jabra enhance plus gitte aabo interview

Jabra Enhance Plus Launch: Interview with GN Hearing CEO, Gitte Aabo

Last month, GN Hearing announced the planned launch of the Jabra Enhance Plus – a new hearable device aimed at individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss for situational hearing enhancement. 

Jabra Enhance Plus for mild to moderate hearing loss
Jabra Enhance Plus

GN Hearing CEO, Gitte Aabo, discusses the company’s planned launch of the Jabra Ehance Plus with This Week in Hearing host, Dr. Bob Traynor.  The pair discuss the reasons why the company is planning the launch, why they have chosen to utilize the Jabra brand instead of ReSound, and how the company envisions the devices being sold to consumers with hearing loss.

According to the company, the new Jabra Enhance Plus will first be available in the US, with launches in other countries following thereafter. It is expected be made available in select hearing care clinics and anticipated to launch towards the end of the year. 

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Full Episode Transcript

Bob Traynor
Welcome to this edition of This Week in Hearing, where listeners find the latest information on all things related to hearing care, the current developments in politics legislation, innovative technology, pharmaceuticals, therapeutics and the latest trends even in practice management. Today’s edition is a component of innovative technology. A couple of weeks ago, a major product announcement was presented by GN Resound, and the device name is the Jabra Enhance Plus introduced as a possible early entry into the OTC market. So I’m Bob Traynor, I’m your host for this week. And my guest is Gitte Aabo, CEO and President of GN Resound in Copenhagen, Denmark. We have had to coordinate this just a little bit Gitte with a early morning for me and late afternoon for you and and and so on. So the first thing I think my, my group would like to hear is a little bit about yourself. And where GN Resound, just focused at this particular time relative to all the changes that are happening in the industry.

Gitte Aabo
So yeah, my name is Gitte Aabo and I joined as a CEO of GN Hearing almost two years ago. And that was after having spent 27 years in the pharmaceutical industry. So I was pleased to come in and join the hearing aid industry because I really enjoy being able to be able to help people with hearing impairments. Now at GN we are focusing in on bringing ReSound ONE our latest technology out to as many people as possible now that markets are starting to open up in the US as far progressed but also the rest of the world after the pandemic.

Bob Traynor
Okay. Well, I guess one of the first questions I would have, and I know my colleagues will here in the US as well is what really is the Jabra Enhance Plus,

Gitte Aabo
Well, it is the optimal combination, if you like between an earbud and a hearing aid. So we have combined, you know, our knowledge in GN Audio, which are producing headsets and true wireless earbuds. So the knowledge we have in GN Hearing around hearing aids into making a device that is really well designed for situational use, is a hearing aid is an earbud and can be really well for calls and music. And it’s looking like an earbud.

Bob Traynor
Okay, so how many people do you think this particular device will be appropriate for out in our, in our marketplace? I mean, it’s not only is it a Is it a worldwide marketplace, as I know, all the Big Five are involved in the in the worldwide marketplace, but specifically to our patients and my colleagues that are dispensers and audiologists within the United States?

Gitte Aabo
Well, I

think that you know, one of the big conundrums in the hearing aid industry. And certainly what I noticed when I joined is that despite great innovations from GN, but also from our competitors, there are still 70% to 80% of people with a hearing impairment that they choose not to wear hearing aids. So I think that is certainly one of the things we have been deep-diving in on in GN and looking into ‘what are the reasons for that’, and there are, you know, with a mild to moderate hearing loss are approximately, alone in the US, 15 million people who has a mild to moderate hearing loss, and out of those 18 million that actually are aware and feel impaired by the hearing loss and yet choose not to wear hearing aids.

And that that’s been kind of one of the one of the continuing issues that we’ve experienced as hearing care professionals for a substantial period of time. And one of the ways we hope to gather more of that market is by products like the Enhanced Plus. And so one of the questions I know my colleagues will have is, since this is kind of a combination of a hearing aid with some other components. Why was it brought out as a Jabra device and not necessarily as a GN brand or or one of the other peripheral brands that that GN possesses?

