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BONUS EPISODE: What You Don’t Know About Hearing and Dementia

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“When you don’t treat hearing loss, you are 3 times more likely to fall, and twice as likely to develop dementia.” 

RJ Pole, co-founder and CMO, hearOclub

Welcome to Mavericks for Senior Living: Challenging The Way We Age. We are two innovators and entrepreneurs who have huge hearts and passion for our older adults. And we see all kinds of opportunities to improve today’s system for how we age.

In this bonus episode from our Denver Startup Week 2019 interviews, we speak with RJ Pole, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of hearOclub, a hearing aid battery subscription service. RJ explains how hearing loss affects our loved ones, including social isolation, increased dementia, reduced comprehension and more. 

Especially when someone has hearing aids but goes for weeks without them! The impact is significant, and wholly avoidable. 

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Thank you to our sponsors, Karen Brown, CEO of iAging, and WorkAbility.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people, sources and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

Francis: Good afternoon new Mavericks. I’m Francis Lagasse. Your Chief Curiosity Maverick and I have Katherine Wells here, Chief Inspiration Maverick. We are excited because we are here at Denver Startup Week and we’re going to have some special guests that are going to come on today. Our first guest is RJ Pole of hearOclub.

Hello RJ. Thanks for joining us.

RJ: Thank you guys for having me.

Francis: Could you just kind of tell us a little about yourself.

RJ:  I am the co-founder of hearOclub a hearing aid battery and Cochlear Implant battery subscription service. We found that a lot of people, especially in the aging population, have trouble getting batteries. Someone will run out and they either can’t drive anymore or they live in assisted living and they’re waiting for their family member to come drop off batteries. So they end up going through these gaps in time where they’re unable to hear — which we call hearing emergencies.

Because when you don’t treat your hearing loss – a lot of people don’t realize this – you are at three times the risk to have a fall and you’re twice as likely to develop dementia. These periods where you’re unable to hear often cause anxiety and stress. These are periods of isolation.

We did focus groups early on and met a woman who would go as long as two weeks without being able to hear when her batteries had run out. She would have to set up an appointment with her audiologist and would wait until they could schedule her in and take a bus to go get it. And so really in the senior living space we found this is kind of commonplace and there aren’t a lot of solutions for it. So of came up with our system to treat that and make sure that people don’t run into hearing emergencies.

Francis: That’s awesome because yeah I think when my parents aren’t around my own grandmother wouldn’t know what to do with her batteries. She often tries to put her old ones in.

Katherine: I realized that my dad was using the lack of batteries as a crutch. He would just say I don’t have any batteries or my batteries are dead so you’re just going to have to talk louder. And it was kind of his way of staying isolated I think because he was feeling more comfortable being isolated, but he really did want to be engaged with us.

RJ: Yeah we found people, like you said, use it as a crutch and fall into that pattern of being unable to hear and it’s just like ‘oh well’ but we found that once they get that consistent hearing back, it empowers them. We’ve seen people where their personality comes back and they no longer kind of have that stress and that kind of awkwardness where they don’t engage with people because they can’t hear.  It’s been really exciting to give people a piece of their life back and empower them as they are aging.

Francis: That’s awesome. How do you get into this business? I mean you’re obviously on the younger side.

RJ: Yes. So actually I was visiting my grandma who lives in a nursing facility and she had problems with her hearing aids.  We ended up talking with like a director there and trying to figure out a solution. She didn’t have an answer and was like well it kind of falls on the family members and the family members have to monitor it themselves. That’s asking a lot of people and since people don’t realize the downside of it that people can fall and the people can develop dementia, they don’t think that it’s something that they need to stay on top of.

So we did a number of focus groups and talked to a lot of directors of facilities kind of in different places and you know kind of had this solution in place. And then my business partner, who has worked in the battery industry for almost 30 years with Diehard brand, helped us develop a relationship with Diehard. So you know not specifically hearing aid batteries but he obviously had access to them and knew that you know the brand and we had all kinds of connections to kind of build this up with them. So realizing that the problem was in place and kind of having the solution we put the two together and have been solving hearing emergencies for people now for about a year.

Katherine:  So you’ve been in business about a year. Did you have funding?

RJ:  Yes we did. We raised funding with a company that’s based out of Steamboat. We’re based out of Steamboat and there are some angel investors there who backed us.

Katherine: Are you nationwide?

RJ: Yes. We’re in about 35 states right now but we’re set up to ship anywhere within the U.S..

Francis: So how can people find you if they’re interested in a subscription?

RJ:  Go to hearOclub.com. We also have an 800 number if you’re not comfortable signing up online. So those are for our individual programs. If you want to sign up for someone who’s aging at home, or for yourself. We also do group sign ups for senior living. So through our website you can see there’s a group sign up where you can have you know a whole assisted living facility sign up and get everyone onboard.

Francis:  Wow. That’s great. How did you come up with the name?

RJ: It’s all about hearing and a hero saves the day. And we feel like we’re saving the day for people that have hearing loss.

Katherine:  We’ll definitely have you back for a longer episode to dive more into hearing, the aging process and how we possibly can do more to help people get some better education because you highlighted just two things that I didn’t know about and I thought I was pretty well versed in this having been a caretaker for my father for a long time.

RJ: Thank you for having me.

Mavericks of Senior Living is produced by Serenity App, Inc. and Assured Assisted Living. This episode was produced by Katherine Wells and Francis LeGasse. The musical artist is Jason Donnelly. You can subscribe to Mavericks for Senior Living on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher. You can also find us on TwitterFacebook, or via email at challenges@mavericksofseniorliving.

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode:

SOURCES

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