An FDA decision allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids is expected to make the devices easier to obtain and (hopefully) more affordable for consumers. And now one of the most influential tech companies, Sony, has confirmed its intention to enter the OTC hearing aid market in the United States. Its first product of this type is already in development.
According to a press release this morning, Sony has formed a partnership with Denmark’s WS Audiology to co-develop hearing aids. “Sony and WSA will combine their respective technological and medical expertise to create solutions that will shape this new field,” the companies said. The WS Audiology website says the company sells 5.5 million hearing aids a year.
“To this end, the partnership will leverage Sony’s longstanding product miniaturization and audio technologies, its brand and its extensive consumer sales and service infrastructure that supports a wide range of products, in conjunction with the hearing aid technology and the innovative strength of WSA, as well as its distribution power in the professional channel, which has been at the forefront of providing better solutions to help people with hearing loss for over 100 years.
Sony and WSA aim “to create OTC hearing aids that can be used more naturally and comfortably,” according to the release, and that offer “easy-to-use features that personalize the hearing aid.”
The Food and Drug Administration’s decision takes effect in October, and Sony says more details about its first product will be shared closer to release. The companies are not yet revealing when that will be. But the announcement alone is proof that tech brands waste little time trying to carve out a foothold in the over-the-counter hearing aid market.
Several headphone manufacturers, including Jabra and Eargo, already sell hearing aids. Traditional consumer tech players like Bose have also jumped into the space, although Bose eventually settled on a Sony-like partnership that puts its mark on a hearing aid made by a company with more expertise in the field.