When does Advanced Hearing Aid Technology Meet Affordability?

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12/14/2018

Technology and price don’t always see eye to eye, especially when new gadgets first enter the commercial marketplace.

The main contributor to price hikes in the face of technological leaps is research. Take the Apple Lisa computer for example. When Macintosh released one of the first personal computers for business use in 1983, they intended it to be a more advanced system than the Macintosh of that time. From protected memory to a hard disk-based operating system to an advanced calculator to a built-in screensaver (that’s right, a built-in screensaver!), it possessed an innovative interface for the time. Interestingly enough, “Lisa” stood for “Local Integrated Software Architecture” but it was also named after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs daughter. Well, how about the price? The Apple Lisa came with a hefty price tag… of $9,995. Factoring in inflation, that is equal to about $25,245 in 2018!1 Imagine spending $25,000 on a personal business computer nowadays (I know it’s a difficult thought to have). Did we mention that it has a built-in screensaver? Even though this machine was bedazzled with highly innovative technology, its tremendous price point led to its downfall in the commercial market. The IBM PCs, Apple Lisa’s direct competition, didn’t have all the bells and whistles, but they ran less expensively and therefore dominated. This, along with the release of the Apple Macintosh in 1984, were the main reasons for the Lisa computer to be discontinued in April 1985. This is a prime example of when technology and price don’t coincide, and consequently, flop in the commercial marketplace.

The hearing aid industry has experienced similar leaps in technology, and subsequently, price. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the modern ear trumpet was invented. Remember those clunky funnel-shaped ear trumpets that you would see in an old cartoon? Yeah, those didn’t cost much to make; however, they didn’t amplify sound; they basically just funneled it. At the time, this was a significant advancement in hearing technology. In retrospect… not so much. It wasn’t until 1870, when Thomas Edison invented a carbon transmitter for the telephone, that decibel levels could be increased through amplified electrical signals. Essentially, this paved the way for the technology that would be used for carbon hearing aids in 1902. Limited in frequency range and sound quality, carbon hearing aids were eventually replaced by vacuum tube technology, which was able to increase sound level by as much as 70 dB (nearly 40 more decibels than carbon hearing aids). This was because vacuum tubes had better control of the flow of electricity than carbon; however, they were bulky and not very portable. Finally, the move to discreet portable hearing aids was made in 1948 with the invention of the transistor by Bell Telephone Laboratories. Transistors have the ability to start and stop the flow of an electrical current, as well as its volume. An engineer by the name of Norman Krim saw the potential application for transistors in hearing aids – a monumental foresight. The transistor technology was implemented in hearing aids, which allowed them to be smaller and fit completely inside or behind the ear. From here, the size of hearing aids only got smaller. Hearing aid manufacturers began making transistors out of silicon, and before you knew it, the switch from analog to digital was made and digital hearing aids began making up 80% of the hearing aid market in 2005.3

Fast forward to 2018: the average price for a digital hearing aid ranges from $1,000 to more than $4,000 for each device. According to the largest directory of trusted hearing clinics in the U.S., Healthy Hearing:

 

 

The main factor that affects the purchase price of the hearing aid is the technology level and features included. 


“The main factor that affects the purchase price of the hearing aid is the technology level and features included. As is true with most consumer electronics, technological sophistication gets less expensive over time, and this has certainly happened in the hearing aid business.”
4

In terms of technological sophistication, features, and price point, the release of the Oticon Siya hearing aid has made a huge splash in the commercial marketplace. The Oticon Siya sits at the intersection of affordability and technological nuance. Powerful and discreet, it is the first hearing aid in Oticons essentials category with 2.4GHz Bluetooth® low energy connectivity, offering seamless wireless connectivity with a wide range of Bluetooth®-enabled devices, including any modern smartphone, and ensures full compatibility with Oticon’s ConnectClip, transforming Siya into a wireless headset for smartphones, tablets and computers.5 As Bluetooth® connectivity and smart device compatibility have increasingly become more important features to consumers, Oticon has responded with a device that satisfies that want, as well as addressing the larger concern of hearing aid price. The Siya will be available globally at the end of 2018 at the price of $1,450.00, which truly brings a new meaning to the phrase, “best bang for your buck.”

