Apple is taking a big step into medical wearable devices by teaming up with a Danish company to produce a smart hearing aid. The LiNX, manufactured by GN ReSound, can sync with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and will be the first hearing aid to work with compatibility features on iOS7.
The revolutionary devices, which ReSound says are “wireless stereo headphones that just just happen to be your hearing aids,” will allow FaceTime and music streaming when connected to a mobile app via Bluetooth technology. The phone or tablet can also help to find a lost device.
LiNX wearers can adjust the volume of conversations using the app and, if they wish, the treble and bass levels at a concert. If the noise volume calls for it, the hearing aid can also be turned into a microphone to tune out background noise and focus on a single voice.
While some hearing aids have been compatible with remote control cell phones for a while, another device, often a “small, clunky box worn around the neck,” was always needed to connect them, according to CNN. That is, until now; the LiNX is the smallest device ReSound has manufactured, according to PC Magazine.
The hearing aids will cost $3,000, but there’s no point waiting until Black Friday to get one on the cheap. The LiNX won’t be available alongside iPods and iPads in Apple stores, and users will have to get them fitted by an audiologist.
Apple and ReSound hope that the tech-savvy hearing aids will encourage people to seek help for their hearing loss earlier, and erase the stigma of wearing one. Speaking with CNN, audiologist Dr. Ken Smith said people wait an average of eight years before they actually see someone about a suspected hearing problem.
Smith says the stereotypical hearing aid, often clunky and conspicuous, puts people off seeking help. “The association with Apple is going to make a great difference in getting people in the door in the first place,” Smith said.
There are 36 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, and 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with some type of hearing loss, according to data from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Only 1 in 5 people who actually need a hearing aid use one.
But the deal still gives Apple another way to own the world’s ears. PC Magazine points to Apple’s MFi (Made For iPhone) program, which provides the licensing, logos, hardware and support in order to integrate products into the iOS system.