Innovations and Future Potential of the OTC Hearing Aid Market

otc hearing aid market innovations
November 30, 2023

Ron Ganot from Tuned and Delain Wright from Intricon join Amyn Amlani in a discussion about the current status and future potential of the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing device market. Despite slower adoption rates than expected, the conversation highlights that the category is in its early stages, anticipating significant advancements in technology, services, and accessibility channels to cater to diverse consumer segments.

Ganot showcases Tuned’s software platform that leverages AI to assist users in hearing aid fitting, education, and troubleshooting. This technology benefits self-service initiatives and hybrid professional practices. Wright emphasizes the importance for professionals to embrace OTC options alongside traditional models. He predicts rapid evolution in personalized care and remote capabilities. Wright advocates positioning these solutions as part of a continuum of hearing healthcare, catering from mild difficulties to more complex needs. Both guests highlight OTC as an entry point leading to quality care. They elaborate on a future where diverse high-quality choices and enhanced support systems can boost acceptance of hearing aids. However, achieving widespread success requires ongoing consumer-focused research and innovative solutions.

Both speakers emphasize the pivotal role of professional groups in integrating OTC options appropriately into standard practice. They stress the need for customizable channels to enable individuals to discover optimal paths to better hearing health.

Full Episode Transcript

The over the counter hearing device market surpassed its inaugural year. Over the past year, there have been new companies entering the market segment and existing companies releasing consumer based products for consumption in It addition, information was recently publicly disseminated on market demand and supply for OTCs. Joining me today on This Week In Hearing to discuss the OTC market and share information about the Tuned self fitting hearing aid is Ron Ganot on my right and Delaine Wright. So gentlemen, again, thank you so much for being here. I look forward to this conversation. I think it’s going to be a robust, robust and very informative conversation. But before we dive in, Ron, if you just sharing a little bit about yourself, please. Sure. So, first of all, thank you very much for having us here. A little bit about myself. So I come from a clinical background. I’m a trained audiologist here in Israel. And about 15 years ago I did a lot of work as an audiologist both for pediatric and the elderly in central located the hospitals in Israel. And slowly I started to work also in the hearing aid dispensary business for one of the largest health group in Israel called Kalik. I helped them establish the entire in-house hearing aid clinics, opened ten clinics across Israel, and did that for about ten years in total until I decided that I want to do a switch in my life and start something else. And then I started a company called AudioCare Communication with the co founder of Tune, which is Omri, is also the CEO of Tuned. And together we started this company and the focus of AudioCare was assistive listening devices. We became a leader in importation, distribution and marketing of these devices all across Israel for the largest health groups, private clinics, et cetera. And that company was actually acquired about two years ago, about when we decided that we want to sell AudioCare. We also started to discuss about the potential of the hearing aid market and the underpenetrated technology. As you all well know, the hearing aid usage in the US. But also globally is quite low. And we found that very intrinsic. And we thought, how can technology improve? Out those numbers and improve the accessibility for hearing aids for the hearing impaired. And back then we started Tuned which our goal is to increase the accessibility for hearing aids, but not only that, but also assist the users with the rehabilitation journey to get a better clinical outcome. Back then the FDA also started with establishing the guidelines for self fitting OTC COVID Hit. So it was delayed for a few years but we started to prepare for that moment. So we will have our platform set up and ready for when the FDA submitted those guidelines last October. That’s amazing. That’s interesting. And we’re going to dive more into that in just a minute. On my left hand side here on the screen is a industry veteran most everyone knows Delain Wright. He’s the head of Business development for the hearing care segment at Intricon. Delain, if you would mind spending just a few moments talking about yourself for those individuals who might not know you at this point in time. Sounds good. Thank you Amyn. So let me give just a little background. I grew up in the industry, I grew up in a retail practice and I’ve been around a long time, so I’ll keep this brief. I don’t want to go down any rabbit holes. But my beginning was in retail, worked in a family practice. I then decided I wanted to get into the manufacturing. I wanted to work for a company called Rexton who was actually one of the was the largest hearing aid manufacturer, Swiss company, who was then right after I joined, bought by Siemens. So then I spent the next 20 years within the Siemens organization. I ended up working and running Rexton. Then I went overseas to the UK and ran the UK business for Siemens called A&M hearing which the unique part about that business was it had the majority of the contract with the largest contract in the world, which was the National Health Service. And not only did they have that, but they also had a unique position globally