Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Reading the audiology news over the last weeks (now about the only news I listen to), I came across a few announcements regarding three players in the Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aid movement.  I’ve been actively following the OTC movement, as I’m always interested in anything that can help more people hear better. These three companies have all made headlines in one way or the other.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: EarGo

The first is EarGo.  Now, this company has been around since about 2010 and honestly, they’ve kind of been the poster child for OTC-type devices. They had relatively good technology and routinely made improvements in their products by putting profits back into the company. They were so successful that they even went public in 2020.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they just settled a case with the Department of Justice to the tune of about 34 million dollars.  They were accused of illegally using diagnosis codes on insurance claims.  While it’s important to note nothing was proven because EarGo decided to settle, it’s clear that things were not looking good.  The other thing that’s not looking great: their stock has plummeted from where it opened, about $14 per share in 2020, to just over $2 this week. Turns out, you can’t submit a diagnosis code to an insurance company without, well, a diagnosis.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: Bose

The second “headline maker” is Bose.  Yes, that Bose.  The one with the coolest sound equipment ever.  When they got into the hearing aid game, I figured two things.  One, they would have a great product. And two, they would be around for a while.  Admittedly, I never got a chance to thoroughly review the product.  But just in the last week, they’ve announced they are closing their doors. 

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: Noopl

The final product is Noopl.  While not technically an OTC hearing aid, Noopl did enter the market with the promise of “expand(ing) the capabilities of your iPhone by adding a hyper-directional three-microphone array listening system. Noopl helps you to hear better in background noise by improving the signal-to-noise ratio.” It worked in conjunction with a small device, which was inserted into the lightning port of an iPhone7 or connected to something many people already have: AirPods.  As of May 12, 2022, Noopl is also discontinuing production.

So why are these companies failing?  I’m sure there are many reasons, but the one thing I’ve learned over 30 years is that fitting hearing aids is difficult.  Adapting to hearing aids is difficult.  It takes a lot of work and communication between patient and provider, as well as knowledge and experience that is far from cookie cutter. 

Do I hope that technology will continue to evolve? Of course.  Do I hope that new and better OTC options will come along? Also yes.  But it won’t be easy.  And I think consumers need to remember to take audiologists along for the ride!

If you would like more information, or to schedule a diagnostic hearing evaluation, please give us a call at 320.252.0094, look us up online at amdahlhearing.com or email me directly at info@amdahlhearing.com

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