Lucid Hearing’s Lifelong Approach to Hearing Care with Bennett Griffin

lucid hearing healthcare business
June 12, 2023

Bennett Griffin is the executive vice president of research and development for Lucid Hearing. He recently sat down with Brian Taylor to discuss Lucid’s unique approach to the market – a strategy that includes both OTC and prescription hearing aids, diagnostic equipment and hearing protection devices.

Along with Lucid’s vertically integrated strategy, Bennett discusses ADRO signal processing –another unique aspect of the Lucid brand.

Full Episode Transcript

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of this Week in Hearing. I’m Brian Taylor, and with me today is Bennett Griffin. He’s the executive vice president of research and development for Lucid Hearing. Hello, Brian. This week in hearing. Yeah, welcome to the broadcast. We’re happy to have you. I’m thrilled to be here with you today. Well, you’re the second person we’ve had on this weekend hearing from Lucid. The first was your CEO, Tim Schnell, and he brought up a couple of really interesting points that I’m really glad that you’re able to come back and talk to us about. But before we get there, Bennett, could you just tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the hearing care industry? Sure, happy to. I have been fortunate enough to be in the hearing care industry for more than a dozen years now. I’ve been at Lucid Hearing for three years, where I have the great privilege and honor of getting to work with all of our talented engineers and the great women and men who are building and designing products for Hearing Health. And it’s been about a decade or so in the hearing health industry at a couple of different stops prior to that and got my introduction to that world, actually through Sebotech, the company that was involved in inventing the RIC back in the day. And before that, I spent about a decade in consumer electronics. And that combination of hardware and software and firmware is somewhat similar in those two worlds. And prior to consumer electronics, I really grew up on the software side of the technology world. So I’m a technology guy. I’ve been in the tech industry for 25 plus years now and have really enjoyed what I’ve been able to do in the teams that we work with in hearing health. And Lucid is a fantastic company and does an amazing job of approaching hearing health from a lot of perspectives. And I’m excited to talk to you about that. Yeah, that’s why I’m glad that you’re here, because I think the way Lucid Hearing approaches the market is very different than some of the others that are out there. You have multiple brands and you have a really interesting approach. So maybe let’s start with if you could tell us a little bit about some of the brands inside of Lucid Hearing. Absolutely. So Lucid Hearing itself is a little over a dozen years old, and it got its start in the hearing healthcare world, building and designing and then distributing and fitting hearing aids through Sam’s Club wholesale stores. And that’s still a big part of what we do today. In addition to our core clinic business, we have also expanded and cover a lot of different aspects of hearing and the Hearing Experience through our different brands. So in addition to Lucid, we’ve got a product line that we sell that is under the Etymotic name. And, of course, Etymotic has its own long history. And Lucid Hearing acquired Etymotic about four years ago, and we have some fantastic associates that came along with that. So Etymotic has its own rich history, both in hearing health and diagnostics and in other aspects of hearing, including hearing protection. And we have just a phenomenal set of products in both passive and electronic hearing protection that we sell through the Etymotic brand. We also have the Westone Audio brand, which is the Pro Audio side of Westone Laboratories that we acquired a few years ago, and combined with our Etymotic team on the Pro Audio side. So we’re really working with folks across their whole lifetime of hearing. So we make hearing protection products for infants and children. We make hearing protection products for adults, whether they be musicians or hunters or folks working in factories or just in the garage on the weekend. And we have a whole line of Westone Audio and Etymotic products for musicians, and audiophiles and hi fi enthusiasts, both Universal Fit products and custom in ear monitors that we make for musicians through our lab in Fort Worth, Texas. And then, of course, we have our hearing aid lines that we sell through Lucid Hearing and a series of associated brands both in OTC and in prescription in our clinic business all across the country and around the world. Well, that’s really interesting because I think you might be the only company that offers this. From soup to nuts, this wide range for everything from prevention to identification to treatment and follow up. So talk to us a little bit about your strategy around those multiple points where you can work with customers that’s really core to our whole philosophy and our strategy. We take a lifelong view of hearing and a lifelong view to hearing health. And so everything that we’re doing in terms of product design, product discovery, working with consumers is based around their hearing needs at that moment in their life. So we really feel passionately about helping folks when they’re younger protect that hearing. We know how valuable that is from the other aspects of our business. We also feel really passionate about music and entertainment and helping people get the most out of the enjoyment of listening and hearing music. We work with musicians who that’s their job, their career is based on what are they hearing and can they perform their best, and how can we help make sure that we’re representing sound as accurately as possible so that they can. Be their best selves on stage. And then we’re really passionate about what we do for folks who need enhancement, who need some additional help with their hearing. And of course, that’s a big portion of the world who has that need. And so everything that we’ve learned along the years about the ear