About 36 million American adults have some hearing
loss, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other
Communication Disorders. But only a fifth of people who could
benefit from a hearing aid wear one.
"People will always need really good hearing aids, but moving
forward, what will differentiate competitors will be connectivity
(to smartphones), and it will need apps," Lars Viksmoen, chief
executive of GN ReSound, a maker of hearing aids based in Denmark,
said in a telephone interview.
The company's new, free app, ReSound Smart for the iPhone, turns
hearing aids into headphones and allows users to remotely configure
settings on their aids — such as volume, treble and bass. It also
remembers particular settings for different venues.
"Let's say you're in a place you go to all the time, such as a
coffee shop. You can make an adjustment and then it will geotag your
location, so the next time you walk in, it will remember your
settings," said Laurel Christensen, the company's chief audiology
In noisy locations, a selection on the app can convert the iPhone
into a microphone, streaming conversation into the hearing aids for
better clarity. It also helps people find their aids, if they
"As you walk around your house, the signal bars get stronger as you
get closer to them, and it's like a game of hot and cold,"
The company produces hearing aids, called ReSound LiNX, that cost
around $6000 for a pair and can be used with or without an iPhone.
"I think we're going to see an explosion in this area because of
baby boomers. They're into technology and they want to be
connected," she said.
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Other apps connect hearing aids to smartphones through an
intermediary device, including miniTek Remote App for Android which
links to Siemens' line of hearing aids via a streamer.
Steve Aiken, associate professor of audiology at Dalhousie
University in Nova Scotia, Canada, said the apps were beneficial as
they link hearing aids to other technology already integrated into
Still, there are some risks, he said.
"One is that people could damage their hearing further if they
adjust the settings incorrectly. And the other is that they miss out
on the benefits if they're not configured properly because it takes
people's brains a while to acclimatize to sounds they haven't heard
in a long time," he said.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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