Humanitarian Audiology

Community involvement enhances the public profile-and potentially the bottom line-of your hearing practice.

By Christine Cubelo, CAOHC

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) , philanthropy, corporate transparency, corporate citizenship, environmental sustainability, corporate community involvement, corporate volunteerism…
These terms, and many others, have become synonymous to the call for humanitarian activity in the business world. Social responsibility has expanded to a less esoteric concept; small businesses and Fortune 500 companies have as much of a calling as not-for-profit organizations or the socially conscious.

One-in-three consumers believe businesses should align their operations with greater social and environmental needs, and 82% of patrons discern which organizations to obtain goods and services from based on CSR activity.1,2 Moreover, 62% of consumers use social media to determine the authenticity of reported impacts on such issues.2

Hence, consumers are apt to perceive ambiguous statements or affirmations like «Recycling is important to us» as little more than a public relations campaign. Remaining sensitive to these perceptions can serve as a means to strategically enhance marketability and patient relations through CSR.

Because many consumers are quick to brush off a gaudy display of philanthropy, genuine campaigns may be impeded by a broad sense of disinterest. There is ample research showing minimal public awareness of services or resources with regard to hearing health. For instance, one article discusses findings of teen and parental awareness of preventing noise induced hearing loss. The identification of the title «audiologist» defined as an expert in hearing was found to be low in a 1990s survey.8 A 2009 survey of college students points to the unchanged need for increased awareness; one in four students were unsure of the potential warning signs of tinnitus5.

The World Health Organization has also published the staggering ratio of disabling hearing loss to the rate of provisions given. Rather than focusing on a custom campaign to bolster your clinic’s public image, consider participating in an existing hearing health awareness campaign. This will save time and resources planning a project from scratch, foster greater impact of a common message disseminated to the public, and foster greater growth of the field of Audiology. Table 1 lists some examples of today’s recent campaigns.

Humanitarians in Audiology

Being a humanitarian does not necessarily mean one must expend resources in fulfilling social or environmental needs.

Humanitarians in audiology like Dr. Jackie Clark and Evelyn Cherow invite clinicians who cannot go abroad to utilize online bulletins, telehealth networks, or online educational chat rooms to meet local or global needs.9 These Internet sources could be an effective way to screen, educate, and follow-up with patients or other health professionals in regions where there may not be hearing health experts available. An article by Clark also mentions about a dozen sources to inquire about volunteer opportunities.7

Providers can also follow the examples of other businesses that have identified how to use their unique skills for the community, with minimal cost to shareholders. For instance, one can volunteer to write articles for a community newsletter, or serve as a drop-off location for a toy or food drive.3-4

SEE ALSO: Budget Savvy Audiology

A Pizza Ranch in Iowa hosts «community impact» events during which local community members volunteer to bus tables in exchange for supporting a cause. The volunteers bring in friends and family as customers during a typically slow shift which makes the event mutually beneficial.2 In the clinic, transference of these ideas could include setting up a drop-off box to donate used hearing aids or recycle hearing aid batteries, contribute to a periodical associated with your expertise, support a local university’s humanitarian audiology mission trip, or host a seminar taught by volunteers to potential clients.

Societal Impact

Clinic leaders should consider existing and prospective employees as stakeholders in the call to social responsibility. Beside factors such as fair wages or career advancement, a survey of college students and current workers identified societal impact as another factor for job satisfaction. While 45% of workers have not had an opportunity to make a societal impact through their employer, 28% of them are dissatisfied with their jobs because of those missed opportunities.11 Furthermore, 72% of students and 59% of Millennials prefer and seek jobs that have a positive impact on society or the environment. So, a CSR program that allows active involvement can help to attract and retain skilled, loyal employees.

Patients can be empowered to gauge their provider’s involvement in the community. A study found that 41% of consumers are ages 18-34 and 13% are 55 and over.1 The former are more proactive in seeking information about companies’ CSR programs, whereas the latter tend to not see a direct connection between their purchases and social or environmental issues. Considering the average hearing aid user is about 70 years old, and one in four of the overall population uses hearing aids, the older group can be as much a source of momentum as the younger group to initiate or provide feedback on a particular CSR project. A combination of social media and in-clinic information should be ready for these groups to ensure ample mutual support.12

Some may argue that CSR undermines the true purpose of business-to make a profit for the benefit of shareholders6. Yet, using CSR as a way to appease pressure may evolve into an oscillating cycle of defensive public relations with minimal value to society.10 Hearing healthcare is as much of a business as a car sales center or grocery store, and the image of such a field may appear ingenuous as opposed to compassionate in the midst of such a cycle. Hearing aids and hearing protection are tools for maintaining or improving well-being, and purchases derive purely from consumers’ pockets. Although they rely on expert input for discerning the variety of products available, the aforementioned level of awareness points to the need for community involvement. From a business standpoint, patients must be regarded as valued consumers so that clinics can successfully apply CSR as a means to increase community awareness of their expertise. That will encourage continued patronage, which will in turn encourage continuity of care.

Christine Cubelo is a certified occupational hearing conservationist with a bachelor’s degree in technical and professional studies in laboratory management from University of Maryland University College. After three years as manager for an audiology clinic in Guam, she has taken a sabbatical to pursue her doctorate in audiology.

1. Cone Communications, Echo Research (2013). Global corporate social responsibility study. Retrieved from
2. Lavine, L. (June, 2013). The power of giving back: How community involvement can boost your bottom line. Entrepreneur Media. Retrieved from
3. Business Financial Services (May, 2015). Small business involvement in the community is a win-win. Retrieved from
4. New York Life (n.d.). How to get your business involved in the community: giving back & gaining loyalty. Retrieved from
5. Danhauer, J. et al. (2009). Survey of college students on iPod use and hearing health. Journal of American Academy of Audiology, 20 (1): pp. 5-27. Doi 10.3766/jaaa.20.1.2. Retrieved from
6. Hobbs, R. et. al. (2014). Small business toolkit: Corporate social responsibility. NSW Commissioner. Retreived from
7. Clark, J. (March, 2013). Humanitarian audiology: What to do first? Retrieved from
8. Lass, N. et. al. (1990). A survey of college students’ knowledge and wareness of hearing, hearing loss, and hearing health. National Student Speech Language Hearing Association Journal, 17: pp. 90-94. Retrieved from
9. Nemes, J. (February, 2005). Some imagine a world where hearing care is available to all. The Hearing Journal, 58 (2): pp. 19-25. Doi 10.1097/01.HJ.0000286114.69840.c4. Retrieved from
10. Porter, M. and Kramer, M. (December, 2006). Strategy and society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved from
11. Heldrich, J. and Zukin, C. (May, 2012). Talent report: What workers want in 2012. Net Impact. Retrieved from
12. Kochkin, S. (October, 2009). Marke Trak VIII: 25 year trends in the hearing health market. The Hearing Review, 16 (11): pp. 12-31. Retrieved from

Christine Cubelo is a certified occupational hearing conservationist with a bachelor’s degree in technical and professional studies in laboratory management from University of Maryland University College. After three years as manager for an audiology clinic in Guam, she has taken a sabbatical to pursue her doctorate in audiology.



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