As 2011 comes to a close, the hearing industry can reflect back on a number of successes. The past 12 months brought continued financial insecurity, but audiology maintained its position as a virtually recession-proof career, and notably, one of few professions that will experience growth during the economic downturn.
Careercast.com listed audiology as one of the 10 best jobs of 2011, ranking it at number nine (http://bit.ly/bestjob2011); and recently the website named the profession as the least stressful job (http://bit.ly/leaststressful2011). I can see some of you shaking your heads at that notion as you think of the problem patients and reimbursement concerns that preoccupy your days, but as HJ found out earlier this year, overall, audiologists and hearing instrument specialists are “very satisfied” in their careers. (Hearing Journal, May 2011.)
Speaking of satisfaction, we also found earlier this year that consumers are happy with mini-BTEs. In his MarkeTrak VIII report, Sergei Kochkin, PhD, discovered that the devices were tapping into a new segment of users. These individuals are more affluent, married, in the workforce, and have significantly less hearing loss than traditional hearing aid users, meaning these purchasers may be addressing their hearing loss sooner. This was good news for the industry, and the best news was that consumers who purchased mini-BTEs were satisfied with their devices in a number of listening situations. (Hearing Journal, March 2011.)
TAX CREDIT TRIUMPH
Slow but steady progress continues to be made on the hearing aid tax credit. The Hearing Industries Association held its annual Hearing on the Hill event in May, speaking with congressional leaders about the importance of the legislation. The Academy of Doctors of Audiology and the International Hearing Society held joint meetings with various representatives, and the Hearing Loss Association of America met with legislators as well.
On the local level, New Hampshire was added to the list of states mandating hearing aid coverage, requiring insurance policies to provide up to $1,500 in coverage per hearing aid every five years; and in Georgia, the sales tax exemption for hearing aids was reinstated.
This year was also a good one for those who take care of little ears. In his article on page 36, Jace Wolfe, PhD, recaps the top 11 highlights in pediatric audiology for 2011. One achievement that didn't make the list was the American Board of Audiology establishing Specialty Certification in Pediatric Audiology. The first group of recipients was certified this year, and two more sets of audiologists are expected to join the ranks by mid-2012.
For teens and tweens, audiologists also got to the bottom of reports noting alarming rates of hearing loss due to iPods and MP3 players. While the media somewhat sensationalized its coverage, the attention provided a huge opportunity for the hearing community to speak up about prevention and they did.
DOLLARS AND CENTS
In business, success boils down to the almighty dollar, and in our annual state of the industry report on page 19, we take a look at how the industry performed financially in 2011. In last year's forecast, Klaus Madsen, Head of Equity Research for Handelsbanken Capital Markets in Denmark, thought the hearing industry was on track for typical four percent growth in 2011, but given the financial climate, that number may fall closer to two percent.
As the economy recovers, there's no doubt that the hearing market will get back on track, and the performance of products and enhancements manufacturers develop, as well as the service hearing care providers offer, will continue to drive the profession. So pat yourself on the back; 2011 was a good year.