Prescription, OTC and Lifestyle Hearing: Interview with Lucid Hearing Founder and CEO, Tim Schnell

lucid hearing aids
January 3, 2023

This week, Tim Schnell, Founder and CEO of Lucid Hearing, sits down with Brian Taylor to discuss Lucid Hearing’s wide range of products including both prescription and OTC hearing aids, hearing protection and other devices.

Full Episode Transcript

Brian Taylor 0:10
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another edition of this weekend hearing. I’m Brian Taylor. And my guest today is Tim Schnell. He’s the president and CEO and the founder of lucid hearing. Welcome to This Week in hearing, Tim.

Tim Schnell 0:23
Thank you, Brian. I’m glad to be with you. And I look forward to our conversation.

Brian Taylor 0:28
Yeah. So glad we could take a little of your time. One of the things I wanted to start with is, before we dive in and talk about lucid hearing, maybe tell us a little bit about your background and what got you into this industry?

Tim Schnell 0:42
Sure. Well, I’ve been a hearing aid wearer and user for well over 25 years. And so I got exposed to the industry by taking care of my own personal health and dealing with my own issue. And in doing that I was in a number of different businesses. And in a business that we acquired, I got to understand a little bit more about the hearing, health care category and amplification and those types of devices. And through that, I was introduced to my co founder, Henry Smith, who’s been in the industry for a really long time, more than 40 years. And together, we got going with lucid hearing. But prior to that I was involved in working for a very large retailer in the United States, and also managed to develop my own business in the outdoor space, that have patents and a number of different areas related to that business as well. So I’ve been very blessed to have some great experiences that led me into the hearing health care category.

Brian Taylor 1:49
And you’re not a newbie by any stretch of the imagination. I think you’ve been involved in the industry now for a number of years. Is that correct?

Tim Schnell 1:56
Yeah, well, like I mentioned, I’ve been wearing for well over 25, which whether or not as a consumer and a user and a patient, that’s puts me in the ballgame of knowing a little bit about it. But we’ve been actually operating and working in running lucid hearing for over 12, probably close to 13 years now. And so it’s been quite a quite a great ride. We’ve seen a lot of the changes of where the industry has come even with developments of technology, Bluetooth and other things that have come to the market interfaces with apps and a variety of different developments along the way. But I have been around for a little while now.

Brian Taylor 2:35
Yes. Okay. I’m kind of curious if you could tell us more about lucid hearing. How many points of sale do you have? What type of a business would you say it is? Retail, what maybe just share with us your view or your vision of lucid hearing?

Tim Schnell 2:56
Well, to start with lucid hearing is a is a hearing aid company with a lot of technology. We have a great team of r&d people that have been working with us now for a long period of time, very experienced people that have been in the industry. For for many, many years. Darren has been in the industry for more than 20 years, Keith Davis, he’s been in the industry a long time, Ben and Griffin, they’re all people that have been in the industry developing and making developments in the hearing aid and hearing healthcare category along with my co founder Henry Smith and his 40 years of experience. So we’re a technology company to start with and very focused on our proprietary software and dispensing software that runs the hearing the lucid hearing aids. Along with that, we have over 500 distribution points in the United States, working with various different retailers. And so we have a lot of point of contact with the consumer every day. And we also have, I guess, close to almost 50 locations internationally between China and the Caribbean islands, through different retail partners that we work with there. But we have a very close and intimate relationship with the consumer because through most of our partners, we have a great team of specialists and audiologists and dispensers that are out there interfacing every day with the consumer. So we’re kind of we go from designing and developing and manufacturing all the way to the end user experience and helping retailers distribute and dispense hearing aids. So we’re a manufacturer with great technology that also has a great relationship with the end user and the consumer.

Brian Taylor 4:44
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. Now you’re one of the large groups out there, dispensing hearing aids that also manufactures hearing aids and I think that’s pretty unique.

