Is Hearing Care Turning Into A Commodity?

Is Hearing Care Turning Into A Commodity?

As we move towards mass volume uptake, price wars, glitzy marketing, bright lights and hearing aid demos in every Audiologist’s drawer – I can’t help but wonder if hearing care is turning into a commodity.


“A commodity is any good or service (“products” or “activities”) produced by human labor and offered as a product for general sale on the market.”

Health care viewed as a commodity has generated many measures which has been viewed as drivers for success in the delivery of healthcare. Measures that range from management and operations to finance are used as indicators of the effectiveness of our performance.

The more hearing aids we ‘sell’ equates to the ‘more’ hearing issues we solve. Does it really?

Shall we drive the prices down so we can yet increase the volume uptake of hearing care products and therefore appear that we have been successful in improving hearing issues. Does the massive billion dollar industry of hearing healthcare mean that we are successful in driving change to the hearing loss population and therefore ‘fixing’ more hearing loss issues?

Our current healthcare is currently based on a fee-for-service (FFS) model. Perhaps the value-based health care model would work better where health care delivery is based upon providers that are paid based on patient health outcomes; of which there are three main goals.

  •      Enhance patient experience
  • Improve population health
  • Reduce cost of health care

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One major part which is abhorrently missing in our current model of health care is the ‘patient-health care provider relationship’. The general consensus across the health care industry over the decades is that there is less time to interact.

Appointments limited to 15 minutes or which often run late because the health care provider desperately tries to maintain a certain service model for their patients; only to become totally burnt out, misunderstood by management and overall feeling less effective as a health care provider.

Large conglomerates with intense processes and policies and copious sums of money acquiring health care provider businesses across all aspects of the health industry, is largely contributing to this issue.

Including, but not limited to, the pharmacy industry where large conglomerates that are not shy in their approaches ‘Chemist Warehouse” “Bargain Chemist” with massive shops and shelves stocked with container loads of goods that they have purchased for a steal because of volume is another example of the reduction in the patient-healthcare provider relationship.

Health care is seen as a retail item….what has happened to the trust aspect and the relationship that you have built with someone who looks after the most important aspect of yourself: your health.

Some health care providers know their patients and their families over multiple generations by their first name. They were part of your journey from the day you were told you were expecting, to helping that loved one come into this world to helping them get over a chest infection, until the following generation. You just don’t get that from a large conglomerate where you are called by your number you have been assigned to; because there are just too many John Smiths’ in the world to be able to efficiently pull out your file quickly enough to bill you and not make a mistake.

There is a lot to be said about the patient-healthcare provider relationship. Patients also being treated like a commodity and means to an end to improve the success measures they have in place; finance, economics, the bottom line and profit and loss margins.

Why do we still struggle with 70% of the population that will not accept getting their hearing issues sorted? Even if the hearing aids are free the uptake is so very low.

Perhaps if we spent just a little more time getting to know the very people we have sworn to serve and help, we may eventually get more engagement and better health outcomes.


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