Hello and welcome back to the Future Ear Radio podcast! After a nice three month hiatus with the twins, I’m excited to officially begin recording and publishing the next 100 episodes of this podcast.
I’m kicking off this season with Dr. Kathleen Wallace, owner of Kathleen Wallace, AuD, as she really embodies the ethos of this podcast, which is to explore and understand what the future of hearing healthcare looks like.
During our conversation, Kathleen and I discuss:
- Starting a private practice in 2022 and modern day considerations
- The evolution of Mobile Audiology and TeleAudiology
- Kathleen’s time at CUNY and key mentors and influences
- Online content creation, personal brand building and combatting imposter phenomenon
- Building an online “content” resume to attract in-person opportunities
- Using social media to effectively generate new business
I hope you enjoy this conversation and the episodes that are to come in the following weeks. If you have any suggestions – topics or guests – for this next season, please reach out and let me know what you’re thinking!
-Thanks for Reading-
Dave Kemp 00:03
Okay, and welcome back to the future ear radio podcast. I guess this is considered Season Two. It’s, it’s great to be back, I might be a little rusty. This is the first time I’ve done a future ear podcast in the last, like three or four months since having the twins. So who better to have on than another fellow New Parent herself then Dr. Kathleen Wallace. So thanks so much, Kathleen, for being here today. Tell us a little bit about who you are in what you do.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 00:32
Sure. Thanks for having me, Dave. I’m looking forward to this conversation. I think it’ll be a fun one. So I am Kathleen Wallace. I’m an audiologist based in New York City. I’ve been here for my whole career. I also went to grad school here. I’m an alum of the CUNY grad center. I am mostly for I have a couple of different roles right now, I guess I’ll start with that are a couple of different hats saying pretty busy. So I am an adjunct professor at my alma mater at the CUNY Graduate Center. I am the head of provider education at tuned to new telehealth company. And then I have launched my own practice where I’m seeing patients right now just virtually and then adding a concierge element in 2023, trying to pace myself and not get too exhausted. And what interests me most about audiology? Well, first of all, I come from a non traditional background, I was a music major undergrad, and worked a couple of different jobs before getting my way back to grad school and getting my IUD. But what has always excited me most about audiology and has been the biggest driver and motivator I think in my career so far is how much work there’s left to do for people with hearing loss in this country, how small our profession is and how much impact each provider could have to the future of the profession. I think that’s super exciting that we can really move the needle and exciting ways and that it’s desperately needed because of the public health epidemic, really, of hearing loss, and then really focusing on changing like the public’s perception of hearing health care, the role of an audiologist and educating them so they can be more informed consumers. So that’s sort of where I’ve been operating recently is on those fronts.
Dave Kemp 02:27
Awesome. Well, thanks for the for the introduction, I’m really excited to kick off this, this next 100 episodes with you. Because I think that you really represent the ethos of what I’m like kind of trying to get to the bottom of within this podcast is like, what is the future of hearing healthcare look like? And what’s the role of the professional in that? And I think that, like you’ve, you mentioned a bunch of things there about, you know, this is a really large problem. So there’s tons and tons of demand. But I think that the way in which we’ve facilitated or been conducive to that demand as an industry, and then for the professional is becoming a little bit antiquated. And so I think that you’re very much a forward thinker in like, how maybe things can be done in a different way, both in terms of the facilitation of the care, but just the overall thought of like how a private practice of the future can look, you know, and so as somebody that’s young, kind of, I wouldn’t say you’re just getting started out, but you know, you’re in your early 30s. So it’s like you’re, you’re you are kind of embarking on, I think like the entrepreneurial phase of your career. And so I’m going to be really excited to dive into this conversation and hear about like, how things are going today. But why don’t we go back to the start, that’s where I like to usually start with is just to kind of get a sense of like, okay, so you were a music major. So obviously, you have a passion for music, but what was the course that led you to audiology?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 04:09
Well, then I’m gonna have to rewind even more. So I so first of all, I went to, I went to Dartmouth undergrad and I went to play lacrosse there and I played Division One lacrosse there and I ended up getting a season a career ending concussion. So I stopped playing lacrosse and I switched majors I became a music major because you couldn’t do both. But I’d always been a musician my whole life so it was sort of a welcomed pivot to switch over to that so I’ve always liked sound I’ve always been well versed in music and instruments. I played the trombone and that was my specialty. Very unusual fun fact. But what really like part of brought that into audiology of really channeling music was more so that as a kid I I went to speech language pathology for nine years where my Rs SS T’s Elton th is which I, you know I have a tic tac, apparently I have a very interesting way of talking, where people always think that I am not from Long Island because I don’t have the Long Island accent. So the speech background paired with the music background brought me to communication disorders. And then really from there, I liked the I liked the audiology side of it more so than the speech side of it just seemed far more applicable to my skill set population of preference. I liked that it was a little bit more of like a diagnostic mystery, usually. And I did like this, I got hints of this public health problem. And public health has always been something that’s interested me where this is like a big picture problem that we need to solve in this country of okay, there are so many people with hearing loss and how can we rethink how to deliver care and get essentially how to can audiologists reach more ears. So that was a very exciting challenge from the beginning. For me that really hooked me.
Dave Kemp 06:16
I think that’s it’s always interesting to hear how people came to this, you know, space and having that first hand experience with like an SLP. And then it kind of like all leads to the communication disorder sides of things. So you go to undergrad at Dartmouth and then you decide that you’re going to go to graduate school. And so why, why CUNY.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 06:41
So CUNY is for people that don’t know the City University of New York, it’s the only graduate program in New York City. And being from Long Island, I always thought about getting back to the New York area. I hadn’t lived in the city until that point. And now I haven’t left and I don’t know when I will leave if I ever do leave. But the CUNY Graduate Center is really it is very prolific in the in the metropolitan area. It’s very competitive to get into it is a very interesting setup where it’s a consortium. So you’re taking classes at Brooklyn College, the Graduate Center and Hunter College, and the faculty are, at that point, some really heavy hitters in the profession. There’s been some retirements since then. But literally the people that write the textbooks that we all know, you know, Barbara Weinstein, Carol Silverman, Shlomo Stillman, like some really big people in the profession. So the opportunity to be in you know, such a diverse city like New York City, and really getting it, that cultural experience and working in healthcare, they’re paired with those professionals, was an opportunity I really wanted to take advantage of.
