iHear to offer hearing aids online that you set up at home
By some estimates, more than three quarters of people with hearing loss don't do anything about it. Now, an East Bay startup is trying to do something about that by making hearing aids dramatically cheaper and much easier to get.
Tyrone Moore has spent hours in rooms wearing headphones and listening to faint tones made by a big machine.
"I've been wearing hearing aids since I've been in elementary school," Moore said.
But today might be one of the last times he does this because this isn't a hearing clinic. It's a startup that's making a hearing aid you can order online and set up at home.
"We plan to offer an alternative to what's out there," iHear Founder and CEO Adnan Shennib said.
Shennib knows all about what's out there. He founded the company that created Lyric, the tiny hearing aid you wear all the time.
Now he has a new company called iHear with another tiny device that costs a few hundred dollars, instead of a few thousand.
"Making it more convenient and making it more affordable," Shennib said.
The hearing aids plug right into your computer and a website guides you through a hearing test and tunes them to your prescription.
Don't let the size fool you. Early test subjects say they like it a lot better than these big ones.
"I hear the fluorescent lights, I hear the computers, I hear your watch, I hear everything," iHear test subject Neal Kantor said.
The parts inside the iHear device are incredibly small. Underneath a microscope, you can see a circuit so tiny, it's actually the size of a grain of dirt under your fingernail.
"Everything is done under a microscope," Shennib said.
It takes steady hands and tweezers to put it together.
There's nothing cheap about it. They keep the cost low by cutting the hearing clinic out of the equation, which doesn't sit well with everyone.
"There's a chance they could have a tumor. Or they could have something wrong," audiologist Mark Sanford said.
Sanford says hearing loss can be a sign of something more serious.
He wishes iHear would leave the initial exam to a professional.
"Maybe I adjust it for them. They say hey that sounds pretty good, but then future adjustment, they may do that online," Sanford said.
But for Moore, price is king.
"I'm one of those guys that grew up in a working poor family and therefore we couldn't afford hearing aids and so I'm excited, the fact that this is going to be something your average consumer can afford," he said.
technology, jonathan bloom
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