Today, 500 million people globally suffer from hearing loss, however, most individuals wait on average seven years before dealing with the condition due to a combination of factors, including stigmas and misconceptions related to hearing aids. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 40 million individuals live with untreated hearing loss. Stepping in to address this need is Eargo, a U.S.-based hearing aid manufacturer that has been focused on creating products that are smaller, less visible, and more cost effective than traditional hearing aids since 2010. The company’s Eargo Plus and Eargo Max products implement Flexi Fiber technology to hold the device comfortably in place and help the hearing aid “float” in the user’s ear. Time magazine recently named Eargo Max one of the Best Inventions of 2018.
Eargo is now the fastest growing hearing health company in the U.S. and touts statistics including 50% first-time buyers, a net promoter score (NPS) of 43 (range of -100 to +100), and over 1M website visitors per month. The company itself has also grown significantly in recent years, tripling its 2017 team to approximately 200 full-time employees in 2018.
Medgadget had a chance to learn more about the hearing health market and Eargo from the company’s CEO Christian Gormsen.
Medgadget, Michael Batista: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about Eargo. To begin, can you help us better understand the stigma and misconceptions related to hearing loss?
Christian Gormsen: There are many misconceptions and stigmas associated with hearing loss, and in turn, with hearing aids. Despite what many think, hearing loss is a natural process that happens as we age and it will happen to many of us. At Eargo, we see it as a sign of a life well-lived.
Currently, 15% of the global population has some form of hearing loss — including 48 million people in the U.S. — yet the stigmas, expenses, and complex means of purchasing a hearing aid mean that only a fraction of people are taking the proactive steps necessary to address it. There’s also no common or regular test we take for hearing as we do with our vision, even though it’s one of our core senses, so people aren’t as informed about their hearing health as they should be.
Ultimately, one of the biggest issues with hearing loss is the silence on the issue. Eargo is trying to change this lack of conversation while developing solutions to address the core issue.
Medgadget: For context, roughly how much do hearing aids cost today and are they typically covered by insurance?
Gormsen: The average price for hearings aids is $4,700, and before Eargo, they were only sold through costly hearing specialists and audiologists who require multiple appointments and fittings. All of this comes at a cost. What’s worse is that hearing aids are not covered by Medicaid, leaving a huge expense solely in the customer’s hands.
In comparison, Eargo hearing aids are sold online, ship directly to consumers, and start at $1,950 with financing options for as low as $90 per month. We also offer a 45-day money-back guarantee and will send non-working samples to interested customers to try out the fit and feel of our devices. Our business model makes hearing aids more widely available to consumers and we pride ourselves on making it extremely easy and quick for people to start hearing again.
Medgadget: What is the state of the art when it comes to hearing aids today?
Gormsen: Hearing aids are typically built on a dated, behind-the-ear (BTE) design and the fact that they’re visible to the wearer’s environment is a major contributor to the stigmas people have with them. People don’t want to have to change their lifestyle or self-image for medical purposes, even if it results in improved hearing. That’s why Eargos are designed to be invisible to the outside world, fitting inside the wearer’s ear, instead of outside and around it. Our modern design allows clients to feel comfortable getting the hearing help they need while not feeling embarrassed or self-conscious about wearing a hearing aid. A strong emphasis on consumer-driven innovation that has led to our success to date.
Medgadget: What inspired the team behind Eargo to approach this market differently?
Gormsen: We believe that hearing is too important to be ignored, but hearing loss solutions are antiquated, expensive, inconvenient, and haven’t changed in decades. In short, the consumer is underserved. We created Eargo to fight this social injustice, to promote more choice, to democratize the industry, and to bring the technology to the 21st century. Most importantly to those affected by hearing loss get the help they need without social compromise.
Medgadget: Tell us more about the Eargo product. What differentiates it from the state of the art you described earlier? What is the difference between the Eargo Max and Plus?
Gormsen: Our line of hearing aids are designed to fit discreetly inside the user’s ear, hidden from the wearer’s outside world and thus removing any stigmas or embarrassment they might have about hearing aids. Our patented Flexi Fibers, which are made from soft, medical-grade silicone, suspend the ear canal, allowing for a more open, natural sound experience, and also amplify sounds within the user’s line of sight as opposed to surrounding, ambient noises.
The chipset and operating system in both of our models allow for maximum audio fidelity and superior noise reduction while the Flexi Domes minimize feedback and improve speech clarity. Both the Eargo Plus and Eargo Max come with a sleek and easy-to-use, portable charger, minimizing the cost, hassle, and time needed to replace the bulky traditional batteries that power traditional hearing aids. This saves users upwards of $200 a year.
Plus, Eargo’s direct-to-consumer business model emphasizes customer convenience and service while eliminating the need for costly visits to doctors and hearing specialists. We provide constant, hands-on customer service with our team of hearing professionals throughout the entire purchase and acclimation process to ensure ongoing customer satisfaction.
Medgadget: What has been the response from Eargo patients? Are patients primarily new to hearing aids or replacing their current device?
Gormsen: We’re excited to say that more than 65% of Eargo customers are first-time hearing aid users, underlining the impact our product has on people and the larger hearing health industry. One customer left a voicemail with an Eargo representative who helped him with his devices and by the end of the message he was on the verge of tears because using the Eargo Max had such a transformative impact on his life. That’s just one of the thousands of voicemails, emails and letters Eargo has received about the life-changing impact our devices have had on peoples lives.
Medgadget: To close, what scale is Eargo at today and what’s next?
Gormsen: Eargo sells thousands of devices every month and reaches hundreds of thousands of individuals with our message. We have exciting new updates to our product lineup coming very soon and we’re just getting started.
Link: Eargo homepage…