Sydney Morning Herald Interviews Rachel Deane


Lending an ear to client's needs

Audiologists are using high-end technologies to carve a niche for themselves in the hearing aid industry, writes Josh Jennings. Audiologist Rachel Deane says lots of clients at her clinic are experiencing hearing problems at work. Sometimes their hearing affects their participation in a board meeting or a conference call. Deane talks with her clients  for about an hour initially but can spend up to 10 hours with some, given the circumstances.

"I have the opportunity to meet people and go through quite an intimate experience with them; to take them from a position where they're often struggling with an important aspect of their life," she says. "We talk in depth about that and we talk about possible solutions."  Deane, director of Melbourne-based independent private practice Hearing Studio, says her aim is to help people (predominantly working executives) connect with other people by providing customised hearing solutions.

Audiologist Rachel Deane has an intimate knowledge of the hearing challenges of her clients. She conducts audiological assessments and collects extensive patient histories for diagnoses, and determines the best technology to meet her clients' needs.

"I had a woman here the other day who had been wearing a particular technology for a very long time," Deane says. "We fitted her with a new technology and new solutions and, for the first time, she was able to make a call on her mobile phone. She spoke to her daughter and the two of them were screaming with excitement for a few seconds."

Deane founded Hearing Studio in 2010. Her qualifications include a master of audiology (honours) and a master of business administration. Since becoming a qualified audiologist 15 years ago, she's worked in research and a number of other public and private sector roles.

"My technological knowledge has grown the most," says Deane. "So, understanding the ... impact of a technology like Bluetooth; how that can be designed and implemented to create a meaningful solution for someone."

Audiologists are the leaders in non-surgical management of ear disorders such as hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo, according to Audiology Australia. Audiologists deliver clinical services in environments such as hospitals, hearing aid clinics and private practice. Degree-qualified, they can also be involved in researching the development of new hearing aids and cochlear implants, hearing education and advisory roles. Deane pairs her clinical role with her director's hat. Being the director of her own business entails monitoring business finances, marketing and staff management.

"There are multiple things you are doing; not just every week, but every day," she says.

Deane says her goal in the next year is to expand the business and specialise further in invisible wearable technologies that interface with other technologies such as smart phones.

"It's all about wanting to really love what I do and choosing the parts of the industry and the parts of the job that I really enjoy," she says. "I really enjoy working with younger adults and I really enjoy working with fabulous technology. So we've combined the two."

US Academy of Doctors in Audiology feature Rachel Deane.


...Today, you need to build a reputation around your skill, professionalism and ability to personally connect with people. Practitioners who take this seriously know their service needs to resonate emotionally with people. ..The ability to appeal to someone’s emotions, to delight their limbic system, as some would say, starts with your ability to orchestrate a theme with one or two signature moments. A great example of bringing a theme to life comes to us from the lovely city of Melbourne, Australia. If you’ve ever been to Melbourne, you may know it is a hip place with plenty of artsy coffee bars, boutiques shops and fast-changing weather. Rachel Deane, an audiologist from down under is yet another trend setter when it comes to theming an office around something that many find emotionally appealing, the 1950s and 60s.

AP: Rachel, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you chose to go into private practice.

RD: Well, fundamentally I’m too emphatic to work for someone else! I have a very clear vision about quality hearing care for adults and needed to design a business around my perspectives. Private practice is a natural fit for me. My vision was formed by my mother’s experience with hearing professionals over many years. She struggled with contrary advice, multiple operations, multiple “solutions” and not one trusted professional who took responsibility, as her primary hearing care specialist, nor was anyone accountable for her outcomes. These are things I take seriously with our clients—we ensure they know that “I have their back.”

AP: I had the chance to visit your practice in February and was struck by your practice’s décor and theme. Please let us about your theme and why you chose it?

RD: I wanted an environment that was warm, relaxing, familiar and yet classy. It also needed to be easy to maintain to our very high cleanliness and presentation standards. We chose a 1950s theme inspired by the “Mad Men” TV show. Mid-century modern furniture design was really cool, definitive and kinda sexy. Design from the 1950s and 1960s, but the 50s in particular, often embodied exuberant, sleek, and elegant function, things that I personally admire. These are also things that our niche clientele tend to respect. Importantly, I also wanted clients to walk in and instantly feel relaxed, disarming any pre-visit anxieties about coming in. By offering a spacious, uncluttered décor that’s nostalgic and familiar, clients often remind us that we are getting it right. We consciously blend the old with the new by demonstrating hearing technology as well. I think its important to reflect who you are as a person in your practice and acknowledge who your clients are as much as you can. More and more clients want to engage with you, as their specialist, “my Audiologist”.

AP: What do you find to be the biggest challenges associated with running a private practice?

RD: There are never enough hours in the day! I love what we do here and I’m in a constant state of excitement. At an operational level my staff are my priority so seeing that everyone is happy ensures productivity that is simultaneously fun and rewarding. Its also the biggest challenge from time to time, especially in a growing business, bringing on more staff requires keeping the harmony and effectiveness scales evenly balanced.

AP: What are some aspects of the Australian market for audiology services that might be unique?

RD: The third party funding environment is unique. Those under the age of 21 yrs and those receiving pensions (over 65 yrs) have access to automatic subsidies, sufficient in most cases to provide free professional services and good quality products. Therefore more than 80% of all devices here are in some way government funded. But this leaves many people without, looking for expert solutions that are effective and affordable - that's where we come in.

AP: Any final words of advice for a private practice clinician looking to theme an office and pursue a specific segment of the market?

RD: Yes, make your business strategy and your business environment as much a reflection of YOU as a person, not just a clinician, as you can. It becomes a way of life that is thoroughly enjoyable, successful and rewarding on multiple levels. Be uncompromising and you won’t regret it.