|Ed Anthony is vice president of the Northeast Division of American Hearing Aid Associates. His office is in Chadds Ford, Pa.
A hearing aid evaluation involves the following components:
- Preparing for the evaluation
- Welcoming the patient
- Hearing testing
- Presenting hearing solutions
- Presenting recommendations
- Overcoming objections
- A call to action
- Readdressing concerns
- Treatment plan and expectations
- Your self-evaluation.
A successful hearing aid evaluation (HAE) consists of many distinct steps. They begin with proper preparation and, ideally, end with your explanation of the patient’s treatment plan being accepted by that individual.
1) Preparing for the Evaluation
In the first step—preparing for the HAE— recognize that your real objective is to help the patient hear well again with appropriate hearing devices. Understand what you want to happen as a result of the evaluation. Visualize a happy patient with better hearing.
2) Welcoming the Patient
The second step is crucial: to build trust and establish rapport as you meet the patient and introduce yourself and the practice. Your goal is to create a climate in which the patient is comfortable discussing his or her needs. Establish eye contact and show confidence as the authority—the concerned expert who will resolve the problem.
Ask why the patient has come in and perhaps why he/she waited so long to see you. If applicable, who made the referral and why? Answers are important because patients must take ownership of their hearing loss. They need to acknowledge and explain their “pain” and their desire to resolve their problems.
Ask what he/she hopes to accomplish and to learn during the visit. Have them name three areas in which they would like to see improvement in hearing, and how this would improve their quality of life. Having a family member or friend (third party) present for the evaluation is critical to its success. Have the patient and the third party try to quantify how much better hearing would be worth, and how much it is worth to the patient every day.
Listening is your main tool to success. Ask open-ended questions. Relate the patient’s pain to solutions. Be confident that you can help, and get agreement that, if you can resolve the patient’s concerns, he/she will find the comfort they are seeking. You must have agreement to proceed.
3) Hearing Testing
Upon agreement, you can proceed to the testing that will establish the need. In this step you use the audiogram to discuss the reason they have the problems, but briefly. The tests are only a means to verify and support the hearing loss and difficulties the patient has experienced.
Once a loss has been identified and the audiogram has been discussed, ask if the patient is willing to do what is necessary to hear as well as possible with the hearing they have left (ie, residual hearing).
4) Presenting Hearing Solutions
There are many ways to present solutions, but each must be tailored to the particular patient’s needs. You are presenting benefits—not devices or features—based on their specific needs and lifestyle. Consider budget concerns; however, they should not be a limiting factor.
In this step you use devices to begin the demonstration portion of the hearing evaluation. Test questions and Quick SIN support the need for hearing aids and help the patient understand the benefits of amplification. The more exposure you give the patient to aided situations, the higher his/her satisfaction will be.
5) Presenting Recommendations
Your recommendations must also be tailor-made. Focus on satisfying each patient’s needs and desire to hear better, not just on the fitting. Avoid being perceived as telling the patient what is needed. Recall the patient’s expectations and goals, and get him/her reinvolved in discussing them.
In this step, the patient expects price to be discussed. But you must emphasize value and quality-of-life improvement. Price should be a part of your recommendations, but it should not be the focus of the solutions. Price is only part of the equation; it may limit some people’s choices, but not others’.
Be aware of the “science” behind sales techniques. Confirmation bias is the scientific name for the tendency we have to act economically in a way that confirms our current beliefs. Decision paralysis is the phenomenon of having too many choices. Sometimes limiting them may be useful. Extreme aversion refers to the fact that people avoid extremes. This includes prices!
6) Overcoming Objections
Surveys of hearing care professionals report that the most common patient objections are related to price or to wanting to delay treatment.
Price. When price appears to be the main objection, you probably have not explained or demonstrated thoroughly the benefits of improved hearing. Know exactly what you are selling. Focus entirely on benefits, not on price. When you discuss a feature, relate it to a benefit.
