LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — The annual Consumer Electronics Association meeting, held January 9th to 12th in Las Vegas, often provides us with a glimpse into the future. As user-friendly and relatively low cost consumer electronics devices continue to morph with stodgy medical devices. Billed as the world’s largest get-together of consumer electronic enthusiasts, the 2018 rendition of CES promises not to disappoint, as several areas of the more than 2.6 million square feet of floor space are devoted to healthcare innovation, including hearables.
Created by the Consumer Technology Association more than 50 years ago, CES is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. Now it seems the CES event encompasses all aspects of society, but it was not all that long ago that a visit to CES involved a preview of devices and gadgets primarily confined to entertainment and leisure activities.
A visit to CES a decade or so ago would have allowed you to see the unveiling of the Blu-ray player, iPod and plasma televisions. “Must-have” products — all the rage at the event in the early to mid ‘00s – that now seem quaint and pedantic.
Today, hot topics like the consumerization of medical care and artificial intelligence demonstrate how the consumer electronics industry has bled into nearly all sectors of the economy, including healthcare.
Hearing Aid Technology in Consumer Audio Devices
The hearing healthcare industry, of course, has not been immune to this trend, as each year CES seems to be the launch pad for some interesting new hearable or other product that combines the key attributes of hearing aids with off-the-shelf consumer audio devices. Beyond the annual CES show, a few consumer electronic companies have introduced “multi-tasking devices” that provide amplification options that are combined with other common consumer audio features, such as music streaming and hands-free cell phone connectivity.
One simple example of this trend is the AccuVoice Speaker from Zvox. Billed as an add-on speaker for the now ubiquitous flat screen television, Zvox offers a wide range of loudspeakers that utilizes “hearing aid technology” to enhance the quality and intelligibility of television dialogue. According to the Zvox website, “AccuVoice speakers use a computer processor that mimics the functionality of a hearing aid and applies a compression/equalization algorithm that lifts voices out of background sounds to clarify dialogue. The proprietary technology is activated only when voices are detected in a soundtrack.” Zvox speakers use the AccuVoice Technology and can be purchased from several retail websites (or directly from Zvox), ranging in price from $200 to $400, depending on the model.
To further validate this trend, there are several special exhibitions and learning tracks that showcase artificial intelligence and augmented reality in devices that could be of interest to hearing care professionals.
Here is a preview of some of those relevant tracks:
A review of gadgets that fit on your wrist, in your hair, on your clothing, in your skin, on your clothing, in your hat—everyday apparel is turning into high-tech wearables. The co-founder of Nuheara and their IQBuds, David Cannington, is expected to speak.
As demand from consumers to manage their own health accelerates, digital health innovations are emerging as critical tools. From telemedicine and clinical-grade wearables to a retail revolution, the consumer now reigns supreme. This track will review technology that gives consumers the ability to measure bodily functions and interact in the digital realm with their healthcare provider
This track displays how technology improves patient care, drives positive behavior change that leads to better management of chronic diseases. Explore the positive implications of predictive analytics and software as a medical device (SaMD) as well as the regulatory challenges associated with implementation into the healthcare system.
Healthcare providers will discuss how digital therapeutics are disrupting traditional chronic care management and disease prevention. Speakers will share clinical case studies and other real world examples of digital therapeutics in practice.
From Alzheimer’s and depression to addiction and ADHD, one-in-four people are affected by mental or neurological disorders. Technology is making extraordinary impacts on brain health and opening up an exciting frontier in treating some of our greatest healthcare challenges
New Technologies and Approaches Continue to Disrupt the Medical Model
As these exhibits and tracks demonstrate, the traditional “one-size-fits-all” medical approach to managing chronic conditions like hearing loss is fading. Even if you don’t pay any attention to CES, this trend is unlikely to abate.
Now is the time for audiologists, otolaryngologists, hearing instrument specialists and those that support their works to starting implementing these new technologies into improving the lives of people with communication and cognitive deficits.