Younger consumers, and consumers with milder forms of hearing loss, are far less likely to use hearing aids. While attempts have been made to engage this market segment, our industry has largely failed to make significant headway. In order to grow the market, by engaging younger adults with mild, situational problems – and create sustainable revenue for our practices – it will require the wide scale adoption of new services and product categories.
Fig 1. Hearing loss segmented by degree. Data from Nash (2013), Lin et al (2011), Lin (2011)and Wallhagen & Pettengill (2008)
Historically, our industry has served the top 25% of patients in Figure 1. These are individuals, typically older in age, often with more complex problems, requiring more time and expertise to manage. On the other hand, those in the bottom 75% of the pyramid – where the vast majority of adults with hearing loss reside – are likely to have less complicated issues related to hearing loss, and probably don’t require numerous appointments for adjustments and counseling
One such new product category is directed audio devices, such as HyperSound System (HSS), which is a new technology for those patients that need improved communication while watching TV at home. HSS works by first electronically converting audible information onto ultrasonic frequencies, well-beyond the range of human hearing. The acoustic signal is reproduced using an emitter and transmitted in a beam of silent ultrasonic energy. The nonlinearity of air demodulates this acoustic signal, thus reproducing the audible information in a narrow beam, such that it is heard only by those in the targeted area. All the patient has to do to use HSS is to sit down in the beam. No hearing aids are required. See Figure 2 for a schematic display of the HSS system while in use at home.
Figure 2. The HyperSound System being used as part of a home audio experience.
Preliminary studies of HSS on a limited number of study participants indicate that the HSS may be a viable device for the hearing healthcare market, as one recent study showed that individuals with a range of hearing losses received significant improvement on a speech in noise task in the unaided condition when using HSS. Work is also underway examining how a directed audio device, like HSS, can be used as a gateway product to speed the journey for those who may transition into conventional hearing aids. Additionally, because the margins for the HSS system are substantial, it provides the practice with reasonably good revenue stream.
Directed audio, a new category of product, provides the profession with unprecedented opportunities to grow the market for our services by offering the mild to moderate segment of the market something of value, while simultaneously generating a new stream of revenue for practices. And, it does this without cannibalizing your existing hearing aid business. It’s truly a win-win scenario for those who embrace this new product category, however, it is likely hearing care professionals will need to update or modify some of their existing practices.
Given that such a high percentage of people affected by age-related hearing loss do not consider themselves candidates for traditional hearing aids6,7, it is imperative that we offer alternative treatment choices, such as directed audio solutions. Further, the use of patient decision tools and motivational interviewing techniques are needed to help educate patients on their treatment options in a more collaborative manner. Becoming better, more patient-centric communicators, in addition to offering a broader palate of treatment options, is sure to grow the market and improve patient outcomes.
To learn more go to Hyper Sound Hearing and enroll in the Innovators program.
- Nash, SD et al (2013). Unmet hearing health care needs: The Beaver Dam Offspring study. American Journal of Public Health. 103, 6, 1134-1139.↵
- Lin, F. et al (2011). Hearing loss prevalence and risk factors among older adults in the United States. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 66: 582-590.↵
- Lin, F. et al (2011). Hearing loss prevalence in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 171.↵
- Wallhagen, MI & Pettengill, E. (2008). Hearing impairment: Significant but underassessed in primary care settings. J Gerontol Nurs. 34: 36-42.
- Chien, W. & Lin, F. (2012). Prevalence of hearing aid use among older adults in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine. 172, 292-203.
- Laplante-Levesque, A., Hickson, L., & Worrall, L. (2012a). What makes adults with hearing impairment take up hearing aids or communication programs and achieve successful outcomes? Ear and Hearing. 33, 79-93.
- Laplante-Lévesque A., Knudsen L.V., Preminger J.E., Jones L., Nielsen C., et al. (2012b) Hearing help-seeking and rehabilitation: perspectives of adults with hearing impairment. Int. J. Audiol., 51, 93-102.
About Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor, AuD is the senior director of clinical affairs for Turtle Beach. He is also the clinical audiology advisor for Fuel Medical Group, Camas, WA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: June 8, 2015