The Challenges Facing the Hearing Aid Field

HR SummitThe latest issue of the Hearing Review features seven papers from a research summit that I organized and my company hosted in January of this year in Napa, CA. The goal of the two-day meeting, attended by many of the nation’s thought-leaders in hearing aid research and key decision-makers within my company, was to set guidelines for the next 5 years of progress in our field.

The outcome of the meeting was consensus statements on the top issues facing our field today. I’m very pleased with the quality of the papers that resulted and, more importantly, with the value of the guidance that was developed at the meeting and expressed in the papers. I believe that years from now these papers will be seen as important guideposts, if not watersheds, for the direction that our field takes over the next decade.

The following is from my overview paper and provides the motivation for organizing this meeting:

The hearing care field is at a fascinating point in its history. Technological developments are accelerating almost too quickly to follow, and paradoxically, our science has matured to the point where only now do we recognize the vast number of research questions that still remain to be answered. The size of the hearing-impaired population is about to explode, and its demographics are changing in a way that will test our current products, services, and delivery models…this turbulent sea of change in which we find ourselves will have to be navigated with the precision that comes from careful planning, analysis, and dedicated problem solving. Ideally, a course must be charted that everyone can navigate.

The charted courses are provided by the accompanying papers that represent consensus statements from some of the nation’s top researchers, each one summarizing the challenges that our field currently faces and outlining guidelines for how to address these challenges. The issues addressed in the six papers are detailed in my overview as follows:

    • [Clinical Validity] Why does hearing aid benefit measured in the clinic often differ from benefit experienced by hearing aid wearers in the real world? Can we align the two to better meet the needs of the hearing impaired?
    • [[Individual Differences] How can we better comprehend individual differences in speech understanding ability and subsequently provide improved individualized hearing solutions based on measures of cochlear damage, psychoacoustic performance, and cognitive function?
    • [Evidence-based Practice] How can our field implement evidence-based practice and evidence-based design such that dispensing professionals can more effectively meet the needs of their patients?
    • [Wireless Technology] What are the challenges that must be addressed for wireless technology to reach its full potential for patient benefit?
    • [Aural Rehabilitation] How can our field optimize its use of aural rehabilitation in the hearing health care process?
    • [Future of Hearing Health Care Delivery] What challenges from changing patient demographics, changing technology, and changing market expectations are faced by the hearing health care delivery model?

This overview doesn’t begin to hint at the depth of thought provided in the papers, however, so if you are in the least bit interested in any of these topics, I recommend that you read the corresponding papers.

They key to successfully creating such an impressive collection of insight, of course, is to include an impressive collection of people who can develop and debate the ideas and then elegantly crystallize the discussion into the few critical points. I will probably post in the future on other key elements of hosting conferences such as these.