Tim Schnell 4:54
Yeah, because we are so vertically integrated. Yeah, we’re unique story for sure. But because we get to work with such great specialists and audiologists, we get so much great feedback from the consumer. It really helps us on our development side to help design and fix issues and come up with products and software that the consumers want to use in their hearing healthcare experience. And not just because someone sat in a lab and made it up and decided it was something great. So it is something that makes us unique in the industry. And we’re very proud of that.

Brian Taylor 5:34
A couple of companies that are under your umbrella are Westone, and Etymotic. And I think those are very familiar names for a lot of hearing care professionals. Could you tell us a little bit about what Westone and Etymotic bring to your organization?

Tim Schnell 5:51
Well, I’ll start with Etymotic a number of years ago, me and Gail, got together with us. And we were fortunate to be able to have the etymotic organization, come and join us with the lucid hearing message of helping people hear better. And they really are some tremendous and so smart group of engineers, and developers. So etymotic, first of all brought us great engineering and a number of all those individuals, Steve iceberg, and Tim Monroe, and another lots of great people there, I’m sure I’m leaving someone out. But it’s a great team that we picked up from a development standpoint. But it also put us in the hearing protection category. It also put us in the ear, earphone category. And it also with the OAE screeners and otoacoustics that put us in that category. So we have a lot of great technology that was developed there. And in each of those businesses, we’ve developed it in different ways. And we’ve had different partners along the path that we’ve worked with. In each of those categories. With Westone, we actually have their earphone business as well, we have a custom lab that we work on doing custom earphones and hearing protection as well associated with Westone. And that was just a timing in the you know, early 2020 period, when people were still struggling with, with what’s going on with the pandemic. And Westone is owned by private equity group that decided that their their hearing protection category was their primary business. And so the earphone business became available to us. So we’ve been able to reengineer and reinvent that business over the last 18 months. And we have a lot of great new products there with our Mach series and, and our Pro X series of earphones, but Westone audio and etymotic give us a great touch to consumers and musicians and professionals in lots of different categories. And it helps round us out as being a total hearing healthcare solution. And so we’re proud and excited about both those companies.

Brian Taylor 8:09
Yeah, I mean, that’s really unique, I think to the industry that you have such comprehensive types of comprehensive portfolio of different services and products available. I think especially, I know a lot of hearing care professionals that are starting to get interested in preventive care, you know, hearing protection and, and things like that. So I think that’s great. But I also wanted to ask you a little bit about your take on OTC versus prescription hearing aids. I believe that lucid offers both Can you tell us a little bit about both of those offerings and kind of how you see those complementing each other.

Tim Schnell 8:45
For sure, I think that what’s kind of what’s transpired within the United States and the North America in the last year, but specifically since mid October, and the introduction of OTC and over the counter hearing aids, I think it’s a great way for people to be exposed to hearing healthcare solutions that maybe we’re afraid to go into a clinic or a booth and get a full hearing tested exam. I think it’s a way for people to start introducing themselves to solutions to help improve their lives that are moving maybe more affordable, and maybe they don’t do everything that they need them to do. And that creates a conversation with a professional along the way. But I find that OTC and prescription hearing aids greatly complement each other in the outlets that we dispense and work with our different retail partners. The the amount of traffic that’s been driven since OTC and the amount of interest and excitement around hearing health care has been outstanding. We’ve had tremendous increases in visits we’ve had a number of increases in tests that were driven and started by an OTC conversation. So and some people have gotten solutions through the OTC path and some products that were, let me just say entry level are and very technically advanced, but entry level products and those products are doing those people could service. And then they’ve started their hearing health care journey, I know that through my own experience, you know, I’m on my think my fourth pair of hearing aids maybe my fifth now. And as technology develops, and as my hearing loss progresses, and my situation continues to go on as as a user, that I’m glad I’m on my journey as those people enter their journey. I’m sure that this is just the starting point. And and I’ve, as they get experience with what the devices will do for them, I’m sure they’ll come and look for hearing professionals to give them more knowledge and more expertise. So I find OTC is a great entry level point. I don’t see as the end all game, I think that of 30 million people that still need hearing healthcare in America or some number real close to that, but it’s a whole lot more, I think it’s, it’s, I think it’s a great way for them to enter their journey in getting a device that that will start that process and then probably creates more questions and thoughts that they go on find professional health, I think the two really complement each other. And that’s why we’re so heavily focused and being in both categories. And

