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Audioscan ProbeGUIDE - September 2019

The Hearing Aid Test Drive: A Whole-Practice Approach for the New Consumer

The Hearing Aid Test Drive: A Whole-Practice Approach for the New Consumer
Bill Diles, MA, Will Diles, BA, Adam Jasa, BA
April 13, 2020

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Learning Outcomes

After this course learners will be able to:

  • List characteristic differences between The Greatest Generation patients of the past and Baby Boomer patients that are beginning to enter the hearing aid market.
  • Describe the steps in the Hearing Aid Test Drive counseling & fitting process.
  • Overcome common reservations from patients to trying hearing aids.


Will Diles: Thanks so much for joining us today. We started Pivot Hearing with one purpose, and that is to stand with the independent hearing care practices because we believe that this produces the best outcome for patients. With this in mind, we have been rethinking a new approach that will better serve the patients coming through our doors today. Our hope is to defend and successfully compete against growing retail choices in the market. We have spent the last three years developing and testing an approach in a six-office practice in Northern California. We are here today to let you know how this has gone and provide some encouragement that it's working. 

Bill Diles: I'm an audiologist in the North Bay area of San Francisco, and I'm joined by my son Will Diles and Adam Jasa today. They're both hearing aid dispensers, and play critical roles in managing our practice. These guys also help other practice owners with their businesses across the country and Canada through Pivot Hearing, which is our practice development services group. Here's a little background on us. We are the longest-running family in the hearing aid industry (to my knowledge). My grandfather started fitting hearing aids in 1934, in Billings, Montana. That's 86 years ago, and now we're five generations of hearing care providers, and that makes me the world's leading authority (on my opinion). I purchased Kenwood Hearing Centers in 1981, in Santa Rosa, California, and with my wife Kris, who's also an audiologist. We have since grown the business to six locations. I'm excited to bring this new perspective today. Everything seems like it's been tried before. It can be tough to figure out how we can differentiate and add unique value in this changing market. Shared decision-making is a changing force and a proven valued tool in healthcare and hearing loss market today.

Thinking Out of The Box

I want to talk about a new approach that's been successful for us, the Hearing Aid Test Drive. I've always thought of myself as a cheerleader for better hearing. What can I do to maximize a patient's hearing? I like to think out of the box. For example, let's send a technician to the house to loop a living room or install a Bluetooth TV device. Or maybe we can loop our patient's church or local movie theater. Just yesterday, we were at a theater that we looped a few years ago, and we're testing out different manufacturer Bluetooth TV boxes, and setting up a pairing station. Our patients can go into the theater, pair their hearing aids up to the box, and have the movie streaming directly to the aids. This provides an improvement over the loop that's in there currently because it provides a better signal.

Another example of how our team has thought outside of the box is by making a temporary mold for a patient who needs a loaner or offers spare hearing aids for a long trip. It is something simple that we can do to enhance the patient experience. Daily, we have new patients who sit in front of us who are deciding to invest thousands of dollars. I think to myself, how often do I spend $3-6,000 in my personal life? It seems like never. Yet we are asking people to do this every day. How can I be sure that I'm giving them the best result? It's a big responsibility, and I love the way the Hearing Aid Test Drive addresses this question. You are probably thinking, I already let people test drive hearing aids, this is a common practice and we all pretty much agree it's a good idea, and most of us are bound by law to provide a 30-day trial. But what we're going to talk about today is taking this concept to a deeper level. This concept can revolutionize the way you approach your patients. Like every good idea that comes along, we always ask the question first, is this good for the patient? I can say absolutely, yes.

I was thinking about my family history and how we have fit hearing aids over the decades. That's quite a legacy, and over those decades, we've seen steady improvement in the hearing aid technology, but the hearing aid market hasn't changed much. We've been able to sit back and just do what we do for decades. Lately, I think we all agree, things are changing rapidly, and for one, our patients are changing. The Baby Boomers have finally arrived. Several years earlier, we had anticipated that the Baby Boomers would create the age wave. Then it dawned on us; they're like any other generation that will wait seven years to seek help. I'm a Boomer, and I'm no different. How can we be sure that we're attracting this group to our practices? We all know the best way to grow a business is to build a solid database of loyal patients, and the Hearing Aid Test Drive helps accomplish this. We all know the value of increased patient referrals, and the test drive process inspires your patients not only to write positive reviews but refer more patients.

