Industry leaders discuss the sensibilities of marketing assistive listening devices to the public.

Recently, Hearing Products Report interviewed George Dennis, president and founder of TV Ears Inc, Amsterdam, NY; Randy Morgan, president and CEO of Westone Laboratories, Colorado Springs, Colo; and John W. House, MD, president of the House Ear Institute, Los Angeles, to discuss the benefits of assistive listening devices, such as TV Ears, in helping hearing-impaired individuals make the transition to standard hearing devices.

George Dennis George Dennis

HPR Please give some basic information about TV Ears?
George Dennis: Since 1998, TV Ears Inc has focused on helping people hear television clearly without turning up the volume; with the help of hearing professionals nationwide, TV Ears has helped tens of thousands of people improve the quality of their lives. Our customer satisfaction rate is more than 95% and people tell us every day how much they appreciate the hearing professional that introduced them to TV Ears.

HPR What was the inspiration for the product?
George Dennis: The inspiration for TV Ears was based on the well-known statistic that nearly 80% of people with a hearing loss never seek help because of either vanity or money and therefore go undiagnosed and untreated. TV Ears has proven to be an appealing product to the average guy and an excellent introduction to hearing amplification which often leads to the purchase of a hearing instrument.

HPR What is the difference between TV Ears and a commercial electronics store-type headset?
George Dennis: The commercial electronics store-type headsets will not work for people with a hearing loss because, unlike TV Ears, these headsets are limited in output and amplify all sound at the same level. TV Ears is powerful (120 db) and exponentially amplifies sound in the critical speech frequencies so that hard to hear words are easier to understand and background sounds are kept in the background. In addition, individuals with a hearing loss will use this product for the rest of their lives, therefore they need a quality product that will last. TV Ears comes with a lifetime service guaranty.

HPR What type of consumer is buying TV Ears?
George Dennis: About half own hearing aids and about half don’t. All of them are having trouble hearing their television and many have a spouse that is becoming increasingly irritated.

HPR How do you help hearing health care professionals with their marketing efforts?
George Dennis: We advertise nationally to support our “authorized dealers” and we just completed a TV Ears marketing kit that is absolutely superb. The kit has many great tools and ideas to help dealers create a referral relationship with medical doctors, attract new customers, turn “tested not sold” into hearing aid buyers, and recall their present customer base.

HPR What is the benefit of becoming an “authorized” TV Ears dealer?
George Dennis: Everyone is welcome to sell our product; however, if a dealer decides to become an “authorized” TV Ears dealer, we will list them on our Web site and include them in our telephone referral program. We receive hundreds of hits on our Web site and telephone calls to our office every month from consumers looking for a place to buy TV Ears. We direct these prospects to the closest authorized dealer where they are assured a free demonstration of TV Ears from a hearing professional that can answer their questions and sell them TV Ears that day. We launched this program in November with openings for 1,000 dealer locations. Already 400 dealer locations have signed up.

HPR How does TV Ears help sell more hearing aids and reduce returns?
George Dennis: TV Ears appeals to just about every person that has a hearing loss, and once the customer takes the first step and experiences TV Ears, fitting them with hearing instruments becomes a natural next step.
As far as hearing aid returns are concerned, customers that receive TV Ears along with their new hearing instruments are more satisfied and are less likely to return either product.

HPR Do you have plans for any new products?
George Dennis: Westone Laboratories and TV Ears Inc just finished a collaborative effort to develop a new product called Theater Ears™.

Randy Morgan Randy Morgan

HPR Mr Morgan, please describe Theater Ears?
Randy Morgan: Theater Ears are clear, vinyl, custom-fit earpieces that easily couple with the TV Ears headset. They block out ambient room noise and direct the audio of TV Ears deep into the ear canals.

HPR What are the benefits of hearing health care professionals ordering TV Ears or TV Ears equipped with Theater Ears?
Randy Morgan: Obviously, everything a hearing professional can do to ease a patient’s transition to assisted hearing can lead to improved customer satisfaction. A common complaint is that the hearing instrument works well for most situations, but not listening to the television or going to the theater. TV Ears addresses that concern, and a set of Theater Ears can further improve the experience by offering custom-fit comfort, as well as better ambient noise suppression—particularly valuable in a loud theater environment. The experience with TV Ears equipped with Theater Ears can facilitate the patients’ full acceptance of their hearing loss and, ultimately, the purchase of a hearing instrument.

The hearing professional can easily take an extra set of impressions for Theater Ears during the office visit. The small additional sale may not seem like much, but will make a positive impact on the patient and lead to future business opportunities, through patient referrals.

HPR Mr Dennis, your advertising states “Doctor Recommended TV Ears.” What type of doctors are recommending the product, and to what types of patient?
George Dennis: TV Ears is recommended by all types of doctors, from general practitioners to the most reputable otolaryngologists. As a matter of fact, we have worked in association with Dr John House, president of the House Ear Institute.

John W. House, MD John W. House, MD

HPR Dr House, you have recommended TV Ears for your patients. In your opinion, who is a good candidate for this product?
John W. House, MD: I have found that patients with mild to moderate hearing loss gain the most benefit from TV Ears. They are the patients who do not wear hearing aids or do not use them at home. They use TV Ears because other members of the family complain that the TV is too loud. I personally use them to watch TV while I’m riding my exercise bicycle. In this way I can have the volume of the TV low or off and therefore not bother my family with the loud TV.

HPR Dr House, do you believe TV Ears is a good complement to hearing instruments for patients with severe hearing loss?
John W. House, MD: Yes, many patients don’t wear their hearing aids while at home. In addition, some find they prefer the TV sound using the TV Ears as opposed to their hearing aids.

Rosie M. Banks is a contributing writer for Hearing Products Reports.