Starkey's New Hearing Aids Tap Wearable Tech Appeal
Livio uses directional microphones and binaural audio signal processing to amplify important sounds, such as a friend talking in a noisy room. A key innovation is its use of machine learning algorithms to optimise hearing in different environments, rather than relying on manual tuning.
It is estimated that 466 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss worldwide (WHO, 2018). However, only 40% of people who need hearing aids actually wear them (Action on Hearing Loss, 2017). One reason for this is hearing aids' negative associations with age and illness.
Starkey hopes that Livio's multifunctionality will help to alleviate some of the social stigma still surrounding medical devices. Beyond its hearing capabilities, Livio acts as a fitness tracker, recording the number of steps and time spent physically active, displaying the data in a linked app called Thrive. The wearable additionally logs the duration of social engagement and active listening, presenting the data as a mental health 'score' on Thrive.
Livio also incorporates real-time translation of 27 languages. The wearer's speech is translated on the screen of their linked mobile device, while the responses they receive are heard through the hearing aid.
As disabling hearing loss is projected to affect 900 million people by 2050, health tech companies would be wise to further develop designs that facilitate optimal living for the hard of hearing (WHO, 2018). As noted above, 60% of those in need of hearing aids do not wear them, demonstrating the effect social stigma can have on the adoption of health treatments. In our Tackling Taboos report, we highlight how businesses and platforms can integrate products with stigma-busting rhetoric to entice reticent demographics.