Robert Harris, CEO of Miracell and the owner of Harris Hearing Aid Center, both in Provo, Utah, has been active in the hearing health care industry for 45 years as an audiologist and a dispenser. He recently spoke with the Hearing Review about a variety of industry topics, including the evolution of technology and the effect of legislation on private practitioners.
Q. You have been in the industry for 45 years. What kinds of changes have you witnessed during that time?
A: When I first started out, back in the late 1950s, you just had to grab an audiometer and a black bag and go knock on peoples doors. And everyone basically sold the same hearing aid for all customers. So from a going into business standpoint, it was not too complex. But that doesnt mean it was an easy business. Quite the contrary: the hearing aids were generally much too cumbersome, and they averaged around $250, a price which blew people away at that time. Then you had the issue of vanity, which was a consistent problem due to the size of the average hearing aid at the time. But two things have happened since then to really change the industry radically: first of all, the evolution of technology has led to the miniaturization of hearing aids. Secondly, practitioners have slowly started to be recognized as professionals, and not salespeople.
Q. Given that the profession garners more respect now, would you say that it is easier to be successful in it as a result?
A: Without a doubt. Also, hearing loss in general is much more in the limelight now than it was even 10 years ago. Part of that is due to the population aging, but there also has been an increase in communication, as well as advertising and marketing, to get the word out.
Q. Miracell is primarily known for being a skin care product. How well has that translated to the hearing health care industry?
A: Very well. We have had a lot of success with the product, in terms of loosening ear wax, and reducing redness and soreness in ears. And more and more people continue to show interest in the product.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on what the future might hold?
A: I believe technology will continue to play a vital role in the growth of our industry, certainly. Also, and this is more of a wish, I hope that government will not interfere with private business too much. They are really trying, with Medicare especially, to bring more bureaucracy into our business. That is a huge concern for all of us.
B. Van Houten