Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid
August 2000 – There’s a new high quality, adjustable hearing aid that you can buy for $40. It’s not a toy, and many people prefer it over their current, expensive aid. So what’s the catch? And what does this mean for hearing aid prices? Read What Does Songbird Mean?
January 2001 – Songbird Disposable Hearing Aids Go National
September 2001 – Are you familiar with the Songbird hearing aid? It’s a disposable $39 aid that lasts 40 days. Read how it compares to other aids and what a grizzled hearing aid veteran thinks about it.
January 2005 – So what’s up with the Songbird now? It seems that a large corporation has made a big investment in Songbird, and it’s now off the market!
August 2008 – Songbird Hearing Shipping Again!
Editor: Songbird Medical will soon introduce a disposable hearing aid that costs less than $40. When the battery dies after more than a month of use, the user simply throws the hearing away and starts using a new one. Read the article below for additional information.
Two thoughts occurred to me when I read it. The first is that this is a simple and inexpensive way for people who need hearing aids to be able to try them out. That’s a good thing!!
My second thought is that they or someone else could redesign this device to make the battery accessible and sell this more traditional hearing aid for under $50. It may not perform as well as the $3000 digital marvels, but it would provide some assistance to the folks who don’t currently use hearing aids because they can’t afford them.
A company called Songbird Medical Inc. will soon introduce what they claim to be the world’s first disposable hearing aid. The Songbird (TM) is intended for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. It will be introduced in select areas of the US in the second quarter 2000, and will be available nationwide later this year.
The Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid is targeted at the aging Baby Boomers, whose lifelong exposure to loud noises has caused many to experience hearing loss. The manufacturer claims that the device is virtually invisible, comfortable, affordable, and effective. The Songbird costs $39 and lasts for 40 days, if used 12 hours a day. The battery is integral to the unit and cannot be replaced; hence the designation “disposable”.
The company provides the units in several pre-programmed prescriptions and claims that it can be fit in a single audiologist visit.
What Does Songbird Mean?
By now, you’ve probably heard of the Songbird disposable hearing aid. We did an article on it a while ago, it’s been in the hearing loss press for awhile, and it is discussed in the current issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. It’s also briefly discussed in the “Starter Hearing Help” article in this issue.
For those of you who don’t know, the Songbird is a disposable hearing aid that costs the dispenser $20 and retails for $39.
“But it’s a toy, right? I just paid a gazillion dollars for my UltraCost hearing aid. Surely this Songbird is an inexpensive piece of junk, right?”
Wrong! Sarnoff Corporation (formerly RCA Laboratories) was involved in the design. They used high-quality components that were specifically designed for the characteristics of this hearing aid.
“But it’s not adjustable, right, I mean, everyone has to use the same, fixed, program, right? My UltraCost costs 100 times as much, because it’s individually tailored to my hearing loss, right?”
Wrong again! The Songbird has nine different operating characteristics that offer varied frequency response and amplification. One of the characteristics is appropriate for the vast majority of people with mild or moderate hearing loss.
“But the sound quality can’t be nearly as good as my UltraCost, right? I mean, how good can a $39 hearing aid sound? It must sound like being in a box, right?”
Sorry, wrong again! According to initial research conducted on hearing aid users, the majority of users actually preferred the sound of the Songbird to the sound of their existing hearing aid.
So, what does Songbird mean? Does it mean that reasonably priced hearing aids have finally arrived? Unfortunately, no! The makers of Songbird are out to make as much money from your hearing loss as the makers of the UltraCost. It’s just that their marketing plan is a little different. Instead of charging you a gazillion dollars for one hearing aid, they’re going to charge you $39, but make you buy about nine of them a year – hence the term “disposable”.
They do this by building the battery in as an integral part of the hearing aid. When the battery dies, you throw the hearing aid away and buy a new one! That sounds to me like the old joke about getting a new car when the ashtray was full, and it makes about as much sense. The battery represents a tiny portion of the cost of the hearing aid; the rest of the components are perfectly good. So why did they design it that way? Because if they designed it with a replaceable battery, you wouldn’t need to buy nine of them every year! And if you only bought one of these every couple of years, and only paid $39 for it, these guys wouldn’t be raking in huge profits.
Hopefully, the way ahead is clear. Some enterprising person (I know you’re out there.) will design a similar hearing aid, but with a replaceable battery. She will sell it for a reasonable price and make a reasonable profit. And hopefully many of the people who need hearing aids and can’t now afford them, will be able to help themselves hear as much as possible.
