After three days filled with shaking hands and asking questions and listening well, Packetcraft curated intel to offer hearing device manufacturers market insight and clarity regarding Bluetooth technical opportunities.
We asked Audiologists, "If you had the ability to vouch for a certain manufacturer or propose a particular product/company, what would be your criteria? What would make a product/manufacturer most competitive/attractive to get your buy in?
1. PRIORITIZE HEARING FIRST.
Doctors and hearing advocates want to know that the device first prioritizes hearing. One doctor expressed frustration. "I have been pitched multiple gadgets and gizmos and brain tracking and health monitoring and step counting and who knows what-- but if you aren't first committed to my patient's ability to hear well, I get frustrated. Quality of hearing and ease of use is paramount." Short version, think like a doctor before launching engineering mega-brainstorming. Consider the application and the audience before championing technical capabilities that don't communicate care for the hard-of-hearing.
2. CONSIDER USABILITY.
Audiologists want products that work consistently and there is a fatigue with tech. The tech that is consistent and stable means that there are less calls to doctors asking why a gadget doesn't connect or a program is so complicated to interface. They want their patients to hear without obstacles and a product that makes the connection seamless. A product will win brand advocacy in the audiology community if user experience is both easy and reliable.
3. BUILD BETTER
Surveying the landscape of hearing device product landscape, there is a range of proprietary wireless connectivity. Those that boast of bluetooth capability are often lacking the 5.2 protocol upgrade and therefore pushing products that don't have the new low energy, low latency, new topological opportunity that Bluetooth LE Audio has advanced in the last couple years with the support and involvement by the audiology community.
HOW DOES BLUETOOTH LE AUDIO ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES?
With the recent tech advancements, Bluetooth LE Audio impacts hearing aids, accessories and meets the needs of the hard-of-hearing market in an unprecedented way by introducing a new network topology, Auracast, positioned to supplement legacy hearing loops to pipe sound directly into hearing aids from various sources (i.e. public venues, airports, theaters, museums, etc.) On a personal and public level, Bluetooth LE audio technology is poised to change the assisted-listening landscape for young and old.
While at the show, the majority of audiologists we engaged with had never heard of Auracast and were unclear that Bluetooth, by nature, is a developing technology held accountable by standardization and a commitment for constant reform. We sent as many show attendees to Bluetooth SIG's Auracast booth to experience Auracast live in a variety of use-case staged scenarios. The response was better than we hoped for. There was a shared excitement for the idea of standardization, products held accountable to technical development and an eagerness for environmental adoption of network listening options.
MANUFACTURERS TAKE HEED OF MARKET INDICATORS
If the responses from nearly all of the audiologists we engaged with at HearTech23 is any indicator of market-viability, hearing device manufacturers would do well to heed the insights and assess adoption opportunities regarding what they develop and how they prioritize. How are products differentiating? How are you staying ahead of the pack? How are you advancing your line of new products with tech that can tap into the opportunities on the horizon? Are you ready?
Audiologist and professor, Dr. Earl Johnson wrote an article titled "What is Important to Audiologists and Their Individual Decision Choice when Dispensing a Hearing Aid Brand?" and provided statistical analysis of audiologist's brand preferences. "Recent data indicated 93.5% of 489 surveyed audiologists demonstrates a strong preference for a single brand and dispensed the vast majority of their hearing aids (i.e., 71.4% on average) from a single brand."
Furthermore, in Johnson's research 343 audiologists individually rated the importance of 32 separate attributes when prioritizing which brand of hearing device they favored.
Data analysis from Johnson's research indicated these top seven criteria when audiologists picked product/brand preference:
performance, branding, cost, customer service, marketing, colleague recommendations, and brand incentives.
A key market conclusion drawn from Johnson's research directly applies to the challenge facing assisted-listening device manufacturers today. By observing key value-positions of the target consumer, manufacturers can establish brand positioning and product-competition maps that better align product development with target priorities. 15 years later in a highly technologically-integrated and advancing arena, the #1 criteria is paramount-- PERFORMANCE: is it solid? stable? How much more has the need for clarity, integrity and technical reliability become with the advent of increasing connectivity.
If doctors' insights aren't compelling enough, may further market evaluations iterate the increasing demand for care and thoughtful development. World Health Organization reports more than 360 million people worldwide live with “disabling” hearing loss of some sort. In addition, more than a billion people ages 12 to 35 are susceptible to hearing loss due to “recreational noise exposure" and an estimated 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss by 2050." Financially speaking, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets™, "In 2021 the global hearing aid market generated $7.5 billion and is poised to grow at a CAGR of 6.4% (reaching $10.2 Billion ) by 2026."
The assisted-hearing device landscape is advancing in breadth and technical aptitude. While market growth is driven largely by the rising geriatric population, an increasing number of strategic companies are investing in the development of novel hearing aid devices equipped with advanced features that attract not just the elderly but are targeted multi-generationally. Developing products that address the diversification of needs, access and aptitudes demands we build thoughtfully -- staying attentive to what customers want and need.
WHERE DOES PACKETCRAFT COME IN?
Whether wooing the audiologists or turning the head of the new OTC customer -- manufacturers face a target customer profile that demands calibration. Packetcraft best aligns with product developers that lean in to this--they prioritize excellence, integrity, innovate for the sake of connecting people with the environment around them, values standardization and progresses competitively without compromising quality. These are the foundations of Bluetooth technology and the propulsion behind it's recent innovation.
Packetcraft provides industry-leading software and solutions to enable products with current Bluetooth-qualified specs that offer lower energy, lower latency and access to Auracast network topology. We are prioritizing our solutions for the products that embrace the need for standardization and reliability. We offer early-access software to manufacturers who are innovative and eager to compete ahead of the competition. The landscape is changing for sound experiences. We want to be part of the products that embrace the change to bring inclusive, shared-listening experiences for the hard-of-hearing community.