Brian Taylor 11:29
I think that’s great. I mean, that’s my own opinion, being in the industry myself about 30 years that OTC is a great complement to prescription in person, professional care, I think they work well together. And it’s a great way for many people who, for whatever reason, rejected professional service to find their way to some help earlier rather than later. So that’s good for you guys for doing that. Last question I have for you before I let you go, I’m just kind of curious with all of the different locations that you have around the country? How do you find how do you onboard hearing care professionals? What’s your strategy? What’s your process around that?

Tim Schnell 12:08
Well, the one thing is, is we have a great team of people out there and you know, a lot of the professionals out there all communicate and talk with each other. And they share the fact that, you know, they’re having great experiences. And so when people are looking for great opportunities, they share and a lot of peer, a lot of peer suggestions and introductions in that category. So I’d say it starts with our great associates out there. And then we have a wonderful recruiting team, we’ve got a strong HR team, we give a lot of different support from an operational standpoint, to the field associates. And we’re keep evolving and developing. But we’ve got so many great associates out there, we put the word out. And as you know, this is a category where there’s just more job opportunities than there are qualified people. And we also have a great apprentice program. So people that want to learn how to be into this as either a second career or a primary one, because it’s a really great paying job. And we are very competitively priced in the market. So I would say it starts with our great associates with suggestions of friends and family. And then it also works with us with great recruiting team that we have internally, working in local markets to find those great professionals to join our team. And those are some of the paths that we take along with our apprentice program and getting in Grow, grow our own approach. But those are some of the ways that we attract great, great talent to our team. And we have some amazing people that do so many great things and help so many people out there. I’m really proud of that field team for sure.

Brian Taylor 13:47
That’s great. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Tim Schnell founder, president and CEO of lucid hearing any final thoughts that you want to share with our viewers before I let you go,

Tim Schnell 14:00
you know, one thing I will say is you kind of touched on on the Westone etymotic is that the devices today are going to become more lifestyle devices than just hearing aids, the interfaces that they can do with your iPhone, whether it’s taking a call or an Android watching a video, the sound quality is going to become really important. And one of the benefits that we have because of our relationship with Westone and Etymotic in the earphone category is that it’s allowing us to develop technologies that will emphasize better sound quality and a better consumer experience with Bluetooth interaction. So I just think that there’s so many opportunities out there for devices to develop. And we’re really in a good spot to take advantage of technology and I really believe lifestyle devices is what hearing devices will be in the future because of those interactions. And I hope everyone embraces that thought process because it is an exciting time in the industry and there’s a lot of new things coming for an industry that’s been around for a while. So,

Brian Taylor 15:05
ya know, that all sounds good. We’re excited to hear that and we share your view for sure. So, again, Tim, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

Tim Schnell 15:14
Brian, thank you very much. I enjoyed our visit and hopefully we can do it again someday.

Brian Taylor 15:18
All right, sounds great.

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About the Panel

Tim Schnell is the Founder, President and CEO of Lucid, makers of advanced hearing aids and amplification devices. Formerly Hearing Lab Technologies, Lucid built their reputation and business providing smart hearing aids Powered by Lucid’s adaptive dynamic range optimization technology. Schnell began his career at Sam’s Club®, a division of Walmart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), in 1987. At the age of 25 he was promoted to divisional vice president. Schnell continued his career with Sam’s Club until 1997, managing a budget of $2.5 million and directing all electronics division purchases. Prior to launching Lucid, Schnell founded Good Sportsman Marketing LLC, a manufacturer and seller of outdoor products, including surveillance and action cameras and hearing amplification and protection devices. Tim loves using his Lucid AMPED neckband while traveling between Lucid headquarters in Texas and his home in San Diego, California. “I can watch the news AND hear the flight attendant.” he explains. He has a wife and three daughters, who “have lots to talk about… they’ve really taught me how to listen!”


Brian Taylor - Editor-at-Large, Co-Host, This Week in HearingBrian 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.


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