KONGBAKKEN, DENMARK — Less than six months following Sonova’s announcement that its next generation of hearing instruments would include 2.4 GHz connectivity in late 2016 or early 2017, William Demant Holdings announced last week that Oticon’s soon-to-be-released hearing device will include 2.4 GHz connectivity.
The company’s new 2.4GHz capable hearing aid is expected to be released at the end of the second quarter this year.
Dual-Radio Hearing Aid: Best of Both Worlds?
Oticon’s new hearing aid will not completely abandon it’s use of near-field magnetic induction (NFMI) in favor of 2.4 GHz, which is the technology the company has used for several years in it’s streaming device (Streamer Pro). By using NMFI, the impact on hearing aid battery drain is much less–potentially as much as 4 to 5 times lower battery drain when streaming audio–which has been one of the main arguments against widely incorporating 2.4 GHz up to this point.
At the end of the second quarter of 2016, Oticon will reach a landmark with the introduction of the first-ever dual-radio hearing aid, combining the audiological advantages of our new near field magnetic induction system for fast and ultra-low-power ear-to-ear communication and a 2.4 GHz system for streamer-free connectivity and programming. —William Demant Holding Annual Report 2015
The company says the global launch should impact sales in the second half of the year.
Industry Embraces 2.4 GHz Connectivity
While some in the industry initial brushed off the importance of 2.4GHz connectivity in hearing aids, the response from consumers and professionals has been significant. The primary advantage of the 2.4GHz system is that it no longer requires a need for an intermediary device (i.e., remote or dongle such as Oticon’s Streamer Pro) to relay the audio signal back to the hearing aids.
With 2.4 GHz capable devices, hearing aid users can now directly stream audio to their hearing aids, as well as use an iPhone or Android App to access their instrument settings (such as volume, program, etc).
Four of the six major hearing aid companies have now confirmed they have, or will have, 2.4GHz connectivity in their hearing instruments within the next year. The remaining companies have been rumored to have products in the works.
GN ReSound, a company that was not long ago a target of acquisition, has seen significant increases in market share over the past few years, with many attributing a great deal of that success to the implementation and marketing of its 2.4GHz capable “Made for iPhone” hearing aids.
While it’s not clear at this point that William Demant or Sonova’s new embrace of the 2.4GHz systems will pay off the way it has for GN ReSound and Starkey--with those companies being early adopters of the technology–what is clear is that 2.4GHz is here to stay and is on track to become the new standard for wireless hearing aid connectivity.
UPDATE 4/20/16: Oticon announced the release of their latest premium Opn platform, which functions as a dual-radio hearing aid. According to the company, the new hearing aids will become available for purchase in the summer of 2016.