Hearing Aid Industry

Hearing Aid Industry

Hearing aids are big business! You’ve probably noticed that hearing aids are  becoming VERY expensive, and that the industry is consolidating. Here’s your chance to learn about the hearing aid industry!

April 2013 – Oticon’s Parent Buys Cochlear Implant Company

October 2012 – Study Predicts Growth in Hearing Aid Sales Through 2018

October 2012 – Entire Sonova Group to Support Hear the World Foundation

October 2012 – UnitedHealth hearing aid deal criticized

September 2012 – New Devices Offer Simpler and Less Expensive Hearing Loss Solutions

September 2012 – Hearing Aid Dispensers Try to Block Sale of Hearing Aids as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

September 2012 – UnitedHealth Extends Hearing Aid Offering to Commercial Members

August 2012 – The Next Startup Boom: Hearing Aids?

August 2012 – Audiologists Express Support for Consumer-Driven Hearing Health Care

August 2012 – US Hearing Aid Market Potential Remains High, But Cochlear Impants May Catch Up

June 2012 – FDA Shuts Down hi HealthInnovations’ Online Hearing Test

June 2012 – State Officials Urged to Encourage Use of Licensed Hearing Healthcare Professionals

April 2012 – Competing with Costco: Is it Time to Unbundle Prices?

March 2012 – Hearing Aid Providers Overcharging?

March 2012 – TruHearing Unveils Discounted Hearing Program

March 2012 – HLAA Comments on United Health Care’s Direct to Consumer Hearing Aid Program

February 2012 – Indiana Hearing Aid Specialists Defeat Deregulation Bill

February 2012 – Panasonic Reaches Distribution Agreement With The Hearing Shop

January 2012 – Consumer skittishness turns hearing aid sales sluggish

January 2012 – Programming hi HealthInnovations’ Hearing Devices

January 2012 – High Drama: The Unraveling of HearUSA

January 2012 – Audiologist assistants may alleviate the workforce squeeze

January 2012 – India-made hearing aid to cost below $60

January 2012 – Able Planet Enters Low Cost Hearing Instrument Market

December 2011 – Increasing Hearing Aid Adoption Rates Through Value-based Advertising and Price Unbundling

December 2011 – Meeting the First-Time User Challenge

November 2011 – Industry Fights Back Against UnitedHealth’s Hearing Aid Program

November 2011 – Are Internet hearing aid sales the inevitable future?

November 2011 – Audiology Organizations Question Legality of Online Hearing Aid Marketing

November 2011 – Global Audiological Devices Market to Reach US $26.2 Billion by 2017

November 2011 – IntriCon to Supply Hearing Aids to hi HealthInnovations

November 2011 – Cost-effective Pricing for Hearing Aids and Related Audiological Services

November 2011 – Hearing Loss Association of America Speaks Out on the Latest UnitedHealthcareR Initiative

October 2011 – Health Insurer to Provide Reduced Cost Hearing Aids

October 2011 – US Hearing Aid Sales Show Slow but Stable Growth in Third Quarter

October 2011 – Better Hearing Institute Warns on Do-It-Yourself Hearing Care

October 2011 – Insurance Company Plan to Sell Hearing Aids Criticized

September 2011 – European Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Market

August 2011 – HearUSA Announces Agreement for Sale of Assets to Siemens

August 2011 – ADA Files Federal Lawsuit Against ASHA Alleging Fraudulent Activities

July 2011 – HLAA Convention: Consumer Reports on Hearing Loss

July 2011 – HLAA Encourages Transparency of Hearing Aid Pricing

July 2011 – A Survey of Key Metrics for Benchmarking a Hearing Practice, Part 2

July 2011 – Hearing Aid Business Booms as Population Ages

July 2011 – HearUSA case offers peek at profitable AARP brand endorsements

June 2011 – Companies Battle for Billion Dollar Chinese & Indian Hearing Aid Market

June 2011 – Audiotoniq Announces Revolutionary High-Tech Hearing System

May 2011 – Does Hearing Aid Cost Influence Buying Decision?

May 2011 – HearUSA Files for Bankrupcy

May 2011 – William Demant Selected as Stalking Horse Bidder for HearUSA

May 2011 – Hearing healthcare professionals are satisfied in their careers

April 2011 – Siemens Introduces New Products Including Waterproof Hearing Aid

April 2011 – TV Ears to Provide Referrals to Hearing Professionals

April 2011 – Verification and validation increase hearing aid satisfaction

March 2011 – Cell phone inspires ear specialist to design affordable hearing aid

March 2011 – MDHearingAid Offers Affordable Hearing Aids

March 2011 – Industry Reacts to Growing Internet Hearing Aid Sales

March 2011 – Hearing aid orientation supplement through DVD instruction

December 2010 – In troubled economic times, the hearing aid industry remains an island of stability

November 2010 – The Economics of a 24/7 Hearing Aid

October 2010 – HearUSA Reports Expanded Managed Care Contracts for 2011

September 2010 – Panasonic Digital Hearing Instruments Debut in US Marketplace

September 2010 – Will New Hearing Aid Company Revolutionize the Market?

September 2010 – Mayo Study: Is it Safe for Seniors to Self-Refer to an Audiologist?

