Bose, the audio equipment company, has developed a new device for better hearing called Hearphones – its first product for the digital health market. Hearphones is a personal sound amplification product (PSAP) and is therefore not a regulated medical device, as opposed to devices marketed as hearing aids. From a technical standpoint, the difference is not significant, but where PSAPs mainly serve the purpose of amplification, hearing aids, a $5 billion market, offer treatment for various types of disabling hearing loss including hearing loss across certain frequency ranges, tinnitus, and more.
Hearing loss is a natural cause of aging, and although disabling hearing loss mostly occurs in the latter stages of life, even though many experience a decline in hearing as early as in their 30’s dependent of environmental factors. PSAPs are catered to those individuals who want to hear better, but are not disabled by hearing loss(1), and there are hundreds of millions of them worldwide. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 10% of the global population suffers from disabling hearing loss, and the majority referring to sensorineural hearing loss. The total addressable market for PSAPs is easily three or four times that. This explains Bose’s logic of entering this space, and promising their users, better conversational ability through noise reduction and microphone control, but also better experiences in outdoor settings such as live concerts and similar. The Hearphones can also be used for general audio playback.
Given the less acute application of PSAPs, users are likely to not wear the Hearphones all day long, but at specific times. However, people who experience a decreasing hearing ability, but have yet to become disabled by it, will enjoy the less stigmatic nature of PSAPs, and even more so given the legacy Bose brand. Whether or not Bose becomes successful in creating a new need for devices that enable enhanced hearing, the company should have an acclimating effect on those users that eventually end up with hearing aids – a progression millions of audiologists would appreciate when prescribing hearing prosthetics to patients.
Bose Hearphones have yet to be released, and pricing has not been announced either.
For questions or inquiries, please contact Roeen Roashan, Roeen.Roashan@ihsmarkit.com.
(1) Hearing loss is disabling once hearing loss is greater than 40 decibels (dB) in the better hearing ear among adults. For children it is 30 dB.