Oticon unveils ‘world’s first’ IoT hearing aid

Oticon unveils ‘world’s first’ IoT hearing aid

Could help hearing-impaired people control smart homes

A new IoT-enabled hearing aid that could allow deaf people to control smart home devices.

The Opticon Opn is being promoted as the world’s first internet connected hearing aid that “opens up a world of possibilities for IoT devices”.

It has been claimed to be the listening device compatible with the web-based service IFTTT (If This Then That), “unlocking a world of potential for connected device communication”.

The device has a dual communication system, dubbed TwinLink, that combines binaural processing with streamer-free, internet connectivity, without shortening battery life or increasing physical size.

The firm said the Opn makes it possible to program hearing aids to communicate directly with connected devices such as doorbells, smoke detectors and baby alarms. The hearing aid also connects to and interacts with the internet.

“With Opn we’ve taken a giant leap forward – for both hearing aids and the Internet of Things,” said Søren Nielsen, president of Oticon A/S.

“The potential of IoT is vast, but on a consumer level we’ve largely seen devices that focus on convenience. With Opn, the Internet of Things starts to matter – you could say that this will change people’s lives.”

IoT impact limited?

Steve Cotterell of deaf persons’ campaigning group Deaf, Not Stupid, told Internet of Business that its usefulness would be limited at present as most gadgets, such as door bells, smoke alarms and baby alarms in use by deaf people are not internet-enabled.

“However, once the system is fully in operation I would anticipate that the number of devices and functions available would grow and this could become useful,” he said.

“If these aids can truly connect wirelessly with Bluetooth-enabled devices such as MP3 players, TV listeners and phones then this is something the deaf community has been waiting for,” he said.

Cotterell added that the presently available systems involving neck-worn induction loops are unsightly and subject to interference when out and about and on public transport.

“Round-the-room loops are slightly better but can be patchy and are limited in their range,” he said. “Wired systems that connect to the aids are aid-specific, the wires tend to be fragile and pricey and because the shoe increases the size of the aids, they draw attention to them. If they work, these new aids could give the wearers a new sense of freedom that they’ve been searching for.”

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