When people predict how any industry is going to move forward it is no easy feat. The hearing aid industry is no different. The rate in which hearing aid technology has advanced over the last few years has given rise to increased competition within the industry itself. Inspiring consumers to want, need and expect more from these devices.
There is no room for guesstimations here – the pressures of fulfilling consumer satisfaction, in a fast-paced world, is climbing and warrants a quick response. If this year has taught us anything, it is that this industry has had to be quick to offer solutions to the needs of those with hearing loss and adapting to this new climate, we are all still facing. It has had to be ready.
It is hard to bring a complete perspective on how we feel audiology will rise to demands for 2021, tackle the restrictions COVID continues to throw at us and still maintain technology advancement for the premium hearing experience. However, we can already see consumer trends emerging and this industry will no doubt show dedication to keep pace and keep up, as it moves with the times and addresses those needs.
The audiology world witnessed how unforgiving the pandemic is for those with hearing loss – causing new problems for hearing aid users. Seeing masks muffling speech and taking away vital speech and visual cues, as well as hearing aids falling off by mask straps. Various PPE manufacturers reacted to the problem and designed masks with clear screens, while others created masks that had straps to tie at the back of the head, so hearing aids stayed as secure and comfortable as possible.
But the most impressive responses were from the hearing aid manufacturers themselves. For instance, Signia reacted quick and provided real-time hearing solutions with their ‘Mask Mode’ – a unique program within their app that boosted the frequencies that are muffled by a mask and can be turned on when needed. A quick fix for new hearing challenges and one we know, from our patients, has given hearing aid wearers back their confidence and independence in these PPE times.
Starkey followed suit and offered their consumers additional features in their Livio AI ‘Edge Mode’. Delivering an on-demand speech audibility boost with just a tap of your hearing aids and automatic optimisation for social distancing and background noise. This healthable hearing aid’s Thrive app – especially the ‘Fall Detection and Alerts’ feature – is giving peace of mind to family members during the pandemic. Knowing loved ones are safe, using remote technology and artificial intelligence, is priceless to those who are unable to see them physically. We feel that this will influence future hearing aid apps and features, as we continue to ride the wave of COVID and the industry reflects the consumer’s forever-changing expectations.
The pandemic is also teaching us to prioritise and change how we connect with friends, family and work colleagues. When connection and feeling connected is needed more than ever, we look to digital tools and remote care, as we access virtual resources and tap into virtual hearing healthcare. We believe this will only increase as we see a widening attraction in consumers wanting more flexibility and control with their hearing – a level to match that of eyecare.
On a similar note, quick and fast connectivity is always going to be on a consumer’s tick list. The hearing aid users of today are tech-savvy and want their devices to match their active lifestyles and connectivity needs. Everyone and everything is connected and accessible at the touch of a button and, in most cases, directly and seamlessly. Electronic devices are constantly getting faster, better, more efficient. As well as living in a world when passive content consumption is the norm - consumers like managing their life via Bluetooth technology. This is sure to pave the way for Bluetooth advancement, as well as a huge boom in the accessory and consumable market for 2021 and beyond.
“Recently, the boundaries between the earphone industry and the hearing aid market have become slightly distorted, with brands such as Apple and Bose building hearing functionalities into their devices (e.g. Airpod pro has inbuilt hearing benefits). I think that the hearcare and audiology industry are likely to return the favour in the not-too-distant future, leveraging recognised brands from their sectors to demonstrate how we (as audiology professionals) can also provide exceptional sound quality - with great design” Lewis Chisnall - Business Development Manager at Signia UK
The legacy of Bluetooth hearing aid technology has been evolving for years and has revolutionised the way people with hearing loss experience everyday life. 2021 will empower this community even more and promote a new way of interacting with more assistive hearing features, enhanced sound quality, low-energy consumption, the pairing of voice-assistant accessories and uber-fast multi-stream connectivity.
With the push for better and more relative hearing aid apps and telehealth, consumers are acknowledging, understanding and, more importantly, wanting to micro-manage the everyday wearing of their aids remotely. Knowing the market is abundant with options, we may see this flexible control stretch to an increased attraction for online hearing device sales and tele audiology.
What has been a positive leap in the right direction, is we are becoming more sensitive to the environment. We are reacting to world problems such as climate change and extinction rebellion and making more conscious decisions. Recent news has promoted the thought process of changing the way we dispose of certain products. There is a definitive shift in the way we want to live our lives, as we take stock and look at more rechargeability options. A future that is eco-smart and thoughtful, with fewer batteries going into our landfills. In a world where convenience is key, we don’t think the consumer attraction for this will change as portable recharging pods continue to become smaller providing nifty on-the-go charging.
Our opinion is, even amongst the relevant technology we are seeing, the hearing care professional’s role is still valid and far from obsolete. There are various audiology choices available for consumers today that we cannot control, like hearables and over the counter offerings (OTC). That being said, there remains a need for the provision of knowledge and assistance. Patients are still wanting to gain from expert guidance, support and aftercare from an actual person who they can trust.
We have seen this first hand, as many audiologists step out of their comfort zone and embrace remote care and digital solutions - making rise for an opportunity. By doing this, as an industry, we are outreaching to more clients from all generations and ensuring hearing healthcare is accessible to everyone – no matter the age or climate we find ourselves in.
There is also another perspective when talking about the hearables market and that they have normalised and popularised hearing aids, which in turn, will eventually change the negative stigma surrounding them. This has the potential to inspire people to seek medical help for their hearing loss before the seven years average – something this industry is ceaselessly passionate about.
Hearing aids are some of the most advanced forms of technology on the market today – offering in-the-ear computers and great connectivity. There has been some impressive breakthrough hearing aid technology and world-firsts this year, such as Signia’s Acoustic Motion Sensors and Resound’s unique microphone placement. Hearing aids will continue to evolve into robust devices like our smartphones and present unique opportunities in different ways for hearing aid wearers, as well as pushing the boundaries of an optimum hearing experience. We predict that 2021 is set to become rather an exciting time for the audiology industry.
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When we refer to a product as 'New', we mean that the product is new to the market.
When we refer to a product as 'Superseded', we mean that there is a newer range available which replaces and improves on this product.
When we refer to a product as an 'Older Model', we mean that it is has been superseded by at least two more recent hearing aid ranges.