Jabra’s New Hearing Aid: What Does the Future Hold?
On January 19th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the way for Jabra to sell its new Enhance Plus™ earbud as a self-fitting hearing aid. The device was cleared by the FDA on the basis of being “substantially equivalent” to the Bose SoundControl™ hearing aid, which was previously the only self-fitting hearing aid registered with the FDA.
Enhance Plus provides hearing enhancement for users with milder forms of hearing loss. The FDA reports that the device incorporates “a reliable self-fitting method” that provides “functional performance that is not inferior to that provided by a professional hearing aid fitting”.
Jabra Enhance Plus
The device will be available to purchase on February 25th via licensed hearing care providers. Jabra is owned by GN, a leader in the global hearing aid industry—GN manufactures ReSound, Beltone, and Lively hearing aids, among others.
Not an over-the-counter device
The FDA clearance comes as the agency collects comments on a proposed rule to make hearing aids available as over-the-counter (OTC) medical devices.
Hearing aid earbuds
Jabra’s earbuds fuse hearing aid technology and earbud design—they go in the ear not above it as traditional hearing aids do.
According to Jabra, the product provides hearing enhancement for clearer conversations, listening to music, and taking calls. The earbuds combine the convenience and design of true wireless earbuds with advanced hearing technology and are geared toward people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Wireless streaming and hands-free calling will be available to users with an iPhone running iOS 14 or later.
“They are the most consumerized hearing enhancement earbuds on the market, and a pioneer in self-personalization,” Aabo said. “With this launch, we are creating a new standard in miniaturized technology, harnessing hearing enhancement with the highly valued consumer electronics benefits of true wireless earbuds, all without compromising on the battery life, delivering twice as much as most earbuds on the market today.”
“This is a ground-breaking innovation,” she said.
The company said they are the smallest of its kind in the market. They are 40 percent smaller than leading true wireless earbuds on the market, the company said in a statement.
The hearing aid earbuds can last 10 hours on a single charge, and are both water and dust resistant, with an IP52 ingress protection rating. There are three listening modes. Users will need to download the Jabra Enhance app for iPhone to set up and fully utilize the earbuds.
The Jabra Enhance App
The hearing aid earbuds will be sold at participating hearing care providers for $799 MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) per set. The final retail price for consumers will depend on whether clinical services, such as diagnostic hearing tests (required by law in some states), are rendered at the point of sale.
“GN welcomes the intention of increasing awareness and treatment of hearing loss to improving people’s quality of life through the power of sound. With Jabra Enhance Plus, more people will have a solution that has been specifically tailored to their needs and lifestyle,” Aabo said in a statement.
Anticipating over-the-counter FDA approval
On July 9, U.S. President Joe Biden’s signed an executive order—the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy—that requested the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to “promote the wide availability of low-cost hearing aids” and “publish for notice and comment a proposed rule on over-the-counter hearing-aids” by early November.
That proposed rule came in In October 2021, when the FDA released a draft of a regulation that would add an Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid category. The new rule would enable the direct sale of OTC hearing aids to adults, without the need for a hearing exam. The proposed rule is part of the already-approved FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017.
And just this Wednesday, a coalition of 11 U.S. senators, including a full bipartisan spectrum (from Bernie Sanders to Lindsey Graham), signed a letter to Janet Woodcock, the Acting Commissioner of the FDA, urging the FDA to “finalize the rule without delay”.
Under the proposed rule, hearing aids for severe hearing loss or users younger than age 18 would be offered only by prescription.
Disrupting the industry
There’s been a bit of a back-and-forth exchange in the comments of the proposed rule regarding the maximum output (volume) limit, which aims to prevent injuries from the over-amplification of sound. The proposed rule includes specifications on performance and design requirements including insertion depth, distortion control limits, self-generated noise limits, latency limits, allowable frequency ranges, and how uniformly the OTC hearing aid amplifies different frequencies over its bandwidth. The proposed rule also includes labeling requirements for OTC hearing aids.
The concept of making hearing aids available over the counter has been met with controversy. Supporters say the move will give more people access to affordable hearing treatments, while opponents) have expressed concern about people getting accurate, appropriate treatment.
Another point of contention has been the idea of “preemption”. Under the proposed rule, the FDA’s regulations would preempt any state or local rules that would “restrict or interfere with commercial activity involving OTC hearing aids”. A bipartisan coalition of U.S. attorneys general urged the FDA to “preserve states’ authority to enforce their consumer protection laws in connection to the sale” of OTC hearing aids.
Final approval on OTC hearing aids is expected sometime later this year.
“The commenting period is over, which means that the FDA is now reviewing and answering comments while finalizing the regulations,” Aabo said.
Really too bad if android cell fones cannot be used, will this be a future feature?
Since more than 80% of smartphones use android and a little more than the market 10% iPhones are much more expensive, not having the OTC hearing aids fit for android are not subjected to the OTC availability idea.
I fail to se the point of making a self-fitting HA, but selling it only via licensed hearing care providers.
No Android connectivity is a game-ender.