Doppler Labs, makers of the Here One live audio tuning system, are today announcing a new campaign in conjunction with Global Citizen to build awareness around hearing health.
Today, more than 1 billion young adults are at risk of losing their hearing, according to Doppler Labs’ Director of Accessibility and Advocacy KR Liu.
Doppler Labs has never designated any of its products as medical devices, from the all-mechanical Dubs ear plugs to the Here Active Listening system to tune live audio, all the way to the forthcoming Here One, which streams music alongside live audio tuning.
However, Doppler Labs has been partnered with Global Citizen since 2014, when the company launched the Dubs ear plugs.
Part of the reason Doppler Labs has been straddling the line between entertainment tech and health tech is because of the law.
Until very recently, hearing health devices (like hearing aids) were classified as medical devices by the FDA, meaning that patients needed to go through a primary care physician and a hearing specialist to get a prescription for a hearing aid (which usually cost thousands of dollars).
Earlier this month, the FDA made an announcement that will allow users to bypass going to a primary care physician to get a hearing aid. And that’s just the beginning.
Congress has also announced the introduction of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, a bipartisan bill that would make it possible for people to buy hearing health products over the counter without a prescription.
Part of the issue, according to Doppler Labs’ CEO Noah Kraft, is that hearing health falls on a spectrum.
“I’d compare it to glasses,” said Kraft. “People with really bad vision need a prescription for bifocals, but folks who simply have trouble reading are able to pick up a pair of reading glasses at the drug store. Hearing health is no different.”
However, the FDA hasn’t treated hearing health that way, instead making it a very binary experience — you’re either fine, or you need to go through multiple, expensive steps to get a full-blown hearing aid.
Given the progress being made in Congress, Doppler Labs is re-invigorating its partnership with Global Citizen to help raise awareness of hearing health.
With the potential for convenience and expense barriers to be removed, Doppler Labs and Global Citizen are working to help dispel stigma associated with poor hearing, as most people believe bad hearing only affects old people.
As it stands now, the hearing aid industry (a multi-billion dollar sector) is mostly controlled by a few companies, but the new legislation may bust the whole thing wide open. The overall hearing health industry could be much bigger if the barriers of stigma, convenience and cost were removed.
And Doppler Labs wants a slice of that soon-to-grow industry, starting with the #HereTogether campaign in partnership with Global Citizen.
“We envision a future where Doppler Labs can build hearing products for everyone, from people with mild to mid-range hearing loss to people who love live music,” said Kraft.