New hearing aids are like Google Glass for the ears

resound at ces
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter

Derek's post on fancy headphones noted that 360 million people of all ages are hearing impaired, and that hearing aids can help. In America the number is growing constantly, as hearing loss starts around age 30 and one loses about 10% per decade.

Lloyd Alter at CES/CC BY 2.0

In the crowded health section of CES there were fifty booths with wearable devices to tell you how your heart is beating or your blood pressure is rising. But there was only one booth dedicated to what is probably the biggest market for consumer electronics after the smart phone, that’s growing larger every year: the hearing aid. That booth belonged to a company called Resound.

I have been wearing hearing aids for two years. Mine are from Oticon, and are a more primitive version of the Resound ones. I sometimes feel sorry for people who don’t have hearing aids; My head has a volume control. My phone rings inside my head, music is transmitted without wires or headphones, google map directions tell me where to go when I am cycling, my pace and distance just magically announce themselves as I run.

When it works. When I bother to wear the Oticon Streamer, the thing around my neck that converts the bluetooth signal from my phone to the receivers in my hearing aids. when I keep my head pointing straight so one ear doesn’t drift out of range. When I remember to plug the thing in its charger. I am ready for an upgrade.

© Resound

Resound produces a hearing aid that makes mine look like an old horn. It connects directly to the iPhone with no converter and control box; it is all in the iPhone. It does a whole lot more; there is a mixer that lets you adjust the sound for different environments and keep the settings, and wonderfully, it geolocates you so if you have a setting for home, the office or your favourite noisy dive bar, it has you covered.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The definition of wearable technology

Stereo headphones, which were everywhere at CES, are now a billion dollar industry. Hearing aids are a 5.7 billion dollar business in America alone. It is about to have an explosion in sales, to a market that is lot bigger the one for Fitbits and other wearable devices at CES. It is almost the definition of Wearable technology. So why weren’t they there?

It is all in the pitch. "Hearing aids" sounds so grandpa, when in fact they are an opportunity to connect in ways we cannot imagine. Why are Google Glass the talk of the tech town when what are essentially google ears are already available? Why aren’t hearing aids at the forefront of the boom in wearable tech? Why is their marketing so tone deaf?

There are so many people like me these days. I want my google ears. I want to hear everything everywhere. I want my ears to be part of the internet of things. If people stopped thinking that these things are just for old people and thought of them as their personal connection the world, perhaps more people who need them would wear them. Coming soon from Resound.

Tags: Electronics | iPhone

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