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Perhaps the 800-lb Gorilla Can Become Our Friend

Keith, Robert W., PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000558480.67527.80
Letter to the Editor

Emeritus Professor

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

College of Allied Health Sciences

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Dear Editor,

I appreciated the concerns about the viability of a private dispensing practice noted by Bre Myers, AuD, PhD, in the editorial “Can We Talk About the 800-lb Gorilla in the Room?” published in The Hearing Journal’s March 2019 issue For years, audiologists considering a career in a private hearing aid dispensing practice have been concerned about succeeding in a competitive market that includes everyone from big-box stores to hospital audiology practices. In full disclosure, I have always worked in the secure environment of a major medical center, so I can only speak as an observer. In my early years in the field, I envisioned audiology as a profession that can compete successfully in the marketplace. To survive, however, requires audiology professionals to be completely aware of the changes in the business environment and be flexible to deal with competing factors.

The editorial by Dr. Myers pointed out many of the problems encountered by private practice audiologists in the age of Big Health. The final lines of the editorial note that there are significant academic and professional implications of this problem. Unfortunately, the editorial space did not allow for suggestions to deal with these problems. I propose that future articles in The Hearing Journal address these problems. In addition, university audiology training programs need to be fully aware of these issues and better prepare students to enter a dispensing practice. Academic programs would do well to offer courses in the operation and management of a business. While anatomy, physiology, and diagnostic procedures are indispensable courses, other course should be taught by audiologists who are involved in the real world of a dispensing practice. A review of the yellow pages in the Cincinnati phonebook indicates that there are various successful dispensing audiology practices in the greater Cincinnati area. These practices exist across the country, and they are not going away. Audiology professionals could also be more aggressive in influencing who will be the dispensing person in a big-box audiology practice. Similar to pharmacists who are employed by companies like Walmart, there are opportunities in and advantages to audiologists working in these stores. There are many roads to a successful and rewarding career in audiology, and with appropriate academic and professional responses to changes in the future, we do not have to worry about the age of Big Health. A different response is to convert those challenges into opportunities.

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