Hearing Aids, Dental Implants & Ollie

Tuesday 6th October 2015

Delighted to be a guest speaker at the product of launch of a new digital hearing aid, created by Widex, recognised as the technology leader in manufacture of these amazing devices.

Some interesting background (which might explain why I am here):

  • there are around 500 top independent audiologists in the UK
  • the top of the range devices sell at around £4,000 a pair
  • the arrival of retailers like Specsavers was originally seen as a threat to their existence but has actually grown the UK market overall
  • some of the retailers have tried and failed in this market
  • a well run independent business can gross £1m in sales and make 25% net profit
  • some audiologists are owner-managers and some are peripatetic
  • they struggle to recruit and train good staff
  • they struggle to maintain their patient experience
  • they are forming into purchasing groups
  • their current marketing resembles what we saw in dentistry 10 years ago – web sites are poor and social engagement largely absent – there is a lot of print media around
  • paradoxically, the biggest threat right now is internet lead generators who use Google and Facebook to advertise the same devices at £3,000 per pair – then sell the “lead’ to a local audiologist with a 10% commission deduction – the established practitioners are crying “don’t do it” and the newbies are taking the hit to build a patient base
  • in the UK hearing aids carry a lifetime maintenance and repair guarantee free of charge – the added value is in selling the upgrade but older demographics and upgrading less frequently post-recession
  • hearing aids are now integrating with other wearable devices and through Bluetooth with hand-held devices
  • seeing the reaction of a patient who can hear properly for the first time is a one of the best moments in the job
  • most of the business and marketing support is provided by the main manufacturers as part of their added value package
  • there is a high degree of cross-referral between audiologists to individuals who have specialist knowledge and experience
  • digital is happening – including digital scans of the patient’s inner ear, replacing manual impressions
  • today I have watched videos of explorers crossing the Artic, mountain bikers descending from on high and sailors battling ocean storms – all wearing the latest hearing devices – advertising is product placement, marketing is storytelling
  • the audiology community have a hunger for knowledge
  • they are regulated by the HCPC (Health & Care Professional Council)
  • there are 4m people in the UK over 50 who own a smartphone and suffer with a hearing loss
  • the buzz word today was “connectivity” – devices seamlessly communicating with each other

But the greatest moment of the day was listening to one of their Territory Sales Managers, Ollie Coxon – who has suffered from a profound hearing loss since birth – he was inspired to become a musician after a blind man came to tune the family piano when he was a child. He decided he had better learn himself in spite of his disability and is now proficient at piano and guitar.

The main objective of today’s conference was a new product launch.

After all the technical presentations (most over my head), Ollie shared a video blog describing his first 4 weeks wearing the new digital hearing devices.

Playing music, driving an open top car and riding his mountain bike – describing his amazement at hearing sounds that you and I take for granted.

One Ollie Coxon is worth a thousand product advertising campaigns.


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.