Marj’s Musings: How Did Your Practice/Business Do?

d01a.jpg (6081 bytes)Was the final year of the 20th century a “banner year” for your practice/business? Was yours among the more fortunate offices where the gross revenues increased over the year before, or was it among the 33% where revenues remained on dead center, moving neither forward or backward throughout the year? Or maybe the practice/business in which you work was among the 14% whose gross revenues were less in ‘99 than in ‘98?

Did the number of hearing instruments fit by the staff in your office(s) increase last year? Or perhaps, like in 31% of the practices/businesses represented in The Hearing Review annual survey of hearing instrument dispensers, did ‘99 sales totals end up being just the same as the year before?

If these questions have stimulated an interest in looking at how your practice/business ranked in comparison to the average practice/business depicted in a report on the HR’s Survey of the 1999 Hearing Instrument Market—the Dispensers’ Perspective, turn to page 8 of this issue. There you will find information on a myriad of subjects related to selecting and fitting hearing instruments, compensation for dispensing professionals, revenue sources, marketing strategies, average patient profiles, types and average prices of hearing instruments and dispenser purchasing preferences. This information is based on responses to HR’s four-page questionnaires that were returned to us by dispensing offices from all 50 states in the U.S.

We believe these statistics can be of help to dispensers as they intensify efforts to move the hearing instrument market forward in the new century. A very special thank you to those individuals who shared information on their practices/businesses with HR through their completed questionnaires.

For me personally, the 2000 survey of the hearing instrument market represents a milestone in my journalism career. It was 30 years ago, in 1970, when it was my privilege to develop and carry out the first comprehensive survey of hearing instrument marketing. I had recently been named editor of a magazine, The Hearing Dealer (HD), the first business publication in the hearing care field, and found little available information relevant to dispensers of hearing instruments. I felt surveying could help provide this information. (In 1975, the name of that publication was changed to Hearing Instruments (HI).) Yearly dispenser survey reports continued to be included in HI throughout much of its history.

In the March 1995 issue of The Hearing Review, it was again my privilege to review the result of a survey this publication conducted of the 1994 hearing instrument market—as dispensers’ viewed it. HR has conducted comprehensive surveys of the industry each year since that time.

As I looked back at the first survey I conducted, on which reports were included in the January and May 1970 issues of HD, I found that the average dispenser who responded to that 1970 survey was 50 years old, earned $10,000 to $15,000 per year, had sold hearing instruments for 10 1/2 years, had two to four years of college education, had served in the armed forces in World War II and was a member of the National Hearing Aid Society (now International Hearing Society). He (most dispensing professionals were male) worked in a business in a city of over 100,000 population in an office in a downtown location with three employees.

Hearing instrument sales were divided in the following manner: 49% to individuals over 65 years of age; 38% to those 21-64; and 13% to young adults and children. Advertising and direct sales accounted for 51% of sales; customer referrals, 25%; and medical and clinical referrals, 24%. Binaural fittings accounted for only 17% of fittings. 37% of the hearing testing was done in homes. 57% of the hearing instruments were sold on a trial plan. Major concerns listed by dispensers for the ensuing year were: acceleration of government control, the possibility of a recession and the suggested entry of audiologists into the dispensing of hearing instruments.

A comparison of those statistics with those included in the report on hearing instrument dispensing in 1999 included in this issue of HR will show that many changes have occurred in hearing care in the past three decades. It has been fascinating to be involved in the recording of those changes, and I want to express my appreciation to the thousands of dispensers who have filled out the questionnaires from which the statistics included in the annual survey reports were developed. May every year be a “banner year” for each of you.

Marjorie D. Skafte
Editorial Consultant