Update July, 2022: Bose Corporation and Lexie Hearing, a direct-to-consumer hearing aid provider in the United States, have announced a partnership to bring Bose’s self-fitting hearing aid technology to the Lexie Hearing product line. The new Lexie B1 Hearing Aids will be Powered by Bose, allowing wearers to fit, program, and control their hearing aids. With this new partnership, Bose SoundControl™ Hearing Aids will no longer be manufactured or sold. However, Bose will continue to support customers who have previously purchased the product.
A Boston Globe report on May 3rd confirmed months of rumors circulating in the hearing industry – that the Bose hearing aid division was either closing or shifting its business strategy.
According to the report, an independent review of the company’s business strategy indicated in February that the company “should no longer be selling hearing aids”. After recent struggles, including closures of a number of the company’s retail stores, Bose intends to focus on its most popular and best selling products.
Bose Exits Hearing Aid Business
The news that Bose is exiting the hearing aid market has received mixed reactions from both the consumer and professional communities, who are still awaiting the final rules from the FDA on Over The Counter (OTC) hearing aids – a new category for hearing aids, which many view Bose being largely responsible for creating.
The company’s SoundControl hearing aids had only been for sale to the public for less than one year, after first being unveiled in May 2021.
Prior to the release of the Jabra Enhance Plus, Bose was the only company approved in the self-fitting hearing aid category by the FDA.
Bose’s primary reason for exiting the self-fit hearing aid category was shifting corporate priorities in response to intense competition from Apple for its core business. SoundControl hearing aids had less than 10 months of sales data from its nationwide launch, possibly insufficient to determine the category’s potential. Yet perhaps the SoundControl’s biggest miss was its traditional form factor, which evoked a midlevel, traditional hearing aid, devoid of any personality or imprint of the Bose brand, one of the company’s biggest assets. In addition, Bose’s experience sounds a cautionary note for entrants lining up for the soon-to-be finalized OTC hearing aid category. Launch plans must address the three-body force in hearing healthcare of stigma, denial, and apathy, which interact and represent after price, the primary challenge in hearing aid market development.
–Nancy M. Williams, Founder and President, Auditory Insight
Industry Reacts to Bose News
Brandon Sawalich, President and CEO of Starkey and former chair of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) offered his perspective on the announcement:
“After years of lobbying for OTC hearing aids, Bose cuts its health division right before the FDA releases its final rules. Hearing aids are not a commodity. Consumer electronics companies continue to overlook an important aspect of our industry: the art and science that goes into treating hearing loss.
I hope that the sudden departure of the company that triggered this change is a turning point for the conversation around OTC hearing devices. I look forward to working with members of Congress, including Senators Warren and Grassley on a solution finally focused on the patient, not on profits of consumer electronics companies.”
-Brandon Sawalich, President and CEO of Starkey
THIS IS ALL NEWS TO ME & i DON’T EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON SO HAVE NO OPINION,. I AM AN ELDERLY WOMAN WHO HAS HEARING AIDS & IF BOSE IS THE MAKER OF THE BEST THERE IS THEN THEY SHOULD BE PROTECTED TO PRODUCE FOR THE GOOD OF CONSUMER NOT THEIR POCKETBOOK. THE POCKETBOOK GETS FILLED BECAUSE THEY PROVE THEY ARE A WORTHY PRODUCER & OFFER THE CUSTOMER THE BEST PRIODUCT THEY CAN PRODUCE, $$$ WILL COME IN AS A RESULT OF THIS ACTION. WE, WHO WEAR THE AIDS DO NOT UNDERSTAND MUCH ABOUT ALL THE BACKGROUND ISSUES BUT SHOULD BE OFFERED THE BEST PRODUCT THAT CAN BE MADE FOR THIS PURPOSE. BECAUSE YOU CAN’T COUNT ON THE NEWS ABOUT ANYTHING ANYMORE BEING TRUTHFUL AND HONEST, I DON’T READ MUCH ABOUT PRODUCTS OFFERED BUT WOULD APPRECIATE HONESTY & QUALITY WHEN I SPEND MY $$, HOPEFULLY YOU ARE TRYING TO DO THIS AS MY AIDS ARE NEARING THE END OF THEIR LIFE & I NEED TO CHOOSE ANOTHER PAIR REAL SOON, IT WOULD BE NICE TO BELIEVE WHAT I WAS BEING TOLD ABOUT THE PRODUCTS I CONSIDER.
I’m a retired Audiologist who wears ReSound hearing instruments. From my provider, I have heard that ReSound may be the beneficiary of the Bose demise. If that patent is up for grabs, every major hearing instrument manufacturer will be clamoring to put in a bid for ownership or rights. I suspect that this was underway in the background before the Bose announcement this week. And the granting of those rights could create a significant cash infusion to Bose. So we should be hearing about who gets the goodies from Bose shortly. Depending on the manufacturer selected, that’s where my retired $$ will go when I replace my current set.
I would love to see evidence of “years of lobbying” by Bose or any other OTC manufacturer and transparency , in this industry, about who is really lobbying whom and for what. I think consumers and providers would be shocked if they knew the lengths being taken, and by whom, to maintain the status quo and restrict the access and affordability to hearing care.
I became an audiologist so I could HELP people hear. It is a very sad day when we applaud the expansion of access and affordability.
Absolutely true. Just this week I recommended Bose RIC aids for a patient that should be a good candidate for these products. Sorry to read about Bose leaving the hearing aid market.
Barry West, Ph.D.