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Brad whitneyb at erols.com
Thu Dec 25 14:08:58 EST 1997

In article <34A13BEE.428D at netins.net>, gtniowa at netins.net says...
>Brad wrote:
>> Now, nearly every hearing aid company has a full digital aid about
>> ready for release.  Hearing aids have entered the Personal Computer
>> market problem, the next great aid is always just announced, but
>> not available for several months.  The marketing hype makes the older
>> product (i.e. Senso and DigiFocus) look obsolete, and what
>> consumer wants to pay Senso's price for an obsolete aid?
>What marketing hype are you refering to?  A FEW companies have announced
>PLANS to release digital hearing aids in the near FUTURE but I have seen
>very little marketing from them and I would have to VERY STRONGLY
>DISAGREE with your statement of "nearly every company".  You stated that
>you had to call the manufacturer directly and even then they where not
>completely forthcoming about the upcoming product.  This does not sound
>like marketing hype to me.


You are correct in pointing out a few companies is far from nearly
every company.  But in the last week, I have learned that Resound, 
Philips, Siemens, and Bernafon, all have digital aids nearly ready 
for release.

When four of the largest hearing aid suppliers announce (or leak 
information) close together, it does seem like a "significant event".
Siemens, Philips, and Resound together claim in their lititure
or press releases to each have about 15-20% of the world's hearing aid
market, together that means they have over 50% of the world wide 
hearing aid market. When suppliers of more than 50% of the world's 
hearing aids (as they claim) all announce (or leak) a major product 
improvment such as the all digital aid, increasing the number of
digital aids in the market by three fold, it may appear to be a bigger 
deal than it real may be.

While Resound has been quiet about its digital development, all the 
other companies have press releases or info on their web pages 
describing their product (search "hearing aids digital").  From the 
consumer point of view any vendor's claim about a product is hype 
until verfied by the using community.  

When a company decides to announce, or leak, new product information 
is part of the product marketing game.  If you do not have what is 
perceived as a competitive product and are losing market share, you 
announce before the product is ready, hoping some consumers will wait 
for your product unstead of buying from your competition.  If you 
have a good competing product (e.g. Resound) you wait until you are 
ready with your new product, or you will hurt your sales until your 
new product is ready as consumers will wait for your latest product.  

The Siemens aid for example, as described in Hearing Review, sounds
like the greatest thing since sliced bread.  They held a press 
conference in September, about six months ahead of availability.  
But until audiologists, and primarily end users, actually get a 
chance to evaluate the aid, it is all just "marketing hype".

>The hearing aid world is also vastly different then the world of
>computers as MOST hearing aid manufacturers do not announce new hearing
>aids directly to consumers but rather they describe and explain them to
>audiologists and dispensers.  These people are more qualified then the
>average consumer to judge the true merits of the hearing aid instead of
>the hype and decide if it would be a worthwile product to offer to their
>As far as the current digital aids being obsolete, they are not anywhere
>near it.  Hearing aids do not become obsolete just because another
>manufacturer ANNOUNCES they PLAN to release a SIMILAR product.  Just
>because a company can make a digital hearing aid does not mean that it
>will be any good.  There frequently are modifications and improvements
>AFTER the initial release (how much software do you use that is version
>1.0).  Newer does not always mean better and this is especially true
>when dealing with individual consumers that have vastly different needs
>and preferences.

It is clear to me the hearing aid market is changing from the old
marketing model, as most product marketing has changed.  Hearing 
aid companies are now marketing directly to the end user, 
the hearing impaired.  I do not make this statement without facts.

My very first post to the a.s.h-l newsgroup seeking information
about hearing aids brought several emails directly from hearing aid
manufactures, two from Widex alone.  These emails were polite, 
professional, direct sales pitches, and very welcome.  I encouage
all manufactures to respond via email to anyone asking for 
information about aids.

Many hearing aid manufactures support the WEB and most pages are
written to sell directly to the end user, through their local
dealers.  Additionally, I have asked for information via their WEB
pages, and they send their sales brochures without hesitation.

Last month Resound ran a full page ad in my local paper,the 
Washington Post (huge $$$), marketing directly to the end user, 
offering free demo's and listed their local dispensing audiologists.

Manufactures are adding audiologists on staff to do nothing but
answer customer questions concerning their aids.

All of these marketing approaches are to reach the end user of their
products, and are absolutly necessary for the companies to survive.

Why? I have received countless emails from individuals like myself, 
simply surprised at the costs of the high performance aids.  These 
costs are forcing consumers to either ensure the purchase is a good
value for their money, or seek less expensive solutions.  Consumers
are reluctant to spend top dollar for a product from a manufacture 
they have never heard of.  

It is at this point product obsolecence comes into the picture.  Again,
because of cost, consumers are sensitive about the purchase.  If one
vendor has just announced an aid with 32 adjustable parameters, for
about the same price they are being ask to pay for last years 16
parameter model, they will object.  These are standard consumer 
marketing principles.  I spent 3 years as Director of Product
Development for a Fortune 100 electronics company, and I was
always depressed at having to obsolete a perfectly good product
just because of customer (miss) perception.  No matter how much 
you try to convince consumers to the contrary, the latest product 
with features the unknowledgable consumer thinks he or she needs, wins.

I received email before this thread even started from potential 
digital aid customers stating they are now going to wait until 
next spring to see what these new digital aids offer.  One
explicitly stated he was not going to spend "that kind of money"
on and aid when a whole crop (at least 4) of new digital aids 
are ready for release.

Consumer demands will determine obsolecence, not logic. 

>Your posts to this newsgroup have often been informative and helpful and
>I hope that you will continue to post.  However, the continued negative
>attitude towards the Widex hearing aid is wearing thin.  The Widex
>hearing aid is BY FAR the most popular digital hearing aid in the
>world.  While it may not be perfect, more consumers have chosen it then
>any other digitial hearing aid and the reports that I have received from
>patients have been quite positive.  No hearing aid will be perfect, and
>continued expression of the faults without mention of the vast
>improvements will not help anyone.
>Just my opinion.
>Glen R. Meier, M.S., CCC-A, FAAA
>gtniowa at netins.net

My posts making reference to Widex are factual posts, not a 
"negative attitude" towards the product, but a presentation
of information provided by experienced Senso users.  I am 
sorry my postings may have come accoss this way.  My comments 
in the posts are in contrast, as one individual emailed me, 
refering to this newsgroup, "the Senso sales support group".
Consumer information from actual users of hearing products
are really only available here on the Internet.

As the Senso is the single highest margined hearing aid on the 
US market (as reported by several reputable sources) it is 
unquestionably the highest selling all digital aid on the market 
(since it is the only digital CIC on the market).  Every dealer 
has financial incentive to recommend and sell this aid over 
all others.  Unfortunately, it is also being recommended for 
use where good aids costing perhaps half as much could be used 
with the same or even better end user performance.

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