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By David H. Kirkwood
ORLANDO–No matter how much they complain about the costs of exhibiting, the rules and restrictions imposed on them, and the scant appreciation and respect they feel they get from the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), most hearing aid manufacturers and related companies still see AAA’s annual convention, AudiologyNOW!, as a can’t miss opportunity to woo their target audience—thousands of audiologists.
That’s why (nearly) all the big companies in the hearing industry erect elaborate displays where they introduce their newest products to the American market. It’s also why the major players throw lavish parties at AudiologyNOW! for audiologists and students and sponsor other events such as lectures, the Trivia Bowl, the opening night party, etc.
In case that’s not enough, companies look for other ways to draw favorable attention during or just before AudiologyNOW! Here’s a sampling from this year’s convention held last week in Orlando:
Siemens pledges millions for cancer care and research
Siemens Hearing Instruments announced on March 27, the first full day of the meeting, that it is partnering with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and CancerCare to bring hearing aids and audiology services to cancer patients across the country. Siemens will donate hearing aids valued at $1M, to be distributed to CancerCare’s network of hospitals to benefit patients with permanent hearing loss due to the side-effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation, surgery or other cancer treatments.
The hearing aid donation is part of The Baton Pass, a grassroots campaign launched a week earlier, through which Siemens will donate up to $1M in research funds to Stand Up To Cancer for accelerated cancer research.
The donation also aims to raise awareness about the phenomenon of ototoxicity among platinum-based chemotherapy medications, radiation therapy, and other regimens used to treat brain, lung, ovarian, and other types of cancers. Although widely successful in treating cancer, these treatments may also damage healthy cochlear hair cells found in the inner ear–often resulting in irreversible hearing loss.
ReSound says LiNX is a hit
Officials from GN Store Nord, parent company of ReSound, told financial analysts in Orlando that the new ReSound LiNX, a hearing aid developed jointly with Apple for the iPhone, is driving more business its way. The company reported drawing 20% more new customers in the United States in the first two weeks of March than in the same period in February, which it attributed to the launch of the LiNX in late February. ReSound LiNX uses technology that allows users to stream voice and music wirelessly from their iPhones.
In 2013, GN ReSound, generated 46% of its revenue in the U.S. market, while 31% percent came from Europe and 23% from the rest of the world.
Following the announcement, stock in the Danish-based GN Store Nord rose by 2.2% on the Copenhagen stock exchange.
Oticon Foundation to send audiologists to the Amazon
The Oticon Hearing Foundation, which is funded by Oticon’s parent company, William Demant, will partner with the American Academy of Audiology Foundation (AAAF) in Project Amazon 2014.
For the third year in a row, the foundation will underwrite the costs for two audiologists to join a humanitarian mission to remote communities on the Amazon near Parintins, Brazil. The collaborative expedition will enable volunteer audiologists to support sustainable hearing care to children and adults who have limited or no access to basic health or welfare services.
The two audiologists selected for Project Amazon will work side-by-side with staff from the Oticon Clinic in Parintins. The non-profit clinic is a service of the Viva o Som Foundation, a group dedicated to securing financial and human resources to improve the quality of life of people in Brazil’s most impoverished communities.
Audiologists and audiology students who have completed at least two years in an AuD program may apply to participate in the program. Applications are available online at www.oticonhearingfoundation.org and www.audiologyfoundation.org. All completed applications received by the June 15 deadline will be reviewed by representatives of the AAA Foundation and the Oticon Hearing Foundation. Those selected will be notified in August.
NFL player Derrick Coleman named Starkey hearing ambassador
The day before AudiologyNOW! began, Starkey Hearing Technologies announced that Derrick Coleman, a member of the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, had become an official hearing ambassador for the company.
As reported on this blog and in many other publications, Coleman overcame a profound hearing loss to be a star football player in high school and college. He then went on to become the National Football League’s first deaf offensive player. He also volunteers his time to work with young people with hearing loss, for whom he is a source of inspiration.
Coleman, who wears Starkey hearing aids, will be an advocate for the company’s power products, which are designed for severe-to-profound hearing losses.
Coleman’s story captured worldwide attention when a Duracell commercial about his life’s journey went viral on YouTube, drawing over 22 million views. In February he helped fit more than 100 New Yorkers with free hearing aids on behalf of Starkey Hearing Foundation.
Who’s the newest hearing aid billionaire? Guess again
Not all the news about hearing aid companies was generated by their PR departments. In the case of the world’s latest—and possibly only–first hearing aid billionaire, it was Forbes that broke the news.
Thanks to a jump in price of a share in Sonova Holding AG, Beda Diethelm, a little known but shrewd Swiss investor, holds more than $1 billion worth of stock in the parent company of Phonak and other hearing care companies. According to Sonova’s annual report, Diethelm owns 6.65 million shares in the company. That’s about 10% of all stock, making him the company’s largest individual shareholder.
In the 1960s, the now 73-year-old businessman was head of production and technical director of Bommer, a Zurich-based global supplier of hearing aids. In 1965, he joined with other investors, including Ernst Rihs and his sons, Andy and Hans-Ueli Rihs, in buying a hearing aid maker company, AG für Elektroakustik, that later became Phonak.