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GN Hearing Just Acquired Online Upstart Lively. I Interviewed Both CEOs to find out why.

January 6, 2022
Blake Cadwell
Written by
Blake Cadwell
Blake Cadwell

Blake Cadwell is a hearing aid wearer and co-founder at Soundly. He regularly tests and reviews hearing technology to share his experience with Soundly’s readers. Blake's research and perspectives have been featured in the The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, AARP and FastCompany.

Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Soundly Staff

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

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I got my first pair of hearing aids in mid-2020, around my 30th birthday. Hearing loss runs in my family, and I had pushed off treatment for nearly two decades. It was time to do something.

Like most people, I opened up Google and started searching. What I found was a fork in the road.

On one side were traditional medical-grade hearing aids that required an audiologist’s prescription. On the other side, there was a wild west of online options ranging from less than $100 to $2,500 for a pair.

I wasn’t sure which option was best for me, so I took both paths.

A local audiologist fit me with ReSound One hearing aids. They cost around $7,000 and come with algorithms to suppress background noise, Bluetooth connection, and rechargeability. You can read my full review of ReSound One here. They are the BMW of hearing aids, and they work brilliantly.  

But here’s the problem.

I buy everything online, and as I started writing about my experience on this site, I heard from many readers that didn’t want to spend $7,000.

So I started trying every online hearing aid I could find. Many of the products didn’t work for me but Lively (and a few others) did.

Lively is a New York-based startup with an impressive founding team and the vision to bring the audiology process online. Their online audiologist checked my hearing and programmed my hearing aids remotely.

When my Lively hearing aids arrived in the mail, they worked incredibly well, and I swapped them out for my ReSound One’s for a few months without noticeable issue. Notably, Lively hearing aids cost $1,195 - $1,995 instead of $7,000. You can read my full review of Lively’s hearing aids here.  

In December, GN Hearing purchased Lively for around $95M

I’m a personal fan of both brands, and Lively is still a young company which makes the acquisition especially noteworthy.

I wanted to hear more about what this 150-year-old leader in audiology and a three-year-old online startup saw in each other.

So I reached out and was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Gitte Aabo, CEO at GN Hearing, and Adam Karp, CEO at Lively.

I came away from our conversation with a few main takeaways.

#1. Look out for more services from Lively. The brand may soon offer in-person services to supplement its online presence. That’s great for people who want to shop online and want the flexibility for more support in their city.  

#2. The future is online. Yes, this one is obvious. We live a lot of our lives here on these screens, and GN Hearing is betting that telehealth will continue to grow in the hearing space. It seems safe to assume that more and more care and treatment will happen online in the next decade.  

#3. GN wants to make beautiful hearing aids. Design wasn’t the central theme of our conversation, but GN Hearing CEO Gitte Aabo shared her passion for creating more aesthetic devices. Two thumbs up for this!

Some excerpts from my interview with Gitte and Adam

Q: Gitte, The world of hearing health is changing so quickly. What is GN most focused on right now?

Answer from Gitte: We are focused on improving customer experience. We know that up to one-third of hearing aids purchased end up in the drawer. Improving the customer journey in the first 90 days is incredibly important to us. Only one in five people currently treat their hearing loss, and there is a lot we can do to change that.  

Q: Adam, in just a few years, Lively has become a force in the hearing care world. What do you think resonated?

Answer from Adam: The world gets more digital every year, and that shift is impacting health in a very positive way. From the founding of Lively, our focus has been to bring together great care and great tech. It’s a complicated journey, and we’ve found that people want more support through the process. Many customers aren’t interested in buying hearing aids and self-programming them. This focus on tech combined with care has helped us reach a much younger audience and create a modern brand experience that connects many people for the first time.  

Q: Gitte, several reputable direct-to-consumer brands are emerging across the industry. What made Lively the right fit for GN Hearing?

Answer from Gitte: It comes back to our mission. What Lively has provided is an online personal experience. They have created a company focused on care along with a product, and Lively has earned customer trust by providing true hearing healthcare online. Combining this with the extensive physical network of hearing care professionals offering ReSound and Beltone hearing aids and dedicated care will help up help the two in three prospective customers at Lively, who today are looking for in-person service. We hope our collaboration will make it easier for more people to take the first steps on their hearing journey, so we can start helping more people and earlier than before.

Q: Adam, Just three years into your business, you are now partnered with one of the leading companies in the space. How do you think the partnership will further Lively’s mission?

Answer from Adam: We will continue to use ReSound hearing aids. We also see an opportunity to use GN’s network to develop new offerings for those that need more care. Online is where people go first, but if they have profound hearing loss or complex health needs, we can connect them locally.

Q: Gitte, here in the U.S. we anticipate new OTC guidelines next year. How does GN Hearing see these changes?

Answer from Gitte: We see it as an additive, and these new guidelines will help many people get started much earlier.

Q: Gitte, in previous writing, you’ve mentioned your passion for creating beautiful products that are so attractive they are at the top of the wish list. Can you share more about what you meant?  

Answer from Gitte: My ambition is to make hearing aids that people fall in love with, and I believe that requires a rethink. We are seeing impressive designs as hearing aids and earbuds are combined. The Jabra Enhance Plus earbuds are a great example of this trend.  

Q: For you both, what gets you most excited when you look out 3-5 years. What kind of innovation do you hope to see?

Answer from Gitte: By combining great products and experiences, we might finally reach more people and expand access. The Lively team is very impressive, and I hope their spirit rubs off on the ReSound brand.

Answer from Adam: By mixing great experiences and great products, we can help many people. Lively is obsessed with the customer experience, and we hope to keep learning from our customers.

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