The better the best wireless earbuds get, the more I've wanted their manufacturers to move into the hearing aid market. Although I don't need one right now I'm a musician who, like many other musicians, has been playing music too loud for too long and is starting to deal with the consequences – so some sort of audio enhancement is definitely in my future. So I'm very pleased to see Sony join Bose by bringing its tech to the hearing aid market.
If you're lucky enough not to need hearing assistance you might not know just how hilariously expensive hearing aids are, but we're talking upwards of 2K and sometimes much more for anything halfway decent. So Sony's $1,300 CRE-E10 and $1,000 CRE-E10 hearing aids, the firm's first such products, are very much a step in the right direction.
Why headphone firms are making hearing aids
Hearing aids are medical devices, and that means they're regulated in markets such as the US. But earlier this year the US FDA, the organisation that does the regulating, approved the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids. Bose was one of the first firms to move into this new sector, and Sony is the latest.
As Sony says in its official announcement (opens in new tab), "Sony will enhance the lives of consumers by combining its unique premium technology, ultimate ease of use, and uncompromised comfort and wearability, to deliver an unprecedented hearing experience".
Designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, Sony's aids are app-controlled via the Sony Hearing Control app. The app includes "self-fit", which automatically adjusts the hearing aids to the most suitable profile based on "thousands of actual, real-life audiogram results".
While the tiny CRE-C10s are designed solely as hearing aids, the larger CRE-E10 look more like earbuds and include Bluetooth compatibility so you can use them for music, albeit only on iOS for now. They're slightly more expensive by $300, but for music lovers they may well be worth the extra expense.
Sony's hearing aids, like Bose's, are still a lot more expensive than even the best true wireless earbuds. But with more big names moving into the market, and no doubt more markets opening up for their products, we should see more innovation and lower prices. And that can only be a good thing for the millions of people who'll be using them in the years to come. Me included.