because they would take those same NHS style products and sell them into other markets, other value markets. So we ended up selling around the world a lot in South America, Eastern Europe, Asia, in markets where cost really mattered. And that was when I got a real understanding of maybe the cost structure and also different markets and different ways of distribution of hearing care. Fast forward. I came back to Siemens, got involved with some of their networks in buying group business. Then I ended up leaving Siemens after 20 years and going to work with Panasonic. Took a little break, but took an attempt to help Panasonic launch into the business and like so many big companies that come and jump in the hearing business then find it’s a complicated business. Same with Panasonic. But at the time. Was also working, and it had been working for a long time with Intricon. And Intricon has a unique position of providing microelectronic products since 1977. They made all the switches, volume controls, trim pots for all of the manufacturers at one point, and certainly all the major manufacturers. They then got more into some of the systems, and when I joined, they had just gotten the contract with United Healthcare. So this was their first entree into kind of saying, we want to provide complete solutions with a very major player. They were the exclusive provider for many years. That’s kind of my history. So for the last ten years, I’ve worked either full time at the executive level with IntriCon, or like I am now, where I help them in developing different markets. But I’m actually in a consulting relationship with them. But it’s a good relationship. Yeah. Both of you come with very unique perspectives, which is why I think this is going to be such an informative discussion that we’re going to have before we talk about Tuned and Tuned Care, because there’s a difference between the two. Let’s very quickly talk about what the OTC market is and then get into the difference between Tuned and Tuned Care, and then talk about what Tuned has to offer, because I think that rotation is probably a little more the outline is probably a little more sequenced. That makes sense. So we have this OTC market. We know what it’s supposed to do, and we know why it’s important because we talked about the fact that there’s a shortage of providers, there’s a shortage of uptake. There’s lots of people that need help, right? So we have accessibility issues, there’s affordability issues and so forth and so on. There’s also some medical issues if you start getting into comorbidities and depression and anxiety and all those other pieces. But this OTC market hasn’t really taken the leap that a lot of people had suspected that it would. And there was some data that came out recently that says it was less than favorable. And I know that you all have an opinion about this. So let’s dive into what this OTC market is and where we think it’s headed. I’m happy to take that, Ron. So let me just jump in a minute and tell you where I see it is. Right. You know, this was a long process getting here, and a lot of people had lots of reasons why we shouldn’t do this, certainly industry based reasons. And then when it finally did come into fruition, what, a year ago, after maybe almost five years of resistance, it was not met with an overwhelming positive from everyone. So here we are, you know, launching one year later, and we really don’t have the right products. Into the OTC channel yet really what we have is people who extended their product range that were maybe doing PSAPs or maybe doing Direct to consumer and those products are now seen to be what everyone says, that’s the OTC. We also have products that some of the manufacturers have put out that are maybe not really complete hearing solutions. There may be earbud style or they may be in the Canal style, which is not really the mainstream of hearing care. And OTC was meant to meet people with mild moderate real hearing loss. And so we have yet to see the right products come into the market that are going to change. Know, my opinion is as an OTC business, we’re just getting started and it’s not just what we’re doing with Tuned and what IntriCon is doing, but I’m speaking on behalf of maybe a broader group of people who are just bringing products into the market. So it’s really too early to say whether OTC has been successful because it’s the tip of the iceberg. Yeah, and I’ll just add from an economic standpoint, the thing that I have observed is essentially three things. Number one, it’s supposed to be a disruptive market and by definition a disruptive market is supposed to undercut an existing market. And it seems that this is trying to compete with the prescriptive market in terms of price and some other factors So we can talk about that in just a second and what that means. I think the second thing is the marketing. The OTC market is a very different set of individuals than what is in the prescriptive market. It’s supposed to be a younger crowd. But if you look at the marketing efforts that are there, they are actually very similar between the two segmentations. And I think that may have something to do with the comments that you just made Delain and then I think the third thing is I don’t think we have fully realized where the best points of opportunity are in terms of dissemination. So right now we have these things in Best Buy and Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS and so forth and so on. And from a consumer purchasing standpoint, you go through and look and you see, for example, blood pressure monitors and diabetes monitors and so forth. Consult blood sugar monitors, and they start at $29 and go to $89 or $109. And then all of a sudden you got $1,500 set of devices or $1,000 set of devices. And