January 31, 2019

Consumer Driven Trends in Hearing Instruments

Consumer Trends in Hearing Instruments

Every year we see advancements in technology and design from the simplest robotic toys to the most cutting-edge cars and smart home systems. Year after year these products become sleeker, faster, and smarter while somehow still remaining user friendly. Hearing instruments are no exception. Since the launch of the first completely digital hearing instrument in 1996 the technological improvements have not stopped.

While many of today’s tech products are developed with the hope of creating a consumer demand, hearing instruments were created based on consumer’s needs.  Now, hearing instruments are evolving based on the demands of the consumer, especially the baby boomers. Martha Stewart said it best, “Seventy is nothing like the 70 of 20 or 40 years ago, 70 is the new 50!” she told New You magazine. “Not everyone wants to retire, and very few people want to slow down.”  To keep up with this dynamic group, hearing instrument manufacturers had to develop hearing instruments that were both cosmetically appealing and technologically advanced.

Improving Technology

To begin with, the traditional behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing instrument got a makeover, becoming the sleek modern reciever-in-the-canal (RIC) instrument people are wearing today. Even though this technology was introduced in 1983 it did not become widely adopted by manufacturers until the early 2000s when consumers demanded smaller devices. This style is designed to hide the speaker in the ear canal while the rest of the hearing instrument hides behind the ear. The RIC is now the most popular choice for both consumers and audiologists as it is virtually invisible when worn on the ear.

For Martha Stewart and the other baby boomers not looking to slow down, hearing instruments needed to keep up with the constant changes in the wearer’s acoustic environment. To account for this the internal circuity of the hearing instrument was updated to automatically adapt as the acoustic environment changed; seamlessly switching into and out of various programs to enhance the speech signal while reducing the background noise. The result is effortless hearing throughout the day.

Of course, size and technology were not the only changes. As people became more tech savvy and married to their cellphones, tablets, and wireless headphones, the demand for a compatible hearing instrument rose. The result was Bluetooth-compatible hearing instruments. So now those wearing hearing instruments could wirelessly stream phone calls, music, and movies right to their ears through their hearing instruments. The response to this was so great that some non-smartphone users decided to take the leap into smartphone territory just to take advantage of this new technology.

Green Trends

Now more than ever, consumers are looking to purchase products that are environmentally friendly. This desire brought about the development of rechargeable hearing instruments. The obvious result was less batteries going to the landfill. Yet, some would argue the bigger benefit was that rechargeable batteries made hearing instruments easier to use. Those with arthritis and poor dexterity who previously struggled to change the tiny batteries weekly were now able to simply set their hearing instruments into a charger at the end of the day.

Despite all the consumer driven changes from smaller and smarter to better sound quality and environmental friendliness, research studies found that what made hearing instrument users happiest is when they can hear the TV. Fortunately, there is a gadget for that. The use of TV streaming devices is on the rise.  The devices stream programs right to hearing instruments, removing distance from and background noise around the television. But, as Martha stated earlier those who are 70 and older are not looking to slow down. Which is probably why I am also seeing an increase in the use of remote microphones among Baby Boomers choosing to stay in the workforce. Like the TV streamers, the remote microphone can be set on a table or given to the speaker to transmit speech directly to the hearing instruments while removing distance and noise that could interfere with the speech signal.

Concierge Services

Indisputably hearing instruments have come a long way in the past 5-10 years but the fitting process had remained stagnant. This realization and the fact that people needed and wanted more personalized attention from their audiologist led to the founding of Boutique Hearing. In my opinion Boutique Hearing’s modernized approach to audiology is one of the most innovative shifts in audiologic patient care in the past decade. Boutique Hearing’s concept of concierge audiology is a groundbreaking approach to hearing instrument fittings where hearing instruments are programmed in the environments where they will be worn. This results in a convenient, precise, customized hearing instrument fitting where clients know exactly how they will hear before the appointment is over. If your ready to experience better hearing call me at Boutique Hearing to schedule your unique consult today. As a bonus if you mention this blog and you will receive $100 off.