Noise-Canceling Earplugs Amplify 2 Market Trends
Our latest new product example is Loop earplugs, a soft silicone product that claims to filter out background noise while leaving speech or music perfectly audible. They are designed in fun colors, ideally unobtrusive yet stylish. This new product example combines two recent trends in the US market: a rise in ADHD diagnoses, and a rise in the use of airpods and other in-ear headphones as a typical accessory. Products like Loop earplugs respond to both of these trends.
New Product Example:
ADHD Diagnoses on the Rise
First, let’s discuss the rise in ADHD diagnoses and its importance to this new product example. According to CNBC news:
“ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions have been increasing across all age groups since before the days of social media.”
It’s to the point where access to medication for these conditions is becoming more difficult due to the increased demand. An article in Missouri Medicine explores the causes of the increased diagnostic rates, concluding that they are due to:
“changing diagnostic criteria and increasing awareness of the disorder in marginalized populations, especially individuals of color and females.”
It’s important to note that the increase is not due to people faking symptoms, even though there has been concern over this in the media.
In general, social media has been linked to increased awareness of many different neurodevelopmental conditions, and an increased acceptance of what some advocates term “neurodiversity.” For example, a student writing for The Harvard Crimson recounts her experience with TikTok and neurodiversity, writing:
“I’ll be the first to admit that the app was my introduction to the neurodiversity movement and broader disability justice.”
This first-hand account demonstrates the way that popularity of these social media websites and their facilitation of the dissemination of first-hand experience with mental health conditions is creating a buzz around mental health that inevitably creates a market for new products.
Savvy companies are jumping on these trends to create new technologies that respond to the needs of people with various mental differences. With more and more people diagnosed with conditions associated with sensory issues, and more and more public awareness of neurodivergence, more and more products are being created to meet this demand. For example, see my recent innovation strategy article on Focusmate, a website that uses body-doubling as a technique to help people who struggle with executive functioning to get down to work. Another example is Loop, my new product example this week.
Loop earplugs respond to this trend of increased mental health awareness by marketing themselves as a solution for anxiety. This is most evident on its page about noise sensitivity, where the brand lists two of their models as being appropriate for individuals with noise sensitivity related to misophonia, ADHD, or autism. People with ADHD in particular can sometimes struggle with filtering out noises, and those with conditions like noise sensitivity or misophonia can find their mood very negatively affected by loud or annoying sounds. Loop is capitalizing on the increased awareness of all of these conditions with this new product example.
New Product Example:
Everyone Can Benefit from Adaptive Technologies
Of course, the broader public can also benefit from these technologies, as is often the case with adaptive technology for disability. Indeed, see Insight to Action’s recent growth strategy article on the way accessible video games can be a long-term growth strategy for the video games industry, both for disabled gamers and the general public. Accessible technology can benefit everyone.
Similarly, Loop does market itself as a solution for the more general public, for example appealing to teachers and students by offering discounts for both of these groups. Who wouldn’t like to be able to hear their teacher clearly, while better tuning out the student clicking his pen at the next desk? These products offer focus and calm in many circumstances. Loop and similar earplugs are therefore a new product example of where innovation driven by diversity can benefit everyone.
New Product Example:
Consumers are Accustomed to Wearing Earbuds
Another market trend on which the new product example of Loop earplugs draws is the rise of the in-ear headphone worn continuously. According to an analysis by Mordor Intelligence,
“The Earbuds Market was estimated at USD 13.1 billion in 2021 and is expected to register a CAGR of over 25% during the forecast period, 2022-2027.”
In particular, Apple’s AirPods have broken new ground in the earbuds market by being something of a fashion accessory. An article in the Guardian notes:
“somehow, the £159-a-pair little pods have transformed into a bona fide status symbol. Diana Ross has a pair, Kristen Stewart wears them and a woman in Virginia has even started a cottage industry by turning them into earrings for people (which does solve the problem of inevitably losing them).”
While Medium attributes the popularity of the airpods as a fashion statement to “the loyalty of Apple’s faithful” as opposed to the intrinsic visual appeal of the products themselves, nonetheless AirPods and their competitors have normalized continuous wearing of a device within the ear, to the point where many people do not take out their airpods in most circumstances. This is partially due to their fashion appeal, and also perhaps partially due to the fact that AirPods do more or less function as earplugs, and they can play music to drown out distracting noises. Therefore, they serve some of the functions that Loop wishes to serve.
However, earbuds also have significant downsides. You need to keep them charged and paired with a phone or other device, leaving you tethered to the device and open to distraction. This solution does not work well if you primarily seek a technology that can help with ADHD, for example. Furthermore, continuous use of an in-ear headphone is not good for hearing. For example, an article in the journal Medicine found:
“adolescents who were exposed to high noise levels via headphones in a noisy environment had a hearing loss prevalence of 22.6% and adolescents who used earphones 80 minutes or more per day on average had the hearing loss prevalence of 22.3%.”
Those numbers speak for themselves. Therefore, while AirPods may have made wearing something in the ear fashionable, and may have accustomed people to not having to deal with some of the more annoyingly noisy aspects of daily life, they are not a viable long-term solution, especially for those who need some way to block out external noises and therefore might turn to loud music.
New Product Example:
Loop is All of the Noise-Canceling with None of the Hearing Loss
Our new product example of Loop earplugs solves this problem and fills this niche in the market created by earbuds. Loop earplugs are a more suitable new product for this sort of continuous wear than more traditional earplugs because of their unique technological design. In this new product example, Loop earplugs work by going in the ear canal and actually creating another passage for sound to flow through, and then using filters that reduce either all frequencies equally, or reduce specific frequencies and leave others (for example, some of their earplugs are designed to leave the frequencies of speech louder). They are also made of soft silicone, and usually brightly colored, yet unobtrusive in the ear.
This fills the same accessory function as the AirPod, though perhaps a bit more subtly. Loop themselves claim that their product is superior on “sound, looks, comfort and price,” and two out of the four of these factors (looks and comfort) attest to the suitability of the product for the sort of long-term wear that AirPods have popularized.
Overall, Loop earplugs are a new product example that draws on two market trends:
- increased awareness of neurodivergence and demand for products that help accommodate mental health needs
- the normalization of in-ear accessories as created by the AirPod
Insight to Action helps you understand the market trends that might influence your new products and develop a marketing strategy for your business. For more examples of new products, as well as information on market segmentation, long-term growth strategies, market trends, and more, please visit our resources page, or sign up for our newsletter. To speak to a member of our team, you can also visit our office hours.