Songbird Disposable Hearing Aids Go National
Have you seen the television ads for Songbird yet? I first saw one just a couple of days ago. We’ve been following the development of this disposable hearing aid for several months, and have published a couple of articles on it. We’re excited about this device because it provides an inexpensive way for people to try a hearing aid, and also because we’re hopeful that it will lead to a greater variety of inexpensive devices.
Songbird Hearing, Inc. just raised $45 million in private capital, and is using that money to fund their first national advertising campaign. They also intend to begin international distribution, expand their production facility, and conduct ongoing product development.
Their hearing aid costs $39. When the integrated battery dies after approximately 40 days, the user discards the hearing aid and starts using a new one.
Is the Songbird Still Singing?
Editor: We’ve been following the evolution of the Songbird hearing aid for a while now. To refresh your memory, it’s a disposable hearing aid that lasts for about 40 days and costs $39 dollars. It’s caused some real controversy in the hearing loss community. What follows is a press release from Songbird announcing that their product stacks up pretty well against much more expensive products in certain areas. Following that are some comments from Bob MacPherson of bhNEWS pointing out some of the disadvantages of the Songbird. This is all great information that everyone needs to know before making a purchase decision.
To me the real significance of the Songbird is that a company can make a reliable hearing aid that they can profitably sell for $39. So why can’t they add a replaceable battery and some minimal controls and charge $100 for a much more serviceable hearing aid that can be used for a couple of years?
Here’s the press release followed by Bob’s comments.
SOURCE: Songbird Hearing Inc.
New Research Confirms Quality of World’s First Disposable Hearing Aid Songbird(TM) Performs Well Against Competitors – Even Costly Programmable Digital and Custom-Fit Hearing Aids
Songbird Hearing Inc., maker of the world’s first disposable hearing aid, today announced that two independent studies have shown that the Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid performs equal to or better than even the most advanced traditional hearing aids. The findings were presented at the recent American Academy of Audiology’s annual conference in San Diego, Calif.
“We are extremely pleased with the results of these studies,” said Frederick J. Fritz, Songbird’s President and CEO. “This research reinforces our firm belief that Songbird, which retails for only $39 per hearing aid, offers sound quality comparable to that of the very best hearing aids in the industry.”
The first study, Technical Review of the Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid, was conducted at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, United Kingdom, by Professor Brian C.J. Moore, Dr. M.A. Stone, and Dr. J.I. Alcantara of the Department of Experimental Psychology. It was commissioned by Defeating Deafness (The Hearing Research Trust).
The study compared Songbird with four hearing aids: a typical hearing aid dispensed by the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom (NHS hearing aids are usually older technology and low in cost), a programmable analog hearing aid, and two high-quality digital hearing aids costing more than 1,500 British pounds sterling (approximately $2100 U.S.).
* Songbird provided smooth amplification over a wide range of frequencies. This means that it will be particularly helpful for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss in distinguishing words during conversation, and in locating the direction of sounds.
* Songbird’s automatic volume control system effectively protects the user from excessive loudness due to sudden increases in sound levels.
* The performance of the Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid was very consistent among the various aids tested. This means that users of Songbird will not notice a difference when it’s time to dispose of an old hearing aid and insert a new one.
* Songbird’s performance does not deteriorate near the end of its 40-day battery life. (The product has a life of 40 days when used 12 hours per day.)
A second study, Fixed vs. Custom Prescription for Precipitous Hearing Loss, was conducted by T. Walden, B. Walden, and M. Cord, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It compared Songbird to both Completely-in-Canal (CIC) and In-the-Canal (ITC) custom programmable hearing aids to determine if certain hearing losses could be fit as well with Songbird’s seven fixed acoustical formats as with a custom hearing aid.
Researchers concluded that Songbird is just as effective as a custom hearing aid for patients with certain types of hearing loss.
“The fact that Songbird performed exceptionally well in these studies against some of today’s best traditional hearing aids demonstrates a major advance in hearing aid technology. We’ve now proven that Songbird is truly a long-term solution for treating the millions of Americans, particularly baby boomers, who have mild-to- moderate hearing loss. Although they may have rejected previous traditional hearing aids, there’s no longer any reason for baby boomers to delay getting help for their hearing loss”, concludes Fritz. “The Songbird Disposable Hearing Aid’s acoustical performance was generally equal to or better than the performance of the comparison hearing aids, including the digital hearing aids.”
Songbird Hearing Inc. is a privately held company based in Cranbury, New Jersey. The company was formed in 1997 to develop a line of disposable hearing aids based on highly proprietary technologies exclusively licensed from its parent company, Sarnoff Corporation (formerly RCA Labs). The Sarnoff Corporation is widely recognized as one of the top research centers in the United States.