Dave Kemp 08:00
Yeah. So when you started at CUNY, what was your initial sort of take on audiology? Were you drawn to any one facet of the scope, if you will, what stands out in your mind in those first formative years, within grad school, both in terms of the course and subject material, but also, I know that you just mentioned Barbara, like, teachers that you had, or what kind of stands out in that era for you.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 08:33
So coming from a non Communication Sciences and Disorders background, I really felt like I needed to put a lot of work into it. So I remember the first semester, really like busting my butt to make sure I was doing well in my classes. And just feeling like there is a little bit of catch up if you come from outside of the typical trajectory. But the CUNY Graduate Center is interesting because they don’t require prerequisites. So we get more people that are coming from non traditional backgrounds. So there were three of the 10 of us from my cohort, weren’t Communication Sciences disorders, undergrads. And I think that actually is a big part of what makes CUNY special is because you get all of these different perspectives and people. I think that is where you get a little bit more of the innovative thinking. Dr. Weinstein definitely stuck out in my head. And really, she’s pretty magnetic in the classroom, because she really questions the status quo, always. And she is she is, you know, sort of relentless in her pursuit of audiology to get better, and she really is just so well versed specifically on geriatric care and gerontology and that was the population of interest for me from the beginning and remains one of my one of my biggest interest So I definitely feel drawn to that population. And Dr. Weinstein does a lot of work in that in that realm and in healthcare at large, you know, she does a lot of interesting research with PCPs, gerontologist ers, and is really sort of crossing that line and making audiology more relevant to healthcare at large.
Dave Kemp 10:26
Yeah, I mean, you recently interviewed Barbara, Dr. Weinstein, on this week in hearing, and we’ll come back to like podcasting and brand building and stuff like that, because that’s another topic I want to talk about with you later on. But I just, there was a lot of really interesting things in that conversation. And first of all, I thought it was really neat how, you know, she was talking about you and how she’s proud. She’s like, it’s like, almost like being a proud parent, like seeing my students go on to do these things. And the thought I had was like, it must be pretty cool to, you know, in a small and small field, like audiology to quite literally learn from one of the legends. And I’m just curious, like, I had mentioned to you before we started recording, like, one of the things I really want to do this, this season, I guess, is try to, like better understand who some of these really influential people are. And so I thought like, this would be a good opportunity to maybe go into Dr. Weinstein in her work and, and share, like, in your own words, what she, how you sort of think about her contribution and the way of of how much she’s influenced this whole field?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 11:45
Sure, yeah. Yeah, and I’ll just add, also, Carol Silverman, was my advisor in for my AUD. And that’s who I did my research with. And I’ll talk a little bit about her. First I’ll start with the Dr. Weinstein. But yeah, Barbara Weinstein. For people that don’t know, and this is hard for me to get a pulse on, I feel like I’ve gotten a better pulse of the national landscape of Audiology. In the last year or so. Really, through my work at tuned, where I’m talking to audiologists across the country, I feel like I have a better grip of how audiology across the nation works. In New York, CUNY is is very dominant, CUNY alums are very prevalent, and therefore the influence of CUNY professors is very prevalent, because everyone was trained by them. So for those that don’t know, Dr. Weinstein, she was the co author of the HA HA that hearing health, hearing handicap inventory for adults, and then it’s been modified for the elderly, for significant others translated into dozens of languages, it’s the most commonly used measurement, even if you don’t know the name, that is always the one that’s built into websites, right. That’s how everyone is evaluating subjective hearing difficulties. So that is usually what people think of her as the sort of think that’s synonymous with her. If you really look at her work, even before that, she was one of the first people to link hearing loss with social isolation, and depression. And she really, again, with these, like social and emotional implications to hearing loss, it wasn’t really looked into until then, she really brought to the forefront. And now that has become so common in all of our conversations about hearing loss, and really our understanding of hearing loss and one of the biggest motivators when we’re talking to the general public of why you should be concerned about your hearing. It now seems so common sense it, of course, is how you connect and socialize with people. So it would affect your ability to, you know, it would just affect your social and emotional well being. But that that somebody obviously had to come up with that finding first and she was the one that did it. So that was sort of the beginning of it. And then since then she’s she really has just really banged out research after research her entire career. I think she was also the first one when COVID hit to show the effects of masks on speech signals, like she really, she just beats everyone to the punch somehow, in a very, like groundbreaking way. I’ll just mention it. So Carol Silverman, again was my advisor. She’s who I did my research with, and we did it on third party disability, which I think is really fascinating the effect of hearing loss or any health condition on loved ones, and that how you see it, you know, the person with hearing loss again, back to Dr. Weinstein’s research. We know about the social isolation, the depression and the reduced quality of life and all of those outcomes. If you look at the significant others same exact things apply to them, and then you see a reversal Love it with hearing intervention or audiologic care. So that was so Dr. Silverman was a very big figure for me as well, in shaping my thinking. And she I’ve actually the the course that I teach at CUNY. Now, anatomy and physiology was originally taught by her. And when she retired, I took it over. So we have been very close. And she’s definitely a big influence on my career, and really a big advocate for my success. Everybody needs a cheerleader.
