Hearing impaired people can now make their own disposable hearing aids at home for just a fraction of a cost.
This allows those who are hard of hearing to forgo an expensive consultation with an audiologist who usually prescribe hearing aids after a thorough evaluation. Visit fees plus the cost of more sophisticated hearing aids can run up to thousands of dollars, dissuading many from seeking medical attention.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICD), only 20% of the 36 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss bother to seek help, despite the fact that the condition is the third most prevalent chronic health condition among older adults.
The new hearing aid kit offers a cheaper alternative to traditional care, and gives a cheaper alternative to those marginalized by this current costly set-up.
iHear Medical's hearing kit, which costs just $199, consists of a kidney-shaped hearing aid with different sized tips that users can choose from to find a perfect fit.
This DIY hearing aid is small enough to fit inside the ear and remain hidden from view. The entire fitting process can be made at home using an online guide.
An online questionnaire is also available to assess the suitability of this device to the severity of hearing loss experienced by a potential user.
To fine tune the settings, the package comes with its own hearing test kit with a USB and a software program.
Users can make adjustments to the hearing aid by tweaking some parameters using the USB device.
The DIY hearing aid is water resistant and can be worn while showering or swimming, and features low-noise, low-distortion technology that can be found in more expensive models.
The device lasts 18 months and users need to pay $10 per month for new batteries and replacement seal tips. Costs could add up, but it is still less expensive than traditional hearing aids already in the market.
iHear Medical says it will soon fully commercialize their product, who had undergone limited testing that involved 30 people.
The company has put the device on preliminary sale on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and plans to spend early sales income in further refining their product.
IHear claims that their DIY hearing aid device can help people with flat, reverse slopes, high frequency and mild to moderate hearing loss.
Potential users will be asked to sign a waiver saying they do not have serious ear conditions or profound hearing loss. The company says those with serious cases of hearing loss may need to consult an audiologist.
However, for millions of others with less severe cases, this customizable and inexpensive hearing device may just be the thing.
Since its inexpensive, more people will get devices like this at an earlier stage of their hearing loss, which can make a positive impact with their quality of life.
The NICD says that on average, a person waits up to a decade after first having symptoms before finally seeking help.
By bringing costs down significantly, iHear hopes they don't have to wait that long to hear better.