Tag Archive: hearables

iBuds? Apple shows its hand in the “hearables” space

Photo credit: Bjorn Knetsch licensed under CC BY 2.0

By David Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This recent piece by Steven Levy in Wired suggests what Apple (and others) are up to in the hearables market. Levy tells us that Apple is collaborating with Cochlear to provide solutions for people with profound hearing loss. This should excite anyone concerned about the epidemic of hearing loss in America, because it suggests that hearing health has gained enough attention that corporate America is applying resources to the problem and turning it into a “technological opportunity.”

If you’ve been following outcomes from the two federal reports last year (from the Presidents Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, and the National Academy of Medicine) and the resulting bi-partisan Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 (OCHA) approved by the Senate last week (earlier approved by the House), you know something’s up in the hearing health sector. And with the passage of OCHA last week, hearing health, an issue that has languished in the shadows for lack of funding for over three decades is suddenly center-stage again after three decades of neglect.

The Wired article, coupled with the legislative success in the Senate, demonstrate that hearing health is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. That Apple is trying to gain a foothold in this world shows that tech companies smell an opportunity. And the passage of OCHA clearly establishes that hearing loss is a nonpartisan issue important to both republicans and democrats, because despite the state of affairs in DC today it’s an issue on which the nation can begin to make progress even if the rest of the legislative agenda is on hold!

David Sykes chairs/co-chairs four national professional groups in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, ANSI S12 WG44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group. He is also a board member of the American Tinnitus Association, co-founder of the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), and a contributor to “Technology for a Quieter America” (2011, National Academy of Engineering). A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Consumer Reports looks at affordable solutions to hearing loss:

No More Suffering in Silence? Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports, has written a thoughtful piece about hearing loss and the toll it takes on those who suffer from it.  Calderone states that hearing loss “has long been thought of as an inevitable part of getting older, more a nuisance than a life-altering medical condition—at least by those not experiencing it.”  But that opinion is changing, she asserts, as “the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have published reports calling untreated hearing loss a significant national health concern­, one that’s associated with other serious health problems, including depression and a decline in memory and concentration.”

Calderone not only treats hearing loss with the seriousness it deserves, she offers solutions to sufferers, particularly those who can’t afford to buy hearing aids, which “cost an average of $4,700 per pair in 2013.”  This is a very steep price, particularly since hearing aids are usually not covered by health insurance or Medicare.  To help with those who need hearing aids but can’t afford them, Calderone reviews a handful of hearing aid alternatives, namely personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), to see if they can fill the gap for those who need hearing aids but can’t afford to buy them.

Two PSAPs not covered in Calderone’s review are also worth considering: Doppler Labs HERE One and Nuheara’s IQbuds.  Neither company markets their PSAPs as a hearing aid or hearing aid substitute, but at around $300 a pair they offer personal amplification and soundscape management to people who might have no other options.

And a final thought about the sorry state of hearing health in the U.S.: For people who are suffering noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the personal and economic costs could have been avoided in the first place because NIHL is 100% preventable.

 

Computers in your ears?

Doppler’s Futuristic Earbuds Sound Great. They Also Speak Spanish.  Brian Flaherty, writing for Wired, reviews the newest iteration of the HERE earbuds, HERE One, and pronounces it “one of the wildest gadget experiences I’ve ever had.”  In a good way.  He also is given a glimpse of what is to come, like the ability to have the English translation of a foreign langauge in your ear in real time.  Click the link for more.