Category Archives: Presidential Perspective

Presidential Perspective

Hearing Industry Events are Coming Back

As I write this, live events are back… but, with variants of the Covid-19 virus in play, a level of uncertainty lingers over how many will actually occur as planned. I’m going to be optimistic though and focus on the exciting events we plan to hold and attend in the upcoming year with all my fingers and toes crossed that nothing derails those plans.

There is no true substitute for live events

During the pandemic, the hearing healthcare industry made do like everyone else by holding or attending events online. However, there’s no denying that valuable components of live events were lost when we couldn’t meet with our peers and valued customers face-to-face.

Live events generate energy and excitement from being around others who are equally passionate about sharing innovations and ideas for advancing hearing technology and improving services to patients and clinics. Conversations using the same hearing industry shorthand and acronyms remind us that we’re all part of the same extended family. Although we’re able to share that through Zoom or Teams or whatever online platform, the level of camaraderie just isn’t the same.

Another significant loss is the unplanned get-together. If you have ever attended an industry event, you know exactly what I mean. Whether it’s an invitation to grab coffee and catch up, conversations held around the lunch table, or an informal “hang” at the bar in the evening, these unplanned social interactions simply cannot be replicated virtually. I will go so far as to say, without discounting the high value of informative planned programming, it is during these spontaneous meetups where the most engaging and mutually beneficial conversations are held.

While industry panels and lectures are helpful, informative, and extremely valuable—and fortunately translate well to being conducted online—I’m sure you’ll agree we miss the hands-on components like live demos. We all want to be able to pick up and examine new product offerings or try out new surgical techniques like our MONO drill. Again, there is no online substitute for in-person product introductions and interactions.

What you can look forward to from Oticon Medical in 2022

We are planning events for our professionals in 2022 centered around upcoming product launches. There will likely be more to come, either virtually, live, or a hybrid of both, but for now, they include the following:

  • Multiple Neuro2 Cochlear Implant System training events (throughout the US)
  • Multiple PONTO bone anchored hearing system new technology launch events (throughout the US)

We are also planning on having a presence at the following trade shows:

However we wind up interacting—online or in-person—rest assured you can look forward to more exciting and informational events from Oticon Medical throughout 2022. I hope you will join us!

Presidential Perspective

Successful Hearing Healthcare: It’s All About the Patient Experience

There are so many different pieces of advice, best practices, tips, and tricks for clinicians out in the zeitgeist, you’ve probably heard or read them all. From my perspective, they all boil down to the patient experience. If you provide patients with a superior experience working with you during each stage of their hearing treatment process, success will follow naturally.

When it comes to defining patient experience, I default to the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated. In this scenario, begin by putting yourself in your patient’s shoes.  They have lived at least part of their life with little to no hearing and experienced its associated hardships—struggling to keep up with conversations, falling behind in school or at work, and feeling fatigued every night after straining to hear all day. Yet you are leery of treating your hearing loss with a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) because it involves surgery, you aren’t sure if your insurance will cover it, and all of the other standard objections.

Now ask yourself: how you would want to be treated by your hearing care professional during your journey to better hearing?

Starting down the path to improved hearing

We are fortunate here at Oticon Medical to have an engaged and informative team of patient advocates who have shared their experiences—positive and negative—in detail over the years. What I have learned from them is the following:

  • Patients want their hearing care professional to get to know them as a person with unique experiences related to their hearing loss, not just as the next appointment on someone’s schedule
  • They want you to provide as much information about each treatment option as possible, not just be handed a list of potential solutions and expected to do their own research
  • They want to know they can depend on you and the manufacturer of their selected device for continued support, not only immediately after implantation and activation, but for as long as they have their BAHS
  • They want to know they can afford the surgery, the device, and their visits to you pre- and-post implantation. Willingness to work with them to arrange financing and being able to help them understand their insurance coverage options will help you stand out from your competition
  • They want you to be clear, realistic, and honest about the pros and cons of bone anchored hearing with regards to the surgical procedure, the device, and post-implant expectations

A common goal makes Oticon Medical your partner of choice

When you and your patient select a Ponto BAHS, you get more than a highly effective product that requires only minimally invasive surgery. You get a partner in helping you provide the excellent customer service your patient expects and deserves. We also believe in getting to know our Ponto users making them feel like part of an extended Oticon Medical family by offering our advocacy program, online support groups, put them in touch with current wearers, and much more. We provide clear and detailed information about our products and services on our website and in brochures and guides so that your patients can quickly and easily get their questions answered about life with a Ponto.

