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Interview with Brian Kinnerk President of UNITRON-HEARING US

Brian Kinnerk

January 26, 2004
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Topic: Unitron Hearing US

AO/Beck: Hi Brian. Thanks for meeting with me today.

Kinnerk: Hi Doug. Thank you too. It's a pleasure meeting with you.

AO/Beck: Brian, before we get to Unitron Hearing, I'd like to learn a little about your background, your education and professional experience?

Kinnerk: Sure Doug. I studied business administration with an emphasis on marketing at Loyola University in Chicago, IL and earned my business degree there in 1984.

AO/Beck: Did you go directly into hearing healthcare upon graduation?

Kinnerk: No, I went into telecommunications for a number of years before I entered the hearing healthcare industry through a sales position with Phonak. I worked as a sales representative, then sales manager with Phonak US for nine years, then was presented an opportunity to run the Phonak operation in Canada. I held that position for three years before assuming the responsibilities of president of Unitron Hearing US in April of 2002 after Phonak acquired the organization.

AO/Beck: And just to be sure, Unitron Hearing is still headquartered in Canada? And there are offices in Canada, Germany, UK, France, and of course, the US - is that right?

Kinnerk: Yes. Unitron Hearing is the seventh largest global hearing aid brand and is headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario. The US operation is located in Plymouth, MN, right outside Minneapolis.

AO/Beck: OK, got it. Thanks for the background. Let's move forward to the primary product lines. I believe there are two?

Kinnerk: Yes. We currently have two digital product families- The Unison line, comprised of the Unison 2 (2-channel processing) and the Unison 4 (4-channel processing), the first product line released under the new Unitron Hearing label. As you know Doug, the Unison line has quickly become our most popular product and we're very pleased with it's acceptance among the professionals and their patients.

The second digital product line, introduced at AAA last April (2003) is the CONVERSA with ClearCall Technology.

CONVERSA is a feature-rich, attractively-priced digital product intended to satisfy some of the unmet needs of the hearing-impaired through technology solutions such as ClearCall, our Real-time Feedback Manager and our 16 band Noise Reduction algorithm. The Conversa has been very well received by our customers seeking effective solutions for feedback and occlusion.

AO/Beck: Brian, given the small market, the recent economic issues and the general status quo marketplace, how does Unitron Hearing distinguish itself?

Kinnerk: In a competitive market, we need to keep our offering user-friendly and practical. To support our desire to be a strong value proposition to our customers, Unitron Hearing focuses on high-quality feature-rich and easy-to-use products at attractive price points. It's our desire for the hearing professionals and the patients to see a worthy return on their investment in us.

AO/Beck: Will you be increasing the product line to make the Unitron Hearing brand more comprehensive, or perhaps be better able to fill more of the niche markets?

Kinnerk: We intend to not only further expand our product offerings over the next 18 months but upgrade our current technology as well. Our current void in the premium technology segment of the hearing aid market will soon be filled with the introduction of our Liaison line of adaptive digital products which we will showcase at the upcoming AAA convention in Salt Lake City. Any product in the premium category must offer several sophisticated, adaptive features and Liaison meets those criteria by offering intelligent noise reduction, adaptive beam-forming, automatic feedback cancellation, plus several unique convenience features for the professional and end-user.

AO/Beck: Brian, this brings up a dilemma that I believe many dispensing professionals face; wanting to capture the premium market, while not losing the sub economy patients along the way! Do you have suggestions as to how to capture both ends of the market?

Kinnerk: From a manufacturer's point of view, it's really all about fulfilling the customer's needs through comprehensive product and service offerings. If you're a niche player or just appealing to a specific clientele, you are limiting your practice. Sometimes that can be good and desirable, and other times -- maybe not. However, if the goal is to reach the broader audience, you have to maintain all options, price points and technology levels. You have to provide what the customer is looking for. So my advice is to go with a broad campaign, and a broad, high quality product line. You don't have to give up your niche, but you may want to expand your offerings. Partnering with a manufacturer that can provide you the products and support your practice requires is an easy way to accomplish this.

AO/Beck: Brian, thanks for your time this morning. I know you're busy, and I appreciate the opportunity to catch up with you.

Kinnerk: Thank you too, Doug. We're happy to work with you, and I thank you for your time too!


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Brian Kinnerk

President of Unitron US



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