SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — After months of silence following reports in April 2015 that consumer electronics titan Samsung was planning to launch its own hearing aid, to coincide with the release of its next flagship Galaxy S7 smartphone, a number of reports surfaced last week that suggest Samsung may be readying its official launch into the hearing aid market.
News of a $14 million order for amplifiers by Samsung earlier this year, reported in BusinessKorea, piqued the interest and curiosity of many industry observers.
According to a December 21 report by Michel Groenheijde at Sam Mobile:
“… Samsung applied for registration of a trademark for the term Earcle in South Korea, with several references to hearing aids in its related products description. Today, a device with model number SM-R790 has surfaced at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group’s (SIG) database. The device’s description clearly states Samsung Bluetooth Hearing Aid, leaving very little to our imagination.”
Samsung wouldn’t be the first major company to attempt to make inroads into the hearing aid industry. Major companies such as 3M, Bausch & Lomb, Motorola, and Panasonic, to name a few, all tried failed to find success in the hearing aid market. However, as the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, with access to tremendous resources, Samsung may just have what it takes to take a bite out of the global market share held by the Big Six1.
Samsung Files Hearing Aid Feature Patents
While they may be a new entrant to the hearing aid manufacturing segment, hearing research and technology are not new to the company, as Samsung’s hearing aid-related technology patent activity has been documented at Hearing Economics since 2011.
Patent filings that surfaced last week show a hearing aid software feature called Sound Radar, which allows the user to select the sound source it would like to ‘enhance’ using a smartphone application, as shown below:
It’s unclear if the newly registered hearing aid model #SM-R790 will include features such as Sound Radar when it is released, but it is certainly intriguing to consider. Furthermore, as Abram Bailey recently discussed at the Hearing Tracker blog regarding Samsung’s new hearing aid — it is also not clear whether the new devices will indeed be labeled and treated as hearing aids in the US (which means they will be subject to a greater level of regulatory scrutiny and must be fit by a licensed hearing professional), or if perhaps it will be marketed as a PSAP device.
Possible Launch Date?
According to tech industry insiders, ever since the Galaxy S2 was released, Samsung has unveiled its flagship smartphones either during, or in the weeks surrounding Barcelona’s annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) event. Therefore, many are anticipating the official release of the Galaxy S7 at the MWC in February 2016.
Mobile World Congress 2016: Will Samsung’s Hearing Aid be Revealed in February?
While we aren’t sure if we can say with any certainty that we will be seeing a new Samsung hearing aid within the next 2 months, alongside the release of the new Galaxy S7, but the possibility certainly leaves many in the hearing industry wondering just what will happen next.
- The so-called “Big Six” hearing aid manufacturers account for greater than 95% of the global hearing aid market according to most analysts. 1) Sonova (owner of Phonak, et al.); 2) William Demant (owner of Oticon et al.); 3) Sivantos (Siemens, Rexton); 4) GN Store Nord (owner of GN ReSound, et al.); 5) Starkey Hearing Technologies; 6) Widex