Our Customer Service Team is available from 8 am to 8pm Eastern Time daily to support patients for as long as they have their Ponto device, and additional support can be requested through email 24/7 or through social media by sending direct messages to us via Facebook, or as members of Oticon Medical Friends.

We also have an Insurance Support Team that can help users find out what their insurer covers, either private or Medicare/Medicaid, and assist them with filling in all the paperwork required to get their surgery and Ponto device.

Now introducing an even better patient surgical experience: MONO

As for the surgical procedure itself, we have introduced the world’s first one-step drilling procedure for BAHS: the MONO treatment for adults 18 years of age and older. Our unique drill allows you to create a complete osteotomy in a single step. This groundbreaking new procedure offers your patients excellent aesthetic outcomes and fast recovery times.1,2 MONO can also help improve your procedural efficiency by reducing the number of instruments and implant components needed in the procedure. With the tailor-made MONO Surgery Kit, your staff will find it easy to prepare for and handle implant installation. And clinics that already use the minimally invasive MIPS technique have reported reduced surgical time, staffing, and running costs.3

You can book a demonstration of the MONO drill and find out how it can benefit you and your procedural efficiency today!

References

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1. Caspers CJI, et al. A clinical evaluation of minimally invasive Ponto surgery with a modified drill system for inserting bone anchored hearing implants. Accepted in Otol Neurotol 2020.
2. Holmes S, et al. Tissue preservation techniques for bone anchored hearing aid surgery. Otol Neurotol. 2021; Publish Ahead of Print.
3. Sardiwalla Y, et al. Direct cost comparison of minimally invasive punch technique versus traditional approaches for percutaneous bone anchored hearing devices. J. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;46(1):46.

Presidential Perspective

Joys and Challenge of Overseeing a Business in Growth Mode

As I write this, I am overseeing the largest expansion of Oticon Medical US in our history. As you can imagine, this comes with its shares of joys and challenges as we blaze our way toward an exciting new future.

So, what’s going on? To start with, we are juggling three major overlapping product launches. One I’ve already shared—the premarket approval of cochlear implant sales in the US. The second, which I’m excited to share with you now, is the launch of the first style in our new family of bone anchored hearing systems, the Ponto™ 5 Mini (you’ll have to wait a bit more to hear about the third launch, but I promise you’re going to like it).

Introducing the Ponto 5 family of bone conduction hearing devices

If you haven’t read our press release yet, here is a rundown of what the Ponto 5 Mini has to offer. While it remains the world’s smallest and most discreet processor on the market, it also offers the same state-of-the-art reliability, durability, connectivity, and product quality our customers came to know and expect from Ponto 4. Additionally, Ponto 5 utilizes two of our proven BrainHearing™ technologies, the OpenSound Navigator™ and OpenSound Optimizer™ to provide wearers with greater access to sound than ever before. We confirmed this in a study that shows that these technologies improve speech understanding by 20 percent* and significantly reduce the listening effort needed to make sense of sound.[1] While traditional feedback systems have previously addressed feedback by reducing gain and removing the dynamics of sound, the OpenSound Optimizer analyzes amplified sound 56,000 times per second to detect and actually prevent audible feedback before it occurs.[2] Hearing care professionals no longer need to compromise on sound dynamics to reduce feedback and can fit Ponto 5 Mini wearers with up to 6 decibels (dB) more stable gain.

Raise your level of patient care with RemoteCare

Another unique feature of the Ponto 5 Mini is the introduction of the user-friendly Oticon RemoteCare platform, which allows wearers to have follow-up appointments and adjustments made remotely. Now, I know when audiology professionals see the words “remote care,” you might become worried that it means you will be expected to be on call 24/7. I want to assure you this is not the case at all! You will remain in full control of your schedule and appointments just as you do when arranging appointments with patients face-to-face. RemoteCare simply allows you to reduce the number of office visits for issues that can be easily remedied remotely, such as making tweaks to programs. The RemoteCare option is extremely beneficial for patients who either live far from your office, have busy schedules that make it hard for them to travel, or are too infirm to attend in-office appointments. And with ongoing concerns about Covid-19, it enables you to treat patients who otherwise might not feel comfortable meeting with you directly—and vice-versa depending on your personal health concerns.

I hope you’re enjoying the journey with us as we continue to expand our product and service offerings to you and your patients. For more information anytime, please contact your local Oticon Medical representative. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep an eye on our social media properties and share all the latest news with your own patient base through your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other communications outlets. Oticon Medical’s rising tide is intended to lift all boats, so join us and enjoy the ride!

