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Widex gets new look for its 55th Anniversary

Victorian, Brande

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000396590.90236.df
Company Close-up

Company Close-up is a recurring feature that introduces new companies, programs, and hearing industry leaders to HJ readers.

At the end of 2010, Widex A/S of Denmark purchased its US distributor, Widex Hearing Aid Company, Inc., giving way to the development of the new Widex USA. This year, Widex is celebrating its 55th anniversary on the heels of its release of the clear 440 product line and the establishment of a new environmentally friendly headquarters and a new president to lead Widex USA.

Of the merger between the two companies, Jan Tøpholm, CEO of Widex A/S and son of one of its founders, Christian Tøpholm, said that the company will now be able to integrate the two businesses more closely than they were before.

“It's the general development in the industry. We were extremely happy with the original structure, but the development in the hearing industry is such that the distributors' role is becoming more and more competitive, and the competition makes it a necessity to have the businesses as integrated as possible.”

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Describing Widex's new headquarters north of Copenhagen as environmentally friendly may be an understatement. The building, which took three years to construct, is carbon negative—meaning that it removes carbon from the atmosphere.

“We actually generate more energy than we use,” said Tøpholm. “It was fun to see how far we could go.”

The company did go to great lengths to establish CO2 neutrality, mounting a windmill on its premises and incorporating solar cells, rainwater collection, and a unique feature known as aquifer thermal energy storage that warms the building through the storage of excess heat in a groundwater reservoir.

“The idea began with a simple question that we ask ourselves every day, said Mike Dittman, vice president of sales: “What's our contribution in terms of supporting the environment?”

The consideration behind the design was also an economic one, said Tøpholm. Although the use of green technologies greatly increased the cost of building construction, with the price of fossil fuel expected to increase in the future, the executives thought it would be wise in the long run to make a building that would generate energy itself.

When asked how this environmentally friendly approach trickles down into hearing aid manufacturing, Dittman noted that Widex products are known for very low battery consumption and that expenditure is expected to steadily increase with newer technologies. The company has also retained all of its factories in Europe to keep a watchful eye on what is being produced and how it is being discarded.

“We're trying to communicate the added focus that we have on design, not just in terms of how products look, but in the way they're being developed,” Dittman said.

“We're also assessing how customers are looking at vendors, and in many ways they're not just looking at the product, but also what that company represents. That has a lot to do with the whole way that we have been focusing on the environmental aspect of our new building and doing the right thing in terms of construction and making sure that we are not consuming energy, but in fact contributing positive electricity.”

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In terms of products, one of Widex's latest devices is the Clear440—the company's first completely wireless hearing aid. Although the device is currently awaiting FDA approval in the US, it has already been on the market worldwide for over a year.

“It's typical for a manufacturer to always say that a product is positively received, but this really is,” said Soren Ernstsen, vice president of marketing. “From the perspective of professionals and end users, the sound experience is second to none.”

The word wireless, as it relates to hearing aids, has traditionally meant that devices could communicate with other electronics such as cell phones and televisions, but Clear440 hearing aids are able to communicate with one another in order to synchronize all of the processes involved in hearing to get the best possible sound.

“At the end of the day, the primary focus of the customer is not whether they can speak in a cell phone but whether the listening experience is good, and wireless enables constant communication between the two devices,” Dittman said.

“This has been one of the strongest reasons the products have been so well received in other countries and why we have great expectations once we start to deliver these products to our American customers.”

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In the US, Jake Haycock, coming off of his nine-year run as president of Widex Canada, has now taken the reins as president of Widex USA. Of the establishment of new US management, Haycock said that there are going to be many changes, however, “The main focus right now is to service the US market with quality products and services, and to increase our market share and offer full service to every state.”

To help achieve that goal, Haycock said, Widex is doubling its sales force. The company also recently hired a new vice president of sales for the US, Richard Jackson, and a new vice president of marketing and business development, Rob Wolf.

“Basically we're coming out as a new company and rebranding. We're improving our quality and our service and the message for those who haven't dealt with us in the past is give us a try; and for those who have dealt with us, we thank them for their support and we're going to continue to thrive.”

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In the next issue

* Results from the Hearing Journal/Audiology Online annual hearing health care providers survey.

* Part 1 of our series on becoming a better preceptor.

* Hearing aid amplification and tinnitus 2011 overview.

* Data on the effect of reducing hearing aid cost on acquisition for milder hearing loss.

* Evaluation of noise reduction technologies in a contemporary cochlear implant system.

* Plus Nuts & Bolts, Gyl's Guide, and Final Word.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.