July 2010 – MarkeTrak VIII: Utilization of PSAPs and Direct-Mail Hearing Aids by People with Hearing Impairment

May 2010 – HearUSA Rolls Out AARP Hearing Care Program Nationwide

May 2010 – Survey probes dispensers’ views on key issues raised by Consumer Reports

May 2010 – Sonova posts new sales record and significant earnings growth

April 2010 – Part Two of BHI’s MarkeTrak VIII Report Tracks Customer Satisfaction

April 2010 – New York Seeks To Allow Physicians To Provide Hearing Aid Services

April 2010 – Audiology convention shows off top technology

March 2010 – Boomers Demanding More Technology in Hearing Aids

March 2010 – Doctor creates affordable hearing aids costing less than $200

February 2010 – Audiologist Survey Addresses Changing Hearing Aid Market

January 2010 – Sonova Acquires InSound Medical Inc. and its Lyric Hearing Aid

January 2010 – Consumer Protection for Hearing Aid Purchasers

November 2009 – NIDCD Working Group on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults with Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

November 2009 – Sonova Announces the Acquisition of Advanced Bionics

October 2009 – VA Awards Hearing Aid Contracts

August 2009 – The inside story of Consumer Reports’ controversial new hearing aid study

August 2009 – Cochlear Implant Candidates Unidentified and Underserved in Hearing Aid Dispensing Practice

July 2009 – Audiologists Respond to “Consumer Reports” Criticisms

June 2009 – Consumer Reports: Hearing Aid Shoppers Pay High Prices, Get Mediocre Fittings

May 2009 – FDA Issues PSAP Guidance

May 2009 – Identifying Cochlear Implant Candidates in the Hearing Aid Dispensing Practice

April 2009 – Starkey Introduces the Next Generation of Hearing Aids: S Series with Drive Architecture

April 2009 – Hamilton CapTel Aligns with Oaktree Products, Inc.

April 2009 – Hamilton CapTel Announces Alliance with EPIC, Inc.

April 2009 – Zounds Hearing Aid Centers Files Bankruptcy

April 2009 – Newspaper Article Questions Hearing Aid Pricing Practices

March 2009 – America Hears Introduces New Hearing Aids

March 2009 – Hearing aid salesman admits fraud

March 2009 – Study compares hearing aids fitted online with clinical fittings on the same subjects

February 2009 – Maryland Issues New Internet Hearing Aid Sales Regulation

February 2009 – Man Says Quest For Hearing Lost Him $5,200

December 2008 – America Hears Expands, Upgrades its Unique ‘Clicks-and-Mortar’ Hearing-Aid Business

June 2008 – America Hears Partners with Dynamic Hearing to Deliver Next-Generation Hearing-Aid Solutions

December 2007 – Hearing Aids: Seven Buyers Beware Warnings

November 2007 – The Future of Hearing Health Care

November 2007 – America Hears Offers Free Demo Version of Software for Download

November 2007 – “Hear the World” to launch in January

October 2007 – America Hears Introduces Pricing Structure Featuring One Low Price for All Digital Hearing Aids

September 2007 – Hearing Aid Industry Transitions to Patient-Focused Model

August 2007 – Oticon Hearing Aids Benefits Cancer Research

August 2007 – Songbird Hearing Being Resurrected?

May 2007 – Colorado Audiologists Attempt to Restrict Hearing Aid Sales by Dispensers

May 2007 – HearPod, A New Hearing Aid Concept

April 2007 – SeboTek Group Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Oticon, Phonak, Interton, GN-Resound, and Vivatone

October 2006 – Phonak acquisition makes it world number one

May 2006 – The pros and cons of buying hearing aids online

November 2005 –  I guess it’s no surprise to any of us that the hearing aid industry projects how many hearing aids they expect to sell in any given year. It may be a surprise that, at least according to this press release, the industry is falling short of expectations. This article offers some interesting perspectives on the industry and how it conducts business.

July 2001 – Have any questions you’d like to ask a hearing aid manufacturer? I’ve got about a million of them, and I bet you do too. They’re probably not all answered by this Hearing Aid Manufacturers Panel, but I bet you’ll learn a lot by reading it!

More on this and related topics


UnitedHealth hearing aid deal criticized

October 2012

A hearing-aid manufacturer in Arden Hills says it will be the supplier for an expanded program at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group to make low-cost hearing aids available to the insurance company’s health plan members.  But the program is proving controversial among hearing health professionals who say UnitedHealth has tried to save money at their expense.   “They’re pretty much trying to provide the device and cut out the health care system,” said John Coverstone, an audiologist in New Brighton who is president of the Minnesota Academy of Audiology. “The time we spend with the patient is what makes the difference between using an instrument successfully and having a device that’s not appropriately fit.”  Full Story


New Devices Offer Simpler and Less Expensive Hearing Loss Solutions

September 2012

To many people, hearing loss represents another step in the dreaded march to old age. In fact, only about 20% of the 36 million Americans who could benefit from a hearing aid actually use one, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Diseases. Now, a wave of new devices that are smaller, hipper and sold over-the-counter are trying to win over more consumers-and appeal to the growing number of younger people with hearing damage from loud music. One upcoming model is a smartphone app. Others look like MP3 players or Bluetooth headsets. Some can barely be seen at all. They’re also less expensive: Traditional hearing aids can cost more than $4,000 per ear and aren’t covered by Medicare or most insurers. Often likened to “reading glasses” for the ears, many of the new models come preset to boost sounds in the high frequencies that most people lose first. That lets consumers bypass audiologists, who have traditionally controlled the market by giving hearing tests and selling custom-programmed hearing aids.  Full Story


Hearing Aid Dispensers Try to Block Sale of Hearing Aids as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

September 2012

The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and International Hearing Society (IHS) have filed a joint letter on August 31 to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to address concerns with hearing aids being sold as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). According to ASHA, the three organizations stated their belief to FDA that many companies are marketing hearing aids directly to consumers as “personal sound amplifiers.” ASHA said that, in at least one case, different sellers are marketing the same product (ie, hearing aids) differently-in some instances as hearing aids and in others as PSAPs. The letter-which specifically mentions Neutronic Ear, RCA Symphonix Personal Sound Amplifier,  Lee Majors Bionic Hearing Aid, and the TV Ears Sports Amplifier-urges the FDA to investigate products sold by retailers to determine whether they are violating FDA disclosure regulations and, if appropriate, to send warning letters instructing violating parties to cease and desist marketing and/or distributing these products for not complying with FDA requirements.  Full Story


UnitedHealth Extends Hearing Aid Offering to Commercial Members

September 2012

UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s (UNH) health-insurance business has extended its hearing-aid offering, launched last year for people on Medicare-based plans, to more than 26 million people who have commercial health coverage through the company. UnitedHealthcare is offering the hearing aids through collaboration with another UnitedHealth business, hi HealthInnovations. That company gets the devices from supplier IntriCon Corp. (IIN). The health insurer, which is the industry’s biggest by membership, has said it is simplifying the hearing-aid supply chain and using its purchasing clout to deliver lower-cost devices. The effort ran into a challenge earlier this year when the Food and Drug Administration said an online hearing test–initially highlighted as a key part of the hearing- aid offering–was being marketed without necessary regulatory approval. The test, which has also drawn criticism from hearing professionals, was taken down and is being reworked. In the meantime, hi HealthInnovations said patients can get tests through a company hearing professional or other health-care providers.  Full Story


The Next Startup Boom: Hearing Aids?

