Some 466 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization, roughly 5% of the world population. The number is expected to grow to over 900 million by 2050. Around 70-100 million are in China. With fewer than a thousand trained audiologists for 1.3 billion people and an expensive, an imported business model for selling hearing devices has meant that getting help even in big cities is difficult.

Help could come from the US. A Chinese-backed US hearing aid company has successfully lobbied for a change to regulations which allows the company’s devices to be sold directly to the consumer along with self-testing kits. The hearing aids can be calibrated by the user or remotely by trained staff. This is already side-stepping the need to see an expensive series of audiologists to get help in the US.

Being able to tackle hearing issues independently could be something of a revolution worldwide for people suffering from disabling hearing loss. The company that has developed the self-testing and cheap device platform, iHear, is trialing the format in the US before targeting China and then Japan.

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...