Dave Kemp 15:33
I love that it’s super cool. And Carol Silverman, that’s now going to be the next person that I start to Google and research and try to find different presentations and stuff that she’s done. Because it is it’s like this just one big learning process of who’s who, who contributed what, like, what areas of expertise are attributed to who and it’s really interesting. For me, it’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And so, you know, I just thought that, you know, with your talk with, with Barbara, a lot of the conversation, you know, what really stood out to me was this whole idea of, like, kind of being like cross discipline, and getting the message out from just audiology to a lot of these other allied medical professionals. And she seemed to really embody that. And I think you’re a big proponent of this too. And it seems like, we’ve kind of, in a way been beating our heads against the wall, as an industry of like, how can we increase the adoption of people wanting to treat their hearing loss, and we’re kind of coming at it with all the same things over and over and over again. And I think that what’s really encouraging is, it seems like there’s more awareness of this idea, like, the the most impactful way that you can really get the word out is by looping in like the physicians and helping them to understand the benefits of this. And Barbara said something really interesting, where she was, like, you know, I think the masks during the pandemic, like really kind of was a giant aha moment, for a lot of people of realizing how frustrating it can be, how much that we’re probably all way more reliant on lip reading than we even are aware. And so I just thought that, you know, there’s so many different ways that we can try to tackle this thing. You know, both like, macro level but but on a personal level. And, and that stands out to me is like a really, a really, I don’t know, aspirational goal is like how can we, how can we make that message resonate with folks that are really the frontline of defense? And I mean, I know like Nick Reed and Johns Hopkins team with the achieved trial, like they’re trying to get it so that you get your hearing tested in your annual physical, like, why isn’t that a thing? And and so what can we do to like, make those part of the broader message and I think we need cohesion as an industry to like, make that message feel like more of a cohesive, like consolidated thing. But I just wanted to get your thoughts on this. Because it does seem to be I think, one of the, you know, I think it’s a really big macro trend right now is figuring out how can we get these these like learnings that we know in this industry to become more mainstream?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 18:21
Yeah. And back to my initial appeal to audiology, with all these big picture questions like, these are some of them. And you know, we’re still trying to figure out the answers to it. I was, and these were the same questions that I was thinking about 10 years ago, all of us have been thinking about this for a long time. I think you’re absolutely right that audiology is a very, very perplexing profession, right? It’s like we’re in some ways, like the best kept secrets of healthcare. It’s like, we just keep giving. We’re just on this little hamster wheel of giving ourselves like affirmative messages and building this great body of research, but all internally and we were missing the link of like the public outreach, and I’ve said it on I probably said in the Dr. Weinstein conversation, I feel like I say it all the time, that audiology has a major PR problem. You know, people truly don’t even know what an audiologist is, let alone why you would want to see one or why it’s important to see one and that goes with even the health care providers. So one thing that Dr. Weinstein I talked about in that podcast was the study from Cleveland Clinic about the poor hearing healthcare literacy of PCPs and nurse practitioners. So I think we of course, need to figure out how to get to patients earlier. And a big way to do it is through PCPs. Or, you know, we go to where their behaviors are already leading that people are likely to follow up with their primary because that really they control at Everything from there all the referrals. So how do we improve the message to them? And that is a real head scratching question of how do we do that? We’ve tried a couple of different things. But I do think you’re right that like a uniform effort is important. And that’s something that’s always plagued audiology. Why does a 13,000, you know, provider profession have three different professional organizations, that’s just bizarre to me. And we’re really, we’re going to really lose a lot of bargaining power if we remain, you know, segmented like that. So I don’t have a great answer yet, my more approachable way to do it, or how I’ve been thinking of it recently, is actually tackling it from the consumer perspective, you know, have the habit more patient driven and provider driven, sometimes it’s really hard to get things through to providers, everyone has their blind spots. And, you know, physicians have blind spots, and they feel very confident in in their training sometimes. So it’s hard for them to feel, you know, like they can collaborate with other professionals. But what if the motivation comes from the patient’s like, what if they just get patient after patient coming in and asking, I saw this thing in the newspaper, or I read this article, or I saw this video, I want to look into my hearing, maybe then the message will get through, it’s you have to give the patients what they want. So maybe that’s the best way to do it. It’s sort of my new line of thinking.
Dave Kemp 21:39
Well, it’s really interesting, because I think that means that there needs to be really more collaboration between something like an HLA a and AAA, right. Like, I do think that there’s a pretty big disconnect between the provider and the patient, like, obviously, the providers are working on an individual basis, but from a unified governing body, if you will, the two I don’t know what the relationship is, but it doesn’t seem to be like there’s a lot of I don’t know, cohesion.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 22:11
Yeah. And HLA is a powerhouse like they are, they are quoted in every single story that’s related to hearing like they are everywhere. And a big part of it is because they have so much numbers, you know, we’re talking about, almost, you know, I think the latest estimate was 48 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, like they have numbers, and they have a lot of sway, like lobbying, sway too. And I think you’re absolutely right, there’s a disconnect, like I I act, actually, again, bring it back to Barbara Weinstein, she recommended that we all go to an HLA meeting, when we were a student, and it is eye opening, if an audiologist hasn’t been to an HLA meeting, you have to go to one. Because they’re, it’s like, a wonderful field study of really getting a pulse of what people with hearing loss actually want. And I think audiologist would be shocked with how dissatisfied most people with hearing loss are with their providers. And that’s like a tough thing to hear, you know, you have to really look in the mirror and think about what you’re doing. And if you’re doing enough, or how much of this is systemic, you know, it raises a lot of questions. But there should absolutely be more consideration for the patient perspective, because also, most audiologists don’t have hearing loss. So having that perspective really is crucial for patients.
