Successful private practice owners recognize the need to offer more than a device. Providing a patient experience that cannot be replicated by an online, retail or big box provider is essential for today’s private practice. Offering a hearing rehabilitation program is one way to add value to the patient experience. However, you are unlikely to have the resources such as time, space and energy to implement on your own.
We have found a collaboration between private practice and an academic program to be the answer. The combination of academic and research training with patient-centered, service-oriented, and business-oriented training has proven to provide the framework, innovation, and resources that have benefited both collaborators.
Our goal in designing and implementing this program was to provide a community-based program for adult learners that also served as a teaching opportunity for graduate students. We have designed the materials to be accessible and reproducible for other academic programs and private practice partnerships.
As a private practice owner, the recognition the program has given me as a hearing expert in the community has translated into extremely effective marketing. The attendees were the most successful hearing aid users for the following reasons: they were passionate and enthusiastic advocates for hearing care because of the knowledge gained from our seminar; they had a solid understanding of the expectations of a device; they were eager and ready to implement the communication strategies taught; and they saw the importance of seeking help from an audiologist. Not only were they now part of the practice, but these participants also helped spread the word in the community. They were eager to share their new knowledge with others. This organic, enthusiastic and serious marketing led to qualified and educated referrals who were all successful hearing aid users.
We, a private practice owner and assistant university professor, designed and conducted a four-part seminar that met once a week for 90 minutes for four weeks. Participants were members of the University Campus Lifelong Learning Program. The program was offered twice a year. We started this program with in-person classes before transitioning very easily to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. We typically had 10 older adult attendees at our seminar, and classes were held in a large room in the Speech and Hearing Clinic on campus. A public address system and a large display screen were used to increase accessibility. Master’s students in speech-language pathology facilitated small breakout sessions on lipreading, speech clarity, communication strategies, and auditory training after class. Our lecture topics included hearing loss, how we hear, interpretation of audiograms, tinnitus, auditory training, psychosocial exercises, expectations of hearing aids, ototoxicity, hearing aids, technology support, smartphone apps, over-the-counter devices, and how to choose an audiologist. We also provided training on communication strategies with hearing loss and facilitated discussions that resulted in group dynamics and the sharing of shared experiences that were powerful for students and participants to witness.
Benefits for audiologists in private practice
This program established the private practice audiologist as an expert in hearing rehabilitation, setting the practice apart from others who only offered a device. The increased visibility led to new referrals. These references were more likely to be satisfied and successful because they accepted the limitations of their devices. Seminar participants took responsibility for implementing communication strategies rather than blaming the audiologist or the hearing aids.
Benefits for a university program
Finding experiential opportunities for students as they explore their career interests or enroll in courses is an ongoing process. The seminar offered students a unique experience of participating and helping to facilitate the sessions. Participants enjoyed hearing about the students’ studies, connecting them with other lifelong learners. Students applied what they learned in their introductory AR course in individual and small group work. They had positive reflections on their experiences, as the interactions gave them insight into interacting with hearing-impaired seniors.
A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION
Working together, we considered the program a success. It responded to participants’ needs, provided a hands-on training opportunity for students, and established the private practice owner as an expert in the community. This mutually beneficial collaboration has resulted in new highly qualified referrals for private practice and a wealth of experience in creating and delivering content for students.
Offering hearing rehabilitation in a scalable, readily available, and replicable format resulted in benefit to college students and in the organic marketing of the practice with participants who were passionate and enthusiastic advocates for the importance of hearing aids, including the importance of regular use. , expectations, implementation of hearing strategies and the importance of consulting an audiologist. These participants spread the word in the community, especially to friends and family, healthcare professionals and personal physicians. This organic, enthusiastic and serious marketing has led to valuable and educated referrals.