by Shawn Ellis
As an audiophile, grandson of a Chicago Symphony Orchestra musician, and former professional DJ (maybe a bit of a stretch to say professional but I was paid), I’m well aware of the importance of hearing care. As technology advances through Airpods, Beats, and other popular headphones, billions of people are blasting high decibel volumes into their ears every day. I suffered hearing loss from extended exposure to high decibel sound in the past, providing me with personal connection to the growing hearing health crisis.
When I met with Danny Aronson, the CEO + Co-Founder of digital hearing care-focused company Tuned, for breakfast to learn about the business that he, Ofer Raz, and Kate McGinley were building, I immediately understood the impact their technology can have on individuals suffering in silence from undiagnosed hearing loss and improper hearing devices. Tuned is on a mission to improve hearing care — a foundational need for effective communication and productivity — for the masses. In doing so, with the macro tailwinds of recent de-regulation allowing for broader consumer access to over-the-counter hearing devices, they’re disrupting the oligopolistic, ultra-high-cost traditional hearing aid businesses.
Consider some statistics that underscore the need for a new form of hearing care:
- The World Health Organization found that a growing number of young individuals, over 1 billion globally, are at risk of avoidable hearing loss given the recreational use of personal devices.
- Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the USA — more prevalent than both cancer and diabetes — and incidence of hearing impairment is only increasing as the population ages.
- Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
- Over 1 million children are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities as a result of hearing impairments when they aren’t screened.
- Globally, over 700 million individuals or one in ten people are predicted to have hearing loss that can be debilitating by the year 2050, almost double the number today.
We know the COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed an immense shift to virtual work. That shift to video calls threatens the effectiveness of communication and work productivity for millions of American workers who are living with hearing impairments. Yet, Audiology represents a rare gap in healthcare coverage, with hearing care and hearing technology not being covered by insurance across the U.S. Hearing care in the U.S. has historically concentrated on the small fraction of clients with severe hearing loss who would benefit from expensive traditional hearing aids. Limited competition and vertical integration in this arena has supported remarkable margins in the range of 60%-90%. In fact, hearing aid manufacturers have started vertically integrating, purchasing audiology networks and clinics to drive higher margin hearing aids. Only 5 states require limited coverage for traditional hearing aids for adults with severe hearing loss, and only a portion of the traditional hearing aid cost is covered. For example, Arkansas mandates $1,400 of coverage per ear yet traditional hearing aids average $4,600 in cost. The needs of those with non-acute hearing loss have been left unaddressed.
However, in August 2022, in a key macro policy development, the FDA established a regulatory category for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids that allows consumers with mild to moderate hearing impairment to buy hearing aids directly from retailers in-person or online at a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aids. These prices run 65% — 95% cheaper than traditional hearing aids by selling directly to consumers for the costs involving a prescription and professional assessment.
“Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition in the United States and is twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer” — CDC
Tuned’s core product is a HIPAA compliant digital hearing health platform that includes a virtual hearing assessment, tech-enabled audiology clinic, and device marketplace of vetted and curated solutions appropriate for each individual’s needs. The platform includes the “Tuned 360 Hearing Assessment” which is the most advanced, validated online hearing screeners in the market today. It is a proven three step process designed to provide a foundation for ongoing hearing health. Tuned provides holistic hearing care that goes beyond hearing aids.
As over-the-counter hearing aids become available, Tuned offers consumers unbiased and personalized advice from credentialed leading audiologists. Tuned’s virtual telemedicine approach democratizes audiology by adopting a hearing care approach. Their Employer multi-channel distribution model is a key differentiator that will allow Tuned to scale faster and become the leading hearing care solution. Tuned has forged successful partnerships with organizations like Flume, Coral Health, Musicares for the Grammy Foundation, Nomi Health, UCP, Mishe, and Buoy Health thus far.
Tuned is a pioneer in the comprehensive hearing care space and is addressing the hearing care crisis in the U.S., and Distributed Ventures is excited to support its acceleration. Learn more about TunedCare and track their progress below.
Learn More About Tuned:
- Tuned Launches Hearing Solution for Teens
- Tuned Selected for New York Digital Health 100 (DH100)
- John Coleman, CEBS, interviews Danny Aronson, Tuned’s CEO
- Teleaudiology is making hearing care more affordable, accessible, and equitable
- Hearing Wellness & MusiCares®, Amplified by Tuned
- Tuned and Soundly Partner To Modernize Hearing Care
- Tuned | Linkedin