Imagine a near-invisible, in-ear wireless device that combines hi-fi listening, sensor-driven health and fitness monitoring, hands-free phone calling and user-customizable hearing enhancement into a single package no larger than a peanut. That far-off vision started coming into focus at last week’s International CES show, where wireless headphone makers gave a peak into the future of “hearables,” a new class of in-ear Internet-connected consumer products that one forecaster says will be a $17 billion global market by 2020.
By now most people have heard of “wearables,” the body-worn Internet-connected devices that perform multiple applications for consumers. Right now the most common of these are wristwatches or wristbands that monitor your vital signs during exercise. One research firm predicts the global market for wearables will grow to more than $30-billion USD by 2018.
But don’t be surprised when you start to hear a lot about a fast-growing subset of wearables called “hearables” — a new class of Internet-connected in-ear devices that provide multiple forms of communication and biometric monitoring with the potential to act as hearing aids or personal sound amplifiers as well. In fact, one well-informed analyst, Nick Hunn, predicts the annual global market for in-ear hearables will grow from zero to more than more than $5 billion by 2018.
The question for the hearing industry will be how well and quickly it can respond to the opportunity. [Read more…]
While GN ReSound and Starkey introduced Made for iPhone hearing aids, a third member of the “Big Six” fraternity of leading global hearing aid makers, Oticon, has opted for a different approach.
Instead of introducing a new hearing aid, Oticon’s new Made for iPhone ConnectLine Streamer Pro 1.2 and ConnectLine App will enable all of the wireless hearing aids it has sold since 2007 to synch up with Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. [Read more…]
A new generation of Bluetooth earpieces is coming in 2014 that should give a lot of help to people struggling with a little bit of hearing loss.
Three startup companies have recently gotten a lot of attention for new products that perform double duty by improving the clarity of Bluetooth phone calls while also providing hearing assistance in challenging listening environments.
- First out of the gate is Sound World Solutions of Chicago, which started selling its CS10 Personal Sound Amplifier in 2013 and was the subject of a CBS Evening News report on Christmas Eve about its ambitious plan to bring affordable hearing assistance to millions of people in the developing world.
- In Silicon Valley, Soundhawk, a company founded by a legendary hearing-aid industry pioneer Rodney Perkins, announced it raised $5.7 million in venture capital for its Bluetooth hearing enhancement earpieces. Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal both reported on Soundhawk’s plan to deliver an affordable Bluetooth earpiece in 2014 that uses sophisticated hearing-aid sound processing to provide “situational” hearing assistance to consumers.
- And Boston-based SoundFest is putting the finishing touches on its RealClarity Earpiece that works with an iPhone app and amplifier to clarify speech in noisy environments while also improving Bluetooth phone reception.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this inevitable marriage of Bluetooth earpieces with personal sound amplifiers featuring sophisticated hearing aid sound processing technology. Watch for these and other announcements in 2014 that should open up the market for consumer products providing affordable hearing enhancement.