How this video game company is helping people hear better

July 28, 2015, 12:15 PM UTC
The HyperSound Clear directed audio speaker system
The HyperSound Clear directed audio speaker system
Courtesy of Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach Corporation, the market leader in console video game headsets, has over the years developed audio technology that enables gamers to hear soft video game sounds such as footsteps around the corner and gun reloads off in the distance.

And now the company is doing more with that technology than just helping gamers get higher scores.

In the spring of 2013, Turtle Beach was introduced to Parametric Sound, the company that had developed the early HyperSound directional audio technology. Juergen Stark, CEO of Turtle Beach, says what began as a meeting about a retail gaming soundbar soon veered into the discovery that this technology could benefit people with hearing loss. (Turtle Beach merged with Parametric Sound in 2014.)

Now, Turtle Beach is getting ready to launch its new HyperSound Clear speaker system, which uses HyperSound technology to send a narrow beam of audio directly to the viewer with hearing loss. While he or she is hearing the sound extremely loudly through the HyperSound Clear emitters, others in the room hear audio from the TV at a normal volume. This eliminates the need for closed captioning and allows people with different hearing levels to watch TV at the same time comfortably.

Rather than being sold directly to consumers, hearing healthcare providers—including Audiology Management Group, American Hearing Aid Associates, Amplified Resource Group, AuDConnex, and Fuel Medical Group—will offer HyperSound Clear to hearing centers and their patients later this year. The price hasn’t been finalized yet, but it’s expected to be around $1,500, which is less expensive than the $2,000 – $10,000 cost of hearing aids.

Approximately 360 million people around the world suffer from hearing loss, and the reported global hearing aid market is approximately $5 to $6 billion. Rodney Schutt, SVP and general manager of HyperSound business at Turtle Beach, says the problem today is that just 20% to 25% of adults who have hearing loss actually buy hearing aids.

“Given that approximately 80% of adults with hearing loss are in the mild to moderate range, and considering many of them initially complain about struggling to hear the TV, we believe there’s a significant global opportunity to offer HyperSound Clear as a first-of-its-kind directed audio solution,” Schutt says.

Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research, believes there certainly is a viable business case to be made for providing audio speakers for people who are hard of hearing, because we’re on the brink of a demographic shift toward “silver gamers.”

“Now that gaming is a mainstream form of entertainment, the games market follows the dynamic of the population at large, which is aging,” Van Dreunen says. “We’ve already seen the success of catering to this audience with innovative content like, for instance, brain games. Accessories specifically tailored to people who suffer the ailments of old age is a logical extension of this larger trend.”

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