It took a while, but “Made for iPhone Hearing Aids” have finally made it to market with GN ReSound´s introduction today of its new LiNX(tm) hearing aid family. Will the marriage of smartphones and hearing aids jump-start more rapid growth in the global hearing-aid industry?
With ReSound LiNX hearing aids, users will be able to stream phone conversations, music and other audio directly from their iPhones and iPods into their hearing aids. Other high-tech hearing aids provide Bluetooth streaming from mobile phones, but most require a third streaming device, usually worn around the neck, that receives the signals and transmits them to the hearing aids.
The new ReSound Linx technology, based on a new ReSound smartRange chipset and its own third-generation 2.4 GHz low-power wireless technology, eliminates the intermediary streaming device, overcoming a major obstacle to user acceptance of smartphone/hearing aid integration.
Apple signaled more than a year ago that it intended to provide seamless links from its iPhones and iPods to hearing aids, providing an application programming interface (API) for hearing aid manufacturers to tie their new hearing aids directly to Apple´s sizzling-hot mobile phones.
While all the major hearing aid manufacturers are rumored to be considering their own iPhone products, ReSound CEO Lars Viksmoen made the most public commitment last year with an announcement in an interview with Reuters of the company’s iPhone development program.
Today Viksmoen delivered on the promise in a press conference at the EUHA hearing-industry conference in Nuremberg, Germany, where he said the ReSound LiNX Made-for-iPhone Hearing Aids demonstrate ReSound’s “core strength of bringing breakthrough innovations to the hearing impaired, making them consumers with choices rather than patients with challenges.”
It’s hard to overestimate the impact Apple’s involvement might have in transforming a global industry struggling to deliver unit-sales growth of less than five percent per year (and, because of a descending price curve, nearly flat global revenue growth from 2012 to 2013). Apple is delivering a double-whammy to an industry that badly needs it: One, linking hearing aids to one of the coolest products on the planet may well be the trigger that gets vain Baby Boomers over the stigma of wearing hearing aids. And two, by making hearing aids far more useful and easy to use, the Made for iPhone Hearing Aids may motivate consumers to try out hearing aids instead of waiting an average of seven years after they first notice their hearing loss.
Best of all, in addition to the initial knockout feature of streaming iPhone audio directly into the hearing aids, integration with all kinds of iPhone Apps, both existing and new, should be possible. I’m here in Germany at the EUHA conference where ReSound is demonstrating the new hearing aids, which will be available in a limited release this year and available globally in the first quarter of 2014. I’ll get a demo and post an update with more thoughts on the possibilities of Made for iPhone Hearing Aids later this week.