Oticon's Opn Internet-of-things-connected hearing aid.
Oticon's Opn Internet-of-things-connected hearing aid. Oticon

Even Hearing Aids Are Connecting To the Internet of Things

Jun 23, 2016

One of the world's biggest hearing aid manufacturers, Denmark's Oticon, has introduced a new hearing aid called Opn that it says is the first of its kind to be part of the "Internet of things."

It's certainly not the first hearing aid to be able to connect to iOS and Android devices for audio-streaming and adjustments—the likes of ReSound's Linx2 can do that too. However, the Opn hearing aid can also hook up to other Internet-connected devices such as doorbells, smoke detectors and baby alarms, so the user can better hear important alerts.

Opn does this through If This Then That (IFTTT), the platform that lets people set up "recipes" for triggering certain reactions when certain things happen. A basic example of such a recipe might be an incoming text message from a particular person causing the user's smart lights in their living room to turn blue.

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In the case of Opn, IFTTT provides the means for an Internet-connected doorbell to trigger an automated audio message to the person wearing the hearing aid, saying something to the effect of "There's someone at the door" (users can set up the recipe however they want).

"Missing a doorbell ringing is a common problem to someone with hearing loss," Oticon audiologist and training manager Alison Stone told Fortune.

Stone said a recipe could also be created for sending a text message to a care giver or family member when the hearing aid's battery is running low, so they can help change it. Or, when users turn on their hearing aids in the morning, that might trigger their lights or coffee machine to turn on.

"There's a lovely example of a gentleman who set up a recipe so that, when he turns on his hearing aid, he will hear a message reminding him to take his medication," Stone said. (The Opn has been on sale for a few weeks now, although it is only being publicized today.)

For more on the Internet of Things, watch our video.

A more complex recipe might involve people setting up their connected TV set so that, when they turn it on with a spoken command, the lights dim and the hearing aid switches to receiving streaming audio from the TV (something that would require Bluetooth functionality in the TV set).

IFTTT isn't the only technology available there these days for integrating different online services—there's also Microsoft Flow and Zapier, for example. But IFTTT is the best known, and more than 300 services can connect with one another through it.

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