Friday, August 31, 2007

High Tech Hearing Aids

On August 28th, the Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled "The Sleek, Chic, High-Tech....Hearing Aid." The featured device is Phonek's Audéo. The Phonak Group, headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, specializes in the design, development, production and global distribution of technologically advanced wireless and hearing systems. I suggest you check out the Audéo website not only to learn about the device, but to see how this vendor decided to market aging technology to an audience of upscale baby boomers. One of the "Audéo people" is featured to your right. He is described as an "Archeologist, Beach Volleyball Player, and Hopeless Romantic." The tag line for the site is "Your life, amplified." The site includes a sound demo, a self test, FAQ's, and a color guide featuring 15 color combinations with such labels as Green with Envy, Pinot Noir, and Flower Power. The devices cost $2500 to $3000 per ear. To me, the site is well done, but also borders a bit on parody. I should look so good!
Two other innovative hearing devices were mentioned in the Journal article. The first was Great Nordic Pulse and the second was Siemens' CIELO2 Active. Both devices are rechargeable, which is an improvement over the need to change batteries.
The article made several points which are worth noting.
a. By age 65, nearly a third of Americans have hearing loss, and 40-50% will develop such loss by 75.
b. Resistance to the use of hearing aids is high. Only one in 5 people who could benefit from the device wear it.
c. The cost of hearing aids is generally not covered by insurance.
d. The newer, smaller devices have driven overall sales of behind-the-ear devices from 44% last year to 50.2% of hearing-aid sales this year--exceeding sales of in-ear molds for the first time since 1982.
e. Digital hearing aids, in which incoming sound is processed with a computer chip before being fed into your ear, enables almost limitless massaging of the sound. For example, the Audéo automatically switches among four programs, one for music, one for quiet, one for speech alone, and one for speech and noise together.

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