- PART 1: Understanding the Emerging OTC Hearing Aid Market
- PART 2: How to Increase OTC Sales and Revenue With Online Hearing Screening
- PART 3: How to Drive Traffic to Your Online Hearing Screening Test?
As with any significant transformation, the introduction of Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aids into the hearing industry is causing many clinic owners to re-evaluate their operations. In addition, a shift of comparable significance is happening with potential patients as they explore and shop for devices that suit their budget and amplification needs.
In this article, trends observed regarding OTC interest will be explored, as well as presenting exciting ways innovative digital audiometry effectively meets the needs of both clinicians and potential patients by offering education, engagement and partnership opportunities.
PART 1- Understanding the Emerging OTC Hearing Aid Market
OTC Hearing Aids Can Be a First Step in One’s Hearing Health Journey
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that more than 37 million American adults have disabling hearing loss. Of those living with hearing loss, more than half are over the age of 60, and only one-in-four people who would benefit from a hearing aid have tried one. Unfortunately, many people who could benefit from hearing aids are currently not benefitting from amplification.
The introduction of OTCs into the market now resembles the journey currently available to those purchasing over-the-counter eyeglasses. For example, when many people first notice difficulty seeing, they have the choice to visit a range of stores to purchase low-cost, non-prescription glasses. These glasses can assist with reading; however, if the buyer has complex, progressive or unequal vision loss, these glasses only temporarily help the person see better. It usually doesn’t take long before they recognize a customized vision solution is needed. They eventually book an appointment with an optician seeking prescription eyewear.
For some patients, OTCs may be the only hearing solution considered as a starting point on their journey to better hearing. By not offering OTCs, a clinic may miss out on the opportunity to attract a potential patient and eventually dispense a more customized prescription hearing aid – a missed sales opportunity. Of course, not all hearing aids and circumstances are identical, but for many patients, OTCs will be the first step that eventually leads them to a prescribed hearing aid fitting and, in turn, a more favorable hearing health outcome. The growth in OTC hearing aid sales could be an excellent opportunity to generate greater awareness of the importance of good hearing healthcare and eventually lead to more prescription device sales.
OTC Hearing Aids Cannot Offer the Same Quality
OTCs cannot compete with traditional hearing aids in terms of technology, aesthetics or the broad fitting range available for different hearing loss configurations.
The general public tends not to fully understand the level of advanced technology found in a pair of prescribed hearing aids today. OTCs could help introduce patients to hearing aid technology and educate them on the advantages of prescription hearing aids compared to OTCs.
The fear of appearing older is why many patients avoid purchasing and wearing hearing aids. Significant innovations have been made in hearing aid design; many prescription hearing aids are nearly invisible. This has led to higher adoption of prescription hearing aids by patients as aesthetics is an important factor for many. Prescription aids fit by a hearing care professional are often more aesthetically pleasing than an OTC – another reason why a user of an OTC may eventually seek a personalized hearing solution from a hearing aid dispenser.
OTCs are designed for individuals with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. OTCs are not an option for patients with a more significant degree of hearing loss or anyone under 18 years of age. Even though the majority of age-related hearing loss configurations follow a sloping pattern, each individual hearing loss is unique. So OTCs will not meet all of a patient’s eventual hearing needs, creating a likely requirement to upgrade to a prescription hearing aid that can appropriately provide amplification giving the user an optimal hearing experience.
How OTC Hearing Aids Can Help Your Patients and Revenue Growth
Not only do OTC hearing aids unlock new revenue streams for your clinic, but the awareness of these devices drives a new segment of the population to consider amplification who may not have been willing to consider hearing aids otherwise.
Americans are becoming more inquisitive about their hearing health. Data from Google reveals interest in hearing aids reached an all-time high in their search engine during the middle of October 2022: the exact period of time that OTC hearing aids entered the market. Digging deeper into the data, another noteworthy trend emerges: there’s been an upsurge in hearing aid-related searches containing a large retail brand name, such as “Walgreens.” People are interested in buying OTC hearing aids and many intend to visit a big-box retailer or order directly from manufacturers.
Therefore, the best way to include your clinic in this conversation is to provide this captive audience with the information they are looking for and keep them engaged with your digital marketing. More specifically, utilizing an online hearing screening solution to your website can be an excellent engagement tool.