August 2012

The iPod generation may face a real problem: hearing loss. As younger generations routinely plug in their ear buds, they could unwittingly join the millions of American’s who suffer some degree of hearing loss. “The extensive use of music players among the iPod generation is likely to accelerate hearing loss and could lead to a pick-up in demand for hearing aids in the next 10 to 20 years,” according to Ingeborg Oie, analyst withJefferies [JEF  14.12    -0.09  (-0.63%)   ] the global securities and investment banking group. So it’s no surprise that startups have begun to tap into this growing demand. Case in point: Audicus. The web-based startup hopes to become a disrupter in the space with its unorthodox approach to hearing ads.  “With this massively growing market that we are seeing both from the younger generations, as well as older population segments, we are positioning hearing aids in the realm of accessory instead of old school medical device,” says Audicus founder Patrick Freuler. The startup plans to compete with traditional hearing aid makers, likeSiemens[SI  92.86    -0.52  (-0.56%)   ], by dropping the cost of their products by 70 percent, he said.  Full Story


US Hearing Aid Market Potential Remains High, But Cochlear Impants May Catch Up

August 2012

According to a new hearing device report by iData Research, the United States hearing aid market is still growing and will continue to grow until 2018. Open fit devices and RICs are growing in market share, but cochlear implant sales may increasingly take market share away from all hearing aid devices. The iData report, “Markets for Hearing-Aids and Audiology Devices,” provides an analysis of the wholesale and retail hearing-aid market by style, circuit, battery size, and includes market research findings on cochlear implants, direct drive implants, otoscopes, OAE and ABR analyzers, audiometers, tympanometers and real ear analyzers. A 2012 “U.S. Audiologist Product Preference & Use Survey” is also available. According to a summary press release, IData’s analysts say that growth of the American hearing device market is largely dependent on technological innovations that are offered by manufacturers and the growing aging population of Baby Boomers. They also note that while many people are experiencing some degree of hearing loss, only a minor portion of this population is currently purchasing hearing aids. Thus, they conclude that the market remains at only a fraction of its potential size. iData notes that sales of open-fit and receiver-in-canal (RICs) devices have grown rapidly and a driver in shifting patient preference away from BTEs. According to Kamran Zamanian, CEO of iData, “The advantages of open-fit hearing aid devices have propelled sales, as patients have benefited from the discreet design; however, open-fit and receiver-in-canal unit growth will largely parallel increases in the overall hearing aid market once saturation occurs.” Within the next few years, IData says that manufacturers of RICs will continue to capture unit share from traditional BTE manufacturers. However, the report also predicts that within the in-the-ear (ITE) segment, completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids will gain popularity due to the release of invisible ITE hearing aids.  Full Story


FDA Shuts Down hi HealthInnovations’ Online Hearing Test

June 2012

Hi HealthInnovations has removed its online hearing test from its website after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Food and Drug Administration March 28. (See FastLinks.) The company, an affiliate of insurance behemoth UnitedHealth Group, made a controversial entry into the hearing aid market last fall when it offered direct-to-consumer hearing aids at sharply discounted prices with no out-of-pocket costs to some Medicare Advantage members. Obtaining hearing aids without a consultation with a qualified professional, and using only a limited online screening tool for diagnosing and prescribing the aid, caused an uproar among hearing healthcare professionals. The American Academy of Audiology, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association asked regulators to step in. The FDA took action after reviewing hi HealthInnovations’ website.  Full story


Competing with Costco: Is it Time to Unbundle Prices?

April 2012

Audiologists and hearing aid dispensers haven’t always made it easy for patients to know what they’re getting for their money. Practitioners quote prices that typically lump together the cost of hearing instruments and professional services, and advertisements in newspapers often use confusing industry jargon to endorse the latest hearing devices. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) advocates unbundling the price of hearing aids from professional services, and it launched its Campaign to Make Hearing Aids Affordable in April 2011 to encourage itemization by hearing health practitioners. It’s not a new concept, but HLAA has embraced it as part of a broader effort to remove barriers to treatment. “We think that consumers have a right to know what they’re paying for,” said Brenda Battat, HLAA’s executive director. Six months after HLAA launched its campaign, the UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, MN, began offering low-cost hearing aids through its hi HealthInnovations unit directly to people who take online hearing tests. (See FastLinks.) The insurer promoted a “simple, convenient, and affordable” approach to dealing with hearing loss. Audiology groups immediately criticized the initiative on quality-of-care, patient safety, and legal grounds, concerned that the online delivery method removes professional services from the equation, but HLAA, in support of more options, said the model should be given a chance so that consumers can decide for themselves. For better or worse, the initiative put price back on the front burner.  Full Story


Hearing Aid Providers Overcharging?

