tens of millions of people around the world who need hearing aids but don't
wear them. The reasons are many — including stigma, cost and lack of awareness
of where to get help. Even though the hearing aid market has great potential,
it takes the average hearing impaired person almost seven years from the time
where a hearing aid could provide benefit until an actual purchase is made.
Hearing Technologies and Karten Design tackled the hearing aid stigma by
introducing Halo™, a Made for iPhone® hearing aid engineered to
coexist with the iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch®.
Starkey Hearing Technologies' superior hearing technology with the Apple iOS to
deliver a seamless hearing experience for people with hearing loss. It works
with the TruLink™ Hearing Control app (available for free in the App
Store) to stream phone calls, music, and even Siri® directly into a
wearer's hearing aids. Using the SoundSpace™ feature, users can easily
fine-tune volume and tone settings from their iPhone based on their current
real-time environment, giving them more control over their hearing experience and
reducing visits to the audiologist for tune-ups.
By leveraging the Apple
brand and a sleek design language, Halo elevates
the hearing aid to a new level of "cool," appealing
to today's tech-savvy consumer. Through color,
texture, form, and strategic interaction design informed by years of user
research, Halo disassociates hearing aids from traditionally negative
stereotypes of age, disability and weakness, encouraging earlier and more
effective treatment of hearing loss.
Karsten Jensen, Starkey Hearing Technologies
Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey Hearing Technologies
Tim Trine, Starkey Hearing Technologies
Jeff Bentzler, Karten Design
Eric Olson, Karten Design
Stuart Karten, Karten Design
challenge with this project was to encourage patients to get hearing aids
sooner, which benefits them in a number of ways. Research by Frank Lin, M.D.,
and colleagues in 2013 found that more people with hearing loss experience
dementia than those without hearing loss. While there is not a causative link
between hearing loss and dementia, hearing loss can cause changes to the brain
and provide long-term serious consequences to healthy brain functions. The
ability to address hearing loss earlier in adults will have a significant
impact on their cognitive ability later in life. Hearing loss has also been
related to reduced quality of life, isolation, depression, reduced social
activity and more difficult communication in relationships. Hearing aids can
help prevent this, enabling patients the ability to process sounds and keep
them connected to the world around them. Keeping this in mind, designers set
out to develop and design an iPhone-compatible hearing aid that would capture
the interest of a slightly younger demographic with hearing loss (and, ultimately,
help improve their long-term hearing/health by encouraging them to seek help
overcame several design and engineering challenges throughout the development
Physically fit all the electronics required—including the industry's
longest-lasting battery—in a small, aesthetically pleasing package that would
fit discreetly behind the ear of a hearing impaired patient.
Solution: Engineers and designers utilized
every square millimeter in the most efficient manner possible. Hardware and
software engineers fine-tuned communication protocols to make a coin battery
last over a week with continuous use.
Challenge: Provide consistent sound quality
in various, ever-changing complex sound environments.
Solution: Engineers strategically spaced microphone
ports to provide optimal directional performance, giving users unparalleled spatial
awareness to better distinguish where sounds are originating. The geometry of Halo
is rounded so as to eliminate "case noise" caused by hair or skin rubbing over
the edges of the device, which can create unpleasant flicking noises in users'
Challenge: Hearing aid users are often an
older demographic and suffer from limited dexterity and tactile feeling in
their fingertips, making hearing aid operation more difficult.
Solution: Designers removed physical
controls from the Halo device, eliminating the need for users to search for
tiny buttons and hard-to-reach controls used in other devices. A finger-pick
battery door allows users to easily remove and replace the battery by hand.
Challenge: As a body-worn
device, the hearing aid is susceptible to damage from ingress.
Solution: Halo was engineered
using materials, techniques, and processes that provide maximum durability. The
device is coated with a proprietary HydraShield2 nanocoating that
repels water and earwax, as well as custom-formulated paint developed to
withstand heat, moisture, buildup from wax, hairspray and friction from contact
with skin and hair.
Product Features & User Benefits:
an intuitive, discreet design that helps overcome the stigma of hearing aids,
and features that enable superior hearing in any sonic environment, Halo empowers
today's tech-savvy user and encourages people with hearing loss to get help
conjunction with the Trulink Hearing Control app, Halo provides an
unprecedented level of integration with iOS devices, helping patients engage
with their hearing aids and adapt to a new world of hearing:
--Until Made for iPhone hearing
instruments like Halo, all other wireless hearing aid products on the market
required another body-worn or carried device to serve as an intermediary to
connect to a smartphone. Halo and TruLink now seamlessly integrate patients'
hearing aids to their worlds without burdening them with more hardware.