Market Forces

Will Diles: Those of you who have spent time in this industry understand things are different than they used to be. The traditional model of hearing aid delivery has seen fairly radical change over the past few years, and I think it's safe to assume that these changes will continue on a similar trajectory in the future.

Managed care. These changes can be attributed to many things, but I think perhaps the most significant driver of change to the private practice market is the growth in the managed care sector. Managed care has become a significant part of retail hearing aid sales, with some estimates predicting that it will represent 35% of all units sold by the year 2021.

Growth of big box. Big box retail is something independent practices have competed with for years. The growth of this sector continues to outpace that of private practices.

Online sales. Online sales are also not a new phenomenon, but it continues to be a challenge for practice owners. With advancements in technology, like remote fitting and self-testing online sales has become more accessible to patients. We can only assume that online sales will continue to be something private practices will have to grapple with and compete within the coming years.

Health care legislation. This is highly speculative but still a bit concerning. The recent legislation we have seen affecting the healthcare space can cause some anxiety for those of us in the industry. This includes the passage of the OTC bill in 2017, as well as the more recent piece of legislation working its way through congress, the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019. It is unclear how these bills will impact the traditional private practice model. However, it is certainly something to keep an eye on. What is most important here is that as practice owners, we need to look for ways to adapt in the face of these market forces and maintain a viable value proposition for today's patients.

Other Challenges

In addition to some of the broader systemic challenges facing private practices, there are other headwinds worth mentioning. The marketplace is more cluttered, noisy, and competitive than ever. Practices must differentiate themselves in a clear and compelling way to stand out and attract new patients. We believe this differentiation should focus on private practice independence. Patient acquisition costs are high. Traditional advertising approaches are far less effective than they used to be. Given the high cost of bringing patients in the door, it is critical to make the most of every opportunity you get. There are many reasons, some of which we just touched on, that appears to be contributing to downward pressure on retail pricing with high-end technology available at big box stores. As well as very low-cost private label devices available through several managed care plans add to this pressure. This creates unique challenges for private practices, which generally require higher margins to operate successful businesses.

Patients today have more options than ever when it comes to deciding where to seek hearing healthcare treatment, and because of this, it's a safe assumption that patients are shopping around. This is likely leading to a higher incidence of tested not treated patients than in previous periods. We believe this is because practices are failing to meet the need of the new patient demographic. A final consideration here is the sometimes poor reputation of our industry. Many of us have competitors with less than scrupulous business practices, which can paint us all in a somewhat negative light. These dissatisfied patients can amplify their experiences easier than ever through review sites and social media. They can also, on the other hand, amplify their positive experience as well. It is also common for patients to report that they have friends or loved ones with hearing aids in the drawer that they never wear and wasted a bunch of money on. We need to approach patients in a different way to immediately address any concerns that they might bring with them to that initial appointment.

Patient Demographics

As mentioned, the demographics are changing, and the Baby Boomers are here. They are much more active and expect to have their needs met in all of the environments that they find themselves in. They do not recognize medical authority in the same way as previous generations and will want to experience the benefit and efficacy of treatments before making any final decisions. Baby Boomers are generally more active relative to the Greatest Generation. They are going to do their due diligence, and the traditional method of making a strong recommendation for a particular hearing aid brand or model may not be persuasive to these patients. The Hearing Aid Test Drive creates a shared decision-making process between the patient and the provider. This is a much better way to approach today's patients, and we believe we'll reduce the number of missed opportunities in the form of tested not treated patients. It's also challenging, if not impossible, to gain the trust and confidence of these patients within the first appointment. How much can be learned or conveyed within an hour? It will likely take more time than that, and Hearing Aid Test Drive is a way to build the relationship over an extended time.