people are already price anchored at this lower level. And they’re like, what in the hell is all this about? And why would I spend that kind of money? So having said that and having heard what you just said Delain I think you’re absolutely right. It’s a market that still has to mature. But again, the market, it didn’t play out like we had expected it to. And I know, ron, there are things. That you’re bringing to the table that with this self care, are there to help the individual who is seeing these things that are out on the marketplace at this point in time move forward with a self fitting device. Correct. So I just want to bring an interesting statistic that one of my team members brought. So iPhone at the first year only sold 1.5 million devices. Nokia back then sold well over 200 million. So it takes a long time for new technology to be embraced by the majority of people. We all know where Nokia is now and where Apple is now. But that was a new technology penetrating the market and that was a disruptive technology. And that, of course, we all know how it ends. And I completely agree with Delain. This is the tip of the iceberg for OTC, and there’s a lot of process that needs to be done, both with the companies such as Tuned to fine tune the right devices, the right services, and the right product that will fit the target market. But it’s also our customers need to adapt to this new technology to understand that they can get a clinical grade outcome with an OTC product that they can buy at Best Buy, for example, as you mentioned. So those procedures usually take few years. And I know the expectation was really high once the FDA finally issued the guidelines for OTC, but I do think that our starting point is not as bad as some articles are pointing at. And just really quick, Ron, just so that we’re all on the same page, your company Tuned and the company Tuned Care are two separate entities, is that correct? Yeah, that’s correct. We share a similar name, but completely two different market that we focus on. I think actually Delain knows them much better than we. So I will let Delain. Yeah, happy to. In fact, I just was on a panel at the ADA conference sitting next to Danny Aronson, who is, I think, the chief executive for Tuned Care. You know, their model is to really go in and build a network of audiologists and figure out how to bring more people into hearing care and conservation and music care. And they’re doing a fantastic job of really getting out front into the market. They as yet have not really dealt with the device side. I think there’s some potential ways that they could work with different people, but I think that’s a completely different model than Tuned in Israel that Ron’s with, as well as Omri, and they’ve developed the probably leading software, which I think we’ll talk about in just a bit, that’s just hearing focused but completely different companies. Good relationship. There’s no animosity there. We can all work together. But yeah, thanks for pointing that out. Definitely different companies. Yeah, and I’ll be honest with you, I actually made that mistake. And so I wanted to make sure that none of the other viewers were also making the same mistake that I did. Let’s get back to this OTC thing for just a second and just kind of talk a little bit about the market and then we’ll talk about the tuned product, which I think is really fascinating. The market still has this growth potential. And from your perspective, because Juan, you’re in it because you’ve got a product and Delane, you’re in it because you’re doing all these other things that have been in the market space for a while, what do we see as our greatest outcome at the end? And I understand it’s going to take us a few years to get there. As you pointed out, technology takes a while to be embraced. How are we going to get there and what does that mean for the provider? Because a lot of providers are threatened by the fact that they’re now not involved in the diagnostic testing and the rehabilitation point. But we’ve got so many people that need help and we don’t have enough people to do it. I think there has to be a balance here. So can we talk a little bit about that? I’m happy to jump in since I’m pretty close to the US. Market, let me just give my perspective on how I think it should work. First of all, what we’ve done is we’ve done the easiest path. We’ve thrown a bunch of stuff into some retail channels and said, oh, I hope they work. We haven’t really come up with an elegant solution, in my opinion. The other thing we haven’t done is we haven’t, and I’m happy to talk more about that. The other thing we haven’t done is we haven’t begun to work through the biggest opportunity probably, which is the insurance channels. And the insurance channels are huge. If you look at just the Medicare Advantage, I’m very confident that a year from now, maybe two, takes a long time to get new products with the right codes in the insurance channels. But you’re going to see Joe Namath on TV in the fall, know, get your OTC hearing aids as a part of your Medicare Advantage or your Medicare supplement plan and that’s going to be huge. It’s also lots of people struggle. They go in to buy a hearing aid and they realize the benefit they have under their insurance plan or their employer plan really doesn’t cover much of the cost. Some do, but a lot of them don’t. Whereas an alternative would be to say, here’s an OTC solution that doesn’t require any additional out of pocket and it’s paid for by the benefits you have. The other thing, let me say so we have the retail, we have the on switch is a big opportunity. The other thing, and I was just advocating heavily for this. Something I mentioned earlier at ADA. I really believe the professional is missing an opportunity. We