StromObservations
The HR Dispenser Survey has been used during the last 10 years by dispensing professionals and manufacturers alike as their business yardstick. Former HR Editorial Director Marjorie Skafte started these industry surveys, and they remain a valuable glimpse into “the average” dispensing office in order to assess trends and progress. One of the more interesting statistics in this year’s survey confirms Hearing Industries Association (HIA) data showing that hearing aids are now predominantly digital and, at the same time, have become more varied in product offerings. Respondents to this year’s survey indicated that digital instruments constituted 75% of their unit volume in 2003 (compared to HIA statistics of 79% in Q1 2004). As pointed out in HR’s March 2004 market analysis, the digital product class has become highly segmented (eg, DSP aids have been developed to address specific hearing losses, to compete against select analog aids at specific price points, etc). Prices for digital aids now range from $1,302 (ie, more economical than some analog linear CICs) to $3,044—a difference of more than $1,700. The survey also suggests that the average price of a digital aid continues to decrease at a brisk pace: from $2,389 in 2002 to $2,158 in 2003, or a decrease of 9.7%. However, because droves of consumers are choosing the more expensive digital aids, the average price of a hearing aid in 2003 continued to rise to $1,794 from $1,730 in 2002, or 3.7%. Additionally, the percentage of directional aids have increased from 29% in 2002 to 36% in 2003. This combination of lower prices, more choice in products, and proven technology can only be good news for today’s consumer of hearing instruments. Hopefully, it also will translate to more first-time users, greater customer satisfaction, and increased market penetration.

Saddle up for the Jackson Hole Rendezvous Finale. In days of old, mountaineers would rendezvous periodically with each other in grand meetings, and generally unwind with people of their own ilk. For 25 years, this same tradition, in the form of the Jackson Hole Rendezvous, has been held for the benefit of audiologists and researchers by Michael and Laurel Marion and Dennis Van Vliet. Almost every-other-year they’ve corralled one of the best (in content and fun) meetings available in hearing care. But Michael is hanging up the event’s spurs this year. Here’s a hot tip: If there is any way that you can attend the Rendezvous held September 8-11, by all means go. You won’t regret or forget it. (See page 12 for details.)

www.hearingreview.com. The outspoken baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean eloquently defended his boasting by arguing that “If you can do it, it ain’t bragging.” HR doesn’t devote much space for self-promotion, but at the risk of bragging, this magazine has maintained since 2000 what I believe is one of the best Web sites in the field. You can find any HR article, author, news story, product, or industry person who appeared in this magazine during the last 4 years at www.hearingreview.com. All the articles and departments are searchable by key words. Additionally, the HR Worldwide Registry and excellent articles like the NCOA Quality of Life study are also available by clicking on their respective boxes on the home page. I’m always surprised at how many people are not aware of HR’s Web site and its value for looking up things. Additionally, the Web site is heavily used by dispensing professionals overseas. Okay, I’m done bragging.

Contact your Senators or Representatives! The Hearing Aid Tax Credit Assistance Act (HR 3103 and SB 2055) would provide a tax credit of up to $500 per hearing aid every 5 years for hearing-impaired people over 55 years old or dependents under age 18. This is a law that this industry desperately needs. Lend a hand by faxing and calling your Senators and Representatives in support of HR 3103 and SB 2055! Sample letters can be accessed at the Starkey Web site (www.starkey.com), and your Congressional contacts can be found at www.congress.gov

Karl Strom
Editor-In-Chief