Now will Apple stop studying and start selling hearing aids?

From Christina Jewett's "F.D.A. Clears Path for Hearing Aids to be Sold Over the Counter" posted Tuesday by the New York Times:

The Food and Drug Administration moved on Tuesday to make hearing aids available over the counter and without a prescription to adults, a long-sought wish of consumers frustrated by expensive exams and devices.

As soon as mid-October, people with mild to moderate hearing loss should be able to buy hearing aids online and in retail stores, without being required to see a doctor for an exam to get a prescription.

The F.D.A. cited studies estimating that about 30 million Americans experience hearing loss, but only about one-fifth of them get help. The changes could upend the market, which is dominated by a relatively small number of manufacturers, and make it a broader field with less costly, and perhaps, more innovative designs. Current costs for hearing aids, which tend to include visits with an audiologist, range from about $1,400 at Costco to roughly $4,700 elsewhere.

“This could fundamentally change technology,” said Nicholas Reed, an audiologist at the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We don’t know what these companies might come up with. We may literally see new ways hearing aids work, how they look.”

My take: 30 million Americans, 60 million ears. That's a market big enough to be of interest. This part of Jewett's story was especially interesting:

Senators Warren and Grassley had released a joint report accusing the “dominant he aring aid” makers of engaging in an “astroturf lobbying” effort by flooding the F.D.A. with repetitive comments steering the agency toward a new generation of hearing aids that would be “less effective, protecting manufacturers’ existing market share and locking in their competitive advantage.”

See also: WSJ: Apple is 'studying' hearing aids

13 Comments

  1. Fred Stein said:
    OMG YES.

    I got a pair last year using the latest AI for enhance background noise cancelling and also BLE connection to my iPhone, but not Mac nor Apple Watch. The noise cancelling and the BLE are flaky.

    But really I’m not complaining. It’s really hard to solve these problems. Apple has the resources, from chips to the full sw stack to make hearing aids that all hearing loss sufferers (and their family and friends) would love.

    1
    August 16, 2022
  2. Rodney Avilla said:
    It would be wonderful if Apple produced hearing aids. There is so much in terms of quality that they could bring to the market.

    3
    August 16, 2022
  3. Fred Stein said:
    More on friends and family:

    There are subtle social problems. Subliminally, when people sense that they are not heard, it’s offensive. Or hearing impaired people mis-interpret and react improperly. In bars and restaurants, hearing impaired people miss half the conversation, jokes, fun, and camaraderie.

    Apple can provide vastly superior solutions at far lower prices, with STYLE and good margins.

    3
    August 16, 2022
  4. Gregg Thurman said:
    My feeling is that whatever introduces, it will address a lot of the problems that exist with current hearing aids. I just can’t see Apple doing otherwise.

    I know I’ll be checking them out when they are launched. My feeling is that they will retail for about $800 a pair. Even Android users will buy them at that price because of Apple’s quality rep, unless they require an phone (hope not) for processing power.

    If they do require an phone in the first couple of iterations, they could increase the volume of switchers.

    1
    August 16, 2022
  5. Tom Farris said:
    And of course the hearing aid as an AirPod in it’s own right. How many of those 30MM people own iPhones? And NO ONE is going to want to be doing the earpiece dance to switch from hearing their wife (or husband) to getting back to the tunes or their iPhone. No one.

    Which goes without saying and maybe that’s why no one said it…

    1
    August 17, 2022
  6. I sure hope Apple puts out a discrete behind the ear AirPods Pro model where I can adjust what frequencies are amplified. They have noise damping, Find My, charging, BT and audio quality in a sweet spot, now hide them behind my ears. My ENT advises regular hearing aid use will reduce tinnitus as the ringing is the brain substituting for missing frequencies. I wear the various iterations of AirPods now about 50% of most days. Clients & friends haven’t commented on them for years but shopkeepers and less informed elderly sometimes ask me to remove them. Keep in mind, I often frequent rural locations with my apiary work. They think I’m jammin to Def Lepard when I’m mostly just going deaf.
    After I explain why I’m wearing AirPods they want a pair of their own. If, no, when Apple’s hearing aids fall from the tree I may buy 10 pairs and sell them directly to farmers and retired pilots.

    1
    August 17, 2022

Leave a Reply