It's hard to remember how uncool phones and computers were before Apple reinvented them. Could the technology giant now help to do something similar for hearing aids?
Last week, Denmark-based hearing aid company GN ReSound unveiled a new hearing aid called ReSound LiNX, which it has developed, and is publicizing, with Apple. It is billing the device and its ReSound Smart App as the first "Made for iPhone" hearing aid.
But it's not just a miniature in-ear device to help Grandpa hear Grandma. It's compatible with Apple's mobile devices, syncing wirelessly with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and utilizing iOS 7's new accessibility features for hearing-impaired users, the first aids to do so.
Microphone, Pop-Up Notification
As a result, the device acts like a Bluetooth headphone, receiving audio for phone calls, chats, music, movies and map navigation. There are also added features, including a Live Listen functionality that enables the Apple mobile device to act as a microphone that can be used to better pick up voices or sounds in a sound-busy environment.
LiNX also takes advantage of a smartphone's GPS capability to geo-tag location-specific settings, such as in a movie theater. When you're again in that location, a pop-up notification asks if you want those specific settings. Additionally, your mobile device can be used to find the tiny devices if they're lost.
LiNX utilizes the latest incarnation of the company's Surround Sound technology, and users can set volume levels as well as treble and bass. Instead of having to fiddle with tiny controls on the back of one's ear, a user can employ their mobile device to change the settings. A new SmartRange chipset uses third-generation 2.4 GHz wireless technology.
GN ReSound said its new product is the smallest wireless receiver-in-the-ear hearing aid it has yet released, but is powerful enough to deal with 90 percent hearing losses.
Lars Viksmoen, CEO of GN ReSound, said in a statement that his company "saw an opportunity to create the world's best hearing aid by combining the capability of GN ReSound's life-changing technologies with the compatibility and global prevalence of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch."
Although more than 35 million Americans have a hearing problem, only about 20 percent of those in need of a hearing aid have one. A key issue has been the clunkiness of many previous generations of hearing aids, and the awkwardness of having to fiddle with controls in or behind one's ear. Previous incarnations of hearing aids that were connected to smartphones required an intermediate device, such as a small pendant hung around one's neck, but GN ReSound notes that no such pendant is needed for its hearing aid.
But this Apple accessory is not inexpensive, as list price is expected to be about $3,000. The product is due to be released before the end of the month. No word yet as to whether a version for Android devices is in development.