Hearing aid brands are pitching the device as a fashion accessory

Starkey Hearing Technolo-gies MD Akhil Chauhan, Doctor of Audiology Sugata Bhattachar-jee and chief innovation officer Dave Fabry
Starkey Hearing Technolo-gies MD Akhil Chauhan, Doctor of Audiology Sugata Bhattachar-jee and chief innovation officer Dave Fabry

Biswajiban Sharma

If prescription glasses can, why can’t hearing aids do it?

A huge majority of people who could would otherwise benefit from hearing aids are reluctant to even try them on because of the stigma attached to these devices. Hearing aids are seen as a sign of aging or physical deformity and considered intrusive and ugly. Ergo, the primary target base for brands has been older people, a group that is often overlooked when it comes to trendy brands and high-decibel marketing.

Such concern might soon be a thing of the past. Look at the newly launched Evolv AI from Starkey
Hearing Technologies. The device has been designed to deliver two-way audio in a wireless style. Now wearers can take and end calls directly from their Evolv AI hearing aids. Plus, hearing aid microphones pick up and stream their voice back to iPhone and iPad, allowing seamless hands-free conversations. You may be tempted to think the wearer is using Bluetooth earbuds. Who said hearing aids can’t be cool?

According to ASD Reports, India’s hearing aid market was valued at $332.99 million in 2019 and is set to reach $454.98 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of 4.56% from 2020 to 2026. And prices can range between `15,000 for a basic device to `2.5 lakh for a high-end one.

Positioning them as fashion accessories with sleek looks and spiffy features in the manner that prescription glasses have done is a key step in making the category more acceptable, say experts. So if earlier the emphasis was soliciting specialist referral, wider availability is a key focus area for brands now. Some such as Auditech, Beurer, Axon and Jinghao are also available on many online platforms such as Tata 1mg, Amazon and Snapdeal.

As things stand, hearing aids can be categorised as high-end, intermediate and general, depending on the wearer’s need — whether they are active, socialise a lot, or largely home-bound and these factors also determine hearing aid prices.

Dave Fabry, chief innovation officer, Starkey Hearing Technologies, currently touring India for the Evolv AI launch, says, “It takes anything between four to six years for a person suffering from hearing loss to go for professional help. Identification of the problem remains a problem worldwide.”

The company is also actively working to bring about behavioural change in people’s response to the hearing impairments. That apart, it is pushing for regulation of the sector to solve the problem of low quality hearing aid devices. “We are working with stakeholders including central and state governments, medical professionals and others to increase awareness towards the problem,” says Akhil Chauhan, managing director, Starkey Hearing Technologies.

However, these devices often come with a high price tag, and high-quality hearing devices like Starkey hearing aids are no exception. The brand offers six lines of hearing aids in different styles. It also makes rechargeable and battery-operated options, as well as wireless accessories, including wireless remotes, table microphones, and a TV streamer.

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First published on: 03-10-2022 at 08:21 IST