Dave Kemp 23:38
But I couldn’t agree more in the, what you said earlier about, you know, having the patient be the one that’s kind of the proponent for the professional, is, that’s, that’s the, I think, the motivation for why this should be because I think to your point, like you’re maybe barking up the wrong tree, in a sense, if you think that you’re gonna get like widespread buy in from the physician, if it’s coming at the behest of like, the professional to professional, because they might perceive that as, of course, we all want to practice all these different best practices within each of our purviews. But when it comes at the behest of the patient in the patient’s the one that saying you need to you need to you know, be equipped in your actual, you know, like brick and mortar location for communication disorders, like you need to have some sort of amplification like a loop or you need to have a pocket talker or something like that, where you can have, like, be able to be facilitating something for that kind of person, especially as we have an aging population. Like I just think that that makes a ton of sense of having it come from the IT needs to like almost happen organically. At the grass level, patient after patient after patient, in my mind, that seems a really realistic possibility of how change could be broadly implemented and how you could have that mind mindset shift. But again, it has to then mean that the professionals and all of the bodies, these three different organizations that represent these 13,000 professionals, or whatever it is, that, you know, there needs to be a unified message of like this is this is something that we’re trying to advocate for an on us the patient’s behalf. And there needs to be I think, a lot more collaboration between the two.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 25:41
Yeah. And I think there’s I think there’s like a fundamental argument happening within audiology of, you know, are we medical providers? Or are we healthcare providers? Or like, how do we even refer to ourselves review ourselves, so a lot of you get the audiologists that are very white coat, doctor, very formal, and those are the kinds of people that of course, want to collaborate with other providers, you know, they want to meet with the EMTs, the PCPs. In really, endocrinologist nephrologist, you could, you could go on and on with all the comorbidities of essentially it’s every specialist, but and then there’s the other section of audiologists that are far more viewing themselves as like collaborators or not. So like official of not doctor knows best, it’s really more proponents of the patient centered care, which is a giant trend we’re seeing across healthcare. And I think that’s why eventually I hypothesize, the health care professionals will have to give in to what the patient’s want, because patients should be in to a certain extent, as long as it’s not threatening themselves should be able to drive their own care. And I think we do a pretty good job of it, again, talking about certain sections of audiology, because there isn’t a ton of uniformity, about letting patients sort of lead their journey. But then other providers might not might not have the same approach. So I do think there’s a lot of potential there for it.
Dave Kemp 27:25
So I want to pivot a little bit and because I think this will kind of continue the conversation on but I think this is a good time to segue to what you’re now doing with your career. So you had mentioned, you’re kind of like you’re an adjunct professor, which is really, really cool. And then also, you know, so you were, if I recall working as an audiologist within an en t clinic, and then you branched off and you’re doing your own thing now. So you have the role at tuned. And then you’re also doing like, I what I envision is kind of like the newest version of what private practice audiology looks like. Is that a fair way to describe that?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 28:06
Yeah, and I think it is relevant to point out what I was doing previously, because it definitely is. That’s what led me, you know, it’s hard to talk about where you’re at currently, unless you talk about where you were previously. And yeah, working in very traditional healthcare settings in New York City, where audiologists are not usually the stakeholders or decision makers, you know, healthcare, corporate America now. And then working through a pandemic in New York City in that health care system. It was it an I am a sort of out of the box thinker. So I just really was itching to really just sort of blow out of it and do my own thing. So, tune is something that I’ve been working with for two years now. And that’s been totally different experience for me. I’ve never worked with a startup before. It’s been fascinating to see an idea really come to fruition and really help build something, and that we’re really rethinking the delivery of hearing healthcare. You know, really harnessing tele audiology, and thinking about again, how do we reach different patient bases that wouldn’t traditionally come into a clinic. So that’s been a very fun project for me and something that I was doing even while I was at my previous job, and then this new venture, where I’m working for myself has been really exciting because I do think it’s a very, it’s uncharted territory for Audiology, but I am a big believer that this can work and if it works, and we can create a blueprint and I’m not the only one doing this, I’ve it’s I’ve connected with at least five other audiologists across the country that are doing similar versions of a tele audiology and CA concierge practice together. And I think if we can really break, you know, break that, break that down and get a solid formula to it, that’s going to lead to this big wave of entrepreneurship within audiology. And, to me, that seems like something that needs to happen for the profession to really thrive in the future. We need more independent clinics, we need more audiologists, as owners, I would love to see more female dominated practices and more women in audiology getting into it getting into this. And you know, we’re in a recession and hard times. So the best way to do it is through virtual care and concierge care where you have really low startup costs. So that has been a big, again, puzzle to figure out of how do I market this? How do I get people to understand it? And through that thinking, and going off of the need, I think for better patient education. That’s where I sort of really done a deep dive into social media, and doing Tiktok and Instagram and really thinking about how do you convince people that Hearing Healthcare Matters, and I’ve purposely barely talked about hearing aids, done about 200 videos on Tiktok. If I had about 75, posts on Instagram, maybe I probably to our hearing aid related, because, to me, that’s such an important point to get across to the public is that we are not synonymous with hearing aids. So that that’s where I’m at. Currently, it is very much uncharted territory and going off of a whole lot of hunches. And I think this is one of those times that it’s good to be a little naive, where it’s like, I have no idea if this is gonna work. But I also think I have the willpower to just like make it work, which and then
Dave Kemp 31:56
like becoming a new parent.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 32:00
That too, it’s like when when’s the perfect time to go out on a solo venture, right? Don’t come back from your maternity leave. So that that’s been a big motivator to where it’s, you know, being a parent changes, how you think about your time and your life. And you know, what makes you happy. And this is the version of myself, I want to be for my son. And I think a lot of audiologists can relate to that message to where they’re put in tough positions of, you know, is this job congruent with my life? You know, it’s all going to add up, and especially when you add a family to it, like, can I even afford to work full time? Or can I have more flexibility than that?
