Hearing Aid Design Is Shaking Off "Big and Beige" Roots

September 21, 2023
Blake Cadwell
Written by
Blake Cadwell
Blake Cadwell

Blake Cadwell is a hearing aid wearer and co-founder at Soundly. He regularly tests and reviews hearing technology to share his experience with Soundly’s readers. Blake's research and perspectives have been featured in the The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, AARP and FastCompany.

Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Soundly Staff

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Eargo is a Soundly partner and the sponsor of this post.

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Finally, it's happening. Hearing aids are shaking off their tired legacy of big and beige accessories and taking on something that looks more like wearable health-tech products like Aura Ring and Levels

Yes, hearing aids are getting smarter and handling background noise better (a big deal for anyone who wears them).

But something else is happening. Modern product design has finally entered the conversation. 

Hearing Aid Design Innovation At Work

Technical Concepts Imagined Through A Human Lens
Images from designer Alice Turner

The move to modernity is at least, in part, credit to Eargo. The brand launched a decade ago with a shockingly small, rechargeable, virtually invisible device.

Eargo product design

Small hearing aids have been around for a long time in the form of custom-molded products, but Eargo added the visual language of modern technology from packaging to the recharging case and beyond. 

Today, Eargo is not the only brand with a consumer-forward design sensibility. Bose, Sony, Jabra, and newcomer Orka have followed suit with recharging cases and consumer-technology-grade apps. 

Eargo, Bose and Orka have all invested in design.

Even traditional leaders like ReSound and Starkey have small and intelligent products with excellent attention to detail.

Still, Eargo has one of the smallest rechargeable products and one of the best unboxing experiences in the category.

Why does product design matter?  

Apple didn't invent laptops, earbuds, or phones - they just made them fun to use. Design-forward hearing aids offer a confidence boost to hearing aid wearers who are increasingly proud to talk about their sophisticated and well-designed products. 

This trend is especially true among younger people who are increasingly turning to hearing aids in their 20s, 30s and 40s. 

I see no apparent reason that hearing aids can't occupy a similar space to glasses in the future. Product design will play a significant role in that shift. 

The New York Times published research earlier this year showing hearing aid wearers are getting younger. The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America reported similar themes. 

There are lots of reasons for the cultural shift around hearing health. 

Some of the most obvious factors are the FDA's new over-the-counter or OTC ruling and the rapid increase in hearing loss due to headphone use. 

Still, it's hard to imagine the uptick without the corresponding move to design. 

Room to grow. 

Mood Board Post It Notes Alice Turner Hearing Aids
Photo from hearing aid designer Alice Turner

Don't get me wrong. The future of hearing aid product design has plenty of room to run. A few companies have brought the space into the modern world, but we've far from exhausted design options. 

Winning products of the future will need to consider total system design from apps, to packaging and hardware. I’m excited to see the world of hearing health take shape as a fully-formed consumer category. 

We're still at the beginning of this category transformation, but there's little doubt. The shift is underway.

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