March 2012

Millions of dollars in reimbursements to Medi-Cal hearing aid providers are being questioned by state Controller John Chiang.  In a letter to the Department of Health Care Services, Mr. Chiang says rate changes could save taxpayers as much as $27.4 million over a three-year period.  “At a time when health care services to California’s neediest are being cut to the bone, I urge the department to reconsider policies that cause taxpayers to pay not only up to $3 for every $1 of goods provided, but also for services never rendered,” says Mr. Chiang. “Spending less needs to be paired with spending smartly.”  The review stemmed from a March 2011 State Controller’s Office report in which auditors questioned more than $500,000 in reimbursements paid to one Medi-Cal audiologist. The review revealed a significant difference between what the audiologist paid for hearing aids, and the amount he was reimbursed by Department of Health Care Services. In one case, the audiologist had purchased a pair of hearing aids for $120, but under the DHCS Medi-Cal reimbursement policy in effect at the time, he was reimbursed $1,465.  State auditors expanded their scope to review 60 claims filed in 2009 by five other Medi-Cal audiologists and hearing aid providers. The review found that discounts and rebates were offered to the providers, resulting in a significant difference between the actual acquisition costs for the providers and the wholesales costs reported to Department of Health Care Services that are used to determine the reimbursement rate.   Full Story


Indiana Hearing Aid Specialists Defeat Deregulation Bill

February 2012

Indiana hearing aid specialists and other professions that require a license have defeated HB 1006, a deregulation bill that was withdrawn from consideration after strong opposition by the professional hearing health community and other affected professional groups. “This was an important victory for Indiana consumers, and we are extremely pleased with the outcome,” said Jane Bowman, BC-HIS, president of the Indiana Hearing Aid Alliance (IHAA) and member of the International Hearing Society (IHS). “As a licensed hearing aid specialist, I am required to uphold the highest level of standards when testing hearing and fitting customers with hearing devices. Without regulation, consumers’ safety would be compromised.” The withdrawn bill was based on recommendations made by the Regulated Occupations Evaluation Committee (ROEC), released in December 2011. Similar to the sunset review process used by many states, the ROEC evaluation calls for a systematic review of all professional licenses within a 7-year period. The Committee of Indiana Hearing Aid Dealers was one of several committees being evaluated and recommended for elimination.  Full Story


Consumer skittishness turns hearing aid sales sluggish

January 2012

It’s shaping up to be another lackluster year for hearing aid sales in the United States as jittery consumers, concerned about the nation’s economy, keep a tight grip on their wallets. Growth in unit sales slowed to a trickle in the second and third quarters of 2011, up a mere 0.99% and 0.94%, respectively. The industry experienced modest growth in the first nine months of the year. Unit sales totaled 2,079,258, an increase of 2.26%, according to the latest statistical data reported by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA). In the same period in 2010, manufacturers moved 2,033,378 units, a 3.9% gain. Excluding sales to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), manufacturers sold 1,659,930 units during the first three quarters of the year, a 1.85% increase over the previous year. Unit sales totaled 1,629,783 during the same nine months in 2010, representing a 2% increase. Experts who follow the industry say hearing aid purchases reflect uniquely personal decisions to invest in the technology, often after years of delay or denial. Ultimately, longer-term demand is driven by the perceived need for hearing assistance. But in the short term, when a sharp deterioration in consumer confidence occurs, it inhibits hearing aid purchases, said Klaus Madsen, Head of Equity Research for Handelsbanken Capital Markets in Denmark. “I think that’s exactly what we saw during Q2 and Q3,” he said   Full Story


Programming hi HealthInnovations’ Hearing Devices

January 2012

Open-fit hearing devices do not require custom ear impressions and earmolds. Therefore, the same device can fit most ears, using a limited number of tubing, connectors, and tip sizes. This flexibility of physical fit has the potential to increase access to hearing devices for people who are open-fit candidates. Studies in the United Kingdom have already shown that open-fit devices can make hearing health care more accessible and less costly. hi HealthInnovations makes available technologically advanced open-fit hearing devices to people who are candidates for them. Candidacy is assessed using tests that the potential hearing device user can take either in a health care provider’s office or at home via the Internet, using a variety of platforms. The purpose of this article is to describe the methods developed for these self-tests and report the results of studies evaluating their reliability and accuracy.

The goals of the hi HealthInnovations hearing tests are:

  1. Accurately assess the hearing of users for the purposes of identifying people who could potentially benefit from open-fit hearing devices;
  2. Make appropriate audiological and medical referrals for people who are not candidates for open-fit devices so that they may get the custom earpieces, hearing device programming, and individualized assistance they need;
  3. For those users who are candidates, provide open-fit hearing devices accurately programmed according to methods that meet current audiological standards of practice.

Full Story


High Drama: The Unraveling of HearUSA

January 2012

In a matter of months, the big shots at HearUSA went from “thinking of the many ways they were going to spend their millions to losing their jobs and getting pennies on the dollar for their shares,” according to an insider’s view of spring 2011 at HearUSA. I always thought this series would end with two of our industry’s largest companies, William Demant Holding (WDH) and Siemens, duking it out over HearUSA. But the facts got in the way. Siemens and WDH were just doing business-a really boring story. The juicy story remained HearUSA, the adolescent in permanent crisis that would not take its exit cue. This blog post is the script notes for the Final Act of the melodrama, with HearUSA chewing up the scenery and holding onto center stage for dear life…or in this case, the publicly traded company’sDeath by Bankruptcy.  Full Story


Audiologist assistants may alleviate the workforce squeeze

January 2012

Understanding the workforce crunch for audiologists is just a matter of doing the math. Some 17,000 licensed audiologists practice in the United States, and within the next decade, about 40 percent of them will be retiring. At the same time, the worldwide demand for hearing aids and similar devices is growing by about six percent annually, exacerbated by an aging baby boom population, according to a report by the London-based Companies and Markets. The 600 or so students graduating from audiology programs, not all of whom will go into clinical practice, won’t be enough to fill the growing need for audiologists, said Barry Freeman, PhD, Starkey’s Senior Director of Education and Audiology. Many experts have long believed that the answer to this squeeze on audiologists lies with audiology assistants, but this proposed solution is far from being fully integrated into the scope of practice. A 2004 survey of American Academy of Audiology members revealed that only about 28 percent of audiologists employ assistants in their practices, and that number hasn’t changed much. Why are some practitioners not taking advantage of this option, and more importantly, are they holding themselves and their practices back by not hiring audiology assistants?  Full Story


