ERLANGEN, GERMANY/DUBLIN–Last week was a busy one in the hearing industry’s merger and acquisition front. On March 26, the Sivantos Group (formerly Siemens Audiology Solutions) announced that it would take over all shares in audibene, as part of a strategic partnership and investment agreement with Europe’s largest Internet portal for hearing care case management.The next day, Medtronic, Inc., the world’s third largest medical device company, reported that it had completed the acquisition of Sophono, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of bone-conduction hearing implants.
In its press release, Medtronic said that the purchase of Sophono, for an undisclosed price, would enable its Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) division to increase its focus on novel therapies and innovative technology solutions.
Sophono, a privately held company in Boulder, CO, invented Transcutaneous Energy Transfer (TET™) technology, which enabled it to manufacture the first transcutaneous hearing system that is optimized for sound transmission through the skin. That means that its device doesn’t require a small metal abutment protruding through the skin, the way other transcutaneous products do.
The Sophono hearing implants are intended for children and adults with single-sided deafness or conductive, mixed hearing loss. They are available in 42 countries and have been implanted in more than 4000 patients.
Several recently published studies have found that the Sophono device provided patients with significantly improved hearing and speech recognition to those using other currently available percutaneous and transcutaneous systems.
The deal with Sophono marks the re-entry of Medtronic into the hearing care field. In the late 1990s, the company’s Audiant division introduced a transcutaneous conduction hearing aid, but it was unsuccessful and was discontinued.
Medtronic employs nearly 85,000 people and has market capitalization of about $100 billion. Its operational headquarters remain in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, where it was founded, but the company recently moved its corporate headquarters to Dublin, Ireland.Under their agreement with Sivantos, the founders of audibene will reinvest into Sivantos and continue to run their business, which is based in Berlin.
Audibene’s Internet portal draws about 15,000 visitors a day, mostly from consumers with hearing loss. Its focus is on first-time customers, who are on average ten years younger than the typical customer in the hearing aid market.
Consumers receive counseling support from experienced hearing care professionals via telephone and from the website, and then can go to one of audibene’s more than 800 partner providers for in-office fitting and ongoing professional care.
Roger Radke, CEO of the Sivantos group, said, “Our motivation is to uncover and develop innovative approaches to partner with our customers to provide hearing healthcare earlier in the patient journey.”
The transaction is not subject to the approval of regulatory authorities, and the financial details will not be made public.
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