Oticon is a hearing aid manufacturer with a global presence that prides itself on focusing on its customers. The group makes hearing solutions for adults and children, as well as bone-anchored devices. They have sales office in 22 countries, have 80 distributors, serve people in more than 100 countries and employ 3,000 people around the world. Oticon has an intense focus on research and development and has won more than 20 awards since 1991.
Oticon was begun more than 100 years ago by Danish citizen Hans Demant, who had a very personal goal in mind: he wanted to improve the life of his wife, Camilla, who was living with hearing loss. Though Hans and Camilla were fortunate enough to be able to make visits to accomplished doctors in Berlin and Vienna to have Camilla's ears checked out, nothing could be done at the time to help improve her hearing using surgical practices or hearing technology of the period.
During the same time, the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, became queen of England after marrying prince Albert. People learned that she needed to use the Acousticon electrical hearing aid - the first portable hearing aid - because she used it during her coronation, and the device was quite bulky and obvious at the time. In 1903, Hans Demant traveled to England to purchase an Acousticon for his wife, and she found that it helped her greatly. Realizing that there were likely many others in England who needed access to hearing aids, Hans partnered with U.S.-based General Acoustic Company and began importing and reselling the Acousticon devices in Denmark.
Hans' company steadily gained more business and his son, William, took over after he passed away. During World War II, it was difficult to import supplies, especially from the United States, so William turned his attention toward manufacturing his company's own hearing aids for sale. He also exported these to other European countries. After the war, he signed an agreement with American Charles Lehmann to form a company to purchase hearing aid parts and ship them to Denmark - it was known as the American Danish Oticon Corporation, which was likely loosely based on the Greek word "oti" for "ear" and "con" for "with." William changed the company as a whole to Oticon in 1946.
By 1954, when Oticon celebrated its 50th anniversary, it was the No. 1 provider of hearing aids in Denmark. In 1965, Oticon opened a sector in the U.S. - Oticon Corp. It also expanded to have companies in Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, France, Scotland, Japan, Germany and Italy. William and his wife donated their shares in the William Demant Holding Group to the Oticon Foundation, making the charitable group the company's largest stakeholder, with nearly a 60 percent stake in the company. New production facilities were opened in Denmark and Scotland in 1973 to keep up with the demand for hearing solutions.
In 1977, as more hearing aid companies emerged on the market and competition was fierce, Oticon started the Eriksholm Research Centre to gain an edge on the market. It is the largest psychoacoustic research center in the world and is located near Helsingar, Denmark.This paid off, with Oticon producing the world's first in-the-ear hearing device, which was more discreet than others before it. The Eriksholm Research Centre is at the forefront of Oticon's "people first" philosophy, and its aims are decidedly different than other research groups, according to its website:
"The charter of Eriksholm is not to develop new hearing instrument technology. Rather, Eriksholm is dedicated to working one-on-one with real people wearing hearing instruments in real-world situations so we can understand their expectations, needs and social interaction in daily life. With what we learn at Eriksholm, we can build solutions that not only help you hear better, but help you live better as well."
In 1977, Oticon developed the first in-the-ear hearing device, and it was the most discrete option at the time. The company saw steady progress, and the mid-1990s began several years of acquisitions. In 1995, Oticon acquired Bernafon, a Swedish hearing aid manufacturer, and in 1997 the group acquired Phonic Ear. It was the first hearing aid company to make a fully digital device - the DigiFocus - in 1996, and the device was revolutionary, creating change for thousands of hearing aid-wearers and spurring the company on to further success.
Danacom was acquired in 1999, followed by Interacoustics - an audiometrics group - in 2000. The group established a joint venture with Sennheiser Communincations in Germany in 2003. It then purchased Amplivox in 2008 and Grason Stadler in 2009.
In 2007, Oticon introduced the Epoq - a high-tech, wireless device with binaural capability and a sleek design.
Today, Oticon is the second largest manufacturer of hearing aids worldwide and one of the largest producers of diagnostics equipment in the world. Oticon today has a large variety of devices for all lifestyles, tastes and needs. One of the newest hearing aids is the Nera, which is lightweight and discreet and relies on intelligent design that protects against whistling and other uncomfortable forms of feedback. Another new model is the Ulta, which is very technologically advanced and adopts to each individual's sound environment.
Oticon uses "People First" as their guiding principle. It resonates in their product design, research processes and customer service, as a strive to make technologies that put people at the center. To this end, Oticon is different from other very large, successful companies because, rather than putting the fate of the company into the hands of a board of directors who are strictly focused on the bottom line, Oticon is headed by the Oticon Foundation, which has more compassionate aims. The Oticon Foundation is guided by two interconnected mandates: to improve the lives of people with hearing loss and to grow the company.