"Figures from the World Health Organization reveal 1.2 billion people have hearing loss and a further 375 million have disabling hearing,” says Luke Pearce, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. "It’s a growing problem for many, and it’s on the increase due to years of listening to loud music, noise pollution and excessive use of smartphones at high volume. Hearing aids are typically expensive and many people feel embarrassed about wearing them.
“That’s where the aftermarket headphones market makes its entrance. There’s a lot of activity in the space, with consumers demanding more features, such as wireless and True Wireless, noise-cancelling technology and sports-oriented products. As brands explore ways to differentiate and compete, they’re beginning to feel out the hearables opportunity.”
Headphones are increasingly used for communication, smart home control through voice assistants and a range of other always-in activities, and brands are exploring products that can remain in the ears throughout the day. Furthermore, some noise cancellation features are loosely based on the same digital noise-reduction principles found in hearing aids. For headphone manufacturers, this presents a significant opportunity to capitalize on these synergies and launch into this now-attainable space.
Hearing aids are typically expensive and the stigma of wearing them has put many people off utilizing them to improve their hearing capabilities, cost being a particular concern in emerging markets where hearing loss is a growing problem. The traditional hearing aid and personal sound amplifier companies have been focussing on physical design improvements over the years and are cognizant to the needs of modern users in an ever increasing connected world that would like to sync their hearing aids with other devices not least smartphones to receive telephone calls or listen to music.
Equally traditional headphone vendors and other consumer electronics segments such as the smart watch/wearables sectors are increasingly focussing on fitness and wellness, a growing segment getting increasing focus by government and consumers alike.
Headphone vendors recognize the importance of ears in determining health issues reliably and at the same time understand how they can utilize their audio amplification technology and developments and expertise in true wireless capability to address the wellness space and the growing demand for cost effective hearing loss solutions.
With hearing aids still a highly regulated medical market in many parts of the world, developments such as in the US the senate mandating the US Food and Drug Administration to establish an “over the counter” hearing aid category for adults opens up the sector to many new entrants not least the mainstream headphones companies.
The Futuresource hearables study will be based on a new program of primary research, consisting of some 150 industry interviews with government health agencies, component and technology vendors, traditional hearing aid and hearables vendors, channel partners and major headphones brands that have yet to make a move into the sector. This research will be combined with Futuresource’s suite of in-depth market tracking services, analysis of the enabling technologies, and strategic insights into headphones, smartphones and wearables products. The hearables report will review the market size, competitive landscape, technology drivers and future trends in this new product category, and planned for publication in March 2019, with presales now available at a discounted price.
“Hearing health is becoming a serious public health issue across the globe,” says Pearce, “and with bodies such as the FDA making noises about deregulation, a range of solutions may become available to tackle this problem. The role of headphones makes logical sense, though there are still many complex and technological barriers for manufacturers to overcome before a well-rounded solution can prevail.”