This next section will discuss some of the most successful OTC selling strategies observed and how online hearing screeners, like SHOEBOX Online, can power this growth.
PART 2 – How to Increase OTC Hearing Aid Sales and Revenue With Online Hearing Screening
Education Leads to Increased Revenue
With the introduction of OTCs into the marketplace, many Americans are considering buying hearing amplification for the first time. The ease with which they can be purchased means that many turn to the Internet to research and compare devices. This is generating new opportunities for clinicians to use education as a “conversion” marketing strategy. Education is one of the most effective ways to sell hearing aids. It can also help you create and strengthen relationships built on trust and expertise.
Consider sharing your knowledge with your community by regularly posting content on this subject on your website and social media channels. This content can range from occasional social media posts to new videos and blog posts which break down hearing-related information and new products.
Online hearing screening has been proven to be a highly effective “call-to-action” at the end of these content posts. Use it to engage with potential patients who have read your content as a “next step to learn more.” This is especially great for those in the early stages of learning about their hearing health.
Online Hearing Screening: A Patient-Driven Experience
A well-designed online hearing screener allows the participant to test their hearing in the convenience of one’s own home using their mobile or desktop device. This is an excellent way to educate and motivate an individual to pursue better hearing health, establishing your clinic as a trustworthy and modern partner in this journey.
The SHOEBOX Online screener uses patented technology to provide participants with straightforward results utilizing thousands of data points to give participants an unbiased understanding of their unique hearing status. SHOEBOX Online can be integrated into a clinic’s website and can be customized for branding, making the experience seamless. Once the participant completes their test, the clinician will receive their contact information, access their test results, and obtain a general idea of their needs to help establish a strategy for next steps.
What better time to engage with someone experiencing hearing loss than immediately after taking a hearing test and reviewing their results? People want more control over their hearing care, and online hearing screening puts them in the driver’s seat. It also opens the door to an increased level of conversation, with both parties having access to the same data. With more data, the narrative quickly progresses from living with hearing loss to working toward treatment.
Hearing Health for Everyone
It’s not just aging demographics curious about hearing health. The increased interest in OTCs coupled with easier access to hearing testing will conceivably move younger populations towards taking more ownership of their hearing. Many products in the marketplace give wearers the ability to customize their audio experience in both real-life and virtual environments. For example, one may want to increase the volume of a conversion in a busy restaurant while decreasing background noise. This technology may also enhance sounds coming from music, movies and video games. These innovations will continue to generate hearing technology awareness in younger demographics.
Amplification is now available in popular technology products. A great example can be found with Apple’s “Conversation Boost” feature now included with AirPods. These devices allow people with normal hearing to customize their hearing by boosting desired speech sounds while decreasing background noise. Although these devices do not customize a listening experience based on one’s hearing level and cannot deliver the more dynamic experience of a prescription hearing aid, they can be an excellent pathway toward seeking and adopting amplification.
We live in a world that makes tracking personal healthcare data commonplace. Wearables track vital healthcare data and allow their owners to make data-driven decisions regarding their well-being. Why should hearing be any different, and why shouldn’t your clinic provide knowledge in this journey? Offering tools such as online hearing screening will help establish your clinic as an authorized source of knowledge by supplying individuals with valuable data that allows them to understand their unique hearing needs as they experience amplification.
Part 3: How to Drive Traffic to Your Online Hearing Screening Test?
Adding an online hearing screener to your website, such as SHOEBOX Online, is just one part of the process: you still need to generate relevant website traffic. There are various ways to achieve this goal, and during this section, we’ll break down some common ways hearing clinics use digital hearing screening to increase revenue and dispense more hearing aids.
Direct Mail and Print Advertising
Print advertising and direct mail can still generate new business for your clinic. Not only is it effective at targeting local audiences, it often brings a high level of credibility. In addition, digital marketing has provided print advertising with the ability to increase engagement and analytics via customized landing pages. This advertising strategy can be especially effective when targeting a less tech-savvy audience.
Publications and direct mail prices and options will vary from region to region and industry. For example, many publications offer a hybrid package that allows for print and digital advertising.
How It Works Well With SHOEBOX Online
Building a landing page on your website with an online hearing screener is an excellent way to convert people arriving to your website from print advertisements to book more appointments. Adding a QR code is an effective way to bridge the gap between print and digital. Plenty of free QR generators make this task easy to manage, such as https://www.qr-code-generator.com/.
