It’s a common sight: New Yorkers walking around listening to music through their headphones at an unhealthy volume. We’ve all done it before, but did you know that 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss and this number is only projected to rise given the noise in our current environment. Unfortunately, hearing aids have traditionally been extremely costly and many people who suffer from hearing loss do not have the money to pay for this. That is why Audicus is selling simple and affordable, German-manufactured hearing aids. It is one of the first startups that offers an Online Hearing Test that is accurate enough to program your hearing aids, which eliminates the need to seek a clinical audiogram. This direct-to-consumer startup radically reduces hearing aid costs and ensures that hearing aids are customized and tailored to the client’s requirements.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and Founder Patrick Freuler to learn about the shortcomings of the consumer care market and how his company plans to revolutionize the hearing aid industry.
Tell us about Audicus.
Audicus makes getting a hearing aid simple, affordable, and accessible. We sell German-manufactured hearing aids direct-to-consumer online, saving customers thousands per pair. We are the only company with an Online Hearing Test accurate enough to program custom hearing aids, eliminating the need for a clinical audiogram. For the first time, you can order a custom hearing solution in 15 minutes from home.
The traditional model for getting hearing aids is incredibly complex and costly, involving long doctor’s appointments and high markups. A pair of hearing aids costs $5,000 on average and is rarely covered by insurance. By selling direct-to-consumer online, we save customers thousands per pair.
Our Online Hearing Test is an industry game-changer, offering a fast, free and accurate way to learn about your hearing loss and get a custom solution, programmed from our in-house audiology team, with 45 days to try. Providing a completely online solution dramatically increases access for customers without insurance, mobility, or access to a doctor.
Unlike an audiologist, we offer unlimited reprogramming and access to our team of experts by phone, chat or email, to help you understand your hearing loss, guide you through customized options, and touch base as you acclimate to your hearing aids. No appointment or copays needed.
What market is Audicus attacking and how big is it?
There is a $10B addressable US market. About 48M Americans have hearing loss, which is about 1 in 5. Only 20% of hearing loss sufferers seek treatment due to cost, complexity, and stigma. According to the CDC, hearing loss is on the rise for Americans under 70, due to greater noise exposure from concerts, restaurants, traffic, and earbuds.
What is the business model?
Our business model is direct-to-consumer. This allows us to offer the best products and eliminate audiologist markups to sell high-quality hearing aids for thousands less.
What inspired the business?
After graduating from MIT, I worked as a consultant at McKinsey, then as an investor at Bain Capital, where I discovered the cost and complexities of getting a hearing aid in America. In 2012, I founded Audicus, on the simple principle that getting a high-quality hearing aid should be easy, accessible, and affordable. By understanding the pain points and barriers entrenched in traditional audiology, we’ve worked hard to reimagine hearing health with the customer’s needs at the center.
Are those most likely to need hearing aids technologically savvy and comfortable enough to use your online offering?
Yes, but the support we offer is incredibly important to what we do. The average age of our customers is 59, but our customers are diverse in background, technical savvy and level of comfort with purchasing online. We draw tech-savvy early adopters as well as people who want to speak with our team a lot before choosing Audicus. Investing time in human-guidance throughout a customer’s journey and providing through post-sale support ensures customers know what to expect, how to acclimate, and how to care for their hearing aids.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We are excited to launch a new site, work on key partnerships, continue growing our team and focus on mobile.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Invest in your people and teams, first and foremost. Then your customers, then the product and everything else. Don’t mix up that order.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
A super connector for mentors, partnerships, and talent. Someone like Mark Gerson of the Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), for example.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is highly diverse across disciplines, cultures, backgrounds. And ultimately, this is where the talent is at. The startup scene is more nascent and still has that communal pioneering spirit.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Diviera Drive in Williamsburg.