Bose has laid off about 2,000 people from its Framingham, Mass., headquarters in recent years and is exiting the hearing aid market, according to an article by Anissa Gardizy in the Tuesday (May 3, 2022) boston globe. The company fell short of its sales targets “as new products from hearing aids to audio glasses did not go as planned” and as Bose continued to lose market share to Apple and Apple. other major competitors, according to the report.
The former employees cited in the article say the layoffs eliminated the healthcare division, which was responsible for developing, manufacturing and marketing the Bose SoundControl hearing aid, as well as another version on which the health division was working.
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Bose SoundControl was the first FDA-approved self-adjusting hearing aid designed for mild to moderate hearing loss, and helped define this distinct class of future over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids through an FDA de novo request in October 2018 and a Class II medical device designation a year later. The product and its CustomTune self-tuning system, based on the Ear Machine app (bought by Bose in 2014), allowed users to tune, program and control the devices for “clinically proven, quality results audiologist – without a doctor’s visit, hearing test or prescription,” according to the company. It was priced at $849.95 a pair and came with a 90-day return policy.
However, the SoundControl did not achieve the popularity the company had hoped for after its long-awaited market launch last May and impressive clinical results for its self-adjustment method (for example, see Andrew’s article Sabin, head of research at Bose, and his colleagues in the June 2021 issue HOUR).
Rumors about SoundControl have swirled around the hearing industry since late 2021, and there appears to be high turnover in Bose’s healthcare division. Early February, after Audience Review Asked if SoundControl had been discontinued and about its lack of availability at stores like Best Buy, Ally Peebles of Bose Public Relations said the hearing aids were still offered and available on Bose.com. However, President Lila Synder “told employees in late February that an independent review of the company’s business strategy had led her to determine that Bose should no longer sell hearing aids,” according to the World article, and the employees of the health division were surprised by this announcement because a second version of the product is already in production.
Bose spokeswoman Joanne Berthiaume told the World that the company will now focus on “the products and technologies that matter most to our customers,” including headphones, speakers, soundbars and car stereos. However, there’s a good chance that Bose will partner with another company – perhaps a hearing aid manufacturer, current PSAP/OTC/hearables developer, or new entrant – licensing or selling its SoundControl technology.
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As stated previously in HOUR, success in the hearing care market is based on more than cost and accessibility; hearing in noise, sound quality, stigma and cosmetics, reliability, streaming, battery life and perceived value are just a few of the other factors. Beyond that, it is simply difficult to convince consumers to take action on their hearing loss, whether mild, moderate or more severe. Leaving the hearing aid market, Bose adds its name to an esteemed list of potential hearing aid manufacturers with innovative products that includes Bausch & Lomb and RCA Labs (Songbird Medical), and more recently Doppler Labs.
Silicon Valley software developers love the phrase “Hardware is hard.” Hearing can be more difficult.
About the Author: Karl Strom is editor-in-chief of Hearing Review and has been reporting on hearing health issues for over 25 years.