article that starts on page 26 features the research being done at UTD/Callier, and is a continuation of a series started last year that includes the House Ear Institute, Mayo Clinic, Central Institute for the Deaf, and Boys Town National Research Hospital. In all of these facilities—and in many others across the country—there is an incredible wealth of exciting research and diverse approaches in solving hearing problems. I encourage you to take a closer look at some of the amazing projects going on at UTD/Callier, as well as the other institutions featured in the series.

eBusiness and You: Whether you’re a Web-jockey or your mistrust for computers borders on being pathological (like me), e-business is coming. And if you’re not (at least) in the process of thinking about getting on the e-boat, you may be left on the e-dock. The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) and the Hearing Instrument Manufacturer’s Software Association (HIMSA) have recently teamed up on an important project to facilitate electronic interactions between manufacturers and dispensing professionals—all in hopes that there will be some rudimentary common solutions relative to e-business. Called eTONA (Electronic Transmission of NOAH Actions), the project will not produce any universal order form, but it is designed to streamline the electronic processing of hearing aids, including transmitting orders and integrating all the business activities into a coherent electronic system. This promises to greatly benefit dispensing professionals, manufacturers, suppliers—and consumers—when ordering products, making returns, or specifying necessary repairs. e-TONA will be integrated into the NOAH 3 module during 2003. Software provided by individual manufacturers will contain the necessary electronic ordering forms, etc, that you can use to order, review files, and get updates online directly from the manufacturer. Additionally, a browser is being planned that will make it possible to see all the transactions that are active for all patient records in an office’s database.

For an example of how fast the e-business trend is progressing, see Bill Lesiecki’s article (page 48) on electronic impression-making (systems like this are being adopted or developed industry-wide). eTONA is good news for everyone, and should streamline and speed future orders of hearing aids—and greatly reduce the need to learn 50+ different systems for 50+ different hearing aid manufacturers. Look for articles on eTONA, as well as the upcoming HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, see June HR, page 10) regulations, in upcoming issues of HR.

Karl Strom
Editor-In-Chief