Introducing Charm Standard IIC from Sonic, a New Instant Fit Solution for Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
Carolyn Smaka: Hi Kathy – great to see you. Sonic has just released the Charm60 Standard IIC, a ready-to-fit, one-size-fits-many solution. What were the reasons behind this introduction?
Kathy Landon: One of the drivers behind this product is the fact that only 10% of people with mild to moderate hearing loss actually get treatment. This represents a huge untapped market segment.
There are a few reasons that this group is hesitant to address their hearing loss, including stigma, cost and denial. People do not want a hearing aid when there is just mild to moderate loss. They do not want something that is noticeable. They are likely still working and do not want their co-workers pointing and whispering. This stigma issue is still a really big thing for people with that type of hearing loss to overcome. The reason that cost is an issue with this group is that they do not view their hearing loss as being a big problem. They may only notice problems in certain situations such as where there is background noise, so they are a bit in denial. As a result, they do not think it should be expensive to address the issue. The cost of traditional hearing aids does not seem in proportion to the small problems they perceive they are having.
We’ve seen the growth of the personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). These products are specifically designed to create an acceptable benefit-to-cost trade-off for the consumer. I’m sure you’ve been horrified by the old-fashioned, boxy, beige devices that you see in the back of magazines that offer no clinical consultation, no custom programming, and no follow-up care. They are priced such that they are appealing for those who need help but have been told that a discreet solution would cost them thousands of dollars.
There are many problems with PSAPs, first and foremost being the fact that there is no professional involved to evaluate ear pathology, to counsel on the results or fitting of the device or to provide auditory rehabilitation. Patients might spend money on such a product, be disappointed in it and then wait another seven years or more for legitimate amplification that is prescribed and verified by a professional. PSAPs offer zero patient focus. In addition, most people do not want a noticeable hearing solution, and PSAPs are not designed with cosmetics in mind.
We wanted to develop a solution for mild to moderate hearing loss that addresses these barriers thru traditional hearing aids. It would need to be attractive and discreet. It would need to be fit and serviced by professionals for each individual patient. It would have to have sophisticated technology, yet be at a price point to attract people who struggle with the benefit-to-cost issue.
Carolyn: That is a compelling rationale for more options to address the need out there. How did the Charm60 Standard IIC come into being?
Kathy: In developing a solution to meet this need, we started with our Charm 60 IIC, which provides the essential features that users value most, including clear and natural sound quality and excellent feedback management. It also has outstanding noise reduction with our Speech Priority Noise Reduction technology, and is easy to use. There are not a lot of moving parts such as extra pieces and domes that people have to keep track of. It is a very simple product for first-time users to understand and start using.
After much research and testing within our manufacturing facility, we designed a “standard” ear impression that enabled us to build an instant fit product with an excellent fit rate. We have conducted an extensive survey with 100 subjects to evaluate the size and fit of this product. We had hearing care professionals try it on sample subjects, and we asked about how it looks in the ear, how it feels, and subject satisfaction with the way it looks. The ratings were very high all around. It fits 87% of ears, with 63% of the fittings judged as an IIC fitting by the professionals. The standard IIC fits nice and deep, and is comfortable. The overwhelming majority – 79% – of subjects responded that they were “happy” or “very happy” with the way the product looked and felt in their ear. People are really impressed.
Carolyn: It has a lot of the benefits of a slim tube fitting in that it can be instant fit.
Kathy: Exactly. It is all of the benefits of a slim tube fitting with the discretion of an IIC. In fact, it is a variation on several ideas that we have seen in the past, but puts them together in a new way that we anticipate will be very successful. This is also the perfect option for many Baby Boomers. They are working longer than they expected, they want to vital and active, and they do not want to be seen as old. It is an ideal product for loaners, to give someone while their hearing aid is in repair. It is also a great product for demos because the wearer can experience the benefit of excellent sound quality, noise reduction and advanced signal processing, yet no one will even know they are wearing the devices. We think that the Charm60 Standard IIC will boost people’s confidence for accepting amplification in the first place. It has a lot of applications and we are excited about it.
Carolyn: Remind me where Charm fits in the technology line-up.
Kathy: Charm is our mid-level product with sophisticated technology. With an IIC of course there are no directional microphones. There is no need for wireless capability as it is meant to be a “set it and forget it” type of device. It is perfect mid-range product as it has all the right key features such as great sound quality, advanced signal processing, and excellent noise reduction.
Carolyn: Sounds great. How does Charm60 Standard IIC fit in to a professional’s portfolio, when they may also offer custom solutions for mild to moderate hearing loss?
Kathy: As a stock product, it is a great solution to have in your clinic for many different reasons. First of all, it can help you capture those people with mild to moderate loss that are extremely price sensitive. It is also very cost effective, as you do not have to take an impression. You do not have to make a second appointment for the fitting, or worry about patients changing their minds and cancelling the order while they are waiting for their fitting appointment. When you have a patient who is a candidate, you can just pull it off your shelf, put it deep in his or her ear to address the stigma issue head-on, and send the person home to experience the benefits of better hearing – simple, comfortable, and convenient!
I think clinicians should think about the Charm60 Standard IIC as a way to get more patients into the mouth of the funnel. It is the way to get more people in the door, and to get more people started on amplification. You can take those people and move them where they need to go after they have already agreed to the concept of using amplification through such an accessible product for a broad market segment.
As a deep fit IIC type product, there is one memory. So when someone comes back and says, “This is amazing, but I have this very challenging situation.” That is your opportunity to move to a different form factor, and also to move up a technology level if that is required. Or if someone comes back and says they love the way it sounds, but they have a need for wireless connectivity to their cell phone, you can talk to them about a model or technology level with connectivity.
Carolyn: Earlier you mentioned PSAPs. Charm60 Standard IIC seems a bridge between a PSAP and a traditional custom fit hearing instrument.
Kathy: Yes, that is the beautiful thing. Each patient that walks through your door has different needs. For some, those needs are best met with premium, custom fit hearing aids. For some, that is too much. They either cannot afford them or emotionally they are not ready for them. Having the Charm60 Standard IIC to bridge the gap will enable professionals to provide hearing help to those who need it earlier in the process than ever before, even for the most skeptical and reluctant new users. It is an attractive and straightforward solution that can be instantly fit, custom programmed and allow users to immediately experience the benefits of Sonic’s sophisticated technology. And at an appealing price point of $1500 MSRP for a pair, it is designed to appeal to new users and cost-conscious consumers.
Carolyn: Thanks, Kathy. Wishing you much success with the launch of Charm60 Standard IIC.