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EssilorLuxottica, the world’s largest eyewear group, will expand into the hearing aid market by developing lenses equipped with acoustic technology, according to people familiar with the project.
The Franco-Italian group, resulting from the merger in 2017 for 50 billion euros of the eyewear manufacturer Luxottica of the late Leonardo Del Vecchio and the French lens manufacturer Essilor, bought the Israeli hearing technology start-up Nuance Hearing at the end of 2022, according to the sources, to develop glasses equipped with its acoustic beam forming technology.
The deal was not made public at the time because its size did not require disclosure, the sources said, but the move into the audition business was due to be announced later this week.
Nuance’s technology is particularly good at canceling background noise, as well as improving and directing audio focus, according to its website. EssilorLuxottica Hearing Aid Glasses, which will look like ordinary eyeglasses, will address the concerns of customers with mild to moderate hearing loss.
It is estimated that more than one billion people worldwide suffer from this level of hearing loss and many also have vision problems, a combination which has the potential to further expand EssilorLuxottica’s global market.
This decision is the first significant strategic change for the group since the death of its founder Del Vecchio last summer, at the age of 87. It is also the first time since the merger, bogged down at the time by suspicions of tensions between founder Luxottica and the French state-owned company, that the 80.5 billion euro group has expanded into a new business sector.
Del Vecchio suffered from hearing loss himself and often complained that traditional hearing aids were not comfortable to wear with glasses.
EssilorLuxottica chief Francesco Milleri – Del Vecchio’s closest confidant – and Leonardo Del Vecchio, the youngest of the tycoon’s five children and as the group’s chief strategy officer, the only direct heir to work for him, were both inspired by the founder’s experience, according to people familiar with the plan.
The hearing aid glasses will go on sale starting next summer, the people said, and the company intends to work with traditional hearing aid companies to bring the product to market. It also plans to make the glasses available through its distribution channels and optical wholesalers in 150 countries.
EssilorLuxottica declined to comment. The group should publish its half-year results today.
The Paris-listed group, which employs 80,000 people worldwide, achieved a record turnover of 24.5 billion euros last year, up nearly 14% compared to the previous year.