Sivantos, previously Siemens, in recent years has struggled to infiltrate the independent hearing sector with their brand Signia, in part, due to their long term relationship with Specsavers. To try and generate a greater share of the market they have introduced ‘Audio Service’ to the UK market. It is an alter ego with the idea of preventing end users from price comparing. A lot of high street chains already use this approach with their own branded hearing aids and now independents are being offered the same. Sivantos aren’t the first manufacturer to offer this and they certainly won’t be the last.
I do have one problem with this strategy though, and it is that gaining the trust of a prospective client is the most difficult part of the care pathway. The great expense of purchasing a hearing aid makes people cautious (rightly so) and it takes time, patience and a lot of effort to overcome these concerns. I feel it is wrong to prevent anyone from doing appropriate research on a purchase and it undermines the trust that we are trying to establish with our valued customers.
On the other hand, I feel this is a step in the right direction for Sivantos as it shows that they care about the smaller businesses and are trying to support them with proven effective marketing strategies. More importantly though, they also seem to realise that the best way to get the attention of an independent business is to be innovative and forward thinking which is what they seem to be doing with their latest release.
The Signia Silk is an instant fit completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aid. In the past, if you wanted a CIC hearing aid you would have to have an ear mould impression taken and this would take approximately two weeks to come back before a fitting could take place. This somewhat ruins the momentum as the customer is often eager to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible and once again, they are sometimes nervous about leaving a deposit for long periods of time due to the lack of trust we have mentioned previously.
Audio Service Quix G4
I have tried the Audio Services Quix G4 which from what I understand will be similar to the, soon to be launched, Signia Silk. It is reported to fit 80% of adult ears which means that it is a quick, cost effective way of prescribing this style of hearing aid for many individuals. I found the Quix very comfortable to wear and the open domes prevented any occlusion. I was impressed with the clarity and is one of the few CIC devices that can be controlled via an app.
Audio Services / Signia use a unique approach to connectivity. They use very high frequency sound coding that transmits an instruction from the phone to the hearing aid. The hearing aid detects this sound and decodes the transmission to perform the action. This might include adjusting the volume or the program. I’m not sure why no other manufacturers have ever taken this approach as quite frankly, it’s brilliant. There are limitations to this technology though, such as when we tried to pair the hearing aids with the phone in a noisy café. The excessive background noise was masking the coding signal and as such a pairing could not be established. I understand though that once the pairing is made the Quix is able to recognise the coding easier, even in noisy places. As well as this, there also isn’t the ability to stream conversations or music but at this stage this doesn’t quite matter seeing as most manufacturers haven’t managed to place ‘made for iphone’ technology in to custom products (without compromising performance elsewhere at least).
At present they have released the Quix G4 in the top two technology levels and so I assume it will be the same for Silk. I personally love the concept of the Quix /
Silk as it helps to pave the way towards over-the-counter hearing aids which would mean that there would be a greater awareness and uptake of hearing aids amongst the 11 million people in the UK who have hearing impairment. It would almost negate the need for an audiologist in straight forward fittings meaning that costs for end users would rapidly decrease. This argument is further supported following the recent announcement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration de-regulating the provision of over-the-counter hearing aids. As well as this other well known brands such as Bose are looking to join the hearable market which should really shake things up. Bose have recently advertised a post for a research audiologist and have also had exclusive launches of their ‘hearphone’ which sports directional microphones much like a hearing aid.
Sivantos have released a product that has the potential to rock the foundations of the hearing aid industry and is a product that I am very excited about. I look forward to using it and I will be posting a more thorough review of Silk after I have had some experience with it. In the meantime, we can get excited about the changes that are to take place in the hearing aid industry over the coming years.