Able Planet Bringing Affordable Hearing Aids to the Market

Kevin Semcken Photo by Mary Semcken via Bloomberg

Electric hearing aids were developed around the time of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. In all those years no one was ever able to create a hearing aid that would be affordable and effective for many people who suffer from hearing loss, until now.

Affordable and Efficacious Hearing Aids

Based in Colorado, Able Planet is a manufacturer of headphones, but they are planning on launching a new line of amplification devices designed to do the job right. Beginning in March Able Planet will release their first new product of this type, the Personal Sound AMP. A band holds the device in place within the ear, into which it fits perfectly, as its dimensions are smaller than the size of a dime.

Able Planet estimates that the device will cost about $800 for a pair, favorably competitive with traditional hearing aids which often cost thousands of dollars. Due to the prohibitively high cost only 9 percent of seniors who need hearing aids in the US who make less than $50,000 a year actually own a pair, according to a 2010 survey conducted by a medical devices research firm called Parks Associates.

Serial Entrepreneur

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Semcken bought Able Planet six years ago. Semcken is 52 years old and has bought built and sold seven medical technology companies over the years, as a serial entrepreneur and private investor.

Semcken bought Able Planet when it was mired with debt problems and multiple design lawsuits, but it hasn’t stopped him from continuing to lead the charge into the hearing aid market.

Although it is true that Able Planet’s income today derives mostly from sales of its consumer headphone products, the company was originally founded to be a source of the manufacture of hearing devices. It has been the expense of research and development made it a prohibitive undertaking financially during the doldrums of the recession.

One Percent of Market Share

Ninety percent of Able Planet’s $30 million in revenue in 2011 came from its consumer electronics. The products are sold on-line and in retail outlets such as Costco in the US and in Mexico and Japan. Able Planet, which is headquartered in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, competes with the likes of Bose, Monster Cable Products and Sony, industry leaders in the $900 million domestic market for stereo headphones. Ben Arnold, and audio and video industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group says that Able Planet has about 1 percent of the market share for stereo headphones.

About Michelle Grathers

Michelle Grathers is an international tax expert. She has consulted for a variety of firms and high net worth individuals on all tax- and legal-related issues. She also helps new companies develop payroll services, statutory audits and mergers and acquisitions. Contact Michelle at michelle[at]