10 iPhone hearing aid apps that preceded BioAid

By Jonah Comstock
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hearing help

hearing help

This $5 app appears to deliver a lot of features, including an audiogram, a dynamic compressor, and a noise filter. Though what the German-developed app gains in functionality, it may lose in user-friendliness: What does the average person do with a dynamic compressor?

EARs from Ear Machine

EARs

The main selling point for EARs, a $4 app, seems to be it's intuitive interface, which allows users to adjust the sound by moving a marker around a 2-axis graph that goes from bright to dark and warm to tinny. It also allows users to adjust their two ears separately.

And many more...

MobiHealthNews found at least 8 other similar apps that either haven't been updated since 2010 or earlier, or have actually been removed from the AppStore. In addition, there are apps that do the same thing, but for a different use case: If you plug a speaker instead of headphones into one of these apps, you can turn your iPod into a PA or microphone, for instance. Finally, there are actual hardware hearing aids with control apps, allowing users to adjust the sound with their iPhones. Apple itself might be getting into the game in the near future: the company has applied for a number of hearing aid-related patents. Of course, Apple rarely executes on the inventions in its patent portfolio.

One question none of these companies seem to be asking is what degree of regulation these apps should be subjected to -- how much risk they present to the patient. Hearing aids are subject to FDA clearance. Is there a danger of harming one's hearing with these apps, or of getting hurt thinking one's hearing is better than it really is?

"FDA regulates hearing aids, which are intended to compensate for hearing loss," the FDA states on their website. "On the other hand, FDA does not consider sound amplifiers to be medical devices when labeled for recreational or other use by individuals with normal hearing. However, certain safety regulations related to sound output levels still apply to these products."

It will be interesting to see whether the agency's final guidance clarifies or re-evaluates this stance.

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