Many hearing aid adverts do not resonate with me. Pictures of smiling seniors without a hearing aid in sight — what does that have to do with helping me hear better at work or in a loud restaurant?
When I see these ads, I often think they are doing more harm than good — propagating both the stigma that hearing aids are too embarrassing to be seen or even mentioned, and the misleading idea that they are a magic fix. Much of the marketing for audiology offices is similar.
I think the industry can do better. People with hearing loss are looking for information and solutions, not stock photos or unrealistic expectations. Hearing aids are wonderful devices, but even with them, communicating with hearing loss is hard a lot of the time. The people living with hearing loss know this intrinsically, so when the imagery paints a rosier picture, it does not feel authentic.
A more honest approach to marketing would better embody person-centered care (PCC). PCC requires an open dialogue with patients — learning about their listening challenges and helping to devise solutions. This involves counseling and training, realistic expectations and best practice communication tools in addition to the purchase of hearing aids.
The best audiologists practice PCC right from the beginning — even as they are enticing clients to walk through their door. Credible marketing helps attract motivated patients who understand that both hard work and relief lie ahead.
Here are my tips for improving your clinic’s marketing to better reflect PCC.
Use realistic images
Look at your adverts and your website. Make sure the images are realistic, that hearing aids are visible, and that information about them is provided.
Instead of selling a fantasy, share communication best practices and other useful information on your site. You could link to the Ida Institute’s tips on managing hearing loss at work and in everyday life, for example. This demonstrates knowledge and can be useful to both current and future patients. If the content on your site makes it look too easy, your patients are likely to be disappointed that the devices don’t work perfectly right out of the box like glasses do.
Treat your potential patients as the educated consumers they are, and they are more likely to keep working with their hearing aids rather than depositing them in a drawer unused.
Lead with communication
Use your marketing to educate. One advert could ask, “Do you get the attention of your family member with hearing loss before speaking?” and explain why doing so is important: “Alerting them before speaking gives them a chance to prepare and makes it more likely they will catch what you are saying right from the start.” The image could be of someone doing exactly that.
Communication best practices like this may seem obvious, but they were not to me and my family when I first began having trouble hearing. Many people with acquired hearing loss never had to think about these things before and neither had their families. When you share useful tips in your adverts and on your website, you establish yourself as an expert with practical ideas for improving their lives.
Having the Inspired by Ida badge on your website is a great addition too, telling everyone who sees it that you appreciate the far-reaching consequences of hearing loss and are committed to working with each person to understand their needs and find solutions. To earn it, your staff must complete two online PCC courses and sign a code of ethics.
Address issues that are important to potential clients
Focus on the problems people are likely having with their hearing loss and suggest ways that hearing aids can help solve them. In these Covid-19 times, content featuring the difficulty of communicating with people wearing masks or the challenge of hearing on a video conference call would not only ring true, but would help potential clients feel understood.
You shouldn’t promise the world, but you can stress that hearing aids will help with these very difficult problems that are likely to linger for some time.
People with hearing loss look to their audiologists for expertise and advice that they can use to help them live their best lives. Showing your knowledge and your commitment to solving problems in your marketing will attract the types of clients looking for the real-life solutions only an audiologist that practices person-centered care can provide.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker, and avid Bikram yogi. She is the founder of Living With Hearing Loss, a blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. She also serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Her e-book, “Person-centered Care from the Patient’s Perspective”, details her experience living with hearing loss. She hopes the book will provide audiologists with valuable insights they can use to make their practices more person-centered. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.