According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, 48 million Americans (around 20 percent of the population) report some degree of hearing loss. This problem is compounded by the costs associated with having the condition diagnosed and a hearing aid fitted in a clinic, causing many to allow the ailment to go untreated. iHear, an invisible hearing aid, is designed to significantly lower the cost of personalized hearing devices by enabling the user to test the extent of their condition and calibrate the hearing aid from their own home.
iHear is the brainchild of Adnand Shennib, who identified a gap between cheap hearing aids with general, preset configurations, and prescribed hearing aids that can cost thousands of dollars. Shennib, a biomedical engineer who has been developing advanced hearing devices in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years, set about developing a high-quality hearing aid that was low in cost, but could also be customized to suit the user's condition.
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The iHear system is made up of a test kit, a miniaturized hearing device around the size of a kidney bean that fits inside the ear canal, a USB device and an online platform.
The first step is for the user to test the degree of their hearing loss using the iHear test kit. This involves plugging the USB device into their computer and a pair of specially-designed headphones into their ears. An online diagnostics tool then allows them to determine the extent of their hearing loss.
Once the test is completed, the hearing device itself is shipped to the user. From here, the user can complete the fitting process themselves, program settings for different environments, and adjust the hearing device at any time.
Included is a tool kit, a small triangular device that allows remote control of iHear when it is being worn, while also doubling as a place for storage when it is not.
According to the company, having an online platform whereby the user can conduct their own hearing test and electronically calibrate the device themselves is primarily where the costs are reduced. Though this could provide viable solutions for sufferers of hearing loss conditions described as flat, reverse slopes, high frequency, mild, and moderate to moderately severe, the company emphasizes it is not suitable for severe or profound hearing loss.
In conjunction with the launch of the iHear device, the company is running a campaign called Hearing For All. For every single iHear device ordered, the company will donate a hearing aid (with a maximum of 1,000) to the economically disadvantaged, a group it says makes up 40 percent of the hearing loss population in the US.
Currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the company is offering single iHear devices for pledges of US$199. Shipping estimated for September 2014 if everything goes according to plan.
You can hear from the team behind iHear in the video below.