The Over The Counter (OTC) hearing aid revolution has been developing rapidly over the past few years, and despite the objections put forth by the medical-model hearing aid industry and some Audiologist professional organizations, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 is now officially the law of the land. While most original equipment manufacturers are waiting on the FDA to define the new OTC hearing aid product category, some innovations are already quietly brewing. Project Ears, announced earlier, is a perfect example of a technology fusion that will lead the way for OTC product developers.
Project Ears: Mimi Meets Bragi
The Mimi Hearing Test has been winning awards for its hearing checking app since at least 2015. Regarded as one of the best hearing checking apps (currently available on iOS and Android), the Mimi Hearing Test has now checked over one million ears. Up to this point, the Mimi Hearing Test has been used primarily for driving hearing enhancement for music through Mimi’s affiliated app Mimi Music app.
Through a cutting edge collaboration with Bragi, the developer of the intelligent wireless “hearable” Bragi Dash, it looks as though the Mimi Hearing Test will now do much more than simply enhance the music listening experience of those with hearing loss. Project Ears promises to both enhance general hearing and provide tinnitus relief through a Bragi Dash like product that uses Mimi’s hearing checking technology to drive individualized amplification of sound and tinnitus masking sounds:
Making use of our in-ear computing technology and deep understanding of human machine interaction, we aim to create the world’s first intelligent sound amplifier with an embedded scientific hearing test.
Here’s how Project Ears defines their planned tinnitus masking technology:
Embedded masking sounds help you relax and forget the ringing in your ears by covering the tinnitus while you can still hear your surroundings.
While Bragi is reportedly developing a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) to deliver these technologies, incorporating a hearing check and personalized amplification (intended to enhance hearing for those suffering from hearing loss) would probably put it more in the realm of a OTC hearing aid than a PSAP. According to current draft guidance from the FDA, PSAPs are not meant to help those with hearing loss:
PSAPs are intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are intended to accentuate sounds in specific listening environments, rather than for everyday use in multiple listening situations. They are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment or to address listening situations that are typically associated with and indicative of hearing loss.
The OTC hearing aid vs PSAP distinction aside, the Project Ears announcement was largely predictable. Bragi and Starkey Hearing (a medical-model hearing aid manufacturer) announced a partnership to develop a custom-fitted version of the Dash (dubbed Dash Pro) way back in January 2016.
Starkey Promotes the Bragi Partnership in a Tweet
At the time of Starkey’s announcement, Hearing Tracker predicted that the Bragi association would eventually lead to hearing aid technologies being incorporated into Bragi’s hearable devices. While Project Ears makes no mention of Starkey, a recent quote from Jason Galster, Starkey’s senior manager of audiology research, says it all:
There will be a convergence between what we view as a hearing aid and what we view as a hearable
Check out the video below for Bragi’s teaser announcement of Project Ears.
Project Ears Press Release
Want to know more about Project Ears? Visit the Project Ears site, or read on for the official press release, received this morning via email:
Las Vegas, UNITED STATES (January 8, 2018) – Bragi (www.bragi.com), the Kickstarter-launched company behind The World’s First Smart Hearable will showcase the latest in hearable technology at CES 2018 from January 9-12.
This includes the introduction of Project Ears, a collaboration between Bragi and Mimi Hearing Technologies to develop sound amplification and hearing enhancement solutions throughout 2018.
Project Ears is already in development and will focus on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) with on board soothing sounds that deliver the same design and feel of The Dash Series. Project Ears will examine the possibilities of personalized hearing enhancement in a multitude of different settings including the home, office, jobsite and even outdoor sport environments.
“When we introduced The Dash in 2015, one of the unexpected pieces of feedback was a group of consumers using the device’s internal storage to treat tinnitus through white noise” said Bragi Founder & CEO Nikolaj Hviid. “This led us down the path to review and develop capabilities of our in-ear computing technologies to potentially offer hearing enhancement services.”
One of Project Ears immediate development successes is the integration of a pure tone threshold test (a hearing test) that users can take on-board to create their unique Earprint. By combining this with Mimi’s personalization technology, the hearing device will automatically configure and program itself to the individual without the assistance of a smartphone or manual programing to deliver the best sound enhancement, tailored specifically to their personal Earprint.
Currently, Project Ears is an open-ended possibility with potential use cases that could range from and are not limited to, protecting your ears from dangerously loud noise and utilizing state of the art hearing technologies that amplify your surroundings selectively and intelligently. Bragi and Mimi Hearing Technologies are also looking forward to introducing Mimi’s personalization software to the Dash series to deliver the ultimate music experience to users.
Based in Germany, Mimi Hearing Technologies is the world’s leading expert on sound personalization and creators of the Mimi Hearing Test App, one of the most advanced hearing tests on the market and a certified medical product in Europe. Having tested over one-million ears to date, Mimi defines the future of hearing and sound, pioneering cutting-edge technologies and developing the global standard in sound personalization.
“We are delighted to welcome Bragi as a new Mimi partner.” said Dr. Henrik Matthies, Managing Director for Mimi Hearing Technologies. “With its first products Bragi has already caused quite a stir in the music and audio markets. Without a doubt, the integration of Mimi’s unique sound personalization technology into Bragi’s innovative audio concept opens up a new dimension to the users’ listening and hearing experience.”
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