Demand for Audiology Services: 30-Yr Projections and Impact on Academic Programs
06. August 2020 (online)
Background: Significant growth in the U.S. population over the next 30 yr will likely increase the demand for hearing-care services. In addition, increased accessibility to hearing-care services may be realized due to increased insurance coverage associated with health-care reform efforts. In order to meet this demand, the supply of audiologists will have to keep pace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed a Physician Supply Model to predict the necessary number of physicians needed in the future to meet demand. This model is adopted for predicting whether the supply of audiologists will be adequate over the next 30 yr.
Purpose: To apply the Physician Supply Model to the audiology profession and then determine if the predicted supply of audiologists will meet the demand for audiologists over the next 30 yr.
Data Collection and Analysis: The Physician Supply Model was modified to account for variables unique to the profession of audiology, and the future supply of audiologists is predicted. The predicted demand for audiology was developed based on changes in population demographics over the next 30 yr. The results of the demand calculations and the supply calculations were compared.
Results: The current growth rate for audiologists was determined by examining the difference between the number of graduates entering the field and the number leaving. One of the unexpected variables is that the past attrition of graduates, that is, the number of persons who voluntarily leave audiology at some point after graduation, is approximately 40%. The attrition rate combined with the retirement rate results in more persons exiting the profession than entering. Lowering the attrition rate to 20% will result in a positive growth rate. However, even with an attrition rate of 0%, the supply of audiologists will not meet demand.
Conclusions: To meet demand, the number of persons entering the field will have to increase by 50% beginning immediately. In addition, the attrition rate will have to be lowered to 20%. Any combination of increased graduation rate and lowered attrition will improve the opportunities to meet demand. Additional strategies could include increasing the capacity of current practitioners or allowing internationally trained audiologists to practice in the United States.