Hearing aids may be the surprise holiday gift category no one saw coming • businessupdates.org

by Ana Lopez

In August, the FDA announced that it was making a major change to the hearing aid world: starting in October, hearing aids would be available over-the-counter, over the counter. In a world where fitting a hearing aid can be very expensive, and the hearing aids themselves were wrapped in the American hellscape that is health insurance. The landscape has changed considerably in recent months.

It took me a while to realize why some of the well-known brands have jumped into the hearing aid game, but when you think about it, a hearing aid is a custom-made set of reverse noise-canceling headphones: instead of blocking out all the sound, they block part of the sound and amplify the sounds you want. Combine this with a hearing test to find out which frequencies to boost, and profiles (speech, music, etc.) for what you want to hear and what you want to suppress, and a number of manufacturers were already very well positioned to serve you this market.

The new generation of hearing aids come in all kinds of form factors; ranging from the one offered by Linnerlifewhich look a lot like Airpods, to the almost invisible ear in-ear hearing aids, and Lexie‘s versions (which appear to be a continuation of Bose’s SoundControl hearing aids have recently been discontinued) that have an in-ear and behind-the-ear component.

To be clear, hearing aids are still a regulated product category; the main thing that changed was the removal of the prescription requirement. For startups, this could be a very interesting opportunity to build brands and direct-to-consumer solutions. It’s a nascent market and the FDA’s policy change took everyone by surprise. We’re in a weird, dark in-between world, it seems; anecdotally, it appears that the market is being flooded by medical-grade professional hearing aids that push for accessibility and downmarket options, and consumer-grade earbuds that are entering new markets under new brands, seeking customer groups that may be less keen

… And given that most of this is just really clever software and that Apple is already one of the most popular in-ear earphone manufacturers in the world, it’s possible that this is yet another market that the Cupertino-based computer giant would like to shake up in its health-focused product push. The company already has it a ‘listen live’ functionand it’s not out of the question that it could roll out a hearing test app and custom gain profiles, allowing the millions of people who use AirPods to use them as hearing aids.

In any case, this is a market that became very interesting for startups and much more bearable for people with hearing loss, even in a few months. It will be interesting to see what 2023 and beyond bring. In the meantime, I expect a lot of hearing aids to appear in Christmas stockings this year.

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