When buying a car, for example, the consumer not only can choose between a Lexus and a Chevrolet, but also decide on particular features, such as wire wheels or gold trim. Patrick Freuler, chief executive of Audicus, an online company that partners with a German manufacturer to sell private-label hearing aids, makes the point that consumers are not being offered the low-cost choices, but are being presented with only luxury devices.
When Medgadget was offered a chance to test drive a new direct to consumer personal audio amplifier from Audicus, we picked up on the invitation. You see, one of our editors, just like Charles Darwin, is a life long sufferer from Ménière’s disease, with the resultant tinnitus and bilateral low-pitch hearing loss. So for this editor the idea of a discounted behind-the-ear device is a matter of personal necessity.
Audicus, a startup that sells hearing aids through an online shop at much lower prices than its storefront counterparts, has a vast team of representatives readily available to hop on the phone with its customers — a rarity in Silicon Valley, which almost exclusively handles questions or complaints through digital channels.
Developers at Audicus said they were shocked by the high cost and ugly design of traditional hearing aids (they typically start at about $2,000 per ear) so they streamlined the process to offer modern-looking hearing aids at a fraction of that cost. Audicus sells hearing aids for about $500 per ear. It reduces cost by lowering overheads and linking customers directly to a hearing aid manufacturer in Germany.