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INDUSTRY PROFILE

Ear Technology Corporation
Hearing New Revenue Streams for ECPs

EyeCare Professional�s Paul DiGiovanni, LDO, speaking with Jim Barbarito, Business Development Manager, Ear Technology Corp.


Jim Barbarito

Please provide a brief history of the company and explain how this new product, TuneAmp� was developed.
For over 15 years Ear Technology Corporation has been manufacturing and distributing innovative products globally, primarily to audiology practices. Dr. Daniel R. Schumaier, company president and holder of over 100 patents worldwide, saw the opportunity with advances in micro-electronic technology to develop a high quality digital sound amplifier for people not ready for a hearing aid. He also realized there was a large unmet need for Baby Boomers who want a simple to use and affordable technology to help them enjoy listening in various situations such as: conversations in restaurants, speakers at large meetings, introductions to new acquaintances, or something as everyday as birds chirping in the morning. So in late 2011 we began the manufacture of TuneAmp, which is a personal sound amplification product as defined by the FDA, or as we refer to them, PSAPs.

How is it a good fit for ECPs to carry TuneAmp in their opticals?
Many ECPs tell me they are looking for additional revenue streams as their business continues to get more competitive. Baby boomers have been going to ECPs when they begin to get tired of stretching their arms while reading the newspaper because they value the fashion and function of custom fit eyewear. So we believe it is an ideal fit for ECPs to carry TuneAmp to deliver the best quality, convenience and value for this new product category to their patients. Since they are approved to be sold over-the-counter there should be no issues with a practice offering TuneAmp for sale. They are so simple to sell that there is no need for additional staffing. PSAPs have been referred to as reading glasses for the ears.

Do you need a license to sell these products?
TuneAmp is a PSAP, not a hearing aid, and is not intended for individuals with impaired hearing. Because PSAPs are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or mitigate disease and do not alter the structure or function of the body, they are not devices as defined by the FDA. There is no need to get certified or licensed to sell TuneAmp.

How is TuneAmp different from other PSAPs?
TuneAmp is different because it�s �tuneable� to what you like! Then it stays on that setting as long as you want. It remembers! No other premium PSAP does that. TuneAmp is available in a variety of colors and is packaged in a slim profile case with a thin tube. Not only does the small size give the user a comfortable fit, the instrument is barely visible. It has incredible technology packed into this tiny little device with the most advanced features. Automatic feedback control minimizes whistling while allowing the ear canal to remain open. Fast acting compression softens sounds that are loud so they are not uncomfortable. A directional microphone gives the user even more clarity in difficult listening situations. These are technologies used in high end hearing aids yet TuneAmp is available at a fraction of the cost.

Does TuneAmp come with a manufacturer�s warranty and what if a customer is not satisfied with its performance?
TuneAmp can be returned within 30 days of purchase. TuneAmp is covered by a limited warranty against defects in material and workmanship for 6 months from the date of purchase. A six month warranty extension is provided at no charge with the user�s validated purchase and regular use of a Dry & Store� appliance.

TuneAmp is not a hearing aid; rather, a personal sound amplification product.

What do you see as the trend in regards to optical practices offering hearing services?
It�s estimated that that as many as 40% of Baby Boomers, the rock and roll generation, could improve their listening by having some kind of sound amplification device. That represents 26 million Americans that are age 50 and older, and that figure is expected to double by 2030. Based on recent articles, it�s a growing trend for ECP practices to have audiologists offering a full spectrum of hearing healthcare services which includes providing complete audiological evaluations. Some practices have found it to be a successful fit. But it doesn�t fit everyone�s business model.

Meanwhile, the PSAP classification just came about in the last couple of years and sales of PSAPs have been growing rapidly. The recent September 11th article in the Wall Street Journal states, �a wave of new devices that are smaller, hipper, and sold over-the-counter are trying to win over consumers.� This is where the ECP can serve this growing market.

What additional on-going revenue can ECPs receive once they start selling your products?
A TuneAmp user will have on-going purchases every few months for batteries and tubes. If the user bought a Dry & Store appliance, they will need desiccants. You could expect there will be a resulting increase in foot traffic for the ECP practice as users are usually accompanied by friends or family when they come by to pick up their supplies and get any of their questions answered. Additional traffic and referrals will mean more people coming into the practice who will get to see their products and services, which should lead to increased patient exams and optical sales.

How much training is involved to be able to sell TuneAmp?
It is really very simple to get started selling TuneAmp. We have a startup package that includes TuneAmps with the different colors, marketing materials for the sitting area and an accessories kit of batteries, cleaners, and tubes. There is an easy to use, four step quick start guide to show how to use it right out of the box. We have found that users like to have someone go over the instructions and help them set it up. We usually spend a couple hours on orientation with the ECP staff, showing them how it works. Of course as a refresher they can go to www.TuneAmp.com if they have questions or want to see what is needed. Otherwise they or their patients can always call our customer service 888.815.3240.

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