Nov 2018 Reuters
The rise of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids will be good for Sonova whether the Swiss manufacturer decides to enter the market or not, its CEO Arnd Kaldowski said “OTC hearing aids would potentially bring customers with mild hearing loss into stores earlier than might otherwise have been the case, and they would later need more sophisticated devices as their hearing deteriorated with age”.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a self-fitting hearing aid from audio products maker Bose Corp, sending stocks of Sonova and other global hearing-aid makers sliding at the prospect of new competition from a well-known company. Kaldowski said Sonova, the world’s biggest maker of hearing aids, still had time to decide whether to compete in the OTC market as U.S. regulators are not likely to enact rules for such sales until 2020.
Without such rules, companies like Bose will have to sell through licensed dealers, just like Sonova does now, he said. “You’ll see people adopting earlier and with that, getting into the purchasing cycle,” Kaldowski told Reuters, referring to the rise of OTC devices. “That’s independent of our decision, ‘Do we play in OTC or not,’ which we haven’t taken yet. Technologically we could, but we really want to see how the regulation pans out and what the right go-to-market channels are,” he said in an interview. Getting customers into hearing aids sooner is an ambition of manufacturers, which want to reduce the stigma that such devices are synonymous with ageing in order to expand their customer base.
Sonova is counting on new products including its recently introduced Marvel hearing aid platform to drive future growth, amid fierce competition from rivals including industry No. 2 William Demant.