How Do Hearing Aid Dispensers Pick their Buying Preferences

Document Type


Publication Date



Let's talk beer for a moment. Beginning back in the mid-90s, at the Sandlot microbrewery located within Coors Field in Downtown Denver, a fairly tasty Belgian-style witbier called Bellyslide (a baseball term) was available in small batches. It was a favorite of a few, but ignored by most, and even scorned by some (it was unfiltered). But then, about 6 years ago, Coors gave it a new name— Blue Moon—started producing it in bulk, and rolled it out across the U.S. It became the top-performing beer brand in 2007, and today Blue Moon is closing in on making the top ten list of all domestic beers sold.

Why is it so popular? The taste of course, right? Maybe. How about the pretty blue label? Or the fact that it's usually served with an orange slice? Or that Coors disguises it as a “craft beer”? Or, maybe it's just more fun to say “Blue Moon” than “Bud.”

As with beer, people also make brand purchase decisions about hearing aids. But there's a difference. In the case of hearing aids, the consumer usually does not select the brand. His or her dispenser does. It's not uncommon to sit down with four different people in private practice and discover that each has a different favorite hearing aid brand. And interestingly, all of them say they picked this particular brand because it is the best. But how can all four brands be the best? Or are they all just the same?

Only a few audiologists have conducted research on hearing aid brand preferences. One of them is Earl Johnson, AuD, PhD, an audiologist at Mountain Home, TN, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and assistant professor at East Tennessee State University. While obtaining his PhD at Vanderbilt University with a focus on hearing aid research, Dr. Johnson also studied consumer behavior at Vanderbilt's Owen business school—an unusual combination that has led to much of his research. You've probably also noted his recent book chapters and journal publications related to modern hearing aid technology and hearing aid selection.

While this is his debut on Page Ten, Earl is not a new contributor to the Journal. For many years he assisted with HJ'sdispenser surveys and contributed articles on these findings. I'm not sure if Earl drinks Blue Moon because of the orange slice, but I'm quite certain he can provide you some interesting insights on why you have a hearing aid brand preference.