Emily Gilles
User Experience Design
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Making hearing aids easier to buy

Proof of concept

UX design, interaction design, prototyping, user testing

Just me :)

5 weeks in spring 2019


Hearing impaired Americans find it difficult and expensive to buy hearing aids. In fact, over 70% of them don’t own hearing aids.

“I keep saying, ‘Maybe next year I’ll get hearing aids.’”
— A potential hearing aid customer I interviewed

Why does this problem exist?

  • Manufacturers sell hearing aids through medical professionals instead of straight to consumers.

  • Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of hearing aids or doctor appointments for fittings.

  • Hearing aids cost about $3,000 per ear. About two-thirds of that cost goes towards doctor appointments for fittings and maintenance.


Design challenge:

How might we reduce friction in how Americans buy hearing aids so more people have access to a higher quality of life?



I designed a concept of an experience that could make hearing aids easier to acquire and cheaper by selling products directly to consumers online. This allows consumers to browse hearing aids from the comfort of their couches.

To reduce costs, I incorporated basic maintenance tutorials so consumers don’t have to pay for as many repairs by medical professionals.

In effect, this website empowers consumers to select and maintain hearings aids without unnecessary help from a medical professional.

“So many people come into our office just because they need their wax guards changed. That’s super easy to do.”
— Audiologist assistant
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Key findings


Organizing the products

Hearing aids are confusing. With endless versions, new technologies, and customizations, how can we organize these products in a way that makes sense to users?

Through online research and conversations with a former audiologist’s assistant, I found that all hearing aids essentially fit into one of three categories: In the Ear, Behind the Ear, and Receiver in the Ear. So that’s how I organized the information architecture of the website.


Highlighting what users care about

When it comes to finding a hearing aid that fits your lifestyle, what elements do you care about?

I asked this question to potential users during interviews and lo-fi prototype testing, which helped me identify a few key insights. These insights informed several elements of the final design—category filters, navigation, product cards, and product detail pages.

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I designed a few key wireframes for both mobile and laptop to show how consumers can purchase hearing aids from the comfort of home and maintain their devices with fewer doctor appointments.

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I designed the navigation to make it as easy as possible to find a hearing aid that fits. To do so, I included:

  1. a Buying Guide in the utilities bar so customers can take a quiz to learn which models fit their needs, 

  2. descriptions in the main navigation for users who don’t know what these categories mean,

  3. links to pre-filtered category pages based on what customers look for in hearing aids.

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Category page

From the category page, users can refine their search using the same filters that are linked in the main navigation.



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Product card

The product card looks the same throughout the mobile and desktop website. I designed this card to include and highlight what customers are looking for (like features and price), and to deemphasize what users don’t care about as much (like brand name). 

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Product details page

The product details page allows customers to choose colors, models, and quantity. Customers can also learn everything they need to know about this product.



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Audiogram upload

Before finalizing their purchase, customers can upload an audiogram—a prescription for hearing aids—by taking a photo or uploading a digital file. This feature reduces doctor visits by allowing the hearing aids to be pre-programmed before shipping.


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Clean & Care

A maintenance section teaches customers how to perform basic cleaning and care tasks in order to:

  • reduce doctor visits for basic maintenance tasks, and

  • empower customers to have a better understanding of how their devices work.

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To encourage customers to visit Clean & Care articles, links to these articles pop up in the category page in between products.




Prototype the entire service

If I had the chance to expand this project with a client, I would prototype the entire service of acquiring and maintaining hearing aids to learn how customers feel when they receive their programmed hearing aids in the mail. A research-based journey map could help inform the content that needs to be prioritized on the product details page and during the purchase flow.


Reduce stigma

I learned in user interviews that the social stigma of “feeling old” is a barrier to buying hearing aids. Eventually, I’d like to design visuals, write copy, and create a photography vision that reduce this stigma. I would then A/B test these elements to make customers feel excited, rather than embarrassed, about hearing aids.