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 the hearing health industry makes a significant and a necessary contribution to society—a contribution which is unfortunately not yet fully recognized.

We are continuously developing and trying to improve the Better Hearing Institute’s ability to fulfill its 501(c)(3) mission of educating the public and medical profession on hearing loss, its prevention and 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 which 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 care providers. In addition, we aim to educate more than 300,000 medical and health care professionals on the importance of hearing health care.

As we strive to develop the BHI, it is important that I establish early that the BHI needs the input and support of hearing health care 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. I have a few questions concerning our medical and public awareness initiatives.

Creating Bridges Between the Medical & Dispensing Fields
Over the last couple of years, the BHI has mainly focused on developing tools to bridge the gap between the medical community and hearing aid dispensers or dispensing audiologists. According to our estimates, about 25,000 medical practitioners have been reached via the BHI’s CME-approved course through the active participation of more than 1,000 audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. Participants in the BHI program report significant referrals from doctors, and many report significant improvements in their sales of hearing health products directly emanating out of 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

n I would like to get your input on ideas for further training and educating America’s more than 300,000 health care providers on the issues of hearing loss and its impact on quality of life (physical, emotional, psychological, cognitive, social, socioeconomics), its identification (eg, screening during a physical exam) and treatment.

General Market Development
According to the US Bureau of the Census, in 1990 the age 65+ population (the primary target market of the hearing health industry) was 31.2 million people. With continued improvements in lifestyle and health care, this figure has grown to 35.1 million in 2000. Current projections are extremely favorable for the hearing health industry: 40.2 million people in 2010, 54.6 million in 2020, 71.5 million in 2030, and 80 million by 2040. So, in the next two generations, the target population for hearing health services will more than double, and we need to work together to make sure that they avail themselves of our services—hopefully at a younger age (currently, the average age of a first-time user of hearing aids 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 hearing loss?

Public Education
I would like to benefit from your inventiveness and hear your ideas on creating public awareness on 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 great personal testimonials that we can use, showing the benefit of hearing health care in our public awareness campaigns?

MarkeTrak Survey of US Market
Using the 1984 HIA survey as a model, Knowles Electronics has been funding the MarkeTrak survey of the US hearing care market since 1989. This survey will be continued through the BHI and will be sponsored by manufacturers, who support the Better Hearing Institute. The next one is planned for CY2004-2005. All previous survey findings can be accessed 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 email me at: [email protected]  

Sincerely yours,

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Sergei Kochkin,
Executive Director
Better Hearing Institute

Correspondence can be addressed to Sergei Kochkin, PhD, Better Hearing Institute, 515 King Street, Ste 420, Alexandria, VA 22314; email: [email protected]

 Sergei Kochkin, PhD, is the new executive director of the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). Prior to joining BHI, he was the director of marketing development and market research at Knowles Electronics Inc and past chairman of the Market Development Committee of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA).