20 Questions with Dr. Cliff Olson

20 Questions with Dr. Cliff Olson

Ben Thompson, AuD

Today we’re going to play 20 questions with Dr. Cliff Olson. Welcome to episode 15 of the Pure Tinnitus and Hearing Podcast.

Cliff Olson opened Applied Hearing Solutions in Anthem, Arizona. Around the same time, he started his YouTube channel – Doctor Cliff, AuD to educate consumers on their hearing loss treatment options and the importance of hearing aid best practices. Dr. Cliff, we gonna get right into this game, what audiology project of yours are you most proud of and why? Question number one.

Cliff Olson, AuD

There’s been a lot of projects, if I was forced to pick one, I would probably say that it’s my network. The Best Practice PRO Network, which actually started as the AuD Approved Provider Network. And the whole focus of the network is for me to provide some kind of vetting for hearing care professionals who follow best practices. So individuals with hearing loss can actually find a hearing care professional that does basically the same stuff that I do in my clinic out here in the Phoenix, Arizona area. So something that took a while to kind of like create. And then, we’ve had it since around the end of 2019 is when we launched it. And we’re up to about, I don’t know, 80, 90 providers throughout the United States and Canada at this point.

Watch the full video on Pure Tinnitus via YouTube.

Ben Thompson, AuD

That’s fantastic we’re playing 20 questions with Dr. Cliff question number two, when is buying hearing aids online, a bad idea?

Cliff Olson, AuD

Only when you’re buying them from a company that is not actually selling you what they’re telling you, they’re selling you. And then make it extremely difficult for you to get your money back. One of the common themes that you see online is that they say “oh, you get the same hearing aids “that you can get inside of a hearing clinic “and you can get them for like one 10th “of the price and there’s a money back guarantee “and you can use them for a hundred days and all of that. “And if they don’t work, send them back.” All of those are just scams and unfortunately, they continue to work, which is the problem. But outside of that I think that any form of hearing treatment is really beneficial no matter where you wanna start at with your hearing journey Just understand that if you end up not having success, with hearing treatment going the online route, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get treatment if you had some professional assistance.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Great question number three, ties into that, when is buying hearing aids online a good idea?

Cliff Olson, AuD

I mean, here’s the thing. There is accessibility issues inside of the hearing healthcare world, specifically with hearing aids, whether you don’t live close enough to a clinic to be able to get care, whether you literally just cannot afford professional care. your options are basically to go online, find something more accessible, more affordable for you or not do anything. And quite frankly, I feel like not doing anything, is where most people end up going and so if it’s between those two options, I would strongly encourage someone to go online and purchase whether it’s a hearing aid online or whether it was just an over-the-counter or amplifier, online.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Fantastic, totally agree. Question number four in your opinion, what has been the biggest development in hearing aid technology in the past two years?

Cliff Olson, AuD

Past two years? There’s been a lot of big stuff that has come out since I even got into the profession, which was 2012. And I say into the profession meaning I started grad school in 2012. But here in the last two years. I think that things have kind of slowed down a little bit, not in the sense that technology has an advanced but switching from analog to digital hearing aids that we saw like back in 1996. Having Bluetooth enter the hearing aid world back in 2014 was really big. And I honestly think that right now and something we just saw was this incorporation of like different artificial intelligence machine learning and then deep neural networks, inside of hearing aids. And I really think that some form of artificial intelligence is really gonna start changing the way that we approach treating hearing loss. And all of that has really started to hit here in the past two years.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Very nice question number five. If you had a family member, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, grandparent who needed hearing aids what would you recommend to them What kind of devices if they came to your clinic, what would you recommend to them?

Cliff Olson, AuD

Man really depends on which family member it is and what they found to be important. ‘Cause that’s the thing everyone wants to know ” Oh well Cliff, what’s the best hearing aid out there?” And I always answer the same way. It depends on what your wants and needs are. So to kind of pigeonhole one of my family members into a certain brand that might not work for somebody else in my family, I would have to say, I literally have no idea.

Ben Thompson, AuD

And that brings in the importance of being able to talk with a professional to get these questions answered, because there’s so many factors at play. All right, we’re five questions in, it’s 20 questions with Dr. Cliff, 15 more questions to go. This is fun, we wanted to do this, new style of engagement on this podcast episode. So question number six, Cliff how will the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, affect the hearing health industry, and if you could give us a little context of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act too.

Cliff Olson, AuD

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, is something that was signed into law back in 2017. And then we were expecting to see guidelines in 2020, released by the FDA to kind of outline what an over-the-counter hearing aid is. Because to be quite honest with you, even, like we have no clue, what an over-the-counter hearing aid is. Now, we have context of what an actual hearing aid is. What a direct to consumer, amplifier or hearing aid is at this point, but we really don’t know specifically what the over-the-counter hearing aid category is defined as. And so to try to, I guess what that is going to be and how it will ultimately affect the world of hearing treatment, I would have to assume that there gonna be fairly decent devices. And I think that there are a lot of individuals who are religious crossing their fingers and waiting and hoping for those guidelines to be released.

So within the next 6 to 12 months after they’re released, we actually start seeing a significant amount of these devices hit the market. And so kind of like I talked about before, individuals who want to treat their hearing loss but have accessibility and affordability issues, that’s really who these devices are geared towards serving. And so from that context, I think it’s really good for overall hearing treatment, that also could be potentially a stepping stone to actually going into a clinic and getting professional care, kinda get your feet wet, so to speak, before jumping in, to the deep end of the pool with full on treatment. But I also think there’s a double-edged sword side of this, that there’s potential that people could think that, an over-the-counter hearing aid would be completely suitable for their hearing loss and then they don’t have success, with that device and that no treatment will help them, which usually is not the case.

When you start looking at, no matter what type of hearing loss somebody has, there is always a treatment option for it, you know? So whether it’s a conductive loss that you have, a bone anchored hearing aid, a traditional sensorineural hearing loss, that requires hearing aids to help benefit, if you have really poor word recognition ability with a hearing aid you start looking at cochlear implants. If you don’t have an effective auditory nerve to send sound from your cochlear, your hearing organ, to your brain, there are auditory brainstem implants. So there’s always a treatment option. The question is, are you going to try something without having any expertise in the area yourself and call it quits if it doesn’t work for you?

Ben Thompson, AuD

So Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, we had a Dr. Amlani PhD, who was on one of our earlier episodes, he predicted that due to COVID the delay for them releasing the guidelines that he predicted it would come out around this time next year, early 2022. So we’ll monitor that and see what’s going on there. Question number seven, Dr. Cliff, what is the difference between currently available hearables and the soon to be released over the counter hearing aids? And additionally when there are over the counter hearing aids, do you think there’ll be labeled as such and will there still be online hearing aids sold that don’t meet that criteria or will it regulate everything that if it’s sold in that capacity it has to meet that criteria?

Cliff Olson, AuD

First and foremost I don’t think from a regulatory perspective that there’s gonna be a whole lot of change. I think that, the OTC hearing aid is kind of more of like a buzzword. And there’s companies that try to cash in on that buzz word. But I don’t think you’re gonna have a hearing aid that’s massively different than what you can actually get already online. And we already know that the FDA isn’t doing anything to really stop companies from saying that they’re selling over the counter hearing aids right now. In fact anytime that a company has brought to the attention of the FDA and I’ve seen this personally they send out a letter saying, “Oh, well we already sent letters out “to the manufacturers telling them they couldn’t.” But basically what that means is “well, yeah “they’re doing it but we’re just not gonna enforce it.” So it’s everybody’s best guess as to what will actually happen what these devices will look like. Will they be any different from a hearable or not?