should be embracing OTC as opposed to resisting OTC, and we should be saying, look, we take care of everybody, the whole continuum of care. If you have a hearing problem, if you have an issue with noise, if you have tinnitus, if you have balance issues, if you need just a help or situation solutions, we should be offering it. Now, I’m not advocating at all that the professionals spend lots of time in their practice, or should I say in their office, offering the same quality of service, bank of tests, counseling or OTC that they do for their traditional product. I’m just saying make a place for it in the office so you don’t exclude those people. And this is going to become more important as the product quality changes. Everybody thinks, oh well, OTC is just kind of a poor quality, a bad delivery system, no software support, no assistance in the care. But those things are all changing. So don’t think of OTC as what it is right now as kind of a questionable modification to PSAPs. Think of it as what it’s going to know. All of the big manufacturers are putting out good quality product right now. Anyone who thinks that there won’t be an OTC solution that comes up with that same standard of hardware is, I think, being short sighted. Add to that the best software right now in care is coming from not from the traditional industry and from the big manufacturers. It’s coming from companies like Tuned, which I know we’re going to talk about that in a bit. Then you add to that remote care. Who’s really doing remote care? Well, in my opinion, no one. But all of the technology is there to do it much better. And again, we’ll probably talk about with some of the AI improvements and different things that could be brought by bringing that complete solution together. So I love that. Answered your question 100%. And I’m going to punt it over to Ron here and say, Ron, I think he sets you up beautifully to talk about your product now and how that is going to enhance the service delivery because we need to move forward not only with the product, but also with the service delivery, and your company has that. So tell us a little bit about that. Exactly. So Tuned is not an OTC solution in terms of it’s not a product with a box that you can put on the shelf. Tuned is a platform for self fitting and rehabilitation OTC solution. So what we focus on in Tuned is actually the journey the patient goes since the unboxing of the hearing aids and up till they are customized with their new hearing aids. So it’s actually a platform which is. Agnostic to the hardware, we can connect to different kind of hardwares. Currently we’re working very closely with the Lumen by Intricon and our focus is making that rehabilitation journey much easier and with better service along that path compared to other OTC solution. Looking at what’s currently on the market is exactly as Delain said. Everyone just put hardware on the shelves. You have the onboarding, some of them are actually self fitted in terms of you do the diagnostics by yourself and then the hearing AIDS being fitted according to your threshold, the majority of them are not. And we know that currently in the industry the return rates are very high and a lot of people are asking why. And it’s because we are just focusing on putting hearing AIDS into people’s ear. But we know that’s not enough and we know that we need to make that extra step. What Tune is actually doing, and we are involving a lot of AI solution into that product is of course creating that ecosystem of care for the entire journey. So we start with the onboarding, with the diagnostic. We do an incidental test, so it will be very accurate. And actually we have a result showing that we are about five DB plus minus compared to a traditional hearing test. And once that diagnostic is being done and the hearing AIDS are being fitted to your specific needs, then actually it’s where the magic tune starts. So you have that entire ecosystem that engage the users, motivates and educating every step of the way. So the core of the Tune solution is what we call our AI audiologist, or the hearing assistant, which is an AI chatbot that can actually interact with the users, educate them, answer to any question that they might have, help them with maintenance and actually solve them different kind of fitting issues. So we took that AI engine and we are a group of three audiologists. We have also Dr. Shait Tsudeke with us and Tari Rotwal. And we taught that AI engine, all of the audiology that we learned over the years. So we like to say that he has like about 30, 35 years of experience with hearing aid feeding. But it’s true. You can actually ask the AI hearing assistant. You can describe problems that you might encounter. You can ask him how do I change the dome? How do I clean the thin tube? If you’re in a dinner party and you are having problems understanding speech because of the background noise, you can ask him, you can describe. Drive the problem and the AI will actually tune the hearing aid right there in a live scenario. And that’s actually, I think, industry first to have that clinical support in the palm of our users hand without the need for telehealth, without the need, of course, in the traditional market, sending up appointment, driving to the hear aid clinic, et cetera. So that’s a completely different approach for hearing aid assistant in a live scenario. If I can add a little bit to that. Thanks Ron, but let me just give you my summarized perspective of what Tuned is doing because I’m really impressed. And I’ve also presented the Tuned software to some industry leaders that people on here would say, yes, that’s a respected person and showing them what this tune software will do. And they are all very impressed. You talk about efficiencies and the fact