Bob’s Comments: This PR from Songbird is enough to make any HA (hearing aid) user take note! However, I just really don’t believe all of it, despite the sheep-skinned researchers that were quoted. The Songbird is finding a place in HL (hearing loss) restoration, and will perhaps bring new relief to many Americans previously “closed out” due to financial considerations, or other reasons.
Before you throw out those hi-tech aids, however, consider what this “overpuffed” PR writer conveniently forgot to tell you:
1. The Sonbird, as an analog instrument, is incapable of multi-channel processing, with each tailored to ones unique audiogram.
2. Obviously, the Songbird lacks the possibility of multiple programs for varying listening environments, controlled by a remote control.
3. Dual microphone technology, the new wave for localizing a sound in noisy environments is not to be dreamed of in the Songbird.
4. Perhaps most important, for many except those with a mild loss, is the lack of a T Coil. Thus the most beneficial features of most ALDs are ruled out. To say nothing of losing the vast benefits of hearing the dratted phone via the T Coil.
a. The Songbird is great idea, one long overdue in the overall scheme of HL restoration to the masses.
b. It is NOT the Holy Grail for the deaf/hoh by a long shot however, as delineated above.
What’s Up with the Songbird Hearing Aid
For those who are not familiar with the Songbird hearing aid, it created quite a stir when it was introduced several years ago. Costing only $30 or $40 dollars, it delivered good quality sound at a great price to people with “normal” mild or moderate hearing loss. The downside was that the battery was only good for about a month and was not replaceable. So a user had to buy a new hearing aid every month.
I’ve heard good reports from several Songbird users. Some used it to determine if a hearing aid would help them, and if they would like it. Others used them in place of a regular hearing aid, but replaced them once a month or so.
Now, it seems that the Songbirds will no longer be available. Here’s the notice from their website (http://www.songbirdhearing.com)
Songbird 400 Hour Digital Disposable Hearing Aids
Effective Monday, November 15th, Songbird Hearing, Inc. no longer offers the Songbird 400 Hour digital disposable hearing aid.
Current Songbird 400 Hour users: If you need customer support please send an email to CustomerService@SongbirdHearing.com, or call Customer Service at 800-789-1830 between 8 AM and 8 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
Effective Monday, January 31st, Songbird Hearing, Inc. will no longer offer Songbird Pro disposable hearing aids.
Thank you, Songbird Hearing, Inc.
So what’s up with that? Hard to say, but it appears that a large consumer product company made a significant investment in Songbird in November 2004. That may have something to do with removing the Songbird from the market. Here’s a notice from the website of the Prism Venture Partners (http://www.prismventure.com/portfolio/lifescience.asp), one of the founders of Songbird.
Songbird Hearing is a consumer health company with a unique hearing care platform. The company’s flagship product, the Songbird 400 Hour Digital Hearing Aid, is the world’s first disposable hearing aid, which can be fit without a hearing exam. The platform meets the needs of one of the most underserved markets in consumer health by correcting mild to moderate hearing loss so simply that consumers are empowered to make their own decisions. Songbird 400 Hour is easy to own, requiring no battery changes, professional maintenance or repairs. In 2004, the company validated consumer demand and succeeded in creating large-scale retail sales. A major investment in late November 2004 by one of the world’s largest consumer product companies has validated this opportunity. This investment is expected to result in a more defined consumer strategy, a larger overall market opportunity, as well as a future re-launch. Prism Venture Partners founded Songbird in collaboration with Sarnoff Corporation.
Don’t you love a good mystery? If anyone knows anything about this situation, I’d love to hear about it.
Thanks to bhNEWS for the lead on this story.
Songbird Hearing Shipping Again!
You may recall the Songbird Hearing Aid from several years ago. It was a disposable digital aid that sold for about $40, if I remember right, and folks who had used it reported that it was really quite good. The interesting thing about this aid is that the battery could not be replaced. So when the battery died, one simply discarded the hearing aid and got another one. I could never understand why some enterprising person didn’t look at that and realize that this meant they could design a similar aid, but incorporate a replaceable battery, sell it for around $100, and make a very nice profit!
Anyway, the Songbird went the way of the dinosaur.
But wait! It’s back! Now they have one of the mini-BTEs that’s all the rage among the boomers, and it sells for about $80. It still has a non-disposable battery, so one discards it when the battery dies.
Hey, wait a minute! Maybe I could design a similar hearing aid, include a replaceable battery, sell it for, say $150, and . . . . .
More information on the OLD Songbird is available at http://www.hearinglossweb.com/res/ha/in/sgbd.htm
For information on the new one, or to order one, please point your browser to: http://www.songbirdhearing.com/