So, when we were developing this device and maybe I should just take the opportunity to show because I think it looks really nice. We actualy did a significant part of consumer research to better understand what are the reasons why when you have a hearing loss, and it actually annoys you, and you still choose not to do anything about it. What are the reasons – a major reason is a stigma associated with the hearing aids. And also this that, when you buy a hearing aid is actually quite a big decision in the sense that you buy a device that you commit to wear every day for the rest of your life. So we wanted to bring something that was for situational use, and a little bit more like a consumer device, if you like. And therefore we did the research, testing ReSound brand, and the Jabra brands, and among consumers Jabra is much more well known than ReSound. And it’s known for quality, the technology engineered for purpose, which is also what we would like people to think about our hearing aids.

Bob Traynor
So what kind of differences does the Jabra enhance plus have relative to the high end products that ReSound offers, as well as the low end products, even the lower end products, and so on.

Gitte Aabo
So again, I mean, a Jabra Enhance Plus is a combination between the earbud and the hearing aid, and it is the optimal combination, but it’s not the best earbud we make. And it’s not the best hearing aid we make. So clearly, it does not compare, for instance, to ReSound ONE, which is obviously designed for full day use and can cover you know, from mild to more profound hearing loss. This is a situation device that you use in certain situations, for example, for example, the dinner party where you are struggling to hear everybody around the table. So it is not as good as our hearing aids. But it is still a device that is so relevant in certain situations,

Bob Traynor
it’s kind of, kind of one of those things that you stick in to go to the dinner party, and then pull out on the way home, and then put in on the way down to the bar to talk to friends, and then pull it out on the way home that kind of thing. So… So now, are there differences in fitting this device relative to a typical hearing aid?

Gitte Aabo
Yeah, again, when you go to get a typical hearing aid, obviously, you get the very comprehensive support from the audiologist both and during your hearing test, but also fitting your hearing aid to really give you the best possible health. Now here is the fitting is a little bit more simplified, it actually is so that you download an app on your phone, and then you’re basically doing the hearing test and also the fitting via the app. So again, it’s it’s not the best hearing aid. But it’s, it’s good enough for these situations as you’re just talking.

Bob Traynor
So it’s kind of, kind of like a self fit device, almost where the patient will put that on. And then they connected to their phone. And then they tune it according to not only a cursory hearing test, but also other kinds of situations as well.

Gitte Aabo
Exactly. That’s so that’s a good way to put it.

Bob Traynor
So, So how should we in clinics? How should we present Enhance Plus, relative to all of the other products that we have available in our clinical situations?

Gitte Aabo
Yeah, well, I think that many people that come into the clinic, they obviously come because they have a hearing impairment that they are or have become aware of, or maybe the loved one has become aware of, but we know so i guess most of them will clearly need a hearing aid. We know however, that on average 1/3 of people going into the clinic, they leave without anything they leave without committing to hearing aid. And we believe that for that 1/3 this is really an attractive solution because it can kind of bring you on the first step of your hearing journey. So I think that’s one of this position of the product. I think also it can be an attention-getter. Maybe if you’re sitting at home searching for a hearing device, this looks like an earbud and therefore is less associated with stigma than a hearing aid. So it might be you know, the thing that draws you into the clinic. And once you’re there and get the advice from the audiologist, you may realize, what I really need is a is a full day hearing aid

Bob Traynor
So now price points on these products will be significantly less than that even even a lower technology, hearing aid that we would have available in the clinic.

Gitte Aabo
Yes, we are not in a position yet to sort of give out a specific price but it will be more affordable, which I think also might be one of the reasons why 1/3 on average leaves the clinic without a device, maybe they are not yet ready to commit to the the price tag associated with a hearing aid. So this also in that regard can be a first step on the journey

Bob Traynor
Will the Enhanced Plus be marketed through clinics, or will it be direct to consumer? Or will it have some sort of a orientation, another kind of a marketing program that will go along with it? And I guess my question is, is it primarily set up so, so I could have it in my clinic, for example, and then there wouldn’t be a lot of other places people could obtain the device.

