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023 – Kevin Liebe – (Hearing Aid) Data is the New Oil

The next episode of the Future Ear Radio podcast features Kevin Liebe, Audiologist and President/CEO of Hearing Health & Technology Matters (HHTM). For those not familiar, HHTM is a media publication within the hearing care industry that covers a wide variety of topics, research and thought leadership based around hearing aids and hearing healthcare. I wanted to bring Kevin on the podcast to allow him introduce his newest column within HHTM, “Innovations in Hearing Healthcare,” which let to a broad-based discussion about the changing industry.

Our conversation begins by focusing on the first three interviews that Kevin has conducted for the column and some of the key takeaways from each. The first interview with Brandon Sawalich, CEO of Starkey, sheds a light on the company’s vision to transform the hearing aid into a more multi-purpose device capable of supporting additional use cases. Kevin and I discuss the idea of a hearing aid being converted into a preventative health tool, which might help to encourage more referrals from fellow medical professionals, as well as supply a secondary use case that is compelling to the patient, as well as other stakeholders, such as caregivers.

We then turn our attention to the next interview with David Cannington, Co-founder of hearables manufacturer, Nuheara. Nuheara is particularly intriguing to the hearing care provider due to the younger demographic that Nuheara’s IQ Buds appeal to, citing the average user age mentioned by David Cannington as being around 55 years old. There’s clearly an opportunity to leverage products like Nuheara’s in a hearing care clinic to appeal to folks with hearing loss at an earlier point in their life and establishing the provider-patient relationship sooner.

The last of the three that we touch on is with Dr. Carl LeBel, Chief Development Officer of biotech company, Frequency Therapeutics. I admittedly am not nearly as knowledgeable about the biotech side of the innovation occuring in and around this industry, so it was absolutely fascinating to hear Kevin share with me the novel approach Frequency Therapeutics is taking to treat sensorineural hearing loss using pharmaceutical treatments. Even the remote possibility that we might one day cure hearing loss through a biotech breakthrough is extremely exciting.

In the second half of the discussion we pivot to one of the big byproducts of having so many connected hearing aids on the market being a massive wave of new type of data available to manufacturers, providers and patients. Just as we’re seeing in so many different industries, data is the oil of the 21st century, and the insight that can be gleaned from all of this new data is nothing short of groundbreaking.

Due to the real-time nature and the granularity of the data, manufacturers can much better understand usage behaviors and patterns, helping them to better design their machine learning algorithms. As a result, the patient may not even notice the real-time adjustments being made by the device in the background, and just experience a better, more natural sounding experience. From a provider’s standpoint, not only might this type of data provide happier, more satisfied patients, but also insight into their patients usage habits, allowing them to be more informed as to how they might be able to improve the patient’s experience.

As always, it was an awesome conversation. I’ve really been enjoying all of these very audiology-specific episodes and am looking forward to having more conversations with folks like Kevin as the industry continues to change.

-Thanks for Reading-

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