Ben Thompson, AuD

Totally with you and question number eight. Let’s say a patient comes into your clinic or any clinic here in the US and they agree that they need hearing aids to treat their hearing loss but their budget is only around a maximum amount Of around $2,000, $2,500. How do you counsel that patient right now given that there are online options but there are also affordable hearing aids from a clinic and there are other options through donation, et cetera. So how do you counsel that patient?

Cliff Olson, AuD

If you have $2,000 you actually have a better workable budget to treat your hearing loss professionally. Than you really think that you do. I guarantee you that in every major city at least North America that there is a place that you can go with $2,000 and get legitimate hearing aids and have those hearing aids fit professionally. Now they probably won’t come with an exorbitant amount of followup care. You won’t get the best hearing aids in existence but you’ll probably get better devices and perform better with those than what you could, if you’re just trying to find like an over-the-counter type amplifier, right? So I would say that there’s plenty of options. Now inside of my clinic, specifically speaking this is one area that we don’t really serve as much because there’s such a demand for people who want the absolute best when it comes to hearing performance. And unfortunately that does require a lot of time from a hearing care provider which is what we do, we spend a ton of time with patients just getting their treatment exactly right. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t have $2,000 go a long way in terms of getting you some quality care.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Amazing that’s great, we’re gonna switch it up to your YouTube channel. Dr Cliff AuD, question number nine, Cliff what do you believe is your most underrated YouTube video?

Cliff Olson, AuD

Underrated YouTube video, man. Boy, let me think here there. So the it’s, the funny thing is there’s, I’ve got like over 400 videos at this point on my YouTube channel. And to trying to kinda pick the one the worst performers that I think is one of the best videos is hard to do. The ones that I talk about really measurement those are the ones that get all the fanfare, right? Because it’s something that’s very specific to help you improve almost immediately when it comes to hearing performance. But the funny thing is, is that one of my worst performing videos is the what is an audiologist video,

Which is kind of funny. But I think of that as an incredibly important video for you to actually understand what is an audiologist what’s makes them different than other types of providers that are out there both in the medical world and nonmedical world. And yet nobody’s searching for what an audiologist is. So it seems like we have a lot more work to do there.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Personally, I’ve been really inspired by your your progress and your history with the YouTube channel. I remember a few years ago, first learning about you. I even used your video to help educate one of my patients while he was waiting in the office for me working on his hearing aids. To simply watch your video instead of just wait and do nothing on his phone. So from even years back, thank you for making all of this amazing content. Question number 10 I think this is related to your YouTube presence. What is the farthest distance that a patient has traveled to see you in person in Arizona?

Cliff Olson, AuD

I don’t know the distance but Bermuda is. So when someone has like they have their permanent residence in Bermuda and they track, which I don’t know thousands of miles away requires a flight and all of that to come out and see me. I have had people from overseas, in the sense of like Europe come and get treatment from me but they were relocated to the United States or they’re here on vacation. I wasn’t the primary reason they were coming but learning to see a lot more of that, I get people who travel in long distance to see me a very regularly at this point.

Ben Thompson, AuD

It’s pretty fascinating the reach of YouTube and how these videos are reaching so many people that there’s, there’s a family in Bermuda that says, “I wanna see this guy “and I wanna treat my hearing loss.” It’s pretty cool. Okay question number 11. What was the hardest thing about starting your new audiology clinic and more recently moving into a, an actual new physical location

Cliff Olson, AuD

The hardest thing about it is just sticking with it and dealing with all the mistakes that happen along the way some mistakes that are your fault, my fault some mistakes that are the fault of maybe the contractors and the people that you hired to do it. But the project was supposed to be like a five month project. It ended up being a 14 month project. So it’s just sticking with it the whole entire time and not letting it affect your day to day from treating patients in a clinic. But just a quick shout out to my wife, Ashley Olson if wasn’t for her, I still would not be in the new clinic. So if she didn’t kinda clamp down on the contractors and make sure everything got done the right way it probably still wouldn’t be done.

Ben Thompson, AuD

That’s really nice and I appreciate I as a viewer of your channel. I appreciate how you brought in your family how you brought in Ashley and everyone lov