that we don’t have the resources to help all the people that need help. So that means we’ve got to figure out how to do it more efficiently. And this software will actually bring the person in, they sign on the app, they take the test and then they can get real feedback from the app enough to really help them through some very complicated fitting choices and counseling choices. And I don’t know. I’m happy to give you my perspective on this engagement part. I go back to when my daughter got married a couple of years ago. And I’ve given this story before, so I won’t give the whole thing, but I decided I need to lose 20 pounds and I needed to get in shape. And so I joined Noom and I couldn’t believe how Noom got inside my head. They started talking to me about your weight and eating and all these things. Well, I liken that to hearing care. Hearing is complicated and we have to get inside that patient’s head. We’ve got to figure out how to engage with them and come alongside them and say, yes, this is helping and this is how you go about it. Here are the different problems you’re having. Help them not only with just the hearing AIDS, yes, they got to figure out how to put the battery in, but also help them understand hearing care, their hearing loss, the impact on others, how to manage in difficult situations. And it’s an education process, in my opinion, toond, is doing far better than anybody else in this part of efficiently coming alongside the patient, engaging with the patient. And that’s when we really start to meet the needs of a broader number of people, unmet needs in this industry because we can’t do it with the audiologists and hearing care professionals that we have. It’s just the numbers are too big. As you mentioned. What I really appreciate about. Outtuned as I’ve gotten to spend more time and learn about know most audiologists do not get reimbursed for the rehabilitative services and that’s just how we’re classified within Medicare and hopefully that will change as legislation hopefully will pass this year. But we have gotten away from those roots. And when I was a faculty member anemia I would always tell students we have to be like physical therapists, right? You have surgeons that do X job in order to get the person fixed and I’m using that word in quotes here but after that, just the surgery in and of itself is not going to get the person where they need to be. You actually have to do some rehabilitation and we’re actually doing a little bit of both, although there’s really not a surgery but we are providing an intervention and that intervention has to have a rehabilitation that goes with it. And Ron, to your point, I think you’ve now created that we’re now meeting the consumer where they are and we’re overcoming some of the limitations that we have in our service delivery model, whether it’s the reimbursement piece, whether it’s the workforce shortage to provide individuals the best possible solution. And I think that’s absolutely incredible. And you’re using this thing called AI and I don’t think everybody understands what AI is. So can you dive a little bit deeper into this thing about how this AI is assisting and not taking away from these providers? So as you mentioned, there is a lack of audiologists all over the world but mainly in the US. So we know that the current audiologists and manpower is not enough to care for all the hearing out there. And for example, the White House published just before the FDA issued the guidelines only 14% of American with the hearing loss actually own a hearing aid. And even if that numbers are wrong and 30% of them own a hearing aid, that’s still a very low number. So we know that we need to help the audiologists reach larger audience. The AI is basically a superpower for theologists. So he knows and understand audiology almost the same as a regular audiologist. But what’s great about it is that he can solve those daily problems, maintenance issue and all those stuff that audiologist doesn’t really need to focus on. He can solve that for you. So for example, many audiologists that I speak with say for example, they spend a lot of time in troubleshooting those really minor issues that patients come into the clinic with. And some of them could be very simple stuff like putting the battery upside down and now the battery door is stuck. It could be that they have a block blocking their thin tube or their dome and they are having problem hearing. And we are taking those experts and spending their time on something which is a minor problem for them to solve. This is where the AI engine come into place, replacing those audiologists and helping the users solve those daily problems by eliminating the need for expert assistant. And I must say also that the built in AI chatbot intitune also knows when to escalate into a live expert. So when he tries to solve the problems and we always have a feedback loop with the users, we are asking if what we did improved, improved, but not enough. We didn’t improve. And we will try at least two different methods in attacking the problems that the users addressing now with the chat. But the AI can understand that he will not be able to solve the problem and suggest the user to discuss this issue with a human expert. And when he chose to speak to that human expert, the expert actually has data logging for all the chat, every modification that the AI did to the device, so he can actually see the log and understand what was wrong. How did the AI try to solve the problem, see the answer that he got from the users and try maybe a different technique in solving that issue? Yeah, and I think that’s important because as you pointed out, it’s labor effective. If it needs to be triaged, it sends the patient to you, as you pointed out just a moment ago. And