Dave Kemp 32:42
Yeah, gosh, there’s, it’s just, like, there’s so many different things there about how all roads kind of like lead to where you are, from a frickin pandemic in New York City. I mean, no offense, I can’t think of a place I would like, not want to live during that. And, you know, it’s like, New York is like was, it’s so cool. It’s such an awesome place. So it’s, you know, I can just only imagine, like the that part of your life. But you know, I’m sure that that was a huge influence on on cutting the cord and like doing what you’re doing. And so this is what I really want to get into now is like, this first formative part of what you’ve done, because I think that there are probably some people listening right now that are really inspired by you and maybe thinking along the same lines, but man, it is. There is like, night and day difference between thinking and having those thoughts and actually doing it. And so can you talk through, maybe like, where your head was at when you were first? Getting Started from the most basic things like how did you even set yourself up as a company like what what did you like? How did you like Teach Yourself this to to like, legitimize your business? What were those early days? Like? It sounds like you’ve kind of got the ball rolling so you’re but like, how did you get like your first customers? Your first patience? What have you learned I guess is what I’m asking over the first call it year or however long you’ve been doing this new Kathleen Wallace venture.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 34:27
I have definitely learned a lot and I’m sure any business owner out there can can relate to you get a crash course and absolutely everything and I have been getting teaching myself essentially a whole lot of skills. The first of which was how to be like a social media person. I’d never been on tic tac before. And it was suggested to me to try tic tac over some other social media platforms and I’ve now added Instagram. And I think that was a good first step, because it again helps you hone in on your message and your delivery. Tic tock is not for the faint of heart, the comments section can really be something else. So, you know, it really is a very good training to developing thick skin. And then also making sure that you know, your your message is on point and your delivery is on point. And that’s sort of become the cornerstone of what, what Kathleen Wallace AUD is, it’s totally based on patient education, where my goal is to develop informed and empowered consumers who can navigate hearing healthcare with confidence. So I almost view myself more as like a consultant than an audiologist, even like, I think diagnostics are sort of on the backburner a little bit. For me, it’s very much serving that that sort of filling that gap, where I don’t care if I ever do an audio again, you know, but I can take an audio I can counsel a patient extensively, I can break down all of the jargon of okay, you heard about this, this Listen, this, isn’t it so confusing that this manufacturer calls their top of the line and 90 and this manufacturer is a 440. And this one’s a one. And yeah, and getting through all of that jargon. And leaning into this whole Dr. Google era of people want to do research before they make a decision. And when he talked about $7,000, hearing aids, potentially, then you really need to make a you really need to do your homework before making a decision. I think that’s something that really resonates with people. So I have purposely gone like very much unbundled where, for a lot of them, I’m not doing the audio. And I’m not doing just the dispense. I’m doing the in between where it’s truly me being an unbiased expert in hearing healthcare and hearing aids, and then them making their own decision whether it’s going to Walmart or CVS, Costco or a private practice. But at least they feel like they have the tools needed to actually go through hearing healthcare because audiology is a little bizarre. It’s a strange specialty. And there are a lot of things that we know as professionals that patients don’t know. And when you’re on tick tock, you realize that we wildly overestimate the public knowledge of hearing issues like they don’t even they don’t even know that tinnitus is the name for ringing in your ears. Or if they do, they don’t know, it’s pronounced tinnitus. So we really, really, really have to break it down. More so and I think that that is sort of where I’ll be living for a little bit this, this gray area in between, which has again, been a wonderful change of pace from a diagnostic role in an EMT clinic where it was very much audio driven a lot of time in the sound booth. And then hearing aids and not always having time for these in between conversations.
Dave Kemp 38:20
It’s really interesting. And I like how like you sort of segmented from like, you have the diagnostics and then you have the hearing aid fitting, and then you have like this kind of period that’s in between or the space that’s in between. And I guess my question is, have you found there to be a demand for this? Like, are you finding that the, you know, people that you’re talking to that this is something that they’re really receptive to? And then like, is there a business model behind this?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 38:51
So for full transparency, it is a little bit of a difficult pitch. For some people like I think tele audiology in general, it’s hard for people to understand how you can see an audiologist virtually, I think when you take the diagnostic element out of it, they do get it because it’s just a conversation. Yeah. So I do think there is a demand for that segment. It’s a little tough with the marketing to make sure you’re getting to the right segment. So I’ve been trying out a couple of different things, you know, am I trying to go to them directly, or am I trying to go with my recent thing is, do I try to go to them through loved ones and really sort of harness the third party disability element to it? And that’s where like Tiktok and Instagram comes into play, where they might not be on Tik Tok and Instagram but their son or daughter or a loved one is and are. Is that person bothered enough or worried enough about their dad or mom’s hearing? That they would I’m sort of be a big proponent of this. And I do think that the fact that it is totally removed from both the sale and the diagnostics, I think it lowers the threshold of sort of, you know, moving forward with it. Yeah. Because you, it’s a lot more palatable to just have a one off appointment, right. There’s like, no long term commitment. So they could take whatever and do whatever they want with the information I’m giving them and I wouldn’t necessarily know. So I’m, I’m hoping that that will translate. My very first patient that I saw, actually came to me through Tic Toc, her wife made an appointment for her after seeing me on tic tac. So. So there’s still a lot to be determined about, you know, are these hunches correct, and this is part of, you know, introducing a new service delivery model, I’m more confident in the concierge element, I think that’s far, that’s less of a stretch for people. Especially when you have a full portable audiometer, and all of that that’s an easier pitch for people. The virtual care and this consultant element are so new, that it’s going to take some tweaking, I think it’s some time for people to warm up to the idea.
