LAS VEGAS — Hearing aids aren’t sexy, so a lot of journalists here at International CES breezed right by ReSound’s booth.
The Danish company has been in the hearing aid business for 75 years, and launched the first iPhone-connected hearing aid at CES last year. Now the company is a back with a full lineup of iPhone-compatible LiNX hearing aids. The devices address the whole range of hearing loss, from the mild to severe.
As I approach 50, I’m wondering if I need a pair myself, so I went to check them out. I was impressed. Connecting a hearing aid to an iPhone adds a lot of very useful functionality.
Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from some hearing loss. I’m one of them. I can barely hear a thing in noisy restaurants and bars. But I gotta admit, I’m not looking forward to the day I have to slap on a clunky hearing aid.
ReSound’s look different. They come in a range of 11 colors and the smallest ones are very small — no larger than a pinky toenail.
“We’re trying to make hearing aids cool,” said spokesman John Proctor. “Almost turn it into a fashion accessory.”
ReSound worked in collaboration with Apple to develop the first models of the hearing aids. Connected by Bluetooth LE, the iPhone app adds a lot of functionality. The company just released a version for Android.
ReSound’s free Smart app allows the wearer to adjust a lot of settings through their iPhone, rather than fiddling with the hearing aids themselves or the traditional puck worn around the neck. It can adjust bass, table and stereo separation.
There are presets for traffic, restaurants and bars, which reduce ambient noise. An outdoors preset cuts wind noise to nearly zero, said Proctor.
The app also makes clever use of GPS: It remembers presets for particular locations, like a favorite noisy restaurant or a local park.
The ReSound aids also function as Bluetooth headsets for taking calls and streaming music. They can be connected to a TV, and the iPhone can double as a remote microphone. If trying to talk to someone across a crowded dinner table, the other person talks into the wearer’s iPhone microphone. Or the iPhone can be put in the middle of the table to pick up everyone’s conversation.
Perhaps the best feature of the app is the ability to find the hearing aides if they get lost. “These are premium devices,” said Proctor. “They retail for between $2,000 and $3,000. You don’t want to lose them. Plus, you want to hear.”
The app remembers the last point of contact and guides the wearer to that location using GPS. When they get nearer, a Bluetooth connection is established, and the app tells if they are getting closer with a hot/cold indicator.
I like the sound of that.