then you’re also running these diagnostics that allow you to benefit this device. So, as Delane pointed out, it’s a product that is changing that service delivery. Now the question becomes how do providers engage with this? Do you have to become a member of Tune or is it available to anybody? Can you talk a little bit about that? I’m happy to jump into that. I think, as I mentioned a minute ago, I really believe that the professional, the hearing care professional has a big opportunity to jump in. And I think there’s been a lot of resistance from the beginning saying we’re not sure this is the right solution and it’s going back during the legislation. We’re not sure that it’s safe, we’re not sure that well, all those questions have been answered. And so now as we see new products and new solutions come out that people can say, yeah, actually I can see how my patients might benefit from that. I really believe that we need the industry. When I say the industry, I’m talking about the hearing care professional, audiologist hearing dispensers entities. Wherever the professionals are, they need to embrace it and they need to figure. Out. And I really challenge the leaders in the industry to come up with the right message and to come up with how does it fit into the practice? And this might be involving the front office. It could be the office manager, the hearing care assistant. Maybe everybody gets a screening to determine whether they’re a good candidate for OTC, and then that’s not taken the time of the audiologist or the professional. But I really believe that if we don’t get the messaging right, we’re going to all of a sudden find that because when they need other help, maybe they need a better, different hearing aid, they’re not going to come back to us as quickly. They’re also not going to come back to us for tinness or for dizziness or for mass processing disorders, all the other things that the professional should be taken care of. So to answer your question, how did they do that? We’ve actually partnered with Tuned and we’ve actually partnered with Warner Care to offer this solution. So the professional now with a partner they know, which is Warner Hearing or Warner Tech care could actually buy the product and put it in their practice. And we’re actually right now engaging with Steve Egan, which many people know Steve Egan from his time. Steve came out of hearing planet. He’s an audiologist from Dayton. I met him first at Dayton’s Speech and Hearing Center maybe a long time ago. He then went Hearing Planet when he got part of the Phonak Sonova group, ended up with Phonak and Unitron, worked on messaging. How do we engage with the patient? Ultimately, he ended up out at Ergo, which is another now OTC solution. Now he’s working on his own and he’s helping mortar Tech Tuned and IntriCon launch to the professional, working on the messaging. So he’s actually putting together webinars that you can go to Warner Tech to find out when those webinars are, to really say, here’s how we position this within our practice so we don’t find all of our time taken, but yet we don’t miss an opportunity to serve a really important growing group of customers. So I love that’s more than you. No, I think it’s important for folks to understand what’s the rationale and what’s the pathway for them to get into this and then who’s kind of behind it. And I can vouch for Steve. I’ve known Steve for a little while here, and he’s just a wonderful, wonderful and very knowledgeable individual. Given his experiences in both the prescriptive side and on the consumer side when he was with Know, this might be a good time to add something else. There’s going to be. White paper coming out from one of the most well known OTC DTC hearing providers and it’s going to say they surveyed 1000 patients and they found that bought their product and they found that 67% actually went to the professional before deciding to buy this OTC or DTC product. And what that tells us is they went to the professional but there was something they didn’t find there that they wanted. So whether it was in the form factor, whether it was in the price, whether it was in the type of care, you don’t go to most audiology or earring dispensing practices and get an easy solution. It’s a complicated process and some people say I got a small problem, I want an easy solution. And that’s really where OTC comes in. A lot of people, it just gets them started in the process of hearing care. So I think we have to make sure that we’re not chasing a lot of people away because we only have one type of solution for them a little bit. Back to some of the stuff you said. This may be a different group of people. 100%. Ron, do you want to add anything to that? Yeah, from our perspective, OTC is a stepping stone for a traditional solution. So I totally agree with Elaine and we do want to start to incorporate the Tune solution with the professional. I think it’s something that they should really look into because that really expands their portfolio of products. They are addressing much larger audience with different kind of problems. So the people with the mild to moderate problems, they are looking for something that will be easy to install and easy to follow for them, that’s the right product. They will not go to seek professional help with the traditional market, but they are seeking for the expert advice and telling them exactly what’s the right thing for them. So that’s the first thing. Second, I want to add about the Tune platform that I didn’t discuss before. So we have the app which is in the user’s hand with all the tools that we have for a better clinical outcome and to create that better hearing rehabilitation journey. But I should also mention that in the back end, so the entire back end of the Tune