Audiologists hear a lot of bold claims from various hearing aid manufacturers, and many of these claims turn out to be true. Particularly among the top five companies, innovations have come at a fast pace. Inevitably strengths and weaknesses emerge and strict product loyalty gets replaced by diverse product suites. As chief audiology officer for GN Hearing, maker of the ReSound and Beltone brands (among others) Laurel A. Christensen, Ph.D. readily admits that, “Everybody makes a good hearing aid.” However, she qualifies that statement by adding, “However, they’re not all the same.” While many audiologists stick to a primary brand, it’s also common to see three or four others on site to satisfy different customer needs. “We’re putting out new stuff more often than we were 10 years ago,” Christensen says. “We’re seeing new releases every six months at least from companies. They are upgrading their software and there are new things to learn. To be really good and versed, most practices have at least a second and a third brand that they use as well. We’re all kind of known for different things.” Christensen’s own GN Hearing does not do a lot of pediatrics, “so if you’re going to do adults and pediatrics, you’re not going to just have ReSound.” From there, it comes down to choosing based on a company’s value proposition. Some questions to ask when expanding the product suite: 1) What specifically do they bring to the practice?; 2) Are they going to help you grow your business?; and 3) Are they going to help you drive traffic? “Some companies hire sales reps who are going to come in and help you train your front office staff, help you grow your business, help you understand your finances, and help you open up practices and satellite practices,” says Christensen, an industry veteran of almost 35 years with almost two decades at ReSound. “A lot of choices about who you do business with don’t have to do directly with the hearing aids. They have to do with the value that the company brings.” Audiologists looking for a particularly robust virtual/remote system have sought to expand their product offerings with the ReSound Assist Live Assistance, one of many features offered by GN Hearing/ReSound that can add value to the practice. “My favorite feature of ReSound Assist Live Assistance is that you can offer the same high quality of service in person and remotely through their phone,” says Esther Kim, Au.D., CCC-A, Hearts for Hearing, Oklahoma City, Okla. “The patient gets to still be in the comfort of their own home, and we get to really figure out what’s going on. It’s a win-win situation.” Since audiologists are looking for the win-win innovation, spreading the news and showing how it helps the clinical and business operations is half the battle. After all, no one wants to miss out. “You can convince people to try new things when big, new innovations come into the market,” Christensen confirms. “Substantial innovations such as directional microphones and open hearing aids are two examples. When ReSound put out the first open hearing aid, it completely changed the industry. Instead of in-the-ear hearing aids, audiologists went to the smaller, behind-the-ear units with the thin tubes.” When ReSound honed its BlueTooth connectivity, it led to massive growth, primarily due to considerable end-user satisfaction. These days, ReSound is again looking to push progress with its ReSound ONE™ with M&RIE (Microphone & Receiver-In-Ear), a new class of hearing aids with a microphone and receiver positioned inside the ear. “The receiver allows people to really get true spatial perception again,” Christensen explains. “It goes way past localization. People can tell the sound coming from the left and from the right. They can tell that with any hearing aid, but what they can’t tell is how far away it is—the depth perception…it also has good hearing in noise, plus very good wind-noise reduction because the microphone is actually in the ear being protected from the wind.”

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