We now find ourselves in a time and age of self-directed (or consumer-driven) health care within our society. Thanks to “Dr. Google,” MANY consumers are experiencing some success in the ability to self-determine their own health needs independently. Health professionals are considered a necessity only when the self-directed care does not yield the expected results. Audiology is now entering into this service delivery that optometry, dentistry, and other health professions have navigated through within their discipline for quite some time. Our next chapter in audiology will begin in earnest in 2020 when the 2017 over-the-counter hearing aid law goes into effect.

We cannot divert nor halt the consumer culture of self-directed hearing health care, but we can move forward with actions that are equally if not MORE critical in light of this new emerging model. Now is the time to preemptively control the narrative about audiology and audiologists as being the experts of hearing and balance care. Over this past year, with the help of our public relations consultants, we have maximized opportunities to promote audiology and the value of audiology with the same consistent message: “See an audiologist! Get your hearing checked!”

Another sustainable way that we MUST move forward is by redirecting and transforming our professional culture. I have shared previously that, when asked many decades ago, some of the very early founders of our profession emphatically stated, “Audiologists are the biggest threat to audiology.” It is imperative we recognize that our past selves have lead us to this current culture that will only bring us to conflict and disastrously impede our future. Let’s look inward by asking questions that hold telling answers.

Do we always demonstrate civility and respect for our colleagues and professional organizations? Just because someone conducts assessment or recommends care for patients or operates differently than me, doesn’t make them wrong, unethical, or judged as inadequate professionals.

Do we show respect for our patients not only inside the office, but outside? Patients and their families can make remarkable statements, but are these interactions really something we should be publicly sharing extensively on social media? Although some Facebook pages are reportedly exclusive for audiologists, there are nonaudiologists who find their way to those posts. Just because you CAN POST, doesn’t mean you should. How do the posts look to our colleagues, patients, families of our patients, the public, or even legislators if they were placed on a large billboard? Social media IS THE largest electronic billboard.

Do we consistently demonstrate our professional VALUE by improving knowledge, skills, and best practices as THE ultimate experts in the delivery of hearing and balance care? I vehemently disagree with our colleagues who insist they easily obtain all professional information needed through social media in short snippets; holding no value in audiology journals or magazines or informational e-mails.

I deeply thank those many audiologists who maintain civility as impeccable role models of audiological best practices daily. As a doctoring profession, we CAN make a positive impact while we continue to evolve and flourish as long as we remember—we will NOT be defined by our past NOR will our future look like our PAST, UNLESS we allow it!

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