Dave Kemp 41:20
So like, with regard to the consultive approach, you know, I think this is becoming really pronounced or it will just increasingly become more pronounced as the OTC side of things really matures, and not just OTC managed care to. Because I think that the, I don’t like foresee there being an imminent collapse of like the revenue models of the brick and mortar locations, they’re just gonna kind of I think it eroded. And so what remains? Well, there actually is still like this really important role, which is this consultative thing. So, you know, I’ve heard a million different takes on OTC and the pros and the cons and all this and like, with regard to the professionals role in it, I just don’t really see any role other than being consultative. And that’s a really important role. And I think that we’ve kind of like, I think, broadly speaking, as an industry just sort of been dismissive of that, because it’s, it’s not like cookie cutter, like, it just fits into what we’re what we’ve all known. And so, so much of this, I feel like it’s just going to be kind of like the, the transition, the transitional pain, almost of like, getting back to like, okay, so how do you? How do you like, frame this for the patient? So that if they’re presented with an option, where you say, like, Look, you haven’t, you have your options, basically boiled down to you can do it yourself, you can go the prescription hearing aid route, which might be overkill. So if you’re kind of in the middle, and you want to, you want a device that’s in the price range of an OTC or something that’s like a managed care benefit. How can you have that, but also have the expertise that comes along with the professional. And I think this is where the professional like, by and large needs to, I think, figure out like, what, what this looks like, because I do think that if there is going to be a play in this, over the counter hearing aid space, and in the, you know, kind of the future of this, this whole, like dispensing of technology, I think that it has to be around that like added value. And that value to me is your expertise, like you know more about the communication disorders, and the tips and the strategies and all of the like, ancillary technology that you can be using in just like, you’re a wealth of information for these people. So it’s a lot of like, I think what we all kind of already know, which is like, okay, so therefore, you gotta kind of unbundle things to the point to where you can bill for your time appropriately. It just feels like it’s all kind of culminating to ahead, and you’re out in front of this. So you’re actually kind of already seen it. And what I’m kind of trying to get to is like, this whole notion of I’m going to bill you for 30 minutes of my time. What are your patients? Sort of like responses, like both going into the meeting? And then afterwards, do you find that they’re like that was well worth my time and money?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 44:34
So I think, just to one of the other points that you made. I think you’re totally right, that the audiologists are sort of, I don’t know why we’re being hesitant to really embrace that the product is our brain, you know, and that’s a big part of how I designed you know, what I’m doing is that I wanted. I wanted it to be something that I could adapt with over time. And how do you adapt? Like, you’re the locus of control, like I am, the I Am the product. And it sounds a little like egotistical, but it’s true, you know, so I can control the amount of value I’m giving someone because nothing frustrates me more in the audiology world than like, when you’re doing a fitting and the software won’t open, or the hearing aid for some reason just isn’t working. And I hated always having these other things that were sort of controlling how well an appointment is gonna go. And I end. So I think this return where the the value is you does allow you to be very consistent with the, with the value that you’re providing, and how successful these appointments can be. And then the fact that when you’re focused on patient education, again, the patient is driving what you do. So right now they want to talk about OTCs, because that is the hot thing right now. But that might change, you know that the the paper that just came out yesterday with 1 billion kids were 12 to 32 year olds, I think was the age range, are you at risk for noise induced hearing loss, maybe all of a sudden it will become safe listening habits, but when you’re the product, you can pivot and keep up with it. Yeah, good point. So that was a part of how we’re shaping it. What was the other part of the question?
Dave Kemp 46:29
Oh, I was just saying, like, you know, you’re doing this already. So you know, you’re you’re seeing people, and you’re, presumably you’re billing them for your time. So I’m saying like, what has that experience been? Like? Do you find that people walk away from that feeling like that was well worth whatever amount that they paid for?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 46:52
So so far, people have not people that have booked have not had an issue with the price. And I think, you know, that speaks to the kind of person that would be interested in this sort of service. You know, and this is where I don’t know if there’s a geographic influence, I think people in New York City fully understand like what a consultant is, or like an advisor or whatever word you want to use, like people like to go to professionals for things. And I think people definitely understand, when you think about it, as well, am I going to get $7,000 hearing aids or $1,500, hearing aids from Costco, or an $800, over the counter hearing aid, when you’re talking about that much of a money swing, my hourly rate is a drop in the bucket, if that could save you 1000s of dollars. So I think some people are thinking of it like that. And this is where, like me, you know, and the expertise really being the product, I am trying to build it out as much as possible to make it very educational, and again, expecting that this is a one off appointment. So my goal is to make them fully independent, where they feel like they have all the tools to never need me again, or not need me until they reach that next level of their hearing loss where they’ve outgrown over the counter hearing aids and then they want to talk about prescription hearing ease or something like that. So I think the fact that it’s a nice like tidy bow at the end of the appointment and giving a ton of sort of augmenting the appointment with other materials, supporting materials, does very much make it worth it to them. But it is it it’s a little uncomfortable for an audiologist, we’re not trained to find value in our time we are we you know are so trained on it being tied to a device, or going through insurance and never having to talk money with with a patient. So that is definitely a very different mindset to have where this is more of like a business mindset transactional, almost, which might turn some people off. But that’s what people want. And again, like that’s the driver of what you provide
Dave Kemp 49:13
in there’s almost a weird irony. I don’t know if that’s the right word. But you know, so you said that it’s more of a business mindset. However, there’s such a different perception, I think, by the consumer, because when you’re a consumer and you have like you said the the consumers of today are so much more well educated on what options exist. So they’re going to be coming in already relatively skeptical of what they’re getting into and if there’s a better deal, and so you’re there’s like that inherent tension, I think in the current model, whereas with yours, it’s an upfront expectation of look, I’m I have no dog in the fight. I am a objective resource for you, too. try to get you to the right solution for you. So yeah, there’s going to be a, you know, like a concrete upfront cost in order to even get through the door through the computer screen. But, but But it’s an upfront expectation, I think, and there’s nothing, there’s no, there’s nothing that like comes down the line that might be, even if it’s not a surprise, it’s that I think this is part of the issue that a lot of professionals have a lot of dispensing professionals have is this, it’s not fair, it’s not fair that they’re sort of almost perceived as like, in the eyes of the consumer, are you bait and switching me? You know, are you is there? Is there something that I’m not well aware of here? What’s going on? Why am I not getting the best deal? Why can I get these things for half the price? at Costco, what are you doing that’s so different than that. And so you’re always on your back foot playing defensive, like but I’m, I’m adding value, and I’m doing all these different things and all that. And so part of me looks at what you’re doing. As probably like, if I were an audiologist, I would be thinking of this as a giant relief in the sense that yeah, there is more of a business mentality that comes with it. Like there might be some people that are put off or turned off by, I can get a free hearing test from this clinic down the street or whatever. But it’s like, I just think that having the the ability to just set the expectation and then know that there, you’ve sort of diffused the tension, I have to imagine it’s a totally different kind of interaction with the patient than the brick and mortar traditional experience.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 51:43
Yeah, and they, there’s so much buy in, and they usually come you know, they’re highly motivated, they come with questions, you know, they have specific things on their mind that they want to accomplish in that appointment. So it is very different for sure. And I hope more people consider it because I do think that it is addressing the weakness of the current audiology delivery, some of it’s in our control some of it, some of it isn’t, but that the lack of trust that the public has in our profession, is sort of what I’m feeding off of. And any audiologists can do this. So I hope that more people do consider it and you know, we can definitely leverage over the counter hearing aids right now, at a minimum, totally.
