Germany’s well-known headphone maker, Stennheiser is targeting the US Hearing aid market by introducing their first two hearing aids in July 2023. The products will be over-the-counter, and will be called All-Day Clear and All-Day Clear Slim, and will be available starting mid-July, 2023, and will cost about $1,400 and $1,500. All-Day-Clear look similar to other over-the-counter hearing aids, and we will try to evaluate them through beta testing when testing is available. Those two products are expected to help Sennheiser gain a significant market share of the multi-billion dollar US Hearing Aid market.
In May 2023, the FDA made it easier for 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss to report problems with hearing aids. The problems could include injuries, malfunctions, or other adverse events related to medical devices, including OTC hearing aids, through the online MedWatch, The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088
Frequency Therapeutics experimented with using regenerative medicine to reverse hearing loss. They use small molecules to program progenitor cells, a descendant of stem cells in the inner ear, to create the tiny hair cells that allow us to hear. Frequency’s drug is designed to be injected into the ear to regenerate these damaged hair cells within the cochlea. In February 2023, Frequency reported that the results of its Phase 2 clinical trials for this drug were disappointing and that it will cease the development of FX-322. However, the company did not say that it will cease the research, and hopefully, in the near future, they might be able to improve the drug and get better results.
The new Apple iPhone 14 can “caption” (i.e., display text). This is a very important capability for people who are hard of hearing or reluctant to let other people see their hearing aids.
In her weekly newsletter, our Congresswoman Anna Eshoo reminded us that hearing aids are now available over the counter without a prescription or exam. The ability to buy over-the-counter hearing aids is going to save hearing-loss patients an average of $3,000 per pair. Eshoo first voted for this policy in 2017; it took five years for this to become a reality, so we are grateful for the speed with which the FDA and our House of Representatives conduct business. HLAA provides an OTC Tips Sheet for patients, from this link.
Apple’s new iPhone 14 has added a feature that is important for people with poor hearing. People with poor hearing need to have some way of reading what has been said. Captioning has been done by humans (who have good hearing and are trained to make motions that the poor hearing can understand) or electronics that can “hear” and display them on a screen. Historically, there was some specialized software that runs on phones and (sizable) companies that sell remote captioning services. We have purchased this new iPhone and found that it is impressive.
The new Eargo 6 shown in Vegas at CES 2022 can mask background noise and “noise between pauses in speech.” Eargo announced that it is using a new proprietary algorithm for Sound Adjust that can identify the user environment without input from the users. This is an improvement over Eargo 5’s Sound Match feature which required at least 8-10 minutes of user input so as to build a user profile that can identify the environment and then help the user adjust the sound. Eargo 6 includes a “Mask Mode” where a user can press the button to identify that the speaker is wearing a Mask, and the Eargo App automatically adjusts the volume when the user taps that feature on the phone App. The Eargo 6 retails for $2,950 and is rated IPX7 for water resistance. This means they can be submerged for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter without water damage. Though Eargo 6 may be water-resistant, it may not be advisable to wear Eargo 6 in the pool because they are very small and will probably easily get lost while swimming.
We normally wear a neck gaiter, because the standard masks with ear loops can knock off our hearing aids. Unfortunately, when we have a medical appointment the nurse either puts a cheap standard one on top of my gaiter or makes me replace it with a standard one. Fortunately, there are effective alternatives. One is to get a mask with elastic bands that go around your head instead of around your ears. Others include tie-on masks (not very convenient, though), N95 respirator masks, sweatband with attached buttons, and barrettes.
Nearly all the members of my marching band (the Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band) play the songs from memory, but I have to have paper music scores. Can’t Memorize Music Anymore. Scientists describe our “cement” memory and say that our memories can only store so much information, so when we learn something new it is hard for it to get “stuck” in your cement memory.
Technology is rescuing people from a music-less life, as hearables can monitor their brain and body. Not Impossible Labs, the award-winning technology incubator and the content studio has created Music: Not Impossible, a Vibro-textile wearable that creates an immersive experience of music for both deaf and hearing people. Actually, the development team abandoned the idea of a vest, turning its attention to different vibrations on different parts of the body. And some people not only listen to music but also play an instrument. In our case, it is the trumpet, for which there is a whole website.