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Hearing Journal:
doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000292372.08912.ab
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An open letter from Sergei Kochkin to the hearing healthcare community

Kochkin, Sergei PhD

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Executive Director, Better Hearing Institute, 515 King Street, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22314

Dear Hearing Healthcare Provider:

I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself as the new executive director of the Better Hearing Institute.

I am eager to take on this new role in the hearing health industry, because it is my belief that this industry makes a significant and necessary contribution to society, a contribution that, unfortunately, is not yet fully recognized.

We are continuously developing and trying to improve the ability of the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) to fulfill its 501(c)(3) mission of educating the public and medical profession on hearing loss, its prevention, and its treatment.

We all have the formidable task of publicly leveraging our knowledge on the impact of untreated hearing loss on quality of life and breaking down barriers that prevent the hearing-impaired from seeking help with their hearing loss. We aim to develop the BHI into a significant resource for individuals with hearing loss as well as for hearing health providers. In addition, we aim to educate more than 300,000 medical and healthcare professionals on the importance of hearing healthcare.

As we strive to develop the BHI, it is important that I establish early that the institute needs the input and support of hearing healthcare providers in every community in America. Your input and involvement on any of the issues below are very much appreciated. Periodically I would like to engage you in a discussion on a number of issues.

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BUILDING BRIDGES TO THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY

Over the last couple of years, the BHI has focused mainly on developing tools to bridge the gap between the medical community and hearing aid dispensers/dispensing audiologists. According to our estimates, about 25,000 medical practitioners have been reached via BHI's CME-approved course in which more than 1000 audiologists and hearing instrument specialists actively participate. Participants in the BHI program report significant referrals from doctors and many report significant improvements in their sales of hearing health products directly emanating from the BHI program. If you want to learn more about the BHI Physician Referral Development Program, please visit our web site at www.betterhearing.org.

* I would like to get your ideas for further training and educating America's more than 300,000 healthcare providers on the issues of hearing loss and its impact on quality of life (physical, emotional, psychological, cognitive, social, socioeconomic), its identification (e.g., screening during a physical exam), and treatment.

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GENERAL MARKET DEVELOPMENT

According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, the population of Americans 65 years and over—the primary target market of the hearing health industry—was 31.2 million in 1990. With continued improvements in lifestyle and healthcare, this figure grew to 35.1 million in 2000. Current population projections are extremely favorable for the hearing health industry: 40.2 million in 2010, 54.6 million in 2020, 71.5 million in 2030, and 80 million by 2040.

Thus, in the next two generations the target population for hearing health services will more than double. We need to work together to make sure that they avail themselves of our services, hopefully at a younger age than now, when the average first-time user is 69 years old.

I would like to know from you:

* How can we work together to serve the needs of people with hearing loss?

* What ideas do you have for lowering the average age of the first-time user of hearing instruments by 5 years?

* In your opinion, what are the key obstacles people with hearing loss face in getting treatment for their loss?

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PUBLIC EDUCATION

I would also like to benefit from your inventiveness and hear your ideas on creating public awareness of hearing loss and the benefits of treatment:

* What ideas (other than paid advertising) do you have for educating the public on hearing loss, its treatment, and prevention?

* Do you have any great personal testimonials that we can use in our public awareness campaigns to show the benefit of hearing healthcare?

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MARKETRAK SURVEY

Using the 1984 HIA survey as a model, Knowles Electronics has been funding the MarkeTrak survey of the U.S hearing aid market since 1989. This survey will be continued through the BHI and be sponsored by the manufacturers and other companies that support the Better Hearing Institute. The next one is planned for CY2004-2005. All previous survey findings can be found on the Knowles web site at www.knowles.com (under market research).

I look forward to communicating with you on an on-going basis to understand how we may work together to bring the gift of hearing—or enhanced hearing—to the nearly 30 million Americans who are currently in need of the services and products of the hearing health industry. Your continued support, ideas, and suggestions are most appreciated.

Please e-mail me at: skochkin@betterhearing.com.

Sincerely yours,

Sergei Kochkin, PhD

Executive Director, Better Hearing Institute, 515 King Street, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22314

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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