There’s a new home testing device that has audiologists concerned. It’s called the IHear Test, an at-home testing unit that comes along with the IHear hearing aid and could transform hearing tests into a digital do-it-anywhere process.
The patented iHEAR device is the size and weight of a kidney bean. It’s claimed to be the first affordable invisible hearing aid. According to their campaign homepage, “the iHEAR HD device is 100% digital technology and programmable for a broad range of hearing loss types including flat, reverse slopes, high frequency, mild, moderate to moderately-severe losses.” Millions of people across the globe are able to benefit from the device, including many who avoided traditional hearing aids because of cost or bulkiness.
Audiologists, however, are facing different concerns. With this new device being able to connect via USB to your computer, people can test their own hearing. In their introductory video the IHear company recommends that users should see a specialist first, but it’s clear that digitalizing the hearing market is going to cut down on visits to specialists.
The IHear company states that while 95% of individuals with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only 22% currently use them due to persisting barriers including high cost, limited access, and the stigma associated with wearing a visible hearing aid. At just $199 for each ear, compared to the $1,000+ of other aids, the price removes the barrier for many who couldn’t afford a hearing aid. There’s also the option to buy just the hearing test device for $49. Some audiologists are hoping that having this device available could bring more customers into the market to make up for the loss of traditional appointments.
The IHear campaign site explains that the Hearing Industry is “currently dominated by six major players who control over 90% of the market. The industry has operated in the ‘old business’ model of high-cost high-margin service which has not served consumers well, as evidence by the fact only 22% of people with hearing loss have a solution, compared to over 95% of people with vision problems have corrective solutions. We are about to challenge and lead an industry that refuses to change.”
The hearing aid industry affects many other industries, not limited to audiologists. While change is never easy, most are optimistic about the revolution. For consumers, at least, it is a turn for the better.