Insights from the Outside: A New Look at Today’s Hearing Healthcare Patients – Active Agers 55+
Insights from the Outside is a group of practicing clinicians — owners from multiple healthcare disciplines including dentistry, audiology, ophthalmology and veterinary medicine. Uniquely created by CareCredit, the group’s purpose is to capture and share “best practices” to some of the common challenges all healthcare business owners face. Recently, the panel reached out to Jeff Weiss, President and CEO of Age of Majority, a marketing agency and consultancy that specializes in Active Aging consumers, to share his insights into how hearing healthcare providers can optimize opportunity with 55+ patients.
Audiology Online: You’ve recently completed some research on the typical hearing device wearer, can you share some of those findings?
Jeff Weiss: Absolutely. The first thing we asked was how often are you getting your hearing checked. We surveyed men and women from across the country, Active Agers who are 55+, and our results show that 14% of Active Agers have their hearing checked annually and 30% have their hearing checked every few years. About a quarter of those surveyed have never had their hearing checked*.
Audiology Online: What other results did your survey reveal?
Jeff Weiss: Of the 14% of Active Agers who get their hearing checked annually — 19% have been diagnosed with hearing loss and out of those about a third have gotten a prescription*. As you start going through the numbers you see the bigger picture emerging that very few patients end up with prescribed hearing devices.
Audiology Online: Patients who are tested but not treated are actually quite common. Have you found that in your research as well?
Jeff Weiss: Absolutely. Even when you look at the people that have hearing aids, only 44% of those individuals we surveyed, wear them all the time*. That’s less than half. When we asked why people in our survey said various things from, “they don’t help,” and “the batteries aren’t that great,” to “they’re too expensive to wear every day”.
Audiology Online: Did your research reveal anything more about how patients feel about hearing devices?
Jeff Weiss: Yes, and the good news is that about three quarters of all respondents said the benefits of wearing hearing aids outweighed the negatives and outweighed the stereotypes. The bad news is that about 40% believe wearing hearing aids make you look and feel old. That’s just one of those lingering perceptions that continues to exist.
Audiology Online: Overcoming the reasons why people don’t want to wear hearing devices has been an issue in the industry for many years. Were you able to uncover any insights that may help with that challenge?
Jeff Weiss: When you look at how hearing aids are marketed and sold, a lot of it is just functionally. The reality is consumers want to know how this is going to help my lifestyle. That’s what providers need to focus on. Yes, hearing aids are going to help you hear better, but what does that mean? It means I can have better relationships with my partner, my family and my friends. Focusing on the lifestyle benefits, that’s where the big opportunity is and that’s what providers need to communicate to overcome the stigma’s that are out there.
Audiology Online: Another area that I’m sure your research has been exploring is the cost factor. Given recent economic conditions are you finding that Active Agers are more cost conscious?
Jeff Weiss: People who are 55+ account for 40% of all consumer spending*. Now obviously there are people of every age and generation that struggle with finances. But again, one of our myths’ is “Don’t forget about my senior discount.” The reality is that older consumers have more money than anybody else. Even though many Active Aging consumers have money to spend on their healthcare needs, and some have Medicare or private insurance — many of them still have out-of-pocket costs that are not covered when it comes to hearing healthcare. That’s why I think it’s important to have different payment options available like the CareCredit healthcare credit card. I think it’s also just as important for providers not to stereotype and present payment options to everyone. You never know who might be interested in getting hearing aids but would prefer to pay over time.
Audiology Online: How can providers take the data and information provided in your survey results and proactively use it to benefit their practice?
Jeff Weiss: We asked some questions in our survey this week — specifically around what can practices do better, and the first thing is to offer more telehealth services, with almost 60% of respondents saying that is something they would like to have as an option*. Not surprisingly with the recent pandemic, social distancing and safety protocols were important. Over a third of people surveyed mentioned it as a concern when going to the doctor’s office. And improving electronic communications through email and texting was mentioned by over 40% of those surveyed.*
Audiology Online:What are the key takeaways from your research and its’ findings for providers during this time?
Jeff Weiss: The pandemic has really put increased emphasis and more anxiety on people when it comes to their mental health, so whatever you can do to help patients deal with challenges related to that, would go a long way. Secondly forget about the myth that older people are technologically challenged. Embrace digital — everything from how you communicate with patients online to how you deliver services — because that’s how people want to communicate. Third, get rid of those ageist ideas when it comes to hearing aids. There are generally two reasons why people don’t want to wear hearing aids, one is because of the myths and stereotypes. Counter that thinking by focusing on the benefits that come with better hearing. The last key takeaway and the other reason why people are hesitant to get hearing aids, is about the cost associated with them. So being able to offer patients different payment options when it comes to buying hearing aids is important.
*Based on a survey (conducted November 2020) by Age of Majority of more than 600 adults 55+ who are members of Revolution55, Age of Majority's online insight community.
Disclaimer: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accepts no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of Jeff Weiss. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.