[1] Manuscript in preparation, Data on File - Clinical study BC102

[2] Data on file at Oticon Medical

*Increased speech understanding with OpenSound Navigator ON measured as a percentage relative to the baseline with OpenSound Navigator OFF.

 

Presidential Perspective

Why We’re Entering the US Cochlear Implant Market

Our business is poised to begin a new journey here at Oticon Medical in the United States. Last month, we announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted us premarket approval for our Neuro cochlear implant system to treat individuals 18 years of age and older with bilateral severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss who are only able to obtain limited benefit from appropriately fitted hearing aids[1]. It’s important to note that the Neuro System is the first new cochlear implant technology to earn this premarket approval from the FDA in more than 20 years. Pretty impressive, right? As of this writing, we plan to make the Neuro System available to US hospitals and clinics later this year.

“But, John,” you might be asking. “There are already cochlear implant businesses dominating that space, including a certain other company that literally bears the product name. So why elbow your way into that market?”

That’s a fair question, but trust me, this move makes perfect sense when you consider the following:

The rate of cochlear implant utilization/provision in the US remains low at around 6 percent.[2]

The market potential is broader than many realize, meaning there is still plenty of room for entry by new cochlear implant providers to increase options and broaden accessibility. Oticon Medical has the capabilities and resources needed to bring proven expertise in cochlear implantation to thousands of Deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. We will leverage our global reach and existing network of clinics and users to build long-term relationships critical to the successful delivery of services and support of the highest quality. Our hope is that by entering the market, we will bring additional attention to an underserved portion of the market.

We welcome the opportunities and the challenges.

We are excited to venture into this area of hearing treatment and undaunted by the potential barriers. We eagerly plan to earn our place in this service-intensive market. Remember, while it’s true we will be the proverbial “new kids” on the US cochlear implant market “block,” we have been selling cochlear implant systems in countries around the world for decades. Our Neuro Zti is the result of more than 25 years of experience in cochlear implant development, manufacturing know-how, and material science expertise. And while our competitors might have the benefits of name recognition and firm establishment in the United States, we are confident that the many proven benefits of our offering will quickly draw the attention of hearing care professionals and users alike. When they learn facts about the Neuro Zti like it having achieved an impressive cumulative removal percentage (CRP) of 1.05 percent after five years[3]—making it one of the most reliable implants in the CI industry—we believe that any skeptics will quickly become converts.

We are part of a large and reliable global hearing health company.

Oticon Medical alone might appear smaller than some of our competitors, but we are also a part of Demant, a $2B-plus company focused on hearing health technology and awareness. That positions us as a heavy-hitter in the hearing device manufacturing field when you consider all our divisions are parts of a cohesive and well-established whole. Meanwhile, we are still small and maneuverable enough to provide intimate and direct service to our hearing healthcare customers and consumers in ways that many larger businesses can’t. Our high quality product, top-notch customer service, and long-term trust-based customer and patient relationships combined will form a solid foundation for a unique CI value proposition.

We offer US patients a new, high quality, and reliable CI option.

Neuro Zti is one of the most compact sound processors on the market[4]. It also features a unique screw fixation system that aims at making the implant stable without the need for bone bed milling, which makes it a system that saves precious time in the operating room. Additionally, an independent study confirmed that, thanks to the rigid structure and the screw fixation system, Neuro Zti prevents pain and magnet dislocation during MRI exams using the most common equipment with the magnet in place.[5]

In the end it comes down to this—there is more than enough room in the US for us to enter the cochlear implant market, especially considering all the benefits our company and our Neuro Zti have to offer. So I encourage you to sign up for updates on our official cochlear implant release and join us on what will surely be an exhilarating ride into the future!

[1] Severe-to-profound hearing loss is determined by a pure-tone average (PTA) superior or equal (≥) to 70 dB HL at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz. Limited benefit from amplification is defined by scores of 50% or less on Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) sentences in quiet or noise, in the best-aided listening condition. Unless already appropriately fitted with hearing aids, it is recommended that candidates undergo a hearing aid trial period of three (3) months.

