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 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.
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.