Dave Kemp 52:38
So changing gears a little bit, I do want to get into, you know, social media, from the standpoint of kind of, like personal brand building, and obviously, you’re using it very effectively for to help grow your business. So that there’s that side of it. But the other thing that I think is really cool and inspiring that I’ve seen you do is you know, and I think it’s a testament of like why I think it’s really important to at least give this a fair shake of, of creating content, posting content. And just kind of being public is that in the span of time that I’ve known you, which is only a couple of years, I’ve seen you, you know, kind of emerge on social media, you’ve, you know, been on a couple of podcasts. And then we were just at the American Academy doctors, American, Ada, Ada, I can never remember the actual full name of it. Academy of Doctors of Audiology, I think. So anyway, I, I was at that show with you, and you were on like three different panels. And I just think it’s really cool that I think that this, it’s like, you know, you gotta kind of start somewhere and you get this snowball, and then you can like roll it roll a roll, and then you can push it down the hill. And it just seems like you’ve totally been a poster child of this, of, of getting that momentum going to where you can just kind of like parlay it on to the next thing. And I thought that was really neat. And so I just kind of wanted to get your thoughts of, of kind of this trajectory that you’ve been on where it, you know, speaking to whether you agree if if like, getting on a podcast and kind of getting your feet wet that way and then using that to like, position yourself to go and speak at an in person event like that. I mean, do you do you see these as being a good stepping stone like online content creation as a way to create a brand for yourself that you can then use to, you know, basically cite as, you know, look at the previous work that I’ve done so that you have legitimacy because I think for young people we were kind of saddled With like the imposter phenomenon of like, Am I qualified to be on a panel? With some of the people like that? You were I personally would say, yes, you absolutely are. But I have to imagine there was some self doubt of like, Am I really qualified? So I think that particularly as young people, like you got to start somewhere. And I think that podcasts and just like online content, broadly speaking, is a really great way to get your foot in the door. What do you think?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 55:27
Yeah, I think you’re totally right. I started with LinkedIn. I think I’ve always done it. I’ve always loved LinkedIn, it’s always been my preferred social media. So the fact that now I’m on like, Tiktok, and Instagram is fine. But really, in the beginning of the pandemic, again, like out of boredom, or angst, or whatever the motivator was, like, I really started getting into a solid rhythm of posting pretty often on LinkedIn. And I did a post on LinkedIn, for International Women’s Day that Dan read and really liked. And that’s what led to the first podcast appearance. So there absolutely is a snowball effect. And then
Dave Kemp 56:08
run the hearing journal podcast that was a really good episode on, on like all things gender, and the Yeah, gender gap in the industry and pink collar work. That was a term I had never heard before. But anyway, I didn’t mean to interject, go on.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 56:22
Yeah, and one thing that we talked about there, and you just hinted at it is the imposter syndrome. And that very much applies to women. That’s how we are naturally wired. You know, that’s how we’re trained in society, we’re not naturally wired that way. And that there is honest, overconfidence in men, that’s a legitimate term they found in studies, and that women undershoot their abilities, and that even the word expert has become very gendered, that men are more likely to be considered experts in things or proclaim themselves as experts, and women don’t do that. So the fact that that was what I was talking about on my first podcast, was certainly set the tone that that’s, you know, if that’s what I’m talking about, then we have to sort of follow through with this. And I, you know, I was tempted to not do the podcast, and then I’m like, wait, I, I need to say that I’m an expert of this, and I need to do this podcast. That’s what I that’s what the research actually says. So it definitely does snowball into each other. And I absolutely had the thought at Ada to I did a panel with Don Hyman, the current president of ADA, and Gail Whitelaw, and then there and then me, and we’re, you know, at very different points in our careers. But you know, having the confidence that your viewpoint and perspective is important and relevant, is super important. So I do think that getting across a couple of different platforms has been helpful, because you also see what works on each platform like LinkedIn, very different vibe than Instagram, or Tiktok, or podcasts, you know, professional podcasts, and going, you know, sort of pinballing through them, is a very interesting exercise. But I do think that in general, people have been very, I think, audiologists in general, and maybe, and probably a big part of it is because we’re majority women, audiologists in general do have an inferiority complex, and I don’t think we’re great at advocating for ourselves, which goes back to why we have such a small, or you know, we’re just a blip on the radar in healthcare, because we’ve been horrible at advocating for our importance. And it all just feeds into each other. So it’s been an interesting exercise to really try to be a voice like a reliable, trustworthy voice on Tik Tok in particular, that’s where most of it has been, for the general public, and there’s definitely an appetite for it. And like, what inspired it even to begin with was just the fact that so many people ask your questions and in everyday life situations, so really harnessing that and going off of that to, you know, making it full on tick tock videos and taking questions from strangers. But I do think there needs to be more audiologists sort of proclaiming their expertise and that it’s not a bad thing to do at all.
