It’s time to cross one item off my bucket list — attending the Consumer Electronics Show. Known simply as CES, the annual convention brings the movers and shakers in consumer electronics together for networking, new product launches, promotion, trendspotting, and good old-fashioned deal making.
It was thrilling to see hearing health on display amid the latest products in gaming, housewares, robotics, and all things tech. A big thank you to GN ReSound for including me in their influencer round table.
Hearing Tech was a small part of the event, but it was exciting to see the consumer electronics initiatives that were present. Companies on display targeted two main areas: Captioning and OTC Devices.
Captioning Everyday Situations
Wouldn’t it be great if you could caption every conversation? I have always dreamed of a running stream of accurate and well-synchronized captions running across the forehead of every communication partner. While that may never happen, a few companies are taking steps in that direction.
Xander captioning glasses
At CES, Xander showcased their latest prototype of captioning glasses which look similar to the ones found in movie theaters. It’s a terrific idea but a bit challenging to use in its current iteration. Because the captions and the person you are talking to are at different depths of field, you can only look at one or the other.
When reading the captions, I felt (and looked) a bit cross-eyed which could be disconcerting to a communication partner. I am excited to see how the product continues to improve.
Badger wearable displays
Badger offers a different delivery system for captioning using a wearable display that can be affixed to a lanyard and worn around the neck. Perfect for healthcare workers, flight attendants and other consumer facing professionals, Badger turns a nametag into an at-the-ready captioning device. It looked great! While it is still early days for the product, they have tests planned with a large health system, a large hotel chain and an airline.
Accuracy and synchronicity were challenging in the expo, but I imagine this will improve with time.
OTC Hearing Aids
I had expected to see many OTC hearing aids at CES, but there were only a few. Perhaps this is because the OTC rules were finalized a few short months ago, but companies probably had to reserve their booths well before. Two of the exhibitors were longtime players in hearing tech.
At CES, Eargo featured its Eargo 7 hearing aids, which had just received FDA approval as an OTC device. Eargo devices are small and worn deep inside the ear, which may be attractive to hearing aid users seeking a more invisible look. In fact, invisibility is a large part of Eargo’s marketing push. Eargo 7 will be available in select Verizon stores as well as online in early 2023.
Nuheara highlighted its HP Hearing PRO OTC hearing aids which were FDA-approved in October. The devices looked similar to Nuheara’s existing product line, but perhaps the partnership with HP will add increased credibility for new users. Products are available online on their website and Amazon, as well as in Best Buy stores.
Unfortunately, there were also companies hawking “OTC hearing aids” that had not been FDA-approved. This highlights the challenge consumers will face separating the quality products from the garbage, especially as the market gets started. Trusted sources like Hearing Loss Association of America which has an OTC hearing aid tip sheet will provide important touch points for consumers learning the ropes.
Accessibility Features Gaining Prevalence
While accessibility products were only a small part of CES, the rising focus on accessibility features of all sorts is good news for people with hearing loss. As I discuss in my article, Accessibility Ideas All Over CES, the future looks bright.
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.