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The Other X in Tech: South Africa’s Nic Klopper Envisons hearX and Lexie as the Engine for Affordable Hearing Solutions

Nic Klopper and his team at hearX want to bring high-quality, lower-cost hearing aids and assistance from Pretoria to a world that desperately needs them
Nic Klopper Hearx Grand Canyon

Nic Klopper at a recent trip to the Grand Canyon.

What do Elon Musk and Nic Klopper have in common? Both are entrepreneurs who hail from South Africa, both have companies on Time Magazine’s 2023 list of the 100 most influential companies, and both share a fondness for the letter X. But while Musk has his sights set on Mars, Klopper’s mission is to deliver affordable hearing care to the millions here on earth who need it.

Klopper is the CEO and founder of Lexie Hearing and also the CEO of its parent company, hearX Group, which develops clinical hearing tests and self-screening technology. Under his leadership, Lexie has grown in just 3 years to become one of the most recognizable names in over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids and online hearing care. He also forged a partnership with Bose, one of the world’s leading audio equipment companies.

When the FDA finalized legislation for the sale of OTC hearing aids in October 2022, Lexie quickly entered the market with the largest retail footprint in the category. Today, Lexie hearing aids are sold online and in over 12,000 stores across the United States, and the Lexie B2 Powered by Bose OTC hearing aid earned a 2023 Expert Choice Award and some of the highest ratings from the independent audio test lab HearAdvisor.

Nic Klopper spoke to HearingTracker from his office in Pretoria, South Africa.

Time Lexie

Lexie was recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential companies of 2023. Left to right is CFO Emanuel Gerson, CEO Nic Klopper, COO Seline Van Der Wat, and Senior VP North America Brian Maguire.

What inspired you to start Lexie?

Klopper: At heart, I'm an innovator. I love pushing the boundaries and coming up with new concepts and new ideas. I did one of those popular personality trait tests and my top three were “innovator,” “futurist,” and “competitor.”

Lexie was born out of a trip to the U.S. where I saw what people in the industry were doing and what was happening in technological trends. So I put a team together, and we began developing the technologies and solutions that led to Lexie.

We were driven by the goal of providing high-quality affordable hearing aids directly to consumers.

I think I'm a good visionary and good at leading us to where we need to go. I'm an excellent starter—but I'm not that good a finisher. So I have surrounded myself with fantastic executive and management teams that are great at executing ideas.

Nic Klopper Hearx Helicopter

Klopper is a self-confessed "petrol head," liking and getting a thrill from just about anything that has an engine in it like this helicopter.

Has anyone in your family been touched by hearing loss?

Klopper: My grandmother has hearing loss. She has always suffered from hearing loss and then about 10 years ago she developed dementia. I have been in this industry for seven years and I fully understand the link between hearing loss and dementia. Because my mom had what I suspected was mild hearing loss, I asked her to take a test. The results confirmed it and within days she got a hearing aid. It changed her life.

I think we all have to understand that addressing hearing loss early is the largest modifiable risk factor when it comes to dementia and delaying its onset.

It sounds like hearing loss may run in your family. How’s your hearing?

Klopper: I'm turning 40 next year and in my youth I played in a band. I was the drummer and I was completely unaware of the damage I was doing. I never wore ear protection. It was the same with hunting which is one of my passions. It was only in the last four years that I began wearing hearing protection.

Now, when I test myself, I can already see that I have lost hearing, so for me it’s very personal. It has become very real to me. Now, when I’m in meetings all day, I wear my hearing aids because I have noticed that I’m more tired if I don’t.

I have become a big advocate for hearing care, even for people with milder losses.

It sounds like running Lexie has become more than just a job for you.

Klopper: To be completely honest and open with you, I had previously been an entrepreneur but this is my first experience with a medical device company. I wanted to do something that made a difference, that had a positive impact.

So, yes this is turning into more of a mission than a business. I now understand how many millions of people around the world are affected by hearing loss. It gives meaning to the job.

When you’re not on the job how do like to spend your free time?

When I do have the time, I either make music or listen to music. It's very important to me.

I'm also very much of a petrol head, as we say in South Africa, so I do a lot of off-road motorcycling. I also love cars, helicopters, and anything that has some sort of engine in it.

Nic Klopper Hearx Cycle

Off-road cycling is a favorite way to unwind for Klopper.

Then, of course, spending time with my wife, our friends, and family is very important to me.  One of the things we like to do together is sit around the table and play board games.

Okay, I have to ask you this since one of your companies is named HearX. There’s SpaceX and now Twitter is called X. Why do South African entrepreneurs love the letter X?   

Elon Musk, right? (laughing) It’s a crazy coincidence. I wish I could say it was some kind of inspiration, but no. We wanted a name for the company that had the word “hear” in it, but we couldn’t come up with anything so we used X as a placeholder and it kind of stuck!

Digby Cook

Contributor

Digby Cook is a veteran journalist with a wide range of experience in television news, documentaries and newspapers. His interest in the science of hearing is both professional and personal.