Designing an ad which promotes free and no-obligation hearing screening with a QR code leading to a landing page containing an online hearing test is an excellent way to encourage engagement.
Social media is a great way to connect with your target audience. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all vary, but each of these platforms can help your clinic reach different audiences and build a brand based on knowledge and trust. You are experts on hearing health, and social media enables you to share this knowledge. It can help you stand apart from the competition.
Frequent posting is the best way to promote your brand on social media, and it’s also essential to reply to any comments or questions in a timely manner. Remember: the number of followers isn’t as significant as the amount of engagement your social media generates. Social media gives your business a face, which is crucial when building authenticity in a local market.
Additionally, each social media platform has advertising options that allow you to promote content to specific audiences. Targeting to particular groups, including location and age, can be very effective, especially when combined with in-market targeting to people researching hearing aids. The cost will range for each clinic, but each option has tools that allow you to adjust budgets based on real-time data.
How It Works Well With SHOEBOX Online
Online hearing screening pairs well with social media: they both build engagement. Posting and sharing links to your website’s screening solution is an incredible way to convert the impulse generated from social media to a highly effective engagement point. This strategy is especially useful when running paid advertising with campaigns targeting people in your region interested in purchasing hearing aids.
Google is a critical part of the digital marketing puzzle. It’s the first digital point of contact most people will have with your clinic’s brand.
Paid search is a digital marketing strategy that allows advertisers to show their ads on search engines’ results pages such as Google and Bing. This form of advertising utilizes a pay-per-click betting strategy, meaning that the advertiser only pays when the users click on an ad. Typically, the advertiser who bids the most will receive the best placement on the search results page. Most paid search ads are text-based and contain a title, description and path name. However, other factors such as ad content, competition, land page content and website usability can also play a role.
Research and find out what your patients are searching for in your specific region. SEMRush (https://www.semrush.com) and their free service are great places to start. Typically, you’ll find that keywords such as “hearing clinic,” “hearing clinic near me,” or “hearing aid clinic” are going to be critical keywords. You’ll also want to add geographic terms to your keywords, such as your city, neighborhood, county or other terms related to your location. This strategy is particularly effective for hearing clinics interested in offering teleaudiology services.
How It Works Well With SHOEBOX Online
Traditionally, location plays a significant role in determining which hearing clinic someone visits. Google AdWords can help you expand your clinic’s footprint by targeting nearby regions. This strategy is especially effective with a unique selling proposition, such as allowing people to test their hearing online for free. Be sure that both your ads and landing pages promote free hearing testing. This strategy gives your potential customers an instant engagement point when the impulse is at its highest.
SMS and Email Marketing
SMS and email are two of the most affordable and effective marketing tools. Both are wonderful ways to build and encourage engagement. Also, these tools allow you to communicate with your customers and keep your clinic top-of-mind. There are many platforms created to make these campaigns easier to manage, such as MailChimp (https://mailchimp.com/) or Constant Contact (https://www.constantcontact.com/).
Keep accurate records of your patients and potential patients’ contact information.
How It Works Well With SHOEBOX Online
OTC hearing aids may be beneficial for the early days of hearing loss for select patients, but eventually, most people with hearing loss will require the amplification of a prescription hearing aid along with the sophisticated care of their hearing aid provider. It’s essential that you keep in touch with your existing patients. Text Messaging or mass email combined with online hearing screening can give your clinic an effective way to stay in touch with current patients while providing them with an instant way to test their hearing. Not only does this keep hearing top-of-mind for your patients, but it also gives you invaluable insight into their hearing health. With a list of potential patients, this same digital marketing strategy can effectively lead to new revenue.
OTC hearing aids will be a chapter in many individual hearing care stories. Today’s hearing aid buyer has a lot of information and options available to them, and your clinic has a crucial role in this journey. Your clinic has an excellent opportunity to educate your community about the various innovative hearing health solutions on the market, including OTC hearing aids. In addition, online hearing screenings are an excellent way to stand out from the competition and encourage engagement from potential and current patients.
Please let the SHOEBOX team know if you’d like to learn more about how SHOEBOX Online can help your clinic grow its revenue.