According to the Centers for Disease Control, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition behind heart disease and arthritis. The National Institutes of Health estimates that over 28.8 million adults could benefit from hearing aids, but few actually use them due to cost, social stigma and poor performance. In a market dominated by products that make people feel as though they are less than others, Eargo combines technology and design to augment abilities and give people more control over their health.
The challenge for the design team was to shape a product experience that appeals to individuals in their 40s, 50s and 60s, baby boomers and Gen Xers who aren’t in a rush to buy traditional hearing aids but whose lives could be improved by wearing them. Besides creating a hearing aid that users wouldn’t be ashamed to wear, the goal was to design a portable charger that would be as discreet as the Eargo earbuds and would solve one of the biggest pain points when it comes to hearing aids: battery power.
Invented by an ENT surgeon with more than 30 years’ experience, Eargo earbuds are virtually invisible. They work with patented Flexi Fibers, a soft material that comfortably suspends the device in the ear without blocking natural sound from entering the ear canal. While hearing aids typically amplify sound using a small speaker, the Eargo device allows bass sounds to travel into the ear so only treble sounds need be amplified.
The design language for Eargo was inspired by consumer technology rather than medical devices. It defies the notion that hearing aids can’t be both beautiful and desirable. The portable case is multipurpose—it stores, protects, dries and charges the earbuds. Its pebble-shaped ergonomic design lends an organic premium feel with a soft-touch material that’s comfortable to hold. It’s also discreet enough to fit into a purse or pocket. The design of the inner tray was inspired by the shape of an ear, maximizing airflow so the earbuds dry while charging.
“I truly appreciated the empathy the designers practiced when developing this fresh take on assistive devices. I believe the design of this product breaks down any emotional apprehension first-time hearing aid users may have transitioning to assistive devices.”
—IDEA 2018 Jury Chair Michael Kahwaji, IDSA
Traditional hearing aids can be frustrating for users with tiny batteries and equally tiny battery doors, screws and buttons that are nearly impossible for people with low dexterity to interact with. A visit to the doctor just to change batteries or make adjustments is often required. With Eargo, the designers focused the user experience around ease and simplicity at every touchpoint. From the moment customers receive their Eargo devices, they are presented with an out-of-box experience that is as intuitive as the device itself.
The charging case is both straightforward to use and easy to handle for older adults who, in addition to hearing loss, might also have reduced agility and impaired vision. Magnets keep the lid closed, and when the case is open, LED lights inside turn on to make it easy for users to properly place the earbuds into the cradles and retrieve them.
Eargo earbuds can be worn for a full day before having to recharge. The charger doesn’t require batteries and allows users to charge their earbuds for up to a week before needing to connect them to a micro USB. The overall feeling for people using Eargo is empowerment, helping them take control of their health.
Designed by Ammunition for Eargo