Take It From The Hearing Aid Makers: Without Great Design, ‘Wearable Computing’ Products Will Go Nowhere
Google is stoking up the PR for Google Glass, its still-in-development “wearable computing” project that will let you view the web all day long through a tiny computer monitor attached to a pair of high-tech eyeglasses. But like many other tech companies that try to make consumer products, Google is struggling mightily in the design department. It’s time they took a closer look at the world’s first wearable computers, hearing aids.
In spite of Google founder Sergei Brin bending Diane von Furstenberg’s arm to have her models wear them on the runway, the reviews of the early versions of Google Glass are in, and they are not promising. The consensus among everyone from Seventh Avenue fashionistas to pork pie hat-wearing hipsters is that they are too big, too unattractive and simply too, um, geeky to become anyone’s next big thing.
Google and other companies developing wearable computing devices (including, no surprise, Apple) should talk to Stuart Karten, who designed Starkey’s award-winning S-Series hearing aid, or the marketing team at Phonak, which has been pushing the envelope on edgy hearing-aid marketing for years. While the hearing aid industry hasn’t cracked the code on making their products cool consumer items, they’ve come light years from where they used to be. Read more
Dow Jones is reporting that Siemens, the giant diversified global technology company, once again is considering selling off its Siemens Hearing Instruments business.
The sale of one of the world’s six biggest hearing aid manufacturers could represent a tectonic shift in a global hearing aid industry that has been struggling to achieve higher growth rates in a world where millions of people with hearing loss need hearing aids but don’t have them. Read more
I’ve only read the first hundred pages. But so far, Katherine Bouton’s book, Shouting Won’t Help…Why I–and 50 Million Other Americans–Can’t Hear You, has been like an out-of-body experience. It’s as if someone who was living in my head for the past ten years finally escaped and wrote a book about the experience of being me.
This book is a MUST READ for anyone with hearing loss, and ESPECIALLY for anyone living with someone with hearing loss.
Katherine Bouton lived for years with severe hearing loss but kept it to herself. The cycle she describes of denial, depression, isolation, anger and denial again — before ultimately finding her way to acceptance — will be familiar to all who have lived through it. And because she was a writer and editor for The New Yorker and The New York Times for more than 25 years, she knows how to tell her story and all the facts that go along with it in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand. Do I dare say that it’s even entertaining?
I’ll write more about Shouting Won’t Help once I’ve finished it. In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from the introduction that sums up so much of the experience of hearing loss:
It was only when I lost my hearing that I became aware of how important hearing is in establishing one’s sense of place. Hearing anchors you in the world. It puts you at the center of a multidimensional universe. We hear things behind us, above us; we hear our stomachs rumble and our hearts beat. We hear in the dark; we hear in a cave or windowless cell. We hear in our sleep. Sometimes we hear in a coma. Babies hear in the womb. We hear as we breathe–effortlessly–until we can’t.
Helen Keller famously said that she regarded deafness as “a much worse misfortune” than blindness, because it cut the sufferer off from “the intellectual company of man.” She would have been amazed and grateful to have the amount of hearing I have, with all my technology. But even with hearing aids and cochlear implants and other hearing-assistive technology, hearing-impaired people still often feel cut off.
It’s exhausting to work so hard to hear. It takes a toll on your cognitive ability. But the longer I live and hear with my devices, the more grateful I am to have them, and the more confidence I have to try new things that I would have avoided during the early years of the severe phase of my loss. Hearing impairment will always be an impediment, but it no longer defines me. I’ve stopped thinking of myself as hearing impaired, and started thinking of myself as someone with a hearing impairment….
–Katherine Bouton, Shouting