Back in early 2013 CBC Marketplace, a well-known consumer advocacy television show, released an episode on hearing aids entitled, "Price Tag Confidential". The episode was highly critical of hearing aid retailers and the hearing aid industry for the high prices of hearing aids. Consumers took notice.
At that time Jon Elliott, already a consumer advocate, was revolutionizing industries by working with consumers to successfully acquire better pricing and higher quality services, particularly in highly-subsidized markets, like the Ontario solar industry.
Rather than provincial subsidies making products and services more accessible to consumers, retailers too often raised their prices to absorb the subsidies and still tacked on huge mark ups. In 2011 alone, Jon offered more than 400 price-competitive quotes to consumers across Ontario on behalf of progressive solar installers. This and other factors drove down consumer prices for solar products and services in Ontario by almost 50%.
CBC Marketplace, as well as Kristin’s experiences in the industry over the years, inspired Jon to tackle the hearing aid industry. Jon has immersed himself in the business, going so far as to attend University and spend years being apprenticed in a Toronto clinic, to become a trained, experienced, and licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist. His degree in technology from Ryerson University and years of experience with software and programming enabled Jon to separate fact from fiction when it comes to hearing aid technology benefit. Jon challenged the “Why” (and “Why not”) behind popular testing and fitting protocols in your average clinic vs. the best-practices he learned in university. He tested and re-tested every product and process until he could prove to himself and to clients that they will be better served by a more thorough and evidence-driven process.
Jon founded an organization, Independent Hearing Clinics of Canada (IHCC), and sent out the rallying cry to independent hearing clinics in Canada to practice objectivity in delivering the best possible products and services and to earn consumer trust by employing best-practices, transparency, and fair pricing. He also created a consumer website, HearingClinics101.org, to educate consumers about what to ask, what to look for, what to expect and what to demand of their hearing aids and their hearing clinics. As expected, the response from Canadian consumers continues to be overwhelmingly positive.
Jon realized that, to facilitate change in the hearing aid industry, he'd have to take further action. In 2015, Jon created a business plan for UberHearing™, which would represent the model hearing clinic - one that had the highest commitment to proven best-practices while also offering significantly lower prices for quality hearing solutions. His research led him to redesign the process of selling hearing aids from top to bottom.
Jon attempted to answer the question, "If hearing aid consumers and advocates could create the ideal hearing clinic, what would that be like?" He realized that consumer education must be the number one priority. Rather than just marketing products, UberHearing™ would educate to empower consumers, operate in a wholly transparent fashion, and commit to an evidence-based approach to hearing care.
UberHearing™ employs a thoughtfully designed "effectiveness-first" approach, which includes the strongest emphasis on each client's ability to hear speech clearly in challenging, real-world environments - the "Holy Grail" of hearing care.
In order for UberHearing™ to implement this approach, changes have had to be made in the way clients are tested and hearing aids are selected and fitted. Jon created a complimentary, advanced hearing test process, incorporating elements of speech-in-noise testing, Annoyance Noise Level testing (ANL), perception versus measurement, and hearing aid verification in noise as part of the UberHearing™ SIN-GAP™ solution.
Comprehensive, best-practice hearing testing and hearing aid fitting processes have been proven, through independent, unbiased research, to yield superior results. However, some business owners argue that the required investment of time to follow these processes is time poorly spent, particularly bearing sales quotas in mind. Jon realizes that, for hearing aids to be more effective, best-practices such as advanced speech-in-noise testing, 50-word lists at multiple levels of gain, Real Ear Measurements (REM), electroacoustic testing, and the creation of interactive, individualized, long-term hearing plans must be incorporated.
Jon researched, tested, and compared hearing aids from all major manufacturers to find those that had the best “speech in noise” performance in various noise settings and over different price ranges. In line with unbiased, independent research, Jon found that some mid-range hearing aids were able to match their high-tech, higher-priced counterparts in noisy environments, and entry level hearing aids proved able to serve many people’s needs. Considering this, Jon decided that UberHearing™ would only sell hearing aids that could be proven to be effective in noise and that he would work with clients to find hearing aid solutions which would yield the highest benefit for the lowest cost.
Jon addressed the "Elephant in the room" – the completely reasonable complaint of countless consumers that hearing aids are too expensive. After re-evaluating traditional high-price/low-margin pricing structures, it became clear that UberHearing™ could still make a fair profit by charging less than 50% of what other clinics charge for hearing aids, providing marketing and operational costs are aggressively managed, flexible service plans are provided, a full clinic schedule is pursued, and a portion of profits are shared with the consumer.
Ultimately, UberHearing™ pricing closely approaches those of big-box stores and internet retailer prices but, at $199.00 per hearing aid, UberHearing™ offers a lower starting price and, equally important, the added benefit of the highest quality in-person services and improved consumer satisfaction.
Having implemented these dramatic and fundamental changes to the practice of providing hearing aids, UberHearing™ clients cannot help but realize substantially higher satisfaction rates than those delivered by all other hearing clinics and hearing aid retailers - satisfaction not only with their improved ability to hear, but also in the price they pay for their hearing solution.
Kristin has spent her entire career in the field of customer service, covering everything from administration to continuous improvement projects. In her years in the hearing industry she, too, saw opportunities to improve the traditional hearing clinic model. What a relief to co-found UberHearing™. While Jon is a technologically savvy consumer advocate, Kristin is a warm hostess, a master at keeping things organized, and generous in providing support. What both Jon and Kristin have in common is a genuine love of people and an authentic joy in being of service and connecting with their communities. Their commitment to excellence and integrity are the bedrock upon which UberHearing™ has been built. Doing the right thing for people, every time, is about far more than dollars and cents. It’s about making the world a better place.
So, who is the ideal UberHearing™ client? Anyone who lives with hearing loss that is dissatisfied or are questioning whether they have the best hearing solution; those who are fed up with high prices; folks who have doubts about purchasing hearing aids because they feel they won't experience the advertised benefits. They or their loved ones are the people UberHearing™ is here to serve.
UberHearing™ serves a market that is larger than that of a traditional clinic. We provide solutions for all hearing losses plus, with our new approach, UberHearing™ hopes to help many of the 80% of people with hearing loss who have not yet chosen to purchase hearing aids. Because of our consumer-first, effectiveness-first, value-first approach, we appeal to and welcome everyone to UberHearing™
We look forward to answering any questions you may have and, ultimately, to helping you hear better.