Hearing solutions are dropping in cost.
As of October 1, 2017, a new category of hearing technology will begin to hit our local marketplace.
These hearing aids are being referred to as OTC (Over The Counter) “hearables.” You may begin to see them in pharmacies, technology stores, and on the Internet.
We will also have them in our office. I just returned from a conference in Connecticut where I learned about and evaluated several of these new technologies.
Developers of these new devices were in attendance looking for input from doctors of audiology on how to make these new “hearables” more user-friendly and effective.
The goal of OTC hearing aids is to make hearing solutions more available and affordable. This is exciting for many reasons. Let me tell you a few I see.
#1 – Availability
Although roughly one-third of people 65 and older experience some type of hearing loss, only 15% of those affected seek any type of treatment.
With risk of dementia being tied so closely to hearing loss, there is a push to have more people recognize and treat hearing loss earlier.
The hope is that greater availability will increase adoption. Because they are not a programmable hearing aid, “hearable” technologies have limited capabilities.
They are well suited for simple listening tasks but struggle in complex listening situations. The ability to amplify sound with each device varies, but we can help you determine if and what type of solution will be right for you.
#2 – Stigma
Many people have negative associations with hearing loss.
They remember their aging grandparents with whistling hearing aids and don’t want to feel like they are aging also.
As human beings, we don’t want to feel broken in any way. These new technologies are changing that stigma.
With the current trend for ear level devices rising in every age group, some of these new ear level devices look very similar to the wireless headphones young teenagers are wearing.
It seems like young people are demanding more “ear level” technology while people 50 and older are fighting against any “ear level” technology.
This positive association will hopefully begin changing the negative stigma currently attached to hearing aids.
#3 – Pricing
Greater competition in this area of service brings lower pricing.
There is still a gap in sound quality on most of these solutions compared to premier level hearing aids, but depending on what sounds you want to bring back into focus in your life, this could be a good option for you.
#4 – More Options
With several new startup companies and electronic giants creating hearing solutions, we plan to see more developments in hearing technology and continuous improvement.
We tested several different wireless headphones with built-in amplification. These new options will hit the marketplace and our office with good sound quality and price tags as low as $300.
#5 – Complications
The only complication we see with this new technology is the increased possibility of people selecting technology that is not right for their needs.
With options available from Amazon to eBay, we see that there may be confusion and frustration with different technologies and understanding how to use them.
Selecting solutions that are too loud could further damage hair cells needed to preserve hearing.
Selecting solutions that are unable to help people communicate in noisy situations may lead to frustration and further delay in getting the correct solution in place.
#6 – The Good News
The good news is that we can easily help you stay clear of these avoidable complications. After testing several different technologies, it was clear to us that not all technology is created equal. Some new technologies, at similar price points, definitely perform better than others.
We see a greater need for patients to consult with a doctor of audiology to find out what solution will create the greatest impact and value in their life.
We are excited to experience this new jump in technology with our patients.
If you have questions or want to learn more about these technologies, please call our office at (435) 688-8991
We would be happy to help you find the solution that is right for your communication needs. You can also visit our website at hearingdoctors.net. We look forward to hearing from you!