Hearing loss affects 360 million people worldwide, making hearing impairment the most common form of disability, and the third most common health problem after heart disease and arthritis. Over 40 million Americans have hearing loss that significantly diminishes the quality of their lives —academically, professionally, medically, and socially.
While most people with hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids, less than 10% of those individuals who might benefit from treatment actually use them due to persisting barriers, which include: overpricing of hearing aids, the stigma of wearing a visible hearing device, and limited access to qualified hearing care.
The hearing aid industry is currently dominated by six major manufacturers known as the Big 6, which are entrenched in an outdated brick-and-mortar distribution model based on low volumes and high prices. The Big 6 have invested heavily buying hearing aid centers. The focus of the Big 6 on controlling the distribution globally to maintain high pricing has resulted in extremely low market penetration rates around the world. The Big 6’s ownership stake in hearing aid centers has also prevented them from selling at lower pricing online and through other competing channels.
Hearing aid technology offered by the Big 6 players has followed a trend of feature creep, which has added complexity, cost, and time, but not necessarily value or improved hearing. Many of the new features have increased costs dramatically making them unaffordable to those who need them. In a recent report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the panel criticized the slow innovation cycle prevalent in the traditional model and the remarkable premium placed on new features.
Programmable hearing aids with proper customization produce the best outcomes for consumers. While programmable hearing aids have been available for over 20 years, the programming of hearing aids has always required the involvement of audiologists. iHear’s patented hearing solutions platform enables clinically-effective hearing solutions at dramatically lower prices by leveraging its groundbreaking online fitting method to empower consumers and others without specialized training to program their hearing aid from home. iHear’s iHTUNER online app guides consumers through an easy, step-by-step process to customize their web-enabled hearing aid according to their preferences using a simple USB device and their personal computer.
Programmable hearing aids available in hearing aid centers currently sell for an average of $2,400 each, and often cost over $7,000 for a pair of premium products. On the other hand, inexpensive and unregulated Personal Sound Amplifier Products, known as PSAPs, are notoriously ineffective due to poor quality and lack of individualized programming. Some companies sell hearing aids online, but have been unable to offer affordable and clinically effective solutions to consumers because they rely on traditional hearing aids that require professional involvement for individualized programming.
iHear offers affordable hearing solutions with high quality and individualized self-programming for under $300. The iHEARHD and the iHEAR MAX are the first web-enabled hearing aids that can be customized by the consumer at home with the availability of online professional support from licensed hearing professionals. The iHEAR HD is an invisible in-the-ear hearing aid for treating mild to moderately severe loss. The iHEARMAX is an invisible behind-the-ear design with power for treatment of up to severe loss. The iHearTest is the first and only FDA-cleared home hearing screener that allows consumers to accurately test their hearing ability from the comfort of their home. The iHearTest, available for $49, received FDA clearance based on extensive technological development and clinical trials to demonstrate accuracy and usability.
iHear’s innovative hearing solutions platform enables delivery of hearing aids through alternative channels that are more convenient and more economical for the consumer. iHear has partnered with Ameritas, a leading insurance provider, to offer its insured members fully reimbursed hearing solutions. While most insurance carriers offer little to no coverage for hearing aids, consumers now have a practical and affordable option to address their hearing loss — with or without insurance coverage. iHear plans to continue forging partnerships that improves the affordability and accessibility of clinically-effective hearing solutions.
iHear’s first-of-a-kind innovations are in line with recent trends towards consumer-centric healthcare services and telehealth solutions that improve access to healthcare. The National Academy of Sciences stated in a recent report how innovative tele-audiology technologies that may increase access in the future include home hearing tests and programming of hearing aids in the home. PCAST also envisioned improving access to hearing technology with home hearing tests and adaptive self-fitting of devices based on user needs. “iHear Medical’s mission is to make high quality, invisible hearing aids more accessible by offering consumers lower cost hearing solutions with improved outcomes,” stated Adnan Shennib, Founder and President of iHear Medical.