India-made hearing aid to cost below $60

January 2012

India is recognised the worldover as a pioneer in the field of low-cost innovation, be it Tata Motor’s Nano car or the government-aided Aakash tablet project, and now it is time for a hearing aid priced at Rs 2,000-3,000 [Ed. $38 to $57] to have a disruptive effect in the market. “C-DAC has developed such devices which will cost between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 for each million units produced. Hearing aid devices with similar features sell at a price between Rs 10 thousand and upward of Rs 1 lakh, which is out of Indian customers’ reach,” DIT Joint Secretary Ajay Kumar said.   Full Story


Able Planet Enters Low Cost Hearing Instrument Market

January 2012

Ever since electric hearing aids were introduced around the turn of the last century, they have been too expensive for most aging Americans. Scores of inventors have tried to commercialize lower-cost hearing devices, but their products often come up short, amplifying low-frequency sound and making it difficult to hear voices. Now a Colorado headphone manufacturer called Able Planet plans to launch a new line of affordable amplification devices, beginning in March. The first new product, the Personal Sound AMP, is smaller than a dime and fits into the ear with a band to hold it in place. At $800 a pair, the AMP is meant to be an alternative to hearing aids, which can cost several thousand dollars. Only 9 percent of U.S. seniors making less than $50,000 a year own hearing aids, according to 2010 survey by medical devices research firm Parks Associates.  Full Story


Increasing Hearing Aid Adoption Rates Through Value-based Advertising and Price Unbundling

December 2011

The retail price of hearing aids, which averages about $2,000 per unit in the United States, continues to prevail as a primary barrier to the use of these devices by consumers. To lessen the impact of price as a barrier and substantially increase the number of hearing aids dispensed to non-users, it has been advocated that hearing aid cost be reduced. However, economic estimates do not support this idea. Specifically, devices fully or partially subsidized by the US federal government are expected to yield only small gains in adoption rate, based on the inelastic demand for this technology. In this paper, we contend that price is not a primary factor to the adoption process. Instead, we reason that impaired listeners are not adopting amplification, in part, because of the market’s lack of emphasis on the evidence-based potential benefits of this technology in a meaningful way.  Full Story


Meeting the First-Time User Challenge

December 2011

This study looks at several factors related to first-time use of hearing aids with the new Oticon Intiga device, which employs a system of gradual gain increases during the first month of use until it reaches full prescriptive gain. Some benefits derived from the use of help systems-such as directional microphones-are realized almost immediately and grow as the hearing aid increases the amplification. Other help systems provide some significant immediate benefit, and then appear to grow in terms of improved aided performance over time, as the auditory system experiences increased audibility of, and learns to use, speech and spatial cues that facilitate speech understanding in complex sound environments.  Full Story


Industry Fights Back Against UnitedHealth’s Hearing Aid Program

November 2011

As the audiology industry reacts to the news that Minnetonka-based health insurer UnitedHealth Group is making discounted hearing aids available for only $749-$949 per ear to both their customers and non-customers,NowiHear.com, a wholly owned consumer marketing division of AuDNet, Inc. dedicated to educating and providing resources to consumers with regard to hearing health, wants consumers to understand the potential dangers of this initiative and is offering an alternative. Although UnitedHealth Group claims to have consulted hearing health professionals for the development of their online hearing test (which will soon be available through mobile phones as well), the audiology industry at large, which consists of Master’s and Doctoral level professionals who often undergo eight years of training, is weary that consumers will forgo what is best for their long-term hearing health in exchange for a short-term, “cheaper” alternative. . . . NowiHear.com is not alone in their concern about UnitedHealth Group’s decision, and joins the Minnesota Department of Health and professional industry organizations that have taken specific actions regarding this news such as the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, and American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association.   Full Story


Are Internet hearing aid sales the inevitable future?

November 2011

Former television star Lee Majors promises that his rechargeable bionic hearing aid-that I can buy for just $299 from Amazon.com, where it gets 4.5 out of 5 reviewer stars-is designed for mild to moderate hearing loss, and will “affordably enhance” my hearing ability. There’s just one problem: the bionic ear is being marketed as a hearing aid, but the U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires that anyone purchasing a hearing aid specifically to treat hearing loss visit a doctor first, preferably one that specializes in diseases of the ear. The bionic ear is skating down the middle of an increasingly controversial division between true hearing aids and personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs). Hearing aids must be fitted by a professional, while PSAPs, according to the FDA, don’t have to be-and can be sold pretty much anywhere from Radio Shack to Amazon to eBay. “Sellers of PSAPs get around the FDA regulations by saying that this is not a device to help people hear better,” said Carole Rogin, President and Director of the Hearing Industries Association. “You can manufacture a ‘one-size-fits-many’ product that amplifies to a moderate degree, especially in the speech range, and if you do not advertise it as a product for people with hearing loss, you can sell it on the Internet.”  Full Story


Audiology Organizations Question Legality of Online Hearing Aid Marketing

November 2011

Three of the major professional organizations involved in hearing aid dispensing responded last week with letters directed to hi HealthInnovations, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group that announced in early October its plans to market hearing devices via UH’s provider network and directly to consumers via the Internet. Both letters raised questions about the legality of the online marketing of hearing aids by hi HealthInnovations, as well as expressed concerns about eliminating hearing care professionals from the testing, selection, fitting, and rehabilitation process. (For more information, see the HR Online news item from October 3 and the October 10 HR interview of hi HealthInnovations CEO Lisa Tseng, MD, at www.hearingreview.com.) In a “cease and desist” letter to Dr Tseng (pictured, right) dated October 26, International Hearing Society (IHS) General Counsel John Paul Hessburg said that IHS believes hi HealthInnovations is not in compliance with FDA regulations in the company’s online marketing of hearing aids. Hessburg’s letter also states that they believe the company is in violation of most, if not all, state licensing laws.  Full Story


