A new study from Juniper Research (www.juniperresearch.com) finds that there will be more than 285 million ear-based wearables or “hearables” used in 2022, a nearly sevenfold increase over the 43 million expected to be in use by the end of 2017.
The research found that the growing trend for wireless audio, accelerated by smartphone original equipment manufacturers removing the 3.5mm headphone jack, is pushing the average price of headphones up, reducing the price gap between headphones and hearables. Multimedia hearables (hearables focused on providing audio) will be the leading category, comprising over 50% of hearables used throughout the forecast period. These will be a key platform for digital assistants, with over 80% having a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa.
Juniper expects large tech firms like Apple and Google to dominate this category, but new entrants like NuHeara and Nuraphone will gain some share while the market is still nascent. While attention is currently focused on audio and fitness hearables, assistive hearables, which amplify or adjust what the user hears, will generate the most revenue due to the high price of medical hearables, which is typically over $1,500.
However, Juniper expects this to drop sharply due to competition from OTC (over the counter) hearing aids and devices like Bose’s Hearphones, which promise hearing enhancement instead of explicitly medical hearing correction. Juniper forecasts more than 100 million people to use assistive hearables in 2022, helped in the US by the passage of the OTC Hearing Aid Act.
“While the hearables category began in fitness, it is now much broader,” says research author James Moar. “Being able to adjust your hearing appeals to many more people, and will ultimately destigmatise hearing aids and enrich the lives of many with hearing loss.”