According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults (nearly 38 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Furthermore, the NIDCD states that age is a strong predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the most significant amount of hearing loss in the 60-69 age group. Statistics aside, the severity of the problem truly hit close to home watching my 85-year-old mother deal with hearing loss. After some investigation, she settled on a solution from the company Eargo, a company I previously was not familiar with.
I wrote extensively about my mother’s life-changing experience with Eargo last year. It afforded me the opportunity to meet the leadership team behind the company and understand its strategy to disrupt the multi-billion dollar hearing aid market. The sector has historically been dominated by a small group of stodgy companies (e.g.Siemens , Phonak, and Oticon) with expensive products (costing often $3,000 or more). Moreover, they operate in a somewhat archaic distribution model, with small “mom and pop” local dealerships who don’t often provide a consistent customer experience across multiple geographies.
Founded in 2010, Eargo’s first hearing aid launched in June 2015, featuring a unique, nearly invisible design that resembles a fishing fly. The company has consistently followed up with new and improved solutions since then. The market received the company’s products warmly; Eargo has won numerous innovation awards over the last three years. The company has successfully closed multiple investor funding rounds, including, most recently, a $52 million funding tranche in March 2019.
Eargo’s product and market strategy
Upon close inspection, it’s easy to understand Eargo’s strong market and investor reaction. Eargo approaches the hearing aid market in a multi-prong manner. First of all, it understands that most people do not want to wear a hearing aid solution if they can avoid it, given the societal stigma, comfort, and having to worry about the battery life. Eargo’s nearly invisible design is, in many ways, the perfect solution for people who don’t want to wear a hearing aid.
Secondly, Eargo’s technology, while impressive, is just part of its value proposition for the consumer. Eargo’s solutions, including its packaging and oval-shaped charging case, look more like Apple AirPods than a medical device. The case automatically charges the various Eargo models, which is incredibly convenient—just put them back in the case before you go to bed. The case is also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing you to easily change the solution’s user settings and create custom audio profiles while it’s charging. While the Bluetooth functionality doesn’t allow you to control the device when it is being worn, you can easily control the device’s sound sensitivity levels by tapping the side of your ear. My video podcast with two of Eargo’s senior product engineeringleaders goes into more of the company’s product design philosophy.
Eargo’s solutions are relatively inexpensive, ranging in price from $1,650 from $2,750. This is a bargain, considering the innovation packed into the products, and compared to legacy solutions on the market. It should also be noted that Eargo provides instant financing for its products, with monthly payments ranging from $77 to $127 depending on the model that you select.
The recipe for success doesn’t rely entirely on innovation and technology; Eargo’s go to market strategy is also noteworthy. Eargo deploys a concierge-like sales experience unlike anything you’d find with a traditional hearing aid retailer. Consumers are paired with a Personal Hearing Professional who provides valuable tips and insight to help them maximize their Eargo experience, and unlimited support is provided as part of the purchase. My audio podcast with one of Eargo’s customers a few months ago will give you an insight into how powerful this assistance can be during the initial purchase. The company also recently conducted its first live webinar onFacebook that provides an excellent deep dive on the company’s products and its customer engagement philosophy. It’s worth checking out.
Some closing thoughts
Eargo’s solutions are designed to change people’s lives. It certainly changed my mom’s life, and based on the company’s customer reviews, she’s not the only one. Eargo’s internal indicates that the average consumer with some level of hearing loss waits as long as seven years before acting upon it. That’s a terribly long period of time to wait given how fundamental hearing is to the way we live and enjoy our lives. Eargo’s products go a long way towards eliminating the stigma of wearing a traditional aid, and they have the potential to provide individuals with moderate hearing loss a new lease on life. It’s a breath of fresh air in a sector that has long been ripe for disruption.