The HSE estimates that 17% of the population has some sort of hearing loss, which equates to more than 800,000 people. But that number is going to rise dramatically because of two phenomena:
- Ireland’s population has been getting steadily older since the 1980s. In the 2016 census 37.2% were aged 45 and over, compared with 34.4% in 2011 and 27.6% in 1986. Hearing problems get more likely with age, with more than 70% of hearing impaired people aged 60 or over.
- Noise-induced hearing loss through headphones means far more young people are becoming hearing impaired. Hidden Hearing audiologist Dolores Madden told the Irish Independent: “Ten years ago, around five per cent of people aged under 45 were fitted with hearing aids. Now, 23 per cent of our hearing aids are for people under 45.”
I bet you can guess what I’m going to say next. Two words: growth market. And seven more: that dental practices are primed to service. Why? These facts should give you a clue:
- It takes people 10 years on average to seek help for hearing loss
- GPs fail to refer 45 per cent of people reporting hearing problems for any intervention in the UK. One supposes the figure is similar in Ireland
- Hearing loss doubles the risk of depression
- Mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia
- Moderate hearing loss triples the risk of dementia
- Think about it – you’re likely already treating over-50s and if their hearing issues aren’t being picked up by themselves or their GPs, you can help. If you notice they are hard of hearing you can suggest a free hearing test and supply the appropriate device. You can monitor their hearing whenever they come to you for subsequent dental check-ups and supply replacement devices or more powerful devices when needed.
This is big business: Specsavers entered the Irish audiology market in 2006 with a hearing centre in Limerick and now has 56 across the country. It sells mid-range devices at €2,000 to €3,095. There some additional sweeteners to ponder too:
- The average salary for an Irish audiologist is considerably less than a hygienist (salaryexpert.com puts it at €50k versus €63k respectively)
- Patients lose hearing aids at an alarming rate
- The margins on hearing aids are high
- Specsavers and Hidden Hearing (which has more than 60 clinics) are doing a great job creating demand in the market
- You don’t need to equip a surgery, any consulting room will do
- It’s just another landing page on your website
Unlike facial aesthetics this offering doesn’t require much extra training, what it does require is treatment retargeting, a form of marketing that engages a particular tranche of patients with content that’s relevant to them. In this case it’s easy – initially you simply go after your over-50s.
If you’d like some help to establish this new area of growth in your dental practice get in touch.