Will Neuralink mean the end of hearing aids?  The battle for audiologists

Launched in 2016, Neuralink is the brain-child of Elon Musk. This technology focuses  on bridging the gap between technology and biology, by building human-machine interfaces through the deployment of electrodes and microchip implants in the brain.

While this sounds like science fiction, the company has made immense strides in research over the past eight years, with potential applications covering everything from treating hearing loss in the form of tinnitus to controlling your devices with the power of thought alone.

How does Neuralink work?

A microchip is inserted behind the ear and micron-scale threads are spread into the brain using precision automated neurosurgery to guide them to where they need to be, including the visual, auditory, somatosensory and the motor cortices. 

Signals are read from these areas of the brain and interpreted. The technology can also send signals and stimulate these areas of the brain. The behind-ear microchip is powered by a wirelessly rechargeable battery and even features bluetooth connectivity.

What does this mean for audiology?

Neuralink’s current focus is making medical devices for people with neurological disorders and other impediments but there is a long-term vision to create systems available for the general population with audiology applications in the early stages of research. 

The system bypasses the ear entirely and interfaces with the auditory cortex and as the technology matures – it could revolutionise hearing treatment by either amplifying sound input or by connecting to a microphone receiver wirelessly.

With one in six people affected by hearing loss in the UK and one in eight in the US, Neuralink could be the answer for an ageing population.

Demand is outstripping supply

Future technology aside, the immediate need for hearing care has never been greater with hearing loss becoming much more prevalent over the past two decades and the number of people with hearing loss expected to double by 2060 The global hearing aids market is projected to grow from $10.23 billion in 2022 to $17.68 billion by 2029.  Demand for hearing care is also outstripping the supply of audiologists which is impacting the ability of major retail chains like Specsavers and Boots to keep up with hearing care appointment requests, resulting in longer wait times. Linkedin hiring trends corroborate this. Specsavers has increased hiring for audiologists by 8x and Boots by 14x respectively in the past year.  The market for audiology talent has grown much more competitive in the wake of the great resignation, with 41% of people likely to consider leaving their jobs in 2022 according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index. This kind of mobility presents challenges for audiology brands when attracting and retaining talent.  Audiologists have more choice than ever before when partnering with a company and a lot can be learnt from the businesses like Amplifon (11% market share), that are leading the market when it comes to talent acquisition along with other independents that cater to higher value patients.  These businesses are increasing revenues by focusing on the acquisition of private audiology patients, and those increased revenues are in turn more appealing to prospective franchisees while larger chains rely on volume with a majority of patients often coming from NHS referrals.

Acquiring higher value patients

Shifting focus to higher value patients presents a strategic opportunity for companies like Specsavers to accelerate growth by tapping into underserved private patients. This would increase sales value while utilising existing infrastructure and resources, gaining a competitive edge with a minimal strategy change in the midst of a talent crisis.

With this line of thinking, a question arises –  How do companies acquire high value patients and how can this be done reliably at scale? 

To answer that question, companies must first understand the purchase behaviour that private patients exhibit, namely that they research multiple providers and trusted information sources before deciding which brand to enquire with for an appointment. 

Patients consult an average of 10 traditional and new media sources before consideration, a fact that presents an opportunity for businesses that can find a way to increase exposure to this lucrative market at a pivotal stage in the buyer journey. 

Many companies however, don’t have relationships with relevant influential publishers to tap into this audience or simply lack the resources in expertise and time to drive meaningful volumes of new customers, but hope is not lost as this is where third party customer generation partners can step in. 

MVF helps audiology companies open up new streams of revenue by providing a turn-key solution for generating high value patient opportunities, sourced through a suite of owned brands not accessible anywhere else. Brands that help thousands of private patients make complex purchase and care decisions every single day. 

In conjunction with access to this exclusive audience, MVF boasts unparalleled reach across an additional 30+ channels and utilises them to drive appointments and sales for audiology businesses across the globe. 

Want to learn how much volume you are missing out on? Speak with an expert.