Adapt and Change

Bill Diles: "If you run your business today like you did yesterday, you might not be around tomorrow." This is a piece of advice from a friend who entered the restaurant business years ago. He's constantly reminded me that there is no comfort zone in business. Another one of his sayings is, "If owning a business was easy, everybody would have one." Or how about this one, "Your business is always crumbling beneath you." So he sounds like a negative guy, right? But he sure isn't, he's very positive, and one of my favorite things he's ever shared with me was the concept of positive fear. He said to me, "I live in positive fear. I believe I can stay one step ahead of that train that'll run me over if I take my eye off the ball." So we all know what happens when we lose sight of our customers and our business environment. We need to be smart and make data-driven decisions. We need to be willing to change our ways. If you look at Blockbuster and Netflix, what happened? Blockbuster didn't pay attention to how the customer and the world of technology were changing. There are three examples we can learn from that. Number one, we can never forget what we are selling. You see, Blockbuster lost sight of providing convenient entertainment rather than renting DVDs. Number two, we need to be willing to adapt, and if we wait too long to make changes, we can miss the boat also. Finally, the customer-driven approach always wins. Put your patients in the center of your process and optimize their happiness. I think this is an excellent example for us to think about as we face the changes that are going on in our industry because change is inevitable.

Hearing Aid Trial Concept

The test drive concept started for me back in the '90s. As some of you will remember, we had quite a jump in technology with products such as the ReSound BT2, MultiFocus, DigiFocus, and the Widex Senso. These were a big leap forward. I remember that we had an ad that resulted in 200 appointments. Wouldn't that be nice if it worked like that today? But it had a positive message: improve your hearing automatically. We have taken from that the idea that all of our marketing should be positive. These products were far superior to what we had before, and we knew that if we could just get these hearing aids on the patients, they would see the benefit. Even though at this time, a lot of you may recall, the retail price of hearing aids went from about $800 apiece to about $1700. I didn't want the patients leaving my office without these hearing aids on, but there was a real downside to this, it required a large inventory. That's a costly way to do business.

As you know, you put hearing aids on people and schedule your follow-up, and then things come up and they miss their appointment. Next thing you know, you have invoices that are 60 and 90 days out. Even with this pressure on the business, I'm such an impatient person, and I just couldn't resist fitting patients on the spot. Our informal mission statement is that everybody leaves our office hearing better than when they came in. Whether they're in for just a quick repair or a new patient to our office, I want everyone leaving hearing better. We jump ahead to 2011 when we discovered the Unitron Flex: Trial, and wow, that was a game-changer for us. Now with one device, patients could experience different levels of technology, and it was a comfortable way to approach the patient that we started realizing we're putting them in the driver seat.

Building Trust with Your Patients

As Will said, I don't think you can gain total trust with a patient that you've only known for an hour. What was interesting to us was that we were showing the patient that we trust them first. They would say things like, "Oh, you're going to let me take these home?" The whole mood of the fitting was relaxed because the patient was now in the driver's seat. Not only is this an excellent patient benefit, but there are also lots of business benefits because we weren't tying up inventory and cash flow was better. We were not having to pay for hearing aids before we sell them. We'll discuss the business advantages in a bit.

The test drive is not a new concept as I mentioned, we're talking about taking this to a new level. I'm sure your patients love the concept when they're in your office, but what about the prospects who haven't met you yet, and they're researching online? Wouldn't it be good if it were clear from your website that you do offer a test drive? Is a two-week trial different? Is it going to differentiate your practice? Is it unique? Does it make sense to put such a short timeframe on your offer? I think today's consumer understands that they do have a trial period, and we're talking about a major investment for the patient, so why put limits on that evaluation period? We want to make sure that the patient is comfortable, and we want to be reassuring as possible. They're waiting seven years, and now that we have their attention, I think we should eliminate all obstacles.

Resonating with Your Patients

The test drive process differentiates your practice, and we've learned over the years that patients appreciate this process. Some patients are inclined to tell others or write Yelp reviews and Google reviews. For years, we've been advertising products, and when you think about it, you're advertising products that can be purchased at lots of different places. What was unique about your offer? Now we're communicating something completely valuable and unique, we're advertising "us." The message is about Kenwood Hearing Centers, not the newest widget. The message to our market is we're the place that will find the optimal hearing solution for you. We're independent, we're brand neutral, and today's consumer appreciates this. They don't want to be sold one brand; they want choice.

Using trials as a defense. It's also a bit of a defense against third parties. We've had instances where patients come in, and they have a third-party benefit. However, they've heard so much about the test drive and read about it on our website; they're reluctant to pick a hearing aid from a list. Many patients have chosen to skip the third party and go directly with us so they can find the optimal solution.

What Makes the Hearing Aid Test Drive Different?