US Hearing Aid Sales Show Slow but Stable Growth in Third Quarter

October 2011

According to statistics compiled by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington, DC, net hearing instrument unit sales during the third quarter continued to grow, albeit slowly, with private (non-VA) sector dispensers experiencing a 1.1% increase in sales and the VA dispensing about the same number of units (0.27%) compared to the same period last year. When private sector and VA sales are combined, the hearing aid market saw an increase of 0.94% in the third quarter, compared to a growth rate of 2.36% for the same period in 2010.  Full Story


Insurance Company Plan to Sell Hearing Aids Criticized

October 2011

A United HealthGroup subsidiary said it can provide hearing tests and hearing aids at a deep discount for patients by “eliminating intermediaries” that drive up cost. United and its subsidiary, hi HealthInnovations, said “intermediaries” doesn’t refer to physicians, and that the company will encourage patients to see their doctors for certain hearing problems. But physicians who diagnose and treat hearing loss said that even if it’s not the aim, promoting a service that could leave physicians out of the loop is potentially dangerous. They said patients who skip the doctor’s office in favor of United’s self-administered test risk missing treatable underlying conditions or making the conditions worse. “Bypassing a physician evaluation and referral can lead to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment that could cause lasting and expensive damage to patients,” the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, said in a statement. Todd Hillman, MD, a Pittsburgh otolaryngologist, called United’s plan “a poor idea.”   Full Story


A Survey of Key Metrics for Benchmarking a Hearing Practice, Part 2

July 2011

This is Part 2 of a two-part benchmarking survey designed to provide US hearing care practices with a tool they can use to compare their performance against industry standards. These industry benchmarks can be used as a basis for assessing and setting realistic, continuous, and fact-based improvement goals for your own dispensing office or practice. For the past 3 years, Phonak Hearing Systems has commissioned Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, LLC, Alexandria, Va, to conduct a nationwide survey of dispensing professionals to establish basic industry metrics. A Web-based survey methodology was utilized. Responses were collected in July 2010, and more than 400 hearing care professionals responded. About two-thirds (63%) of respondents were audiologists (38% AuD, 19% MS, and 6% PhD), and 44% were either hearing instrument specialists (38%) or audioprosthologists (6%). (Totals do not equal 100% due to multiple answers.) One-fifth (20%) of the practices indicated having both audiologists and hearing instrument specialists on staff.  Full Story


Hearing Aid Business Booms as Population Ages

July 2011

We hear a lot lately about the aging of the Baby Boom generation, usually in the context of the strain all those old boomers are putting on Social Security and Medicare. But the rapid aging of the American population is good news for lots of industries, including those who make wheelchairs, bifocals and hearing aids. While not everyone falls into a wheelchair when they hit their 60s, even the healthiest older adults are likely to experience at least some hearing loss, especially those who spent too much time at rock concerts or at the race track in their youth.   Full Story


HearUSA case offers peek at profitable AARP brand endorsements

July 2011

Most people think of AARP, the senior citizen advocacy group, as a way to get discounts on everything from dining and entertainment to insurance. What is not well-known is that the nonprofit formerly called the American Association of Retired Persons makes more than $650 million a year in royalties for delivering its 40 million members to businesses, according to a congressional report issued in March. In almost every case, the agreements are secret. But a May bankruptcy of a retail hearing aid company based in West Palm Beach opened the door to just how lucrative these deals are for AARP. According to documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post, in 2008 HearUSA agreed to pay $7.6 million a year to become the sole provider of hearing aids to AARP’s members. After further negotiations, that provision was eliminated and replaced with a requirement that it pay a $55 royalty fee on each hearing aid sold. That has amounted to more than $660,000.    Full Story


HearUSA Files for Bankrupcy

May 2011

HearUSA, Inc. voluntarily filed for chapter 11 protection today in the Southern District of Florida bankruptcy court in order to effectuate a proposed sale of substantially all of its assets to an affiliate of William Demant Holdings A/S. HearUSA (AMEX: EAR) operates a network of approximately 1,800 “hearing care provider locations,” 134 of which are company-owned. In its most recent annual report, HearUSA reported a net loss of $7.7 million on approximately $84 million in annual revenues and $81 million in assets against $60 million in liabilities.  Full Story


Hearing healthcare professionals are satisfied in their careers

May 2011

The Hearing Journal wondered if this same positive outlook would match up with current members of the profession, and so in our annual survey with Audiology Online we asked, what is your current level of job satisfaction? Overall, respondents indicated that they are very satisfied with their careers. A total of 523 individuals completed the survey which was sent electronically to Audiology Online’s email database and to members of the International Hearing Society. Differences regarding the factors that affect job satisfaction were seen between audiologists versus hearing instrument specialists (HIs) and males versus females; however just slight variations in response were observed when looking at professionals’ level of experience and workplace.  Full Story


Hearing aid orientation supplement through DVD instruction

Locaputo-Donnellon, Amy E. AuD; Clark, John Greer PhD

As part of a recent AuD Capstone project at the University of Cincinnati, a 15-minute instructional DVD was created to provide supplemental information regarding expectations of hearing aid performance and the use and care of hearing instruments. A male speaker narrated the DVD as images, video, and captions reinforced the important aspects related to hearing instrumentation.

Topics selected for coverage were those that comprise the standard instruction for hearing aid orientation as described in audiologic literature, and included appropriate expectations for hearing aids, device components, battery replacement, precautions, troubleshooting, expected and inappropriate acoustic feedback, telephone use, and hearing aid insertion, removal, care, and maintenance. Demonstration for all types of ear-level instruments was included for these latter items.   Full Story


Verification and validation increase hearing aid satisfaction

April 2011

Verification and validation are clinical tools to ensure functionality of hearing aids as well as individual patient benefit. However, they are not always employed by clinicians, even though they have been found to be correlated with user satisfaction. Rationale and research into the benefits of verification and validation measures are discussed, in addition to ways to implement them into clinical practice.   Full Story


MarkeTrak VIII Mini-BTEs tap new market, users more satisfied

March 2011

Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids represented less than 20% of hearing aid sales prior to 2000 and appeared to be on the decline as a style of hearing aid choice by consumers. With the introduction of open-fit hearing aids and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aids however, BTEs now represent 63% of all hearing aid sales.

