Along with more than 115,000 others, I recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It was incredible to see the latest innovations in all areas of consumer technology—including Hearing Tech. I enjoyed discussing the future of hearing health care with other advocates and influencers in a roundtable sponsored by GN Resound, and seeing the latest trends in all types of consumer products in the expos.
It was non-stop. Thrilling. And exhausting.
Given the tremendous listening effort—particularly in the reverberant and noisy halls of the expo—my brain was mush at the end of the day. I survived by requesting and using accommodations when available, pacing myself, and of course, caffeine! Plus, I had good company—my pal and Hear & Beyond co-author Gael Hannan.
Technology Often Improves Accessibility
While I was primarily there for the Hearing Tech, it was fun to wander through the various expos to see what caught my eye. Everywhere I turned there was innovation, creativity, and hustle. It was energizing and inspiring.
The accessibility market was not top of mind for most of the exhibitors, but it was for me. As I took in each new product, my mind jumped to all the ways people with disabilities could use it to make their lives a little bit easier.
Here are some examples:
Astro: Alexa on wheels
Amazon’s adorable dog-like robot named Astro uses voice recognition to carry out simple commands. It can do silly things like imitating animal sounds but also potentially useful things like performing wellness checks on aging adults, babies, or family members with disabilities.
Kizik: Hands-free slip-on sneakers
Kizik’s hand-free sneakers slip on easily and do not require tying or even bending down. While not specifically targeting the accessibility market, you can see how a product like this could bring increased independence to those with dexterity or other mobility challenges.
Beauty and wellness were hot markets featuring new hairdryers, anti-aging skincare regimens, and 20-minute teeth whitening products. But what caught my eye was a computer-generated way to try out makeup without applying it to your face. Perhaps this could help those with sensory sensitivities or allergies try out a new look.
Here I am trying one of the decorative face paint options. Perhaps it is not my best look! : )
Nova: Earrings with sound
There were many headphones on display, each with its own claim of better speech enhancement or music enjoyment. But Nova caught my eye given its unique form factor. Nova are clip-on earrings designed as a headphone alternative. They stream music and because they have both a microphone and receiver in each one, they can be used for phone calls too. While not geared specifically to people with hearing loss, perhaps they could provide a fun and fashionable alternative to AirPods Pro for situational listening assistance.
Universal Design Helps Everyone
Accessibility was featured in only one small part of the many expos at CES, but I saw it everywhere. Technology that helps people with disabilities usually benefits others as well and vice versa. The future looks bright.
Readers, what is your favorite hearing tech tool?