Soundly’s hearing aid market in pole position to take advantage of new FDA rules

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Currently, seismic changes are occurring in the US hearing health market thanks to a long-awaited FDA decision announced earlier this month.

The updated regulations will create a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss will be able to purchase directly from retailers without the need for an exam, prescription and prescription. supervision of an audiologist. .

The new system, which has been in development for several years, carries with it the intention of stimulating competition and innovation in the market place while reducing costs for consumers.

The flip side of these otherwise welcome advances is that consumers will now be faced with even more choices and products in a healthcare space that was already somewhat confusing and complex to navigate.

Clarity for consumers

Soundly is a company determined to help solve the problems of this all-too-often-tangled customer journey – a brand new online marketplace launched in May with the sole purpose of making acquiring hearing aids a faster, cheaper and more more informed.

In a market where trusted consumer product information is somewhat dispersed and inaccessible, Soundly has made a concerted effort to curate, condense and integrate information across different devices into one easy-to-use hub.

In addition to purchasing hearing aids at highly competitive prices, customers can quickly compare prices and features from leading brands such as Widex, Oticon and Sigma, as well as read product reviews written by other users and hearing professionals.

The browsing experience is even more holistic, with customers able to take an advanced online hearing test.

Fundamentally, Soundly, while ideally suited to the newly expanded over-the-counter environment, certainly doesn’t attempt to circumvent the often vital oversight of audiologists.

For visitors looking for a professional exam, Soundly can link them by location to more than 5,000 audiologists working across the country, ensuring both ends of the care journey are well covered.

The hearing aid marketplace is the brainchild of Soundly founder and CEO Blake Cadwell.

Cadwell has a family history of hearing loss and began noticing his own hearing problems were getting worse during the pandemic when people wearing face masks and increased online meetings made him realize how much he mattered on lip reading to compensate.

He was inspired to start Soundly after witnessing first hand the complexities of undertaking online research to help him identify what might be the most suitable device for him.

“I consider myself quite a tech-savvy person, but when I sat down to do the research, it took me 10-12 hours just to figure out who the main players were and what options I had,” says Cadwell .

Illustrating the kinds of hurdles a typical lay user has to overcome, Cadwell explains, “There were over 100 different models of hearing aids to choose from, but what really makes it mind-numbing for the consumer is that the vast majority of them are made by the same five companies.

“They just white label the same product over and over again. They put different labels on the same product – different prices, different distribution models, different levels of care but, essentially, it is the same basic product.

Soundly has attempted to address this issue on its platform by excluding some of these duplicate products and instead only offering the most popular and affordable versions.

The inherent difficulty for customers to develop a solid overview of the market and thus make purchasing choices with confidence is a familiar element for Ben Thompson AuD, Doctor of Audiology and founder of San Francisco-based Treble Health.

“Consumers are increasingly turning to online channels to better understand their hearing health options. Historically, the information they had was confusing. Transparent, audiology-supported resources will be even more important as new OTC Hearing Aid Act products become available in late 2022,” says Thompson.

Expensive choices

With the average user having to spend around $4,500 every 3-5 years on hearing aids, this is simply a purchasing decision that very few people can afford to make wrong.

Working directly with a hearing care professional offsets some of these risks, but additional costs are incurred in consultation fees and product choices are likely to be limited to the brands the audiologist deals with.

Cadwell believes that in 2022, patients of all types are demanding more personal control over their health and well-being.

“Consumers today are changing their behavior and are more proactive about their health. They often want to undertake their own research and make informed choices. It’s just a natural shift we’re seeing in health care across the United States,” he explains.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 30 million adults in the United States could benefit from the use of hearing aids.

With the proliferation of inexpensive, high-powered headphones for listening to music and other forms of entertainment, the Hearing Loss Association of America says that one in five American teenagers suffer from some level of hearing loss.

Interestingly, research shows that hearing aid users will wait an average of ten years before seeking help for their problems.

This may be due to both a reluctance to undertake formal medical evaluations and prohibitive costs.

Kicking in the street may work for a short time, but quality of life issues such as isolation and impaired communication continue to take their toll in the meantime.

Anything that can de-stigmatize the process of exploring hearing aids – whether it’s reducing costs, increasing battery life and avoiding medical formalities until they become necessary – is likely to look extremely appealing to most people.

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