Why were there almost no hearing aids at CES?

hearing aid sales

In the crowded health section of CES there were fifty booths with wearable devices to tell you how your heart is beating or your blood pressure is rising. But there was only one booth dedicated to what is probably the biggest market for consumer electronics after the smart phone, that’s growing larger every year: the hearing aid. That booth belonged to  a company called Resound.

I have been wearing hearing aids for two years. Mine are a more primitive version of the Resound ones. I sometimes feel sorry for people who don’t have hearing aids; My head has a volume control. My phone rings inside my head, music is transmitted without wires or headphones, google map directions tell me where to go when I am cycling, my running pace and distance just magically announce themselves.

When it works. When I bother to put the thing around my neck that converts the bluetooth signal from my phone to the receivers in my hearing aids. when I keep my head pointing straight so one ear doesn’t drift out of range. When I remember to plug the thing in its charger. I am ready for an upgrade.

resound-unit

Resound produces a hearing aid that makes mine look like an old horn. It connects directly to the iPhone with no converter and control box; it is all in the iPhone. It does a whole lot more; there is a mixer that lets you adjust the sound for different environments and keep the settings, and wonderfully, it geolocates you so if you have a setting for home, the office or your favourite noisy dive bar, it has you covered.

fitness

Stereo headphones, which were everywhere at CES, are now a billion dollar industry. Hearing aids are a 5.7 billion dollar business in America alone. It is about to have an explosion in sales, to a market that is lot bigger the one for Fitbits and other wearable devices at CES. So why weren’t they there?

It is all in the pitch. Hearing aids are not a curse for old people, they are an opportunity to connect in ways we cannot imagine. Why are google glasses the talk of the tech town when what are essentially google ears are already available?  Why aren’t hearing aids at the forefront of the boom in wearable tech? Why is their marketing so tone deaf?

There are so many people like me these days. I am constantly wired. I want my google ears.  I want to hear everything everywhere. My ears are part of the internet of things.

7 thoughts on “Why were there almost no hearing aids at CES?

  1. Victor Papanek, way back in the 70s, specifically cited hearing aids as an example of how the design world doesn’t pay enough attention to “real needs.” (He also was commenting on how expensive they were — and still are, I gather — compared to other forms of electronics.)

  2. Actually, Beltone is a division of GN ReSound. The Danish company purchased the venerable US retailer in 2000.

    The big issue is battery drain: Bluetooth radio operates at 2.45 gHz, which adds at least 3mA to the battery drain. This is why Siemens (& their Rexton brand), Phonak & Unitron, Widex, and Oticon all use 10.6 mHz for the link between the streamer & hearing aids, to keep the drain below 1mA.

    Dan Schwartz,
    Editor, The Hearing Blog

  3. If I don’t have to wear a streamer or accessory device around my neck or on my body I’ll take higher battery drain any day!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s