platform is actually being built for the expert to have an overview of their patients. Which means what we know that’s actually the first in the world. So from the comfort of your home, you can log into the tuned web system and you can see all of your patients at once. You can see their data logging, so you can see how many of them are using it for their daily goals. How many of them for example, you can see a patient. That stopped using the hearing AIDS for the past three days. And you know that there’s something wrong with that patient. And it could be just that he’s sick, or it could be that he lost the device, it could be numerous issues. But the fact that you have a red flag pointing to that specific customers and giving you that alert that you should address that issue now before that problem becomes even bigger, that’s a great tool for you. Of course, you can also use the remote system for remote support. You can have a video call, you can have a chat, you can send them push notification directly to the app, reminding them, for example, to do maintenance. So, for example, you know that you have customers with access, wax, accumulating. You can ask the system to send them a weekly reminder to do a maintenance for their hearing AIDS, to remove that excess wax. So those kind of tools that we put into the backend really helps those experts give better service to their customers. And Ron, let me ask you this because I think you brought up an interesting point. So, number one, you have ongoing patient engagement, which we typically don’t have after the patient leaves the clinic. But let me ask you this. How does the existing database that someone has on an OMS, how does it fit in with your platform? So, for example, let’s say that I’m using Blueprint or I’m using Herefore, or I’m using Cycle, and I have an existing database and I’m now wanting people to use Tuned. Does the existing OMS, does it integrate, or is there a way for it to integrate with your current platform? So we can integrate different kind of systems. Currently we are integrating into Salesforce, but we can easily integrate to any kind of those systems. So you can have all the data that you already have connected into the tune solution. So of course that’s possible. Yeah. And the reason I bring it up is you might have some folks that are interested in this, but they need to make sure that that database of existing consumers is portable, otherwise it’s extra work. So you’ve made this whole process very efficient. I think that’s a fabulous point. Earlier I said we need some people to take the lead in the profession to say, here’s how it integrates in. And that’s a perfect point. We need people to say, this is what I need to make this a part of my practice. So I think those are discussions are yet to be had. So far, the two worlds have been kept very far apart. Everyone’s resisting the OTC, telling us why it isn’t a good solution, telling how it’s failed. We’re not even out of the shoot and we’re telling people are saying we lost, just it’s too early. 100%. Absolutely. And then the other thing I’m going to bring up Ron real quick is we know that remote care and telehealth haven’t taken off like we wanted to and after COVID it’s actually depreciated in usage. Part of what’s coming out and there’s research to support this is that providers are not well trained on those service delivery aspects. S and my understanding is you guys have a phenomenal onboarding and integration model that allows that provider the tools that are needed to be successful. Can you talk a little bit about that? Basically you can solve any issue that your user might have. So even if you don’t have a 30 years of experience with audiology, the system will offer you what’s the best kind of solution that the users need. So that’s integrated into the AI engine and it’s a machine learning kind of system which means that it actually learns from different kind of solution that it offers. So I would just give an example we are always sampling our users. So for example, if we see a group of people that have similar hearing loss and we see what’s the most common issues that they raise and what’s the best solution that the AI provide them. So we now know for someone else that comes that have a similar criteria, he will get that solution. So it’s like an audiologist that gets better over time as he’s seen more and more patients. So it’s exactly that we took that ability and put that into the back end. Which means that if the users want to escalate into a live expert that actually will have built in answers to provide all the users. One that I can add just a bit. The other part of this solution that we’re offering, which is the tuned most advanced software and the Intracon solution we also on the in person remote care, we have an existing business that IntriCon had for some time which is hearing Help Express which is providing the back case. I might not have been clear when I talked about offering a solution to the professional. This is a solution that I advocate that the professional turns all of the care to the system, to the software and the remote care. They really shouldn’t come into the practices to get all of the traditional care just by buying an OTC product, but by embracing it now you’re offering them a real solution, the complete solution if that makes know we. This is when Ron talks about the CRM on salesforce. It’s a robust system and we’ve spent. Years putting this together. Yeah. Well, as we start to wind this up, what I’m really seeing here is a complete solution where you’ve got your existing database and you know what they’re going to do. This is another segment of the market that could potentially come in and you could service, but it’s serviced through a different service delivery model