[2] Sorkin D. L. (2013). Cochlear implantation in the world's largest medical device market: utilization and awareness of cochlear implants in the United States. Cochlear implants international14 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S4–S12. https://doi.org/10.1179/1467010013z.00000000076

[3] Reliability Report 2020 Reporting to ANSI/AAMI CI86 Standard June 2020. https://wdh01.azureedge.net/us/-/media/medical/main/files/for-professionals/ci/reliability-report/224812us_pbr_reliability-report-2020_version-a_2020-11_low.pdf?la=en&rev=BE13&hash=D18D58BFC1C7D3372A3A389B581270BF

[4] IBID

[5]  Todt, I., Rademacher, G., Grupe G., Stratmann A., Ernst, A., Mutze S., Mittmann P. (2018). Cochlear implants and 1.5 T MRI scans: the effect of diametrically bipolar magnets and screw fixation on pain. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (2018) 47:11

Presidential Perspective

Proud to be a Partner in the Recovery of Your Hearing Health Clinic

Congratulations! Your hearing healthcare practice survived the lockdown of 2020. Patients are finally showing up to address their hearing losses, but although you’ve reopened, you still aren’t operating at full capacity. Maybe you lost staff or sadly had to let some people go. Yet you still must provide your patients with the level of care and service they have come to expect from your business.

We get it. That’s why we have taken concrete steps to ensure you receive the extra support you need during this challenging transition back from 100 percent remote care to at least some in-person. I’d like to share with you just some of what we offer as extra benefits for partnering with Oticon Medical.

Direct patient services

We offer a direct-to-patient repair and accessory service, so you can help patients who are still unable to visit your clinic and to reduce the number of walk-ins. This is done in close cooperation with you to ensure regulatory compliance, traceability, and that the best hearing solution is provided to your patient.

The Ponto Loaner Program

As some elective surgeries remain on hold, Oticon Medical can offer demo processors and loaner devices for some of your patients. Those who are experiencing surgical delays can wear their Ponto™ on a softband while awaiting their procedure, and still enjoy many benefits of bone conduction hearing. Please contact your sales representative for details on this program.

Customer and Insurance Support Services

Oticon Medical’s Customer Service Team is available to answer patient inquiries during office hours Monday-Friday 8am-7pm ET. Please tell your patients to call (888) 277-8014. Outside of normal business hours or for patients who find phone calls challenging, we also have a dedicated email, info@oticonmedical.com, that is checked regularly throughout each day.

Additionally, we have a dedicated team of Insurance Specialists available to help your patients navigate their insurance benefits to determine and verify coverage of the costs of their surgery and/or sound processor. While the insurance process can be daunting, our team is here to make it is as easy as possible, for patients and your practice. Contact the team at (855) 400-9761 during normal business hours or by email at insuranceservices@oticonmedical.com.

Clinical support

You can request an Oticon Medical Clinical Support representative be present at your patient’s appointment in-person or via an online platform. Our audiology professionals can answer questions, offer advice, and guide your fitting. We can also train you and your staff in the use of our fitting software, Genie Medical.

Step-by-step support online

On our website, you will find the Support page for hearing healthcare professionals. Here you can find extensive resources and tools at your convenience, at any time, to guide you and your patients through the Assessment, Trial, Surgical, Healing, Sound Processor Attachment, and Aftercare phases.

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I hope this information makes you feel even more confident working with Oticon Medical as we work together to recover from the challenging (to put it mildly) 15-plus months. Of course, if you even have any questions, concerns, or just plain want additional help, please don’t hesitate to contact your local representative.

Presidential Perspective

Why We Launched Good Vibrations Day

On May 3, Oticon Medical launched the first Good Vibrations Day—a nonbranded annual holiday to raise awareness of bone anchored hearing as a solution to hearing losses that cannot be treated with air conduction hearing aids.

Note my use of nonbranded here. The point of this day is to inform people with hearing loss that an alternative to their partial or near-total deafness exists that they might not have known about. And while we are a business that manufactures such a product—the Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) —we are also a part of something much larger: the hearing healthcare community. As such, we consider it our responsibility and our privilege to spread the word about hearing treatment options to those who would benefit regardless of brand.

I can imagine what the cynical among you are thinking as you roll your eyes at your screen: “Sure, John. You don’t care whether this initiative drives Ponto sales. Sell me a bridge, why don’t you?”

Okay, fair enough. Obviously, I believe in our product and that it is the best option on the market. Why would I work for the company otherwise?

Nevertheless, Good Vibrations Day is not about pushing Ponto sales. A surprising number of people affected by hearing loss only know about traditional hearing aids and cochlear implants, which although highly effective treatments, are not universally suited to every form of hearing loss.