and the way it works, from the diagnostic side to the protection side, to the entertainment side, feeds into what we do then on our medical products and our hearing enhancement products. And really our goal is, wherever you are in your life and whatever your ears are capable of and whatever your interests are, we want to give you the best possible hearing experience that you can have at that moment. And so that’s the ethos and the philosophy that we take through all of our product design, and it’s also the way we approach our patient care through our clinics. We want you to have the best hearing experience that you can have. That’s good to know. And I think one of the other unique aspects of your company is you offer both over the counter devices and prescription devices. Could you tell us a little bit about that philosophy? And maybe if you could provide some insight into who might be a good customer for OTC, who might be a good customer for prescription. I think our viewers are kind of curious to know what experts like yourself think about that. We’re really bullish and excited about OTC as a company, and that is an area that I know has been of some discussion in our industry. And so we view and our thoughts pre-OTC were that it would allow us to reach a new group of people that we weren’t reaching through our clinics. And obviously, we’re still early in the world of OTC hearing aids, but our early evidence has proven that theory to be exactly correct. We’re really meeting new people through our OTC product lineup that are different and in addition to the people that we’re meeting through our clinics. And so it’s allowing us to reach more people. And we like to say our mission is to help people hear better. And so it’s allowing us to help more people hear better. And so from an OTC product standpoint, we’ve got a whole lineup that really includes both some entry level price points and then up to really what are the top segments of OTC pricing today. And we’ve also then got a full robust lineup of prescription products that we target at folks who are looking for that full service model or maybe with a more severe or profound type loss, who need more than an OTC product can really deliver. So we’ve designed our OTC products the way that the FDA intended, which is for those with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. So it’s sometimes a little younger demographic, it’s sometimes folks who maybe were a little bit concerned or just. Gun shy by going into a clinic maybe made them nervous. And so it’s just an accessibility thing. It’s a little easier to get to for some folks, but it’s for those folks who have a mild or mild to moderate hearing loss that are looking for a way to try something out, a way to do it themselves and see how that might help their life improve with a hearing enhancement product. One of the things that we really like about our strategy, though, is that we want to help you across that whole continuum. So whether you’re in a mild to moderate loss, kind of do it yourself kind of mode today, or you’re looking for a full service clinic experience, we can help you. And as your needs evolve, we can help you at whatever point across that continuum you might be today. For our premium OTC products, which includes both our RIC style Engage product that’s behind the ear, and we’ve also got a product called Fio that’s an in the ear product. We’ve got some other products we’ll be launching in that same segment later this year. We also have an upgrade path so that’s something unique that Lucid Hearing is doing that allows folks to start with an OTC product. And then if they determine that maybe they really do need a little more than what they were getting, they could actually bring that OTC product to one of our clinics. And if it’s one of our premium products, they can actually personalize and upgrade that through the clinic and get their fitting put into the product so they can do an audiogram, do the full test in the booth just like we do with our prescription products, and essentially upgrade it into a prescription hearing aid. And so whether you’re wanting to start on your own or whether you’re comfortable with that and you’re happy with that, fantastic. Or if you want a little more help, we can help you there. And then when you’re ready for a full clinic experience, we’re happy to help you there as well. Yeah, that’s great. I think many of our viewers are aligned with that philosophy and they understand that who might value prescription and in person care is very different than somebody that might want to start the journey with OTC. And I think there’s a place for both ways of engaging the market. So that’s great. Let’s talk a little bit about your Lucid hearing centers you mentioned there in Sam’s Clubs. Could you talk a little bit about what that experience is like? If I’m a customer walking in, what might that in person experience, how might it look, how might it feel if I’m walking into one of your Lucid hearing centers? So we operate about 500 or so hearing aid clinics in the United States, most to put your in Sam’s Club wholesale stores. We also have some in Walmart Health and we’ve got some freestanding clinics as well. We also operate clinics in China through Sam’s Club China And we’ve also got clinics that we’ve opened up into the Latin America market as well through another wholesale club called Pricemark. So in a lot of these settings, you’re dealing with a clinic that. That inside another box. And so there are good and bad things about that. There’s a lot of traffic, there’s a lot of noise, which is both good and bad for hearing. The beauty of the model is that it’s where people are. And so you’re there, you’re thinking about your hearing. You may be in an environment where you’re actually challenged by your hearing. And so you have an opportunity to come talk to an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist, have that discussion. We can test you right there in the club. So we’ve got a full clinic built into the box. We’ve got the hearing test infrastructure. We do some really neat things with otoacoustic emission screening as well, using some products that we’ve