You must understand each particular patient’s concerns and needs so that you will know which benefits to illustrate and emphasize. Benefits you link to their specific needs are critical in gaining acceptance. What does the patient care about? For example, if the patient has difficulty hearing in large meetings and dinners with clients, directional microphones (feature) will alleviate the problem (benefit). Benefits and solutions you present from the patient’s perspective greatly improve your chances of helping them.
Assessing relevance can be difficult, but avoid confusing and complicated messages. Use visual materials because visual memory declines slower than auditory memory.
Emphasize value for the price. Ask what the value of better hearing each day would be worth to them. Explain the services that are included (eg, free batteries, adjustments, checkups, as per the American Hearing Aid Associates CHHC© program).
Delay. Another common objection comes with the patient wanting to delay treatment. He/she may want to “think about it” or talk with the family or physician. In these cases, focus on having better relationships at home, with other family members, and at work; improved feelings of self-worth; improved confidence; increased independence; and a better overall quality of life.
Again, keep focusing on improving the patient’s quality of life and resolving problems that adversely affect it. Current problems resulting from poor hearing include being on the fringe of family and business gatherings, embarrassment, and also perhaps danger in not being able to hear well in critical situations.
7) A Call to Action
Dispensing professionals often recoil at the thought of “selling” or “closing a sale,” but in truth some elements of “closing” need to be employed when convincing a patient to take positive action in remediating their hearing loss. The best way to do this is to review the primary reasons for the appointment. Again, discuss the concerns and problems articulated earlier by the patient, and try to gain his/her commitment to solving the problem. Have the solution to appear to come from the patient as he/she acknowledges that hearing aids will resolve their quality-of-life problems.
Assumptive Close. In the assumptive close, you assume acceptance: “We have confirmed your hearing loss and agree that there is help available. We will have your new hearing instruments here in 2 weeks. Let’s get you started.”
Choice Close. In this close, you offer and discuss payment choices: “To get started, we will take impressions and order your custom hearing instruments. You can deposit half today and then pay the balance when you are fitted and take them home.” Or you may simply say, “Do you want to pay for them via cash, check, or credit card?” This is often a good time to offer available financing alternatives as well.
8) Steering the Patient Forward by Readdressing Concerns
Often, the closes overlap and objections arise again. Address the objections with skill, continuing to focus on value, benefits, and the patient’s improved quality of life.
9) Treatment Plan & Expectations
Assuming a successful outcome, in this step you discuss the process of being fitted and aftercare. Discuss fully how the person needs to participate in making the outcome a success, by being patient as he/she becomes accustomed to wearing the new aids, follows instructions for breaking them in, and schedules follow-up appointments.
Tell patients that you will follow up regularly over the life of their hearing aids. Also, as part of ongoing care, you will keep them updated on new technology.
Emphasize that your practice is based on happy patients, and ask if you have met their expectations. If so, ask if they know any friends or family members who could benefit from your care.
10) Your Self-Evaluation
After every HAE, you can benefit from a self-evaluation. If your closing was successful, commit to memory the way you achieved that success. Try to identify the points you made and the techniques you used that motivated the patient to take positive action.
Likewise, if your closing was not successful, support the patient’s decision, but reflect on what the patient stated as the primary reason for coming in. Did you uncover the pain, gain agreement regarding the problem, and present solutions in a clear and concise manner? In other words, try to give yourself an honest assessment of what you could have done better to achieve a positive outcome.
Obviously, successful HAEs should be win-win situations for you and your patients. Focusing on your primary goal of helping patients hear well again, enter each appointment with the goal of improving the patient’s quality of life.
Follow these 10 steps for successful presentations: prepare, establish trust and rapport, uncover and understand needs in testing, present solutions, overcome objections, effectively close, execute the impressions and fitting, and explain the treatment plan and the patient’s role in making the outcome a success.
Finally, conduct your self-evaluation of the process, no matter what the outcome. Whether or not you make a sale, you can always learn from every hearing aid presentation.
Correspondence can be addressed to HR at or to Ed Anthony at .
Citation for this article:
Anthony E. Ten steps to a successful hearing aid evaluation. Hearing Review. 2009;16(12):38-41.