that’s using this AI platform that you all have created. And then I would suspect that there’s even another market where they’re just going to take something off the shelf and figure out whether or not it works. And by having these three different segments, and there’s probably more, but at least the three segments that we’re talking about here, that’s going to allow us to meet the needs of these consumers, reduce some of the issues that we’re facing in the market space, and it’s going to allow us to grow and evolve into something that’s going to eventually explode. As we’ve been talking about with this market. So it’s been a fascinating conversation and I’m really excited about where this is going. The one thing and talking about the explosion, I think the explosion is going to happen. The other thing I think that a lot of people don’t realize is the existing market for OTC is much larger already than maybe is being recognized within the industry. We only count the numbers of the people who report. Well, the majority of the people providing products into OTC channel currently don’t report anywhere. And what this means is it’s very I because of Intracon and because of my understanding of this space, I happen to know that there’s over a million, probably closer to a million, two units per year that are OTC hearing AIDS. And as soon as the legislation passed, these all became hearing AIDS. You call them PSAPs in the past, listeners, whatever you’re going to call them. But now these are hearing, you know, the resistance that some of the industry has been to counting is because they’re thinking that OTC is only this class two self hitting solution. Well, that’s not true. All of the products that are in that category are now hearing AIDS. So overnight when legislation passed, we went from an industry of 5 million hearing AIDS and grew by 20%. We’re actually now an industry of 6 million hearing AIDS in the US. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that because they’re not reported. And maybe we need to find the right mechanism where we bring those companies together so that they’re represented in the industry, so that we all know where is the market? What is the market especially more important as it grows? Absolutely. I 100% agree with you. We do a good job of sending things to the market, but we, as you pointed out, don’t do a very good job of reporting them accurately. We have the same issue as we’re looking at workforce. We really don’t know how many people are in the market because we don’t have a database. Of all of the individuals. So you bring up a very salient point and something that’s very near and dear to my heart. How do we better report this information so we have a better pulse on what it is that we’re doing and how well we’re doing it? Absolutely. Yeah. All right, gentlemen, we’ve had a wonderful conversation. Any last comment? Any last thoughts for the viewership? I guess thank you. Let me just say, for kind of giving us an opportunity to talk about what we think is the fastest growing, most exciting part of the industry right now. The you know, I appreciate that. The other thing, maybe maybe it would be great as we look I mean, a lot of the people that I think watch the podcast are professionals in the industry. So maybe it would be great to get Steve Egan and maybe Lee Heidenweich on to talk about the Warner Tech offering at some point and how they see this messaging and how positioning of the products into the professional practice 100%. I think the more information providers have on how this technology fits in with their practice or their office, the more likely they are to embrace it. It’s all about so absolutely, I’d love to get Steve on again. I have a great deal of respect for him, and he’s just a class act and he’s really well spoken as well. So absolutely. And then, Ron, I’m really excited about your platform. I know that this is just the beginning. There’s going to be iterations and evolutions in this thing, and we’d love to get you back on at some point down the road here and say, this is where we were, this is where we’re at, and this is where we’re going. So I really look forward to that. Thank you very much, Brian. You’re very great. Thank you for being on. It’s been a pleasure. And we’ll see you guys shortly down the road and we’ll say, this is where we were, and this is where we are, and this is where we’re headed. All right, thanks so much.

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About the Panel

 Amyn M. Amlani, PhD, is President of Otolithic, LLC, a consulting firm that provides competitive market analysis and support strategy, economic and financial assessments, segment targeting strategies and tactics, professional development, and consumer insights. Dr. Amlani has been in hearing care for 25+ years, with extensive professional experience in the independent and medical audiology practice channels, as an academic and scholar, and in industry. Dr. Amlani also serves as section editor of Hearing Economics for Hearing Health &  Technology Matters (HHTM).


With many years of senior level management experience to back him, Delain Wright is a leader in a quickly changing value based hearing aid market. Over the past three decades he has been at the forefront of the hearing industry working with the NHS, direct-to-consumer markets, OTC, existing traditional models and government legislation. With advances in technology putting more control in the hand of the consumer it is Delain’s goal to be a leader in the value based hearing market by providing insight to companies providing greater accessibility and affordability to millions in need. 

Ron Ganot is the Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer at Tuned.

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