Best Fit

We are all well trained and work with great products. We have proven clinical tools and have confidence that we can offer a solution right out of the gate. However, even with our expertise, are we sure we've provided the optimal solution as the patient is leaving the office after the first visit? There's a missing element. It's the patient's experience in their unique environments. So often, on the follow-up visit, we hear things like, "Oh, my wife says I'm still not hearing her", "I couldn't hear the pastor at church Sunday," and "Oh, I don't like this switch, it's hard to feel, and that app is so confusing." We ask ourselves, have we found the optimal solution? We need to stay open-minded. We have so many choices, and we've chosen this particular device after only knowing the patient for an hour or so? What are the odds that this is the optimal device?

No Obligation to The Patient

If you're independent; you are manufacturer agnostic. Our patients are spending thousands of dollars searching for their best hearing solution. They deserve the best, and we need to be sure that we are adding that value. At the end of the journey, your patient will feel more confident in his or her decision because there's been a real collaboration with the audiologist, and trust has been built. I've heard many times; I'm not going to fit this patient without a deposit or payment in full. I understand that, but I have a different take. The typical patient waits seven years, and here they are, they're finally in our office. To me, that's plenty of investment. Do we want that hearing aid candidate to leave the office without hearing aids because they weren't comfortable enough to make a decision? We need to remove every obstacle we can.

Best Practices

We hear a lot about best practices in our industry, and I'm often left wondering, just what exactly are best practices? Most seem to say real ear measurements or speech and noise testing. I checked out the ASHA Guidelines for their list of best practices, and here's what I didn't see on the list. Things like being available for same-day emergency appointments or being available on the weekend. Having a healthy inventory of loaner devices. Making an instant mold, so the patient doesn't have to go without while waiting for a mold from the lab. What about providing a technician who will come to the home to install a Bluetooth TV box? I think we all answer that a little differently. Have you considered being independent and manufacture agnostic as best practice. Being independent and allowing patients to experience different levels of technology from different manufacturers before making this significant investment, in my opinion, is the best practice. I think zero pressure is the best practice. Patient and audiologist collaboration, that's best practice.

A Series of Small Yes's

Do you ever sit down with a patient after a hearing test and make your strong recommendation only to hear, "You know, I need to go home and discuss this with my spouse," or "I want to go do some research." Now they're leaving your office armed with your specific recommendation. They go online and get confused about pricing. If you were sitting with them at home, you could say, they're going to mail you the hearing aids, this isn't going to work. But they're confused, right? Or they have a neighbor whispering in their ear telling them to go to Costco. This process doesn't ask the patient to make the big decision on the first visit. Which too often results in the patient leaving without hearing aids and not getting the chance to experience better hearing. Once they walk out your door, you may not see them again. They came in search of better hearing and didn't receive it, and that could be argued. We want to prevent this from happening, so we prefer to slow things down.

The series of small yes's goes like this, for example, I may test somebody, determine that they're a candidate and say something like, "I have another 45 minutes, do you have some time?" Almost always, you will get your first small, yes. I say, "would you like to listen to what hearing aids sound like? We can put some on, and we'll put some music on and visit a little bit", and then you'll get your second small yes. After you've fit the hearing aids, we say something like, "Hey, would you like to take these home? You know, you can come back in a week." What I'm doing at this point in the process is unselling. I want to see where their level of commitment is, but they'll almost always say yes to taking it home for a week, so that's your third small yes. At this time, I remind the patient, these are just demos, not for sale, and that is just so important to say because we're selling the better-hearing journey, we're not selling the widget. We're not making any final recommendations today, because honestly, we don't know what we're going to end up with at this early stage of the journey. I don't want the patient attaching to a brand. I want them connecting to our clinic and leaving with the confidence that we're going to find the optimal solution.

