Since its inception in 1956, Widex has been family-owned and run. Today, it is a world leader in digital hearing aids, with 10 percent of the market share, making it the sixth largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world. Widex has representation in more than 100 countries around the world, it has about 3,400 employees and it is headquartered in Lynge, Denmark, where 97 percent of the company's output is exported. The company also has a production facility in Belgium.
Widex focuses on innovation, individuals' varying needs when it comes to hearing loss technology and early intervention, especially among young people and children. Here's an overview of Widex, it's products and contribution to the field of assistive listening devices and hearing loss:
Widex is a Danish company, founded by two friends Christian Topholm and Erik Westermann in 1956. In that same year, the founders had their first customer and moved their business to an old clothing factory in Brede. In the 1950s, Denmark was still very much a farming country, with agricultural goods its biggest export. However, Topholm and Westermann were excited by the possibilities of new technology. Their first hearing aid was a pocket model called the Widex 561, which was invented in 1956 when Topholm developed a smaller telecoil that could be squeezed into the box. Within the next ten years, the friends developed the Minaretta device as well as the Sight 'n' Sound - hearing aids attached to the ends of a pair of spectacles for a more discreet option.
On June 10, 1966, Widex moved to its new headquarters at Verlose. At the time, it was the tenth largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world, and was growing rapidly. In 1968, the company expanded again, opening two new production factories - one in Helsinge, Denmark, and the other in Verviers, Belgium.
In the early 1970s, as the company grew, so did the family members on board, cementing it as a family-run business. In 1972, Jon Topholm, Christian's son, earned his degree in electrical engineering and joined the team. In 1975, Erik's nephew Tom Westermann joined the sales team, followed by Erik's sons Soren and Anders in IT, finance and other areas, shortly after.
Widex introduced its A Series in 1972 - the world's first hearing aid that continuously adjusted for tone, output and gain, and compression. In the late 1970s, the research and development team expanded while maintaining focus on collaboration and creativity. With a good research and development team, Widex launches the world's first in-the-ear hearing aid - the Audilens. It's quality is similar to that of behind-the-ear hearing aids of the time. When Christian Topholm dies in a car accident in 1985, his son Jan takes over.
Widex takes off
While Widex had always been somewhat successful, the late 1980s through the late 1990s were an important period in the company's growth as a brand and innovator. For example, in 1988, Widex launched the world's first digitally programmable hearing aid with a remote control - the Quattro Q8. Then, in 1990, the company patented a technology for developing individual shells for hearing aids using laser technology and computer modeling. The technology was called CAMISHA - Computer-aided manufacturing of individual shells for hearing aids - and it was groundbreaking, transforming the way earpieces, earmolds and shells were made across the entire industry. In 1995, the company made its name known worldwide for its first fully digital in-the-ear hearing aid - the tiny Senso CX, which sparked a revolution, as all hearing aids are digital today.
The company followed up with its second hearing aid in the line of Senso devices in 1997, which was a completely-in-canal device, followed by two more that same year: the Senso C9 and C18. In 1998, Widex won the prestigious Industrial Designers Society of America (IDEA) award for its innovative Senso CIC. That same year, Senso launched its P38 - the first high-powered digital hearing aid in the world. The 2000s were also critical for innovation at Widex, as these impressive devices were launched:
- 2001 - The Bravo Serien: at prices that are affordable for most people
- 2002 - The Senso Diva: fully-automated, meaning adjusts to the listening environment
- 2004 - Senso Vita: individualized, comfortable and simple
- 2004 - Widex Elan: has an open e-tip and can be taken home immediately
- 2006 - Inteo: world's first hearing aid with integrated signal processing and Dynamic Integrator for a tailor-made sound experience
- 2008 - Passion: world's smallest receiver-in-canal hearing aid, at only 21 millimeters in diameter
- 2008 - NanoCare: patented wax guard system to increase lifecycle and performance of hearing aids
- 2008 - Mind440: first hearing aid in world with ZEN tones to help relaxation and mask tinnitus
- 2009 - CLEAR440: completely wireless hearing aid
- 2009 - DEX: assistive listening devices with wireless accessories to connect hearing aids to TV, cellphones, remote controls, etc.
- 2009 - WidexLink: wireless technology for use with Widex devices
- 2010 - BABY440: First hearing aid in world specifically for babies
- 2011 - SUPER: world's first super-powered receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid
- 2012 - ZEN2GO: tinnitus management devices with soothing tones
- 2012 - IIC: near-invisible device, most discreet yet
Today, Widex is still owned and run by the Westermann and Topholm families. It is ever-evolving and has created a range of devices, technologies and initiatives that make it a well-respected and successful company.
Technology and devices
Today, hearing aid wearers have an array of Widex devices to choose from, with an array of color, fit and technology options, including the popular DREAM, CLEAR and Passion models. There are also tinnitus devices, the BABY line and multitudinous accessories to complement the hearing aids and improve listening and communication.
Widex devices are esthetically appealing, thanks to their long tradition of Danish design, which focuses on developing advanced technology with attention to detail. Additionally, the company cooperates with hearing experts and invests heavily in research and development to continue its tradition of innovation and stay at the forefront of hearing aid technology.
Widex's commitment to sustainability is what sets it apart from many other manufacturers. For starters, the majority of its research, development and production occur in Denmark, rather than overseas. Its headquarters is housed in a unique eco-friendly building that relies on renewable energy and maximum energy recovery. Additionally, the headquarters houses thousands of solar cells and a windmill, making it the first CO2-neutral hearing aid manufacturer in the world.
The building relies on a groundwater heating and cooling system, which has completely replaced the use of oil or gas. This system stores surplus heat in an aquifer during the summer months and uses it to heat the building during the winter. The system emits more than 70 percent less CO2 into the environment than a traditional system.
The building's exterior has more than 20,000 solar cells, and a 110-yard-tall windmill covers Widex's energy consumption and then delivers surplus energy back to the grid, reducing CO2 by 2,000 tons per year. Additionally, rainwater is collected from nearby roads and ditches to use in the disposal of waste.
Finally, through a central monitoring system, Widex's headquarters conserves energy by automating computers, machinery, lights and other devices to be switched off when people leave.