UPDATE: Sonova’s Connect Hearing Pilots Partnership with Walgreens

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July 8, 2015

Editor’s Note: This post was last updated on 7/9/15, following a response from Sonova regarding the accuracy of the story. The company’s response to our story can be read here.

Confirming rumors that have had the dispensing community buzzing the past two weeks, multiple sources have now confirmed with this blog that Connect Hearing is, in fact, piloting a partnership with Walgreens in select locations across the US.

Rumor Mill

walgreens connect hearing

Screenshot from Gyl Kasewurm’s Dr. Gyl .com Facebook page

Interest in the potential partnership piqued late last month after a post on the Dr. Gyl Facebook page, where an alleged picture of a Walgreens in Florida with a “Free 15 Minute Hearing Check” sign were displayed with a Connect Hearing logo.

Not surprisingly, the post elicited a number of comments and shares from practitioners. None of the comments were supportive, however, with nearly all condemning the possible partnership between Walgreens and Sonova{{1}}[[1]]The Sonova Group is the parent company behind major hearing instrument manufacturers Phonak and Unitron, as well as cochlear implant manufacturer Advanced Bionics. Connect Hearing is the company’s retail division.[[1]].

Multiple Sources Confirm Rumors

As a result of this blog’s investigation, sources familiar with the situation explained that this partnership was not encouraged by Sonova’s main hearing instrument manufacturers, Phonak and Unitron, still recovering from fallout among independent practices upset over last year’s Phonak-Costco partnership announcement, but rather this program is reportedly being piloted solely by Sonova’s retail division: Connect Hearing.

According to one source, over the past few months there were 4{{2}}[[2]]This number was corrected from 3 or 4 dozen, as was originally reported[[2]]Connect Hearing clinics currently operating within Walgreens in major markets across the US.

At the current time, sources tell this blog that the Walgreen’s clinics are being treated as part-time satellite clinics for nearby Connect Hearing retail locations and are being staffed by local clinicians from those offices.

A UK Model for the US?

In the UK, Sonova has leveraged it’s position in the Boots Pharmacy chain with great success and has touted it’s position with the pharmacy as one of the big drivers of growth in the UK in the first half of the fiscal year 2014/15.

“An important driver for growth in the UK was, once again, the very successful collaboration with the pharmacy chain Boots. This is an impressive example of how we successfully use innovative distribution channels.” Sonova Group CEO, Lukas Braunschweiler

While it’s unclear if the pilot program with Walgreens (which merged with Boots in 2014) will amount to much in the US as it has in the UK, the Sonova Group is certainly interested in testing the waters. With Walgreens having over 8,000 locations across the US, we expect other leading hearing aid manufacturers to be keeping a close eye on these developments.

No one affiliated with Connect Hearing or Sonova could be reached for an official comment on the Walgreens partnership at the time of publication. Hearing News Watch will continue monitoring the story and welcomes any comments or corrections.

  1. Having a bit of mixed experience with being in a pharmacy location I can simply say good luck with growing that company owned, top down company.

    And, thanks to Brian and Gyl for rooting up this little acorn and yet another reason to pick a vendor partner other than Sonova.

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