Here Comes the King!
The concept that hearing instrument use, patient benefit, customer satisfaction, and price are all interconnected is not new to the hearing industry. The problem is that— despite some interesting and noble research efforts—very little evidence has surfaced to definitively link these parameters. In the final article of the MarkeTrak VI series found in this issue of The Hearing Review, Sergei Kochkin, PhD, takes on the issue of value in hearing instruments. Using the APHAB as a measure for disability improvement, he shows that the benefit (ie, alleviation of hearing handicap) of hearing instruments far outstrips any other factor. In fact, at a price of $5 for every 1% of hearing disability improvement, a dispensing professional is almost assured of an 85% customer satisfaction rate. Conversely, at $500 per disability point, it would be next to impossible to hope for anything above a 45% customer satisfaction rate. The point is that more “bang for the buck” via products and services is integral to the industry-wide goal of elevating customer satisfaction statistics. From this information, Kochkin formulates a convincing argument for why the hearing industry needs a “gold standard” of hearing care service relative to testing, fitting, service, and verification of benefit. In short, the hearing care field needs to put its collective head together and define in explicit terms what quality care means.

Another aspect of the article focuses on the overall satisfaction that hearing instruments provide as a product class. Although there are several caveats relative to the use of this overall customer satisfaction data, the results do indicate that high-technology instruments—particularly programmable directional aids—provide exceptional customer satisfaction levels when compared to other product classes, as ranked by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. In fact, if you take a quick peek at page 22, you’ll see that programmable directional instruments (81% score in customer satisfaction) actually beat out automobiles and (brace yourself Homer Simpson) beer! So next time you see the Clydesdales in that “Here Comes the King” ad, you can rightfully say that some of your products are, in fact, the “Big Number One”! However, before we get too carried away, overall customer satisfaction for non-directional programmable instruments (72%) is about the same as banks and local government (ie, good but not great), and satisfaction with non-programmable instruments (58%) ranks lower than the IRS (dooh!).

n On a sad note, Elmer V. Carlson, one of the hearing industry’s most accomplished engineers, died in January at age 83 (see obituary on page 53). Carlson was a brilliant inventor, and those who knew him describe him as a quiet genius. Mead Killion, a colleague of Carlson’s while working at Knowles Electronics, says Carlson’s inventions (or permutations of his inventions) are found in virtually every hearing aid designed and manufactured today.

n HR has always sought to be extremely practical and presents articles that all dispensing professionals can readily use in their everyday businesses/practices. In an effort to further this charge, HR has established an Editorial Advisory Board that will provide new ideas and perspectives on the topics that dispensing professionals need to hear about. We’re proud to announce that the following hearing care professionals have agreed to join our Editorial Advisory Board: Marshall Chasin, MSc, coordinator of research at the Canadian Hearing Society and director of auditory research at the Musicians Clinics of Canada in North York, Ontario; Jay B. McSpaden, PhD, BC-HIS, educator and lecturer, and co-owner and director of audiological services at East Valley Hearing and Speech Services in Lebanon, Ore; Joel Mynders, BC-HIS, a second-generation hearing instrument specialist, educator, and president of A.P. Mynders and Associates in West Chester, Pa; Mark Sanford, MS, a clinical audiologist and owner of CSG/Better Hearing Center in Walnut Creek, Calif; and Wayne J. Staab, PhD, longtime audiologist and researcher, as well as treasurer of (and champion for) the American Auditory Society who lives in Dammeron Valley, Utah. HR thanks these people for lending their wealth of knowledge and talents to help better define HR’s editorial goals.

Karl Strom