Today’s post is written by Richard Einhorn, a hearing technology consultant for Jacoti, a composer and a recording producer/engineer.
In this post, Richard explains why we, as people with hearing loss, should be excited by Jacoti’s recent announcement that it will embed its technology on Qualcomm chips. Read on for the details.
A Hearing Aid Alternative for People with Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
Until my hearing problems became very severe, I never seriously considered buying hearing aids. Even though my close friends noticed that I often struggled to hear them, hearing aids came with too much stigma attached, especially for a working composer and classical record engineer/producer like myself. They were also very expensive.
My resistance to hearing aids when my hearing loss was “only” mild or even moderate is quite common. Of the 466 million people in the world with hearing loss, only 17% actually use hearing aids, according to the World Health Organization. And the reasons for this low adoption rate are similar to the ones I had: high cost and stigma. In addition, not every community has audiologists, especially in developing countries. Furthermore, hearing aids typically require special set-up that often requires multiple office visits to fine-tune the results, even if a person’s hearing loss is characterized as mild or moderate.
In addition, many people with milder losses expect their ear-worn devices to deliver good sound quality, but many inexpensive consumer earbuds provide better sound quality for music than even the most expensive hearing aids.
Expanding the reach of hearing aids
How can hearing aids reach a wider proportion of the population that needs them? Jacoti, a Belgian-based hearing company has developed a solution: embed clinically-valid hearing testing, fitting, and support services into the next generation of wireless consumer earbuds.
Jacoti spent nine years developing an award-winning suite of medically-certified hearing applications that run on the iPhone. These include a highly accurate hearing test that users take themselves as well as live amplification that is tailored to the users hearing loss via the same techniques used by audiologists. Recently, Jacoti succeeded in getting these same applications to run on wireless consumer earbuds. The company is currently negotiating with several major earbud manufacturers to include these features in future products.
The result: people with mild to moderate hearing loss (as well as those who simply want to hear better in certain situations) will soon be able to purchase wireless earbuds that provide high quality hearing assistance and sound personalization that is safe and effective. These earbuds will sell for a fraction of what traditional hearing aids cost and deliver much higher sound quality.
These attractive, fashionable ear-worn devices will be set up entirely by the consumer, at home, with the use of an app on either iOS or Android. If the user wants, s/he will also be able to sign up for remote, cloud-based hearing health services that include customized fittings by an audiologist.
How does the technology work?
This high level of hearing assistance is made possible by the astonishing power latent in modern consumer audio technology. Qualcomm, one of the world’s largest technology companies, makes the core technology in earbuds that are marketed by companies like LG, Bose, and Sony.
Qualcomm’s most recent chips intended for wireless earbuds are perfectly capable of running sophisticated audiological fitting algorithms. Jacoti is collaborating with Qualcomm to add its hearing technologies onto these powerful chips.
Unlike Apple — whose AirPods provide non-clinical personalization and live amplification that is tied to the Apple hardware platform — Jacoti’s hearing solution is medically certified and works on all platforms. Earbuds based on Qualcomm’s chips can be connected to any computer or smartphone and Jacoti’s hearing assistance technology will behave the same way.
What this means for the consumer
The goal, says Jacques Kinsbergen, Jacoti’s founder and CEO, is to make “state-of-the-art hearing solutions accessible and affordable for those with hearing challenges throughout the world.”
By developing a complete, medical-grade hearing solution for people with mild to moderate hearing losses that runs on affordable consumer technology, Jacoti is poised to vastly increase the number of people who will avail themselves of hearing assistance. Given that WHO estimates that “unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$750 billion,” the impact of Jacoti’s collaboration with Qualcomm could be profound.
About the author
Richard Einhorn is a hearing health technology consultant and professional composer whose music is performed around the world. Richard has consulted with Jacoti since 2014. Among other roles, he participated in numerous strategic discussions that led to their collaboration with Qualcomm; provided expert feedback on user experience for Jacoti apps; and ran numerous field tests of Jacoti technology in classrooms, theaters, and a major urban hospital. He is a regular contributor to hearing health journals and has spoken numerous times on hearing technology to the FDA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Technology, and at hearing technology companies.