About 20% of U.S. adults have some form of hearing loss, but there are very few options available for them in terms of hearing aids. They can either spend thousands of dollars on a prescription hearing aid or buy a cheap device with pre-settings for a couple hundred dollars. 75% to 80% of adults with hearing loss don’t have devices, due in large part to lack of insurance. iHear wants to give people with hearing loss an affordable device that they can easily customize at home with a Web-based hearing test. The goal is to ultimately make its hearing aids available for the 350 million people in the world who suffer from impaired hearing. Created by a team led by biomedical engineer and entrepreneur Adnan Shennib, iHear hearing device includes a testing kit and access to iHear’s online diagnostic software that starts at $199. The target ship date is August. They filed for FDA approval and seek coverage from insurance providers.
iHear’s donation program will focus on countries where hearing aid penetration is especially low due to high prices and limited distribution, like China.
Shennib wants users to think of iHear’s functionality as being similar to a smartphone because you can customize it by downloading new software. Each device can currently hold up to four settings, which wearers can select using a remote control. To set up iHear, users first connect their hearing aid to a computer with a USB device. Then they use iHear’s online diagnostic tools to calibrate it. Settings for different environments can be programmed into each device and adjusted whenever the wearer wants. Shennib has spent 24 years developing hearing aids. He founded InSound Medical (now called Phonak), where he created an extended wear, FDA approved hearing aid called Lyric .Shennib was frustrated with reaching hearing impaired people. “We discovered that the advanced technology we developed really ends up being a luxury item for most users. We’ve created iHear as more of a mission than a company to reach out to those who can’t afford hearing solutions.”