In looking at the resurgence of BTE hearing aids, we wanted to answer two key questions:

* Did mini-BTE hearing aids result in market expansion?

* Do mini-BTEs improve the consumer’s experience with hearing aids?


Full Story


In troubled economic times, the hearing aid industry remains an island of stability

December 2010

As the nation’s economy heads into the fourth year of what is sometimes referred to as the Great Recession, many of the numbers used to measure economic health are distressing. Despite some job growth in 2010, the unemployment rate remains stuck around 9.5%, the highest since the early 1980s. Housing values have tumbled, leaving many owners owing more on their home than its market value; millions of families have already lost their homes or are facing the threat of foreclosure. While the gross domestic product (GDP) is no longer shrinking, it is growing very slowly-about 2% in each of the past two quarters. It is no wonder, then, that the Consumer Confidence Index reported by the Conference Board was only 50.2 at the end of October, less than half what it was when the recession began. Now, contrast that with what’s happening in the hearing aid market, as reported by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) statistical reports. While during the financial crisis of 2008, unit sales did fall 2.4% in the second half compared to the same period of 2007, they quickly rebounded in 2009 to increase by 8.4% over 2008. That essentially offset the slump in the last 6 months of 2008. For 2008 and 2009 together, hearing aid sales rose by 7.7%, which is close to the 4% a year historical norm for the industry.  Full Story


Will New Hearing Aid Company Revolutionize the Market?

September 2010

When new hearing aid companies enter the market, they usually promise revolutionary new technology housed in smaller, more advanced, and more effective hearing instruments than the world has ever seen. However, that’s not the message from Sona, a new company-albeit part of the long-established Sonova Group, which also owns Phonak and Unitron. Sona Hearing, LLC, which was launched in the U.S. this summer, is wooing hearing healthcare providers with a different message: “Simplify your life.” “We’re talking about a paradigm shift,” said Barry Hylas, Sona’s managing director for North America, in a recent interview with The Hearing Journal. Sona is offering a whole new business model, said Hylas, who previously worked with other medical product companies. The company, which entered the market in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands earlier in 2010, has developed an approach intended to meet certain fundamental needs of hearing professionals and their clients.   Full Story


MarkeTrak VIII: Utilization of PSAPs and Direct-Mail Hearing Aids by People with Hearing Impairment

July 2010

We’ve all seen the ads featuring Lee Majors, as well as ads about devices that look exactly like hearing aids but are billed instead as “hearing helpers.” How many people buy these devices, how many purchasers would be candidates for custom hearing aids, and how many would actually purchase custom aids if PSAPs and mail-order aids were not available? Here are some estimates.

Within the last 2 years, we have seen an increased proliferation of one-size-fits-all hearing aids and personal sound amplifier products (PSAPs) advertised on television and by direct mail. They can be purchased over the Internet and through the mail, as well as from eBay,Amazon.com, most pharmacies, hardware stores, Radio Shack, and Sears. In Google searches, many of these products come up on the first couple of search pages when you search on “hearing aids” and are sponsored links under the search term “hearing loss.” Most of these products clearly state that they are not intended to compensate for hearing loss; but it is clear from their advertising that they target people with hearing loss . . .   Full Story


Survey probes dispensers’ views on key issues raised by Consumer Reports

May 2010

When Consumer Reports (CR) published a long and largely critical article last summer on the state of the U.S. hearing aid delivery system, hearing care providers reacted strongly. Many questioned the fairness of a key finding that two-thirds of the 48 hearing aids fitted on 12 consumers who cooperated with CR on the article were misfitted. On the other hand, many in the dispensing community felt that the article drew attention to some legitimate problems and should serve as a wake-up call. In the 2010 Hearing Journal/Audiology Online dispenser survey, we decided to give audiologists and hearing instrument specialists the chance to comment on some of the important and controversial issues raised by CR. Questions about that article, as well as on many other topics of professional significance, were e-mailed in early February to Audiology Online’s e-mail address list and to the members of the International Hearing Society. A total of 640 people responded, including 535 who dispense hearing aids   Full Story


New York Seeks To Allow Physicians To Provide Hearing Aid Services

April 2010

New York could take a step this year in expanding access to hearing aids for a growing number of people with hearing impairment, says The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS). State Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx and Micah Kellner of New York recently introduced a bill that, should the New York Legislature adopt it, would open up physicians’ offices as an additional point of access to hearing aid services. “Physicians’ offices are a key access point for patients entering the hearing health system,” said Dinowitz in a statement released by AAO-HNS. “With only one in four people adopting hearing aids who could benefit from them and the number of hearing-impaired on the rise, we need to provide those in need of hearing aids every opportunity to get them. Full Story


Audiology convention shows off top technology

April 2010

Souped-up ultramodern miniature sound amplification systems made up of computers, directional microphones and speaker modules that are driven by software and carry high price tags —- yes, hearing aids have come a long way since the days of the “ear horn.” At “Audiology Now!” the recent conference of the American Academy of Audiology, more than 7,000 hearing health care professionals descended upon the San Diego Convention Center for four days last week. The largest gathering of its kind, the conference was also the scene of many new product debuts. Companies such as Phonak, Oticon, Starkey, Siemens, Widex, Unitron, and AudioSync are among those competing for the $5.2 billion hearing aids and audio devices market. That market has been projected to grow to more than $7 billion by 2016 as the population ages, according to iData Research, Inc., an international market research company. The evolution of digital technology has had a sweeping effect on the dynamics of the industry, making it possible for manufacturers to use advanced technologies such as built-in wireless capabilities, remote controls, feedback suppression, directional mikes, digital speech enhancement and multiple memories that can be adjusted to suit different listening environments.   Full Story