Thousands of people in the United States and abroad could be engaging in conversations with friends, listening to music, having an easier time learning in school and functioning at work. Imagine you are one of them, and because of Good Vibrations Day, discover a solution exists that could help you enjoy all the ease and pleasure access to sound provides. Wouldn’t you hop online and start researching all the bone anchored treatment options available? The opportunity to offer this hope to more human beings carries far deeper meaning, to me, than pushing product alone.

Ultimately, we are in the business of helping people. We can only do that if they know our treatment option exists. So, yes, even if our Good Vibrations Day efforts drive some individuals to seek treatment from a company other than ours, we’ll consider it a success.

Which is why we are not only hoping , but actively encouraging, our competitors to join us in celebrating next year’s Good Vibrations Day. Together, we can inform potential users and support audiology professionals in spreading the word about osseointegrated treatments and their effectiveness. The more people we reach who could benefit from bone anchored hearing, the greater the opportunity we will all have to improve lives. And yes, as a rising tide lifts all boats, increasing public awareness of bone anchored hearing solutions will ultimately benefit our entire industry, including our clinical customers.

Until next time,

John Sparacio, President, Oticon Medical US

Welcome to the Presidential Perspective

We are launching a new column from the president of Oticon Medical North America, John Sparacio. Each month, John will share his perspectives on the hearing healthcare industry, insights into the future of implantable hearing devices, and provide guidance on how audiology practices and clinics can thrive. 

Hearing Healthcare in the New Normal

Moving Beyond Surviving to Thriving

The new normal. Bet you’re as sick of seeing that term in every news article, think piece, and social media pontification as I am. Unfortunately for us, it is the reality we are facing. Life, and the hearing healthcare industry as a whole, will simply not go back to what we used to call “normal” anytime soon—if ever.

So, what can we do about it from a business standpoint? I’ve been racking my brain over that for some time now, and while I’d like to say I came up with the answer, I am pretty sure there isn’t one, at least not a one-size-fits-all, capital A answer. However, what I did come up with is a way we can better navigate these uncharted waters—by sharing our experiences, including what has worked, what hasn’t, and what we believe will help our industry not only survive, but thrive. I will be sharing my experience and perspective monthly, and I hope you will stop by and not only give it a read but share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Personally, I’ll admit this past year has been a doozy. I barely had time to settle in as the president of Oticon Medical North America when the challenge of guiding our business through the Covid-19 crisis landed in my lap like a ticking bomb. We had all just returned from a highly successful international sales meeting in Cancun, and our future outlook was as bright and sunny as that beautiful location.

Then… bam! Less than a month later, the coronavirus was identified, and the entire world began shutting down. I told our office staff they would be working at home for a couple of weeks (ha, I know), and then everything just… stopped. Our customers couldn’t open their offices, our sales team couldn’t travel, our events couldn’t be held, product launches were delayed… It was one door after another slamming shut. And with each one that closed, my fears for the future of our company and of our customers’ businesses grew.

So, what has gotten us through the darkest days of this crisis? Adaptation is top of my list. Worldwide, our leadership teams used robust scenario planning exercises to confront the challenges posed by the pandemic head-on. We maximized our communications infrastructure so that we could conduct meetings and events online. We provided our employees with the equipment required to work from home with as much ease and efficiency as possible. We supplied our field staff with the PPE needed to remain safe while still supporting our clinician and surgical customers.

In short, we adapted. And like any organism facing down a threat, our adaptation meant we survived. In fact, I’ll tiptoe out on a limb and go so far as to say we are thriving. Sure, sales could be better—that’s always true regardless of a worldwide pandemic! But in the course of adapting, we discovered smarter, more efficient ways to conduct business. These lessons will not be discarded once whatever passes for normalcy takes hold, but rather be used to make us an even stronger, more efficient leader in hearing device manufacturing. Which in turn will make us an even better partner to our hearing care professional customers reopening their businesses and relaunching their important services to patients, many of whom have had to postpone getting vital hearing care and are now eager for assistance.

So, back to the new normal. What is that going to look like when it comes to bone-anchored hearing devices and other hearing products and services? Well, some of the changes we’ve already seen, such as the increase in telehealth options, will be sticking around. As for whatever other changes and advancements are coming? I can only speak for my corner of the hearing industry, but there are indeed exciting innovations on the horizon in technology, product, and service offerings. I eagerly look forward to sharing them with you as we all move forward—together.

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Only certain staff members are allowed into our Somerset US headquarters right now—essential workers. Who decides who is essential? Me. I found it weird carrying around a letter from me declaring myself an essential worker, so I simply bought the T-shirt.