Benefits of the Hearing Aid Test Drive

Adam Jasa: It's hard for someone to just say no to a completely risk-free hearing aid test drive. Not only does this put less pressure on the patient, but it also puts less pressure on the provider. I think it's important because it sets up the entire interaction to be very easy for everyone involved and has the patient's best interests at heart. It is easy for the patient to get started with amplification. All they agree too initially is to give hearing aids a try by utilizing demo hearing aids. As Bill mentioned, this process establishes trust. The fact that there's no deposit and no commitment for the patient to start is a positive thing. It empowers the patient and inspires confidence in their decision. Patients genuinely feel like they're a part of the decision-making process in this aspect. The only strong recommendation we are making is the benefit of amplification in general. Because of this, you will experience close to zero returns because people are only purchasing once they've experienced it. They know what they're getting into, realized the benefits, and comfortable with the price. This builds the relationship before any financial transactions even take place. In my experience, once money changes hands, usually the whole dynamic changes at that point, especially if that's happening way too early in the process.

Increase new patient intakes. When we first came up with this idea years ago, we were nervous to put such a bold statement in the advertising copy itself. Because we had the same kind of concerns such as, won't the patients just take off with the hearing aids? Or will people ever feel the need to commit and buy? Or don't I have to make that strong recommendation? We can tell you for running these ads for many years in practices all over North America, they're very effective in driving patients to your practice. After doing thousands of test drives with no commitment or deposit required, we haven't had anyone purposely waste our time. Will is going to discuss some of the concerns we hear from practices who were thinking about implementing this. These are not brand new or untested ideas. We have had success running them, and they are proven to resonate with prospective patients.

Patients will reach out first. People call when they are ready to schedule the test drive. Typically we were running just a straightforward product ad. Patients would call in, and the first thing they would say is, "well, how much does it cost?" Then we would give them the answer, and many times the patient would hang up. Once we started advertising in this way, patients would just call in and say, "Hey, I'd like to schedule the test drive." Obviously, that makes it a lot easier for the people answering the phone. It also makes it easier when you finally see the patient.

The Importance of Patient Reviews

Once you start promoting the test drive, you'll find that you're going to be getting some excellent patient reviews. We have seen tons of reviews from our patients. They are not only five stars, but the patient writes about the experience they had with us and not the product. We have some reviews where people take it a step further and compare their past experiences with ours and how satisfied they were. 

Value Proposition and Differentiation from Competitors

Once adopted, the Hearing Aid Test Drive becomes the most critical element in your practice value proposition. The HATD becomes the most critical differentiator from all your competitors, and it's the central communication of your marketing. We put this everywhere, and we put it right on our website in very clear language. We have it in Google ads and different types of search ads, print-type creatives with different messages also. We have Facebook ads as well. We have just a whole slew of things, and the list goes on from here. In summary, it becomes the centerpiece of everything you do, including your whole image, advertising, sales process, operations, and how you generate quality of referrals.

Step by Step

Let's cover the real nuts and bolts about how the process works and how we train practices to run this in their offices. This process is mainly geared towards a new patient who has not worn hearing aids before, but it can work for any situation. It works for existing patients, experienced hearing aid users and anybody who's looking for better hearing. The typical Test Drive lasts 3-6 weeks. 

Steps of The Hearing Aid Test Drive

Figure 1. Steps of The Hearing Aid Test Drive. 

With this appointment map, you'll see we typically allow 90 minutes for the initial appointment. Then we do 45 minutes for follow-ups, but this is going to vary depending on how you work and your practice. But one thing we do recommend is the timing between the appointments should be about four to seven days. You only want it longer than a week if that's all that the patient's schedule is going to allow.

Initial Appointment

The goal of this appointment is not to make a sale. It is simply to get the patient started wearing hearing aids. Everything you do should be geared towards completing this goal and not worrying too much about anything else. Because this whole process is consultative and it's extremely patient-centered. If you go through the whole thing and at any point, someone decides not to move forward, you can just rest easy knowing that you did everything you could to try to help somebody. Even with this process, you're not going to successfully treat every single person that walks in your door. You certainly are going to have a higher fitting ratio, which is going to lead to more business and happy patients.

Initially, you will greet the patient and start off with questions. Get your patient talking about their hearing, and go over their intake and hearing health history. Next, proceeding right to the hearing test. We recommend that the time spent from that initial greeting to the hearing test is as short as comfortably possible. The reason is you don't want to get bogged down with tons of questions and conversation right upfront. It's best to handle this when the patient is wearing the hearing aids. This way, you can get all their questions answered, and they can experience amplification at the same time. This also keeps the goal of fitting hearing aids in the first appointment on track.

When you are done with the hearing test, review, and recommend. We are not discussing specific hearing aids or brands at this point. Then we do an explanation of the test drive process.