Consumer Protection for Hearing Aid Purchasers

January 2010

Do you know what, if any, laws are in place to protect you when you purchase a hearing aid?  Do you know your rights as a hearing aid purchaser?  Rights afforded to purchasers of hearing aids depend upon the state where you live and make the purchase. This system has resulted in a patchwork of laws and regulations across the country. By our count, only 30 states mandate a trial period during which you can decide if the hearing aid you purchased is the right one for you. In those states that require trial periods, you have the right to return the hearing aid and obtain a refund. The amount of the refund varies from state to state and, in a few cases, within the same state.  Full Story


VA Awards Hearing Aid Contracts

October 2009

Nine companies, the most in more than a decade, were recently awarded contracts by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide it with hearing aids to fit on America’s veterans. The contracts, which were announced in August, will take effect on November 1 and run for a 1-year base period ending next October 31. After that, the VA will have the option of extending the contracts for four additional 1-year periods. Typically, the agency does so, though it can choose not to exercise the option if, for example, a company fails to perform satisfactorily or if there is a lack of funding or need for the hearing aids when the contract comes up for renewal. These contracts stipulate firm fixed prices for the hearing aids supplied   Full Story


The inside story of Consumer Reports’ controversial new hearing aid study

August 2009

In July, Consumer Reports released a detailed article on the state of hearing care titled “Hear well in a noisy world.” The report, which found mixed results in terms of consumers’ satisfaction with their hearing aids, which was quite high, versus the percentage of devices that were described as misfit-two-thirds-created quite a stir among hearing aid professionals. While many in the field welcomed the report as a useful wake-up call, others expressed concern over a lack of emphasis on the unique benefits audiologists provide in hearing care. At the request of The Ear Hears (EH), Tobie Stanger, senior editor of the report, and Ed Kippel, Consumer Reports senior program leader, discussed the controversial study, which they’d been wanting to do for 10 years and took almost 2 years to complete. They also talked about the response from the hearing care field, and their plans for the data in the future.  Full Story


FDA Issues PSAP Guidance

May 2009

As FDA Clinical Deputy Director, Dr. Eric Mann advised HIA at its February Annual Meeting, the Agency has issued “Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff: Regulatory Requirements for Hearing Aid Devices and Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs).”  A guidance document “represents the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) current thinking on this topic,” and does not bind either FDA or the public to the approach. Dr. Mann outlined the likely approach to HIA members, and the document reflects what he described at the meeting. Basically, if the amplifier advertising does not state that it is intended to compensate for impaired hearing but says it will help when a person hunts or eavesdrops on a neighbor; it is a PSAP due to its intended use.  Full Story


Zounds Hearing Aid Centers Files Bankruptcy

April 2009

Mesa, AZ-based Zounds, Inc. filed chapter 11 bankruptcy on Mar. 30, 2009 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona. The company operates a chain of Zounds Hearing Aid Centers in AZ, DE, FL, MA, MO, MI, NJ, OR, PA, TX and WA. The company listed between $10 million and $50 million in assets and liabilities on its petition. According to Hoovers, the company reported $15.5 million in 2007 sales.   Full Story


Newspaper Article Questions Hearing Aid Pricing Practices

April 2009

As with many other areas of health care, high hearing aid prices can be attributed to monopolistic pricing and regulations that discourage competition.   A hearing aid consists of a small microphone that amplifies weak sounds through a small speaker. Unlike the routine price decreases that we’ve come to expect from other electronic devices like cell phones, computers and televisions, the price of hearing aids have actually increased.   Surprisingly, its own industry trade association has concluded that hearing aid manufacturers could help more people, sell many more hearing aids and make more profit if prices were reduced. There are some hearing aid-type devices that like reading glasses, don’t require a prescription and offer benefit at substantial savings. These devices are made by companies including Maxisound, Nexear and Songbird. Prices for these types of aids range from $80 to $500 each.  They can generally only be purchased online, but all are sold with money-back guarantees. So for mild to moderate hearing loss, they’re worth a try and may be a good bet for your money.  Here’s an interesting tidbit that can help you understand the hearing aid industry better.   A study conducted and reported on in a recent issue of the American Journal of Audiology concluded that these over-the-counter type hearing aids “don’t work well and could potentially damage a persons hearing”. The kicker is that study was funded by the Oticon Foundation, manufacturer for Oticon brand hearing aids. We suspect the eyeglass industry said many of these same things about reading glasses when they first began to be sold over the counter.    Full Story


Hearing aid salesman admits fraud

March 2009

A former hearing aid salesman pleaded guilty today to bilking 13 elderly clients out of more than $30,000 by selling them low-quality hearing devices he falsely claimed were higher-quality models. Brett R. Mayers, 35, of Cherrywood Lane, Lockport, was told by State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns he likely faces probation on his guilty plea to grand larceny, scheming to defraud and falsifying business records. The judge said he was considering probation so that Mayers could repay his elderly victims. Sentencing was scheduled for May 26. Mayers declined comment as he left the judge’s Buffalo courtroom. Prosecutor Paul J. Williams III said Mayers was fired by Beltone Hearing Center of New York in January 2008 after a grand jury investigation conducted by the Erie County District Attorney’s office and Amherst police confirmed his two-year-long sales scam. Full Story


Study compares hearing aids fitted online with clinical fittings on the same subjects

March 2009

I expected this article (written by the folks who did the “clinical fittings”) to trash the entire online purchasing process. I thought they were harder on issues with the online process than they were with issues with their clinical fittings, but it wasn’t totally one-sided. If you’ve been considering an online hearing aid purchase, this article might be helpful as long as you keep in mind the natural biases of the authors. Full Story


Man Says Quest For Hearing Lost Him $5,200

February 2009

A Groton man said he was hoping to hear clearly again, but instead found himself out thousands of dollars.  Leonard Kimes said he purchased a hearing aid that didn’t work and that he now can’t get his money refunded.  Beltone New England, which sold the hearing aid, does have a refund policy, which Kimes claims he followed.  Kimes said he’s suffered from a hearing problem for years and hoped that the Beltone hearing aid would help. He said he spent more than $5,000 and can’t hear any better. He claims the company won’t take the hearing aid back.   Full Story