A ruling from the FDA that allows over-the-counter sales of hearing aids is widely expected to make the devices easier to obtain and (hopefully) more affordable for consumers. And now, one of tech’s most influential companies, Sony, has confirmed plans to enter the OTC hearing aid market in the United States. Its first such product is already in development.
According to a press release issued this morning, Sony has formed a partnership with Denmark’s WS Audiology to co-develop hearing aid devices. “Sony and WSA will combine their respective technological and medical expertise to create solutions that will shape this new field,” the companies said. WS Audiology’s website says the company sells 5.5 million hearing aids annually.
“Toward this end, the partnership will leverage Sony’s longstanding audio and product miniaturization technologies, its brand, and its broad consumer sales and service infrastructure that manages a wide array of products, in conjunction with WSA’s hearing aid technology and innovation strength, 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,” per the release, and that offer “easy-to-use features that personalize the hearing aid.”
The Food and Drug Administration’s ruling takes effect in October, and Sony says more details about its first product will be shared closer to its release. The companies aren’t yet revealing when that will be. But the announcement alone is evidence that tech brands are wasting little time in trying to build a presence in the OTC hearing aid market.
Several headphone makers, including Jabra and Eargo, already sell hearing aid devices. Traditional consumer tech players like Bose have also dabbled in the space, though Bose ultimately decided on a partnership not unlike Sony’s that puts its brand on a hearing aid manufactured by a company with more expertise in the field.