--SoundSpace allows a patient to use
an iPhone to modify hearing settings to better suit a particular environment or
scenario. For example, the patient can adjust the settings within his or her
favorite restaurant to maximize sound quality for the acoustics of that
specific space. The patient can then geotag and save this memory using built-in
GPS system of the iPhone. The hearing aids automatically change to that
optimized setting whenever the patient returns to that location.
--The Remote Control allows patients
to easily change volume and switch memories on their hearing aids with a touch
of an iPhone. Because both are adjusted via a visual indicator bar, patients
have better control and nearly infinite levels to suit their preferences,
reducing visits to the hearing care professional.
--TruLink Adaptive Car Mode
automatically detects when a patient is in a car, reducing the annoying sounds
of driving and enhancing the patient's "audio" driving experience.
--Find My Hearing Aid shows a location
and time stamp of where the hearing aid was last on. A signal detector shows a
stronger and weaker signal as the patient moves toward or away from the hearing
to connecting to iOS devices, Halo provides a standalone, complete solution for
hearing impairment by offering high-quality hearing aid features:
--Best-in-class feedback cancellation
system, which identifies, classifies and eliminates annoying whistling and
buzzing in all environments.
--A robust noise reduction and speech
preservation system, helping the hearing aids optimize speech clarity in any
environment. It classifies inputs every six milliseconds and adapts every 20
milliseconds to diminish noise between syllables.
--Frequency lowering engineered to
enhance real-time audibility by intelligently identifying high-frequency speech
cues and replicating them in lower frequencies where they're easier to
--Some people who wear hearing aids hear a buzzing
sound when using their cellphones due to radio frequency interference.
Halo allows direct-from the-iPhone streaming of phone calls, music and
media — so patients can easily understand conversations during phone calls
--The Halo's TruLink Technology extends the
bandwidth and doubles the dynamic range of other wireless platforms,
resulting in pristine sound and uncompromised signal even in crowded
--TruLink and SoundSpace enable patients to easily
fine-tune sound settings based on their current real-world environment.
Instead of fumbling with small control settings on the outside of the
hearing instrument, patients can discreetly adjust frequency and tone by
simply moving their finger on their screen. As patients move their finger
around the blank screen, the settings in their hearing aid(s) will
temporarily change so they can listen to a variety of options. Users can
adjust 64 different hearing aid parameters in real-time to match specific
environments. This extension helps drive patient engagement, faster
acceptance, and increased user satisfaction.
--ISO Compression allows for independent control
of soft, moderate and loud-level speech to provide more nuanced sound
quality for speech.
--Voice iQ2 technology helps patients zero in on
what's being said and block out background noises. It is the first digital
noise reduction algorithm proven to significantly improve acceptance of
noise in a background of speech babble.
While Halo is virtually invisible when worn behind the ear, designers also explored colors and materials that aren't so invisible — for
example, providing black/silver and white/silver color options that match
available iPhone colors to reinforce the perception that Halo is consistent
with today's latest technology. Being able to connect directly with the iPhone encourages
consumers with untreated hearing loss to seek out help at a higher rate and
sooner than they would otherwise.
hearing aid patients readily acknowledge that they don't want others to know
they use hearing aids. Frequent touching and interaction with their hearing
aids can contribute to feelings of embarrassment, shame, and anxiety in social
situations. Designers responded by incorporating features—such as a longer
lasting battery (7-9 days of full functionality, versus the industry standard
of 3-6 days), fewer controls on the outside of the Halo's hearing instrument,
and automatic sound adjusting—that lessen physical interaction with the device,
giving users the freedom to communicate and engage with others in confidence.
Materials & Components:
aid has two main components: the external housing and the internal components. The
external housing's casing is molded from Grilamid, a biocompatible, wear-tested
resin. Parts are fitted tightly together to protect against moisture
The Halo's internal
components feature proprietary flex circuitry and antennae design developed in
collaboration with Apple, enabling the device to incorporate 2.4GHz Bluetooth Low
Energy (BLE) technology. Nylon variants were used for the plastics.
Halo won a
Red Dot award and has received coverage in national publications including New York Times, NBC's Today Show, The Atlantic, San Francisco Chronicle,
re/code, Information Week and USA Today.
Halo have exceeded original forecasts, and feedback from both hearing
professionals and consumers has been overwhelmingly positive. Starkey Hearing
Technologies has over 40 mobile apps in the iTunes App Store, and downloads
have doubled with the release of Halo/TruLink.
Tried to move the category forward in a slightly more consumer electronics fashion, make it a little bit more of a simple design statement.
It's a lot less cluttered because it's an app driven product...Allows for more customization for users...We really like the integration with the app...Gave a hearing aid a high tech feel to it with the aesthetic - which is a challenge and I think they did a great job with it...The simplicity is evident in every little detail.