Dave Kemp 59:33
So I had to leave ADA the days that you did the panels with Don and Gail, how did those go? What did you all talk about? I caught the bulk of the presentation that you did on the at the mobile audiology pre conference workshop, which was absolutely fantastic. There’s so much that I want to talk to you about but I know that we’re kind of like coming close to an hour already. So So, I’m just curious though, since I didn’t get a chance, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about it, what were those panels like that you did at Ada?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 1:00:09
Um, so those ones were so the overall theme of ADA right was all about Casey Compton’s book, fix us to fix this next for healthcare providers. So, Ada was formatted to be very, you know, action item oriented. And the panel that we were doing was all about how to analyze different service delivery models and implement them. So it was mostly based off of my thought process of how I came, my portion of it was about how I came to design, my practice the way I have, where it’s going to be focused on patient education, it’s going to be virtual and concierge. And that, to me, the way I came up with that service was that I think the lack of public education is a root cause for so many other things. So why don’t we attack the root cause? And try to move the needle and get to more people? The general flow of you know, how you get to it is like, Is there a problem that needs to be solved? Am I the person to solve it? Can I solve it in the way that people want it to be solved? And how do I do it, essentially, you know, and these, that’s a big part of Kisa captain’s book is taking very common sense things and things that we all do naturally, and putting names to it. So it’s just sort of walking through the actual steps of it. And that there are so many ways that we can rethink how we’re delivering care. For me, it’s virtual and concierge. But it doesn’t need to be it could be asynchronous, it could be putting, you know, downloadable content out there, like webinars or ebooks or something, it could be tended, it could be expanding your scope of practice or way that you’re delivering it essentially. And that, again, were 13,000 professionals. So like, there is just so much work that can be done. And that was a big part of the telehealth talk was when over 50% of counties in the United States don’t have an audiologist. And there’s 25,000 people per one audiologist, there’s plenty of work to go around. And we need to get more creative about how we can reach more ears.
Dave Kemp 1:02:29
Well, and then just going off, like piggybacking off that specific point, you know, it’s just crazy to me that there is, you know, any kind of scarcity mindset in this industry, when you’re spot on where it’s like, there’s so much latent demand, that’s just not being tapped into because we aren’t, as an industry, I think being very conducive to that demand. I mean, in, I think this is what’s going to be really fascinating. And part of the reason why I get so excited to talk to people like you is, I have a, I have a general sense of like, where things are going. But it’s awesome to talk to somebody that’s like, physically doing this stuff on the front lines. Because, you know, like telehealth is a good example of something where there are probably things that would surprise people in every type of every kind of medical professional like, like the things that would surprise you in terms of how much more feasible and conducive, some of these things are online. And then things that maybe, as you have the experience, and you realize you’re like there isn’t really a great replacement for like the in person element. And but at least I think squaring those things away and being able to, to, you know, say truthfully, like, this is the limitations of this format. And therefore there does have to be triaging of sorts or something like that for this specific kind of aspect, but to just use broad strokes and say, There’s no way that there’s, you know, there’s no viability to tell audiology or something like that, I think is wildly dismissive. And we know that, like technology’s just going to make this stuff, feel more and more enabled. So I think what’s cool, and what’s my big takeaway from this conversation is like, first of all, it’s really cool to hear somebody young and aspirational, like just truly seizing life by the horns and you’re doing it. And I think that’s extremely notable. So tip of the cap. Cheers on that. But I think the other thing is like, this doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Like I think that what the model of the future really will look like will be taking elements of all these different things like you could I could see the clinic of the future really being like, if you do have a brick and mortar location, you have that and then maybe there is a mobile element to your practice and virtual element to your practice, because you know that that’s going to allow for you to be just more viable and sustainable into the future. And taking these things that we perceive right now I think broadly as threats and turning them into just opportunities. Because, you know, if over the counter hearing aids are really successful, that implies that probably more people than ever are treating their hearing loss, and therefore, there’s more people than ever that, that could be seeking out your expertise, but it’s figuring out how do you actually like, meet that demand in a way that the patient wants it met?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 1:05:38
Yeah, and I think another big thing in and you hinted at this is that you don’t need to be everything to everyone, right? Like, it’s totally fine, that there are limitations to what I’m doing. You know, it’s just focusing on just a sliver. But the problem is that we have been so caught up as a profession, in just the one sliver really, when you look at the entire the entire picture and the penetration rate of just looking at one kind of patient and one kind of delivery model. And it what makes me nervous is that if we don’t harness this opportunity, and really think how we can deliver care better and reach more people, is it going to no longer stay in the hands of audiologist exclusively? So the people that are really concerned about the, you know, the, the existential crisis of audiology should be huge proponents for thinking about new ways to do things, because that’s how you stay relevant.
Dave Kemp 1:06:47
Couldn’t agree more. All right. So as we come to the close, you know, for anybody that’s been listening, that really dig in, what you’re what you’re talking about, where can people connect with you? Sounds like Tic Tac Instagram. Where can people get connected to you?
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 1:07:06
So I am your doc of tic tac, tic tac? I, Dr. Katherine Wallace on Instagram, Kathleen Wallace AUD on on LinkedIn. And then you can email me at Kathleen at Kathleen Wallace aud.com.
Dave Kemp 1:07:24
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s really been awesome. It was awesome to meet you in person. Finally, it feels like there’s so many people that I’m finally getting to meet in person after like the pandemic. And just like all being online friends, and now we’re in real life friends. So it’s really great. But I’ve really learned a lot from you. And I think it’s just so cool what you’re doing. So keep it up. I’m going to be excited to hear all about what goes on with you what goes on with. We didn’t even really talk about tune today, we’ll have to do another conversation down the line where we talk all about what’s going on over there because that’s a really exciting space as well. You know, a platform that’s really enabling telehealth for this space. So, Kathleen, thank you so much for coming on the show today. And thanks for everybody who tuned in here to the end. We’ll chat with you next time.
Kathleen Wallace, AuD 1:08:14 Thank you for having m