Hearables will be a driving force in the wearables market for the next three to five years. We know that because IDC and Gartner have shown us the predicted global shipment market reports. Most hearables we write about are over-the-counter (OTC) devices that assist people with mild to moderate hearing loss or hearing aids that are available by doctor’s prescription for severe to profound hearing losses. Last year we wrote about Switzerland-based Phonak‘s Audeo Paradise AI-assisted hearing aid launch and I was mightily impressed when we had a chance to try them.

Phonak has other hearing products, including a Roger line of products that help people understand normal conversations that occur at relatively long distances or against noisy backgrounds. Today Phonak announced Roger Focus II. Roger Focus II is an exciting product because Phonak designed it as a solution for children with unilateral hearing loss, auditory processing disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. Like other Phonak Roger products, Roger Focus II improves speech recognition in noise and over distance. The Roger Focus II is a tiny ear-level receiver with a wireless connection to a parent or teacher who uses with a purpose-built Roger microphone. The Roger Focus II looks like a behind the ear hearing aid but functions specifically and only in receiving spoken language from a Rogers mic.

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) is the loss of hearing capability in one ear, which causes difficulty understanding speech and identifying the directions of incoming sounds. According to studies listed by Phonak, UHL affects 1-3% of school children. A 2020 study also cited by Phonak reported that children with UHL who used Roger Focus II had 53% better speech understanding in noisy environments compared to peers with no hearing impairment.

Children on the autism spectrum often experience functional hearing loss with no known natural or physiological cause. People on the spectrum often have difficulty filtering speech from other sounds. As a person with Adult ADHD, which some argue is on the autism spectrum, I know first hand how distracting background and foreground noises can be when trying to listen to someone on the other side of a room. Phonak cites several studies about using listening devices to help children on the autism spectrum reduce their auditory deficit.

Audio processing disorder (APD) in children who have otherwise normal hearing shows up as functional hearing loss, problems with word discrimination, and spatial sound processing. APD often results in behavior problems, social withdrawal, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and anxiety. Phonak cited a study in 2009 that showed marked improvement in speech understanding with children with APD who used personal FM systems. According to the company, children in the study also reported having less depression, less anxiety, and improved relationships.

The Roger Focus II is available now with zinc-air or optional rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The rechargeable version runs for up 20 hours per charge. Roger Focus II is available from licensed hearing care professionals.