Gitte Aabo
So I think, definitely, initially, it’s a device that they will be approved on the FDA hearing aid regulation. And as such, it will be distributed to audiologists only – whether that will change if regulations change, that’s obviously a commercial decision we’ll make if and when relevant. But for now, we will only distribute it to audiologists and we also think this is important in order to to ensure that we strike the balance between giving people more autonomy when they use the device, but still getting the relevant help from a professional, which I think is what we’re trying to achieve here.

Bob Traynor
I know my colleagues will be very excited about that particular component, because we’ve all seen things change so much in the industry, just even prior to since since the beginning of the pandemic, lots of direct to consumer, lots of over the counter, we received the drugstores in addition to the big box and all these other areas. So this could be a nice enhancement for for practices as they expand their product offerings to meet more of the needs of the consumers. So let’s see, what, have you had some reactions from the hearing care professionals relative to the Enhanced Plus product?

Gitte Aabo
Yeah, when we announced the product, we had virtual symposium with around 1000, HCPs participating. And the feedback was really overwhelmingly positive. So I think we’ve already sort of acknowledged that there is a huge unmet need in this mild to moderate space where a lot of people choose not to do anything about the hearing impairment. And also, obviously, also from an audiologist point of view, it’s a waste of effort and time, if you have people come into the clinic, and go home without a device. So this is, so I think everybody kind of appreciate the needs. And also I think the feedback, so the devices such as also really positive in that it has a really nice design, it’s discreet and, and kind of meet that requirement as well.

So really positive feedback.

Bob Traynor
Well, these days, the and I remember the days, 40 years ago when stigma was huge. People would not even think about amplification till they got to be 85-90 years old. Nowadays, people have things hanging out of their ear and things all over the place and you go you go to the go to the airport, it’s not uncommon to see everybody with strings and listening and doing things. So this type of device could be a real benefit to our patients who have not chosen to be involved in amplification to facilitate their lifestyle. So I think this gives my colleagues a good idea of what the Jabra Enhance Plus will be. And I can’t thank you quite enough here Gitte for as the CEO and President of GN with all that responsibility, taking time with us today, to talk with us here at This Week in Hearing. And if you have some final comments for my group, I’m more than happy to keep us going here for just a short period of time to do that. We try to keep these things short and sweet, so that our colleagues don’t have to take too much time away from their patients to listen to what happens in This Week in Hearing.

Gitte Aabo
Well thank you very much for having me. It is absolutely My pleasure. And I just think if we with this device can help even more people. You know, that is what gets me up in the morning that we are making a difference in people’s lives. And I’m sure that when you decide to become an audiologist, it’s also that thing that motivates you really helping people so let’s help even more.

Bob Traynor
I’m always amazed at how short of a period of time it takes people from other sides of the healthcare to come in to our side of healthcare and immediately begin to appreciate the differences with hearing because of the all the psychological overlay that goes along with it. And certainly I’d like to again, make sure and thank you for sure for your particular interest and time, energy and effort that went into our discussion today. I please say hello to Copenhagen one of my favorite worldwide cities and the Tuborg brewery there and the other places around the city were a favorite hangout. So today I want to thank Gitte Aabo, CEO and President of GN ReSound from Copenhagen. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Gitte Aabo
Thank you

 

About the Panel

Gitte P. Aabo is the President & CEO of GN Hearing and a member of the executive management since 2019. She is a member of the Committee of Directors of Danmarks Nationalbank (the Danish National Bank), member of the board of HIMPP A/S, ALK-Abelló A/S, and Union Therapeutics. Ms. Aabo holds an MBA from Copenhagen Business School. 

 

Robert M. Traynor, is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager and author.  He has decades of experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. He serves as Adjunct Faculty in Audiology at the University of Florida, University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado and The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.


About HHTM

HHTM's mission is to bridge the knowledge gaps in treating hearing loss by providing timely information and lively insights to anyone who cares about hearing loss. Our contributors and readers are drawn from many sectors of the hearing field, including practitioners, researchers, manufacturers, educators, and, importantly, hearing-impaired consumers and those who love them.

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