According to the Hearing Health Foundation, about 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from some degree of hearing loss. About one third of all adults aged 65 to 74 have some hearing loss, and that jumps to one half for those 75 or older. Hearing impairment can play a role in cognitive decline, dementia, depression, hospitalization, and heart disease, among other diseases and conditions. The hearing aid market is changing rapidly, with the introduction of over-the-counter solutions and “hearables” for those with low to moderate impairment. Traditional hearing aids are being transformed by digital technology.
For example, the new Velox S platform from Oticon offers a range of new features that are incorporated in their new Opn S hearing aids. The companion smartphone app helps users adjust for noisy environments. The OpenSound Booster feature reduces background noise on demand, helping conversational speech stand out. The system also connects with smartphone functions so that users can have hands-free calling or stream music and other content. And sophisticated digital sound processing detects and prevents annoying feedback before it happens. This means that the gain can be set higher than typical hearing aids.
The system also eliminates the need to change tiny hearing aid batteries. The lithium ion rechargeable batteries can charge at night to provide a full-day’s use. And a fast charge feature allows users to get a quarter charge in just 30 minutes if they’re running low.
Oticon has chosen to continue to sell its products through professional audiologists in order to provide better diagnosis, fitting, and support for its customers. It appears that for the present, the demand for improved hearing will support multiple business models and price points. While the digital technology and regulation changes are disruptive forces, it appears that the users will be winners in the end.