Oticon launches hearing aid that lessens cognitive load

Opn hearing aids--Courtesy of Oticon

Denmark's Oticon is tackling some issues that plague current hearing aid technology with the launch of its Opn device.

While hearing aids can improve quality of life, they still encounter some problems, including the inability to filter out background noise, such as traffic or multiple people speaking at once. The Opn hearing aid uses an "open sound" approach, allowing it to handle multiple speakers and noise sources in "complex listening situations," the company said in a statement emailed to FierceMedicalDevices.

"With Opn we've taken a giant leap forward--for both hearing aids and the Internet of Things," said Oticon President Søren Nielsen in the statement. "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."

The company touts its BrainHearing tech, which makes the device the first hearing aid that is "easier" on the brain. It makes listening more comfortable and improves memory and understanding by supporting the brain's ability to interpret sound and reducing the mental effort required to do so. In a study that pitted it against Oticon's older Alta2 Pro hearing aid, the Opn increased speech understanding by 30% while reducing listening effort by 20%.

In addition to improving hearing, the device offers increased connectivity. It supports communication between two hearing aids for a more natural hearing experience and uses Bluetooth for wireless communication with mobile phones, music players and the like. The Opn also connects to the internet through the If This Then That service, allowing a user to connect to a number of IFTTT-enabled devices, such as doorbells, smoke detectors and thermostats.

Opn hearing aid components--Courtesy of Oticon

Oticon isn't the first company to take on the challenges of the hearing aid. Menlo Park, CA-based Earlens raised $51 million last week to support the launch of its laser-based hearing aid. Its Earlens Contact Hearing Device converts sound waves into pulses of light, which are then converted into sound vibrations that are sent directly to the eardrum. Meanwhile, Mountain View, CA-based Eargo picked up a $25 million Series B last year to market its "invisible" in-ear device.

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