Oticon has just introduced HearingFitness™, they say it is the first hearing aid app dedicated to hearing fitness. In fact, it has just won a CES Innovation Award in the Software and Mobile Apps category. But what is it, and why does it represent a change in the general concept of hearing aids?
A Wider Use Case For Hearing Aids
I and many others within my profession have spoken of a change in the function of hearing aids. Hearing aids are always on communication devices, although we don’t often think of them in that manner. A hearing aid user normally puts their hearing aids on as soon as they wake up and doesn’t take them off until they go back to sleep.
The fact that they are worn all day delivers opportunities for them to be used as vehicles for so much more than just being able to hear better. They are perfectly positioned to be used for many other needs and uses. For instance, in health tracking.
What Does The App Do?
Oticon says that Just like an exercise tracker, HearingFitness monitors the wearer’s “hearing fitness”. They say that it monitors the impact of hearing on their overall health while providing advice and encouragement that helps the wearer hear better and stay healthy.
The new app will track hearing aid use, listening environments and other behaviours. It has been designed to gather and collate data from other wearable devices such as measurements of heart rate, sleep patterns and other health markers. The new technology is designed to give Opn users advice and encouragement on ways to hear better, protect their hearing and stay healthier. Oticon will introduce the HearingFitness App in 2018 for use in conjunction with their Opn hearing aids.
I think this is just one example of how hearing aids and their function are beginning to change. I believe that hearing aids of the future will probably be sensor-filled devices that will allow an integrated communication strategy and a holistic health monitoring and management strategy. I have argued recently that the future for hearing aid technology should actually be standalone and integrated.
At present, many hearing aids connect to the smartphone and leverage some of the smartphone technology to deliver benefits. I think that in the future that it will make more sense to integrate the smartphone functionality into the hearing aid.
That would mean a hearing aid that was always connected to the internet and that could make and receive calls without the addition of a smartphone. Such a device would open up huge opportunities, allowing hearing aid brands to bring the power of cloud computing and artificial intelligence to bear on the function of hearing better.
One small step at a time really, but with the introduction of the Hearing Fitness app and other innovations taking place within our sphere, it seems that I am not the only one who thinks holistic healthcare can be delivered with a hearing aid at the centre of everything.