Questions from patients. At this point, a lot of times questions are going to come up. So I've put a list here of just some of the most common ones that all of you get.

  • Why are hearing aids so expensive?
  • Why do I need this brand of hearing aid (or this technology level)?
  • I am doubtful about my need for hearing aids and their ability to help me.
  • Is my hearing bad enough to warrant hearing aids?

Patient counseling tool. We have created the Pivot Patient Counseling Tool. This tool helps patients understand what's going on and also help providers explain different topics such as ear anatomy, hearing loss itself, how you hear with your brain, links to cognitive decline, comparisons to vision loss, and of course, the Hearing Aid Test Drive.

Patient counseling tool

Figure 2. Patient counseling tool. 

As I said before, if you could get to this point and they still aren't ready to try something, then they're just not ready. If you've taken away all the barriers for them to get started and they still don't want to do it, then at least you know, you did everything you could. The point of this whole webinar, it's not about how to fit the hearing aids and sell, but how to make it easier for you to get more people to treat their hearing loss.

Set expectations for the follow-up. Before the first appointment's over, it's imperative to set expectations for the follow-up appointment. This is key. The follow-up appointment needs to be thought of as part of the fitting process. This will help ensure that the patient plans on coming back to your office with the expectation of continuing the Hearing Aid Test Drive, and not bringing the hearing aids back in a bag as something went wrong. When we explain this to people, sometimes it seems just way over the top. People say, "Well, if somebody tries hearing aids, they come back for the follow-up, and everything's great, why not just wrap it up?" That's fine, you can do that, but if you take that extra step and have them try out at least two different options, it's going to ensure that the patient is never going to return. The fact that they were ready to pay and you said, "Hold on, let's take a little bit more time here and just make sure we're doing everything right," I mean, it's going to be extremely impressive to the patient, they're going to trust you entirely from that point on.

Follow-up Appointment

Schedule your follow-up appointment four to seven days later. The follow-up appointments are pretty straightforward. When they come in, ask them how everything went, and we recommend that you check the data logging and start making adjustments. You want to get the patient involved and engaged right away. If their initial experience was positive, I recommend trying another pair to get that comparison. Or, if you want, you can just wrap it up and proceed to the sale. If things were just "okay," then probably best to move on to the next option. If it was a bad experience, then it'll depend on why that was. If you find out it was something simple that you know it could be fixed, go ahead and address that issue and then have them go another four to seven days. Because you want to make sure that they get a solid test drive. Continue this process until you've found the best hearing aid for them, at a price that they can afford. Then schedule your regular clinic check appointments.

Other Things to Consider with HATD

Practice Objections to HATD

Will Diles: In discussing the Hearing Aid Test Drive with practice owners for many years, we've heard plenty of objections. A common concern is a delay in collecting payment. I think this is a fair point, and I can understand where your concern. We believe, and the data shows that by incorporating this approach into your practice, you will increase your sales. Once you get this process up and running, you'll have many patients on trial at any given time. Any delay in collecting payment is a temporary concern. Another benefit of not collecting payment upfront, as Adam mentioned, is that you are far less likely to process returns when a patient had the chance to go through the process and feel much more confident about their final decision.

Another common concern is the fear of patients taking off with the hearing aids. This simply doesn't happen very much, and if it does, it's not intentional theft. In a very rare event, though, that it does occur, it's been our experience that the manufacturers will have your back and replace products as needed.

Perhaps the most common objection, is that patients won't have any "skin in the game" if they're walking out with hearing aids and not making a payment or deposit. The average patient waits seven years to do anything about their hearing loss. The fact that they have called your office, made an appointment, and showed up, shows an investment on their part. 

When you implement this program, it won't work if you don't have demos on the shelf. The good news is that manufacturers are more willing than ever to provide demos so that their products have an opportunity to compete with others in the Hearing Aid Test Drive. With several manufacturers allowing technology upgrades from within the fitting software, this can significantly reduce the number of units and models you'll need on the shelf. If this sounds like a lot of work or more than is currently involved in your fittings, I suppose that's true. The high retail cost of hearing aids and the desire of patients to do their due diligence completely warrant whatever work is necessary. While this might take more time overall, it happens to reduce one step of the process that I think many of us in this industry find particularly unpleasant, and that's applying sales pressure.

