Ctone’s online hearing tests generate business leads for clinics
The company’s service for hearing clinics starts from €80 a month
From left to right, Declan Ganter, Martin Ganter and Ross Graham of Ctone.
Hearing loss is difficult to admit to even though it’s a problem affecting roughly 10 per cent of adults under 65 and 30 per cent above. Dublin-based start-up Ctone is keen to get the message across that hearing loss is not just an issue for older people.
“The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.1 billion young people worldwide are now at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices,” says company co-founder Ross Graham. “Over 43 million people aged between 12 and 35 live with disabling hearing loss and nearly 50 per cent of this age group listen to unsafe levels of sound.”
To get people over the reluctance of going for a hearing test, Ctone has developed a free online test you can do at home. It takes minutes to complete and the results are available almost at once. Any problem is clearly flagged and if a user wants to follow up with a hearing professional, the site will direct you to practitioners in your area. You can see what appointments they have available and book online.
The online hearing test is the consumer-facing aspect of Ctone’s SaaS business. The flip side, and where Ctone will make its money, is by offering sales lead generation to the independently owned small and medium-sized hearing clinics around the world that face fierce competition from large international players. The company’s service starts from €80 a month.
“Ctone’s hearing test can be added to any hearing healthcare professional’s website or to any webpage including Facebook in a matter of minutes,” Graham says. “Most existing online hearing tests require a third-party plugin or need to be installed as an app on Android or iOS devices. Ctone works on every platform and device with no additional third-party software or app download needed.”
Current online hearing tests tend not to test each ear independently for imbalance and potential stereo shift. Ctone’s system measures the difference between both ears and compares it to age and gender appropriate hearing levels.
“Every professional using Ctone will be added to a Ctone-managed website optimised to capture search engine queries regarding hearing health and filter them based on location,” Graham says. “By capturing those searching, giving them a free hearing test and showing them the location of their nearest hearing professionals, this honeypot site works 24 hours a day to drive leads to our customers.”
Ctone was set up in 2015 by Graham and brothers Declan and Martin Ganter. All three come from technology backgrounds. The company’s digital hearing test, which took a number of years to develop at a cost of about €1 million, was financed by personal and private investment with support from Enterprise Ireland and the NDRC. In 2016 Ctone participated in the New Frontiers programme at The Link in Blanchardstown.
“Declan and Martin built the first certified digital audiometer [to test hearing] and while doing so they developed relationships with some of the key players in the audiology industry,” Graham says. “They subsequently identified the need to raise public awareness of hearing health. Younger people in particular would benefit significantly from understanding their hearing health and becoming aware of what new high-tech products are available such as in-ear monitors.”
The company will sell its service via a number of channels including direct sales agents, hearing aid manufacturers and those providing web services to audiologists. It is now looking to raise €300,000 to fund the product’s roll-out. Initially, Ctone had its sights set on conquering English-speaking markets such as the US where there are an estimated 10,000 independent hearing clinics. However, it has had to begin software localisation sooner than expected. “We’ve been approached by a non-English speaking European market and while it’s early to be doing this, it’s quite a nice problem to have,” Graham says.