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New Avenues Break the Cost Barrier

Hearing Loss Magazine
Sept/Oct 2013 Edition
By Ed Belcher

New Avenues Break the Cost Barrier

On March 8, 2013, Brenda Battat, then executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and stated that, “HLAA supports opening more doors for consumers to seek treatment for their hearing loss. There should be options for consumers to address their specific health care needs. Not all consumers need the same level of care, and therefore providing new avenues to products and services benefits everyone. In the interest of consumers, new approaches and innovative programs must be given a chance to succeed.”

The author, an electrical engineer and HLAA member, conducts interviews with MDHearingAid founder, Dr. Sreek Cherukuri, and the CEOs of several other online hearing aid dispensers.

Sreekant Cherukuri, M.D., is a board certified ear, nose, and throat physician in Chicago and developed the MDHearingAid (www.MDHearingAid.com) line of affordable aids. As an attending physician in otolaryngology, Dr. Cherukuri found that he saw too many patients with hearing loss going home without a solution because they couldn’t afford the price of hearing aids.

Ed Belcher: When did your company begin offering hearing aids online and what kinds of service do you provide your customer?

Sreek Cherukuri: As an attending physician in otolaryngology, I saw too many patients with hearing loss going home without a solution because they couldn’t afford the hearing aid prices. I formed the company in October 2009 to address this problem. Our hearing aids are programmed to address the most common configurations of hearing loss. We empower users of our hearing aids to make their own program adjustments and change the volume. The user-adjustments are satisfactory for 85 percent of customers.

We performed a prospective trial on the MDHearingAid PRO that was presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery annual meeting in 2012. It showed that our PRO model met or exceeded electroacoustic and user satisfaction targets using accepted instruments from the medical literature. We have similar data for our new AIR model that we are about to present. When our products were available on Amazon.com, more than 94 percent of our reviews were four or five-star ratings. We have an A rating with the Better Business Bureau, with zero complaints in 36 months. We cater to individuals who have not obtained a hearing aid due to cost.

Ed: What process did you use to select the manufacturer of your aids?

Sreek: MDHearingAid is not a reseller; we manufacture our own hearing aids. Our goal is to provide affordable hearing aids and we found that purchasing components from suppliers then integrating and packaging them ourselves provides the lowest cost to us and thus allows us to offer the aids at the lowest cost to our customers.

Ed: Do you keep statistics on how many adjustments are needed after hearing aids are shipped and the percent of returns for credit?

Sreek: We have seen rates between 20 to 25 percent for industry wide returns. We are far below 15 percent.

Ed: Which individuals with hearing loss would you not advise to purchase your aids?

Sreek: We don’t sell to people with profound hearing loss, with “cookie-bite” or low-frequency hearing loss. These people need custom programmed hearing aids and/or special earmolds. We don’t sell to individuals under the age of 18.

Read the whole article here.