Business Benefits

Now we will cover some of the business benefits of the Hearing Aid Test Drive. This approach will reduce the frequency of tested not treated patients by not forcing them to make a buying decision at that first appointment. It also provides you with unique marketing messages that are proven to be attractive to new patients. The process has also been shown to increase ASP. When patients have time to evaluate different options, they tend to sell themselves on better technology, where they might have opted for a lower-cost alternative. Using manufacturer demos is very helpful for working capital. You are only ordering hearing aids when the patient has completed the Hearing Aid Test Drive and is highly unlikely to return. This keeps your cash flow in a good and predictable place. Patients prefer this method, and they are much more likely to tell a friend or leave you a good review online after having gone through the Hearing Aid Test Drive.

More Trials

The Hearing Aid Test Drive will impact your business in a number of ways, but most importantly, it will result in more hearing aid trials. There are other positive impacts, but fitting more patients with hearing devices is what moves the needle. The number of hearing aid trials that you have out at any given time is a KPI that we like to look at because it is a good indicator of the health of your practice. Where we have learned the most about the Hearing Aid Test Drive is in our practice, Kenwood Hearing Centers. In 2011, we completely redesigned our marketing to promote it, and sales have grown fairly dramatically in the years since.

A particularly successful example of how the Hearing Aid Test Drive can positively impact ASP was in a practice we work with located in Oregon. In a short period of time, the ASP of this practice rose by over $600, and the owner of the practice attributes this growth to the implementation of the Hearing Aid Test Drive. Another example in Arkansas, where the owner of this practice hired an audiologist right out of grad school, and in her first year, her sales were extremely low. Understandably, she did not have the confidence or sales ability that you gain over years of working with patients, but after being introduced to the Hearing Aid Test Drive, her sales more than doubled in her second year on the job.


Bill Diles: In summary, the Hearing Aid Test Drive is a great strategy for not only attracting but satisfying the demands of this new group of patients that are entering our markets. Because today's patients are insisting on playing a larger role in their own healthcare. The Hearing Aid Test Drive conveys to the patient that you are competent, open-minded, and more than happy to let them "co-pilot" as you guys work together to find the ultimate hearing solution. The Hearing Aid Test Drive has been our patient approach through marketing and our face-to-face interactions. We know it works well because we have seen excellent results. This is also working well for other practices across the country and in Canada. As we think about the new consumer in our markets, why should they choose us over a competitor? It is not just because we offer excellent diagnostic skills, great clinical tools for verification, and wonderful ever-improving hearing aid technology. I think it is because we are bringing the patient right into the center of the mix, and that is the most critical piece. This is what our patients want, and this is what they need, to make the best decision for their hearing care. Let's keep our eyes on the changing patient that we serve because we all know what happens when we take our eyes off the customer.


Diles, B., Diles, W. & Jasa, A. (2020). The hearing aid test drive: a whole-practice approach for the new consumer. AudiologyOnline, Article 26528. Retrieved from

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bill diles

Bill Diles, MA

A founder of Kenwood Hearing Center, Bill has been a clinical audiologist since 1981. Always innovating in areas of patient care and marketing, Bill has developed many unique tools that have resulted in tremendous growth of the practices, which have now grown to multiple locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bill spends much of his time now mentoring and coaching other practice owners so they can achieve the same success he has.

will diles

Will Diles, BA

Will Diles is a licensed Hearing Aid Dispenser and is proud to be carrying on his family legacy of providing excellent hearing healthcare. Will graduated from California State University, Chico, in 2007, with a B.A. in Business Administration, and he has been working in the family business since 2010. Will has experience in every aspect of running a successful and growing multi-location hearing practice, and he enjoys mentoring colleagues who are doing the same by providing hands-on advice and assistance with the general management of a hearing aid practice.

adam jasa

Adam Jasa, BA

Adam Jasa has extensive experience in print and digital advertising, branding, and websites as Marketing Director at Kenwood Hearing Centers, a 6-location clinic in Northern California, and Pivot Hearing, a national practice development services consulting company. Adam has been involved in creating successful practice brands and advertising campaigns from the ground up. He has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience with the last 8 being specifically in the hearing healthcare field. Adam has a B.A. in Sociology from San Diego State University and is a Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist.

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