designed over the years. And we’ve got the ability to take someone through that whole process of discovering what their hearing needs may be and then fitting them with the hearing aid if that’s the right thing for them. And one of the great things about being in that particular environment is the patient has this ability to almost instantly observe the benefit for themselves because they’re in this environment that is a day to day real world environment. It’s a store. And as they begin that journey and maybe are trying to decide if hearing health is something they’re ready for as they get to try that product on and we’ve done the fitting for them, they’ve got the hearing aid on their ears. They’re now able to as they emerge from the booth. And now you’re in this club environment, but you’re experiencing completely differently because now you can hear and you can hear the conversation, you can hear the things that you’re interested in listening to in what is essentially a typical real world, noisy kind of environment. And so in many ways, it’s an ideal place for someone to get hearing help because it meets you right where you are in the real world. Exactly. I would having fit thousands of hearing aids myself over the years, I can appreciate that environment. Rather than tell somebody they got to get in the car and drive home and wear it around a while, you can just have them walk into the busy area and experience it right away. And I think there’s some advantage to the as a clinician. I think there’s some advantages to that, definitely. The next thing I wanted to ask you about Bennett was and this is another really unique aspect of Lucid hearing. And that is you manufacture your own devices. And not only do you manufacture your own devices, but you have some really unique signal processing inside of it. Our viewers, some of them are probably familiar with ADRO. I think it stands for adaptive dynamic range Optimization. Companies like. Inerton and cochlear implants used it over the years. So tell us a little bit about ADRO and the hearing aids that you manufacture. So, Lucid Hearing is a fully vertically integrated company. So we do the R & D, the design of the hearing aids, and we manufacture the hearing aids. We’re an ISO 1345 certified compliant medical device manufacturer. And then, of course, we fit the hearing aids in our clinics so that allows us to have a holistic view on the way we process sound and the way we deliver those hearing aids to the patients. So we’ve embraced a slightly different technology stack than is used in most of the industry, which is typically a wide dynamic range compression approach. And our powered by Lucid technology is based on that core ADRO technology that we’ve then enhanced over the years. And so we’re doing this adaptive dynamic range optimization which allows for a more natural sound experience. It’s really well suited for speech in noise and for speech clarity, which are two of the most important things for a hearing aid wearer. And so we’ve been able to design both the firmware that goes in the hearing aids and then the fitting software that we run in the clinics in such a way that it’s a perfect marriage of that technology. Stack so that we can optimize the sound processing that’s happening in the hearing aid in real time and the way we fit it to your loss to achieve just a really remarkable result for the patient who, again, benefits from that speech clarity and that speech and noise benefit that that ADRO powered by Lucid technology really excels in that’s. Great. Well, we have with us today Bennett Griffin, executive VP of Research and Development at Lucid Hearing. And now that we’re sort of wrapping up our time together, Bennett, any final thoughts? Where do you see the market heading? Any final thoughts about Lucid hearing? Absolutely. So I’ve been in a number of different industries over the years, and one of the things that is just so amazing and encouraging about the hearing health industry is that there are so many people to help. And so as we look at the way the market is evolving and we look at the combination of our clinics and our prescription products and our new over the counter products and then our protection and entertainment products, it’s very exciting to think about the number of people that we can help, that we can benefit with what we’re doing. We’re excited as a company, we’re really eager to take on this kind of next chapter in the world of hearing health that has been opened with the OTC regulations. We are passionate about the. Lifelong journey and helping people through that with their hearing. And we’re super excited to be able to help them with new products and new technologies and this convergence of consumer electronics and medical devices that we’re all blessed to be living through right now. And so as an R&D guy, I get really excited about all the new things that we’re building and the way that that then helps people. And at the end of the day, when we do our jobs right, we literally give people back one of their five senses and that’s just extremely gratifying. So for all the folks that are working at Lucid hearing and helping folks around the world, it’s just a great time to be doing what we’re doing. And it’s fun for me to get to share that with you too. Well, we’re pleased to have you on one final question, and that is if anyone wants to learn more about your company, how can they find out more about it? Well, I would encourage you to start with the website. That’s a quick way to learn more about us and also come in and see one of us. We’re all around the country, so feel free to stop in and say hello, we’d love to with you in person as well. Well, it sounds great. And thanks again for being on this week and hearing. Hopefully we’ll catch up with you somewhere down the road. Thanks, Brian. I’ve truly enjoyed it.

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About the Panel

Brian Taylor, AuD, is the senior director of audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin.


Bennett Griffin is the Executive Vice President of Research & Development for Lucid Hearing


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