Strong Industry Growth, AT&T Loosens Its Belt (Again), ADA Hopes to Un-Ring that Bell, and more.

by Clifford Carey @ EarQ Group, Inc.



With the holidays fast approaching—and the meals associated with them—I thought it appropriate to discuss some topics related to growing (bulging, for some) dynamics within our vertical.

1. Domestic Unit Growth Up Nearly Double Digits in 2016.

With three quarters in the books, one could get the sense that our industry is witnessing a renaissance of robust growth. In fact, according the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), the 9.55% total net growth is actually dampened by unit performance of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dispensing program. The non-VA commercial channel has grown at a clip of 11.62%.

However, if you listen carefully, you may not hear cheers of adulation from independent clinicians. When asked, even those EarQ members who’ve noticed an increase in practice activity, still have a sense that success is harder earned than in years past. While we can blame some lack of confidence or sense of accomplishment on the overtly-negative, soon-to-be-decided presidential race, there is evidence that the industry growth flowing through independent points of sale comes at a price and, many times, with strings attached.

While industry experts can’t quite decide if the share of hearing care volume that is impacted by a lead generation service-fee or managed care vehicle is as low as 30% or as high as 60%, it is clear that independents are in somewhat uncharted waters.

For advanced strategies for branding and differentiation, email or call 866-432-7500.

2. AT&T Agrees to Buy Time Warner for $85.4 Billion, October 22, 2016

At first glance the acquisition may not seem related to hearing care, but there are some deeper implications. Of course, mobile device integration will only become more seamless and visible to our patients. After all, according to a 2015 PEW Research Center survey, 68% of American adults own a smartphone, which leads us all to become proficient in mobile device pairing so we can accommodate increasingly tech savvy patients.

Perhaps more important is the growing trend of media companies acquiring content companies see Verizon’s recent purchase of Yahoo. As small business marketers and purveyors of tech devices and services, it is important to pay attention to major market shifts.

For AT&T, the Time Warner deal comes on the heels of its 2015 DIRECTV deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $69 billion after DIRECTV shareholder payouts.

3. ADA files lawsuit against IHS on October 28, 2016.

The suit brought by the Academy of Doctors of Audiology hopes to stop the International Hearing Society (IHS) from issuing a “Tinnitus Care Provider Certificate” to hearing instrument specialists who successfully complete a two-day workshop in Orlando, Florida in December.

Recipients could potentially advertise it to the public to attract tinnitus care business, a practice legally permitted only to licensed specialists in North Carolina.

ADA contends that certifying IHS members could lead to false or misleading advertising in violation of the federal Lanham Act for any dealers outside of that state.

It has been a rocky calendar year for the two organizations that at this point last year, appeared interested in more collaboration including the now-failed Unison Hearing Health Global Summit, their jointly-housed conventions for both memberships.

With EarQ network members affiliated with both trade associations, we’re well positioned to act as a conduit for your thoughts and remarks. Please contact or call 866-432-7500.

4. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Furthers Interest Into Hearing Care, Sets Dissemination Meeting on December 7

On October 10, following the public release of its report recommending recommended—among other things—a path to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, the Committee on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults stated that it will once again meet to further its examination into current federal regulations for non-surgical hearing aid dispensing.

The committee aims to provide short-and long-term recommendations for federal hearing care regulations and the affordability of nonsurgical hearing devices by asking:

a. Do current regulations provide a clinically meaningful benefit to adults with hearing loss? And what, if any, changes should be made to the required federal regulatory paradigm?

b. How can affordability be improved; can current approaches be used or modified to increase access; and how can new and innovative approaches (such as telehealth, mobile health, and team-based care) be used to increase access and affordability?

To register for this meeting or to subscribe to updates directly from NAS, click here.

5. Noise ‘Report Cards’ Emerge for the Greater Boston area

Welcome to, a website devoted to documenting the soundscape of urban life through real-time noise monitoring and community noise surveys. The aim of the initiative is to work toward gaining a better understanding of how community noise impacts human health. In this case Boston, MA.

For the last year, Erica Walker, a doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, measured noise levels in 400 locations in Boston and interviewed residents about their perceptions of the sounds around them.

While we assume urban cityscapes are generally noisier than other localities, one important finding of her work is that when it comes to noise, perception matters as much as any objective measurement.

1,200 Bostonians were asked to rate their sensitivity to noise and to assess how annoyed they were by sounds like car horns, leaf blowers, tourism, crying babies, and loud parties. Her team found that perceptions of noise sometimes differed substantially from measurements.

Baselines for noise-mapping the city can be an important starting point for city officials. However, the study surmises that even with more data, better noise control won’t be easy to come by for many cities.

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