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Sonova Finally Enters OTC Hearing Aid Market With Possible Professional Support

Sennheiser All Day Clear and All Day Slim Released

The rumours of my untimely demise are untrue, yay, Geoff is not dead!!! Anyway, no real point in boring you too much with my rather prolonged existential crisis. I am back, still ugly, but back nonetheless. I hope that I will be a bit more present from now on, but to be honest, I never expected to be missing in action. Strange things happen I suppose. Anyway, you did not click through to listen to a fat bloke navel gaze. Sonova has been experimenting with the direct-to-consumer hearing aid market for quite a while. They purchased Blamey Saunder a couple of years ago. I said at the time that I felt the purchase made sense for Sonova, not necessarily for any profitability but more for the institutional legacy and experience of the business. Blamey Saunder ran an interesting business model that was almost designed for the future. It provided a blended approach; you could buy hearing aids online but also access real-world, in-person support if you wished. Not surprisingly, the very model for the new Sennheiser products.  Let's talk All Day Clear and All Day Clear Slim.

Sennheiser OTC Hearing Aids All Day Clear OTC Hearing Aids

OTC hearing Aids for consumers–with optional professional support

The Sennheiser All All-Day Clear and All-Day Clear Slim are FDA-approved OTC devices aimed squarely at the US market. They will be available starting in mid-July both on the Sennheiser website and via select retailers and hearing care professionals. They are priced at $1,399.95 for the All Day Clear and $1,499.95, for the All Day Clear Slim. The free All-Day Clear App will be made available for download on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play Store (Android).

Both devices can be purchased online and programmed by you in the comfort of your own home. However, like the HelloGo Model originally used in Australia by Sonova, you can also purchase add-on professional support. I think this makes total sense for the consumer. If you are tech-savvy, you can purchase, fit yourself and then just get on with it. If you aren't, you can purchase them with a support package from a professional that will get you up and running. 

The Blended Model, good for Sonova, good for you

When HelloGo was launched, I said, "The blended model makes a whole heap of sense for you as a user and for the company. For you, you get an added level of service and backup if you need it. For the business, it means that they can push you towards their captured retail". I thought then, and still do, that it makes sense for manufacturers to drive OTC (Over The Counter) and DTC (Direct To Consumer) in combination with their captured retail. It makes sense to drive a blended model through captured retail to allow them to capture the customer earlier in the journey and keep them loyal as they progress.

Pricing, pricing, pricing

I think the pricing is too high; basically, the OTC market was envisioned to provide a decent level of hearing product for a cohort of people who couldn't afford the traditional model. The price of these hearing aids is not hugely less than for entry-level hearing aids in the traditional model. While upon further inspection, these devices may represent more than entry-level hearing aids, well-fitted entry-level devices backed up by ongoing professional support and care may be a better option. That's ignoring the fact that the original target of this market, probably doesn't have the guts of $1500.

The high end of a low-price market

Sonova is not the first brand that I have voiced these concerns about, I said the same about ReSound and Lively, WS Audiology and Sony etc. These types of devices from traditional hearing aid manufacturers represent the premium of this growing market. It makes some sense, and these brands have a huge legacy in the manufacture of hearing devices. That means you can be reasonably reassured you aren't buying a piece of crap.

The future is probably blended

I think that the future provision of hearing solutions will be some sort of blended model. This will certainly be so within the confines of the individual Manufacturer's captured retail outlets. I think that the model makes perfect sense for consumers. You get your cake and eat it.

For the wider Audiology profession, it will make sense to offer this model if it becomes an accepted norm. In fairness, our profession won't have much choice if consumers demand it; not offering it would sound the death knell. When I know a little more about the products I will write an article in relation to them. For now, they both look like Receiver In Canal Devices, which makes a lot of sense. The All Day Clear looks like a pretty standard Sonova rechargeable RIC, the All Day Clear Slim looks like the HelloGo offering in a new coat.

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Geoffrey Cooling

Geoffrey Cooling

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Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling is an Irish hearing aid blogger and has been involved with the hearing aid industry since 2007. He has worked in private practice dispensing hearing aids and as a manufacturer's rep. He has written two books and they are both available on Amazon. He loves technology, passing on knowledge and is legendary for many other things, primarily the amount he curses, his dry and mischievous sense of humour and his complete intolerance of people who are full of themselves. Please feel free to connect with him.

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