Usually when we’re talking about technology at Stuff it’s highly consumer oriented. Normally that makes sense, as most of the noticeable innovation is taking place in the mass market — gotta get everyone’s attention with the big annual presentation, after all. But we don’t often think that more practical devices, like hearing aids, could be catching up. Well, they are. Meet the Opn, a little medical device from a company called Oticon that has some unexpectedly advanced features.
Features like app access, which makes sense if you’re living in the modern world. Users are able to control volume from a smartphone app, rather than fiddling with the Opn itself. Users can also use the app to locate the Opn. It’s a lot smaller than the medical enhancements you’re used to, so losing it is a real possibility.
The app control is useful for another reason — the Opn is able to stream audio from a phone directly to the hearing aid, letting the hearing impaired get on with phone calls without worrying too much about hearing the other end of the conversation. It’s also able to stream audio from other devices, in the same manner as your average Bluetooth headphones but with added clarity for the hearing impaired.
The Opn is also the first hearing aid compatible with online service IFTTT, a fact that should let the device talk to smart home devices like connected locks (letting them hear a doorbell, for instance), smart smoke detectors (for obvious reasons) and also baby monitors (also, obvs.).
Oticon also claims that the Opn has a technology called BrainHearing, something that we’re not familiar with. The idea goes that the hearing aid polls noise sources and picks out speech more effectively than previous devices. This should make it easy for the user’s brain to access sounds in crowded settings, while taking some of the strain off your cognitive muscle. That’s essential to processing audio more effectively, we’re told.
We’re not really in a position to test these features (though we will stick the Digital Editor too close to some speakers if it’s for science) but it’s great to see features that we may take for granted filtering through to medical tech. It ‘s a branch of technology tends to move slower than retail (since you need to test it on humans) but a high-tech Internet of Things hearing aid? That’s a substantial jump.