Never before has an Oticon essential hearing aid offered so many high-performing audiology features and technological innovations. Built on Oticon’s proprietary ultra-fast Velox™ platform, Oticon Siya includes high-resolution sound processing that is 50 times faster than ever before in the essential category and provides high-speed sound compression and amplification so that users always have stable audibility in a broader sound range than their hearing loss would otherwise allow.

With the power of Velox, Oticon Siya’s directionality-based technologies are driven to perform more effectively than before. Thanks to super-fast Multiband Adaptive Directionality LX technology, Oticon Siya automatically switches between listening modes to precisely adapt to varying sound environments. The smooth transitions ensure that users enjoy a more comfortable listening experience at all times, even when noise becomes intrusive. This is further enhanced by the advanced Noise Reduction LX feature which, powered by Velox, is fast enough to even reduce noise between words, while Wind Noise Management decisively reduces wind noise and Transient Noise Management rapidly reduces the discomfort of sudden, loud noises.

Furthermore, this new entry-level hearing aid is the first in the essentials category to provide users with the nearly endless possibilities of internet connectivity. Using the Oticon ON App, which links Oticon Siya with the IFTTT (IfThisThenThat) network, users can connect to and control smart internet-connected devices and services, and ultimately help make everyday life easier. Also, thanks to internet connectivity, Oticon Siya users have access to the new HearingFitness™ feature in the Oticon ON App. This new exercise feature helps users get the very best out of the hearing aids, with advice and encouragement on ways to hear better, protect their hearing and improve their health.

“While our revolutionary open sound technology is exclusive to the Oticon Opn premium hearing aid, Oticon Siya offers a number of high-end features, such as comprehensive connectivity, to enhance the lives of people with hearing loss,” says Ole Asboe Jørgensen, President, Oticon Brand Global. “To date, 2.4GHz Bluetooth® low energy connectivity, for instance to modern smartphones, has been an elite feature of Opn. We believe that in this modern age, this connectivity level should be enjoyed by all hearing aid users, which is why we are especially delighted to make this premium feature available to the users of our new essentials hearing aid family. This, in addition to the excellent listening experience that users of Siya can enjoy, is just one of the many steps we have taken to ensure that our hearing aid in the essentials category enables users to get out there and make the most of every moment.”6

The Oticon Siya comes in a comprehensive lineup with many different colors and styles, including invisible models and a rechargeable battery option. This lineup consists of Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC), Completely-In-Canal (CIC), In-The-Canal (ITC), In-The-Ear Half-Shell (ITE HS), In-The-Ear Full-Shell (ITE FS), Receiver in the Ear (miniRITE), Receiver in the Ear with Telecoil (miniRITE-T), Behind-The-Ear (BTE), and Behind-The-Ear Plus Power (BTE PP).

If you’d like to speak to a hearing care professional to discuss which option may be best for you, please call us at (844) 836-5003.

 

 

 

1“Calculate the Value of $10,000 in 1983.” Calculate the Value of $10,000 in 1983. How Much Is It Worth Today?, H Brothers Inc, 2007, www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=10000&year=1983.

2“Apple Lisa.” Mac History, 17 Apr. 2012, www.mac-history.net/apple-history-2/apple-lisa/2007-10-12/apple-lisa.

3Packer, Lisa. “Hearing Aid History: From Ear Trumpets to Digital Technology.” Healthy Hearing, 25 Apr. 2016, www.healthyhearing.com/report/47717-Digital-hearing-aid-history.

4Dybala, Paul. “How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost? Find Answers Here.” Healthy Hearing, 13 Feb. 2018, www.healthyhearing.com/help/hearing-aids/prices.

5“Oticon Siya Is the First Hearing Aid in the Essentials Category with 2.4GHz Bluetooth® Low Energy Connectivity and It Also Delivers Superb Sound Quality.” Hearing Aids, Information on Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, www.oticon.global/about/press/news-and-press/news/2018/oticon-siya-is-the-first-hearing-aid-in-the-essentials.

6“Oticon Siya First Hearing Aid in the Essentials Category with 2.4GHz Bluetooth Low Energy Connectivity.” New Oticon Essential Category Hearing Aid Siya Launched, www.audiology-worldnews.com/new-products2/3122-oticon-siya-first-hearing-aid-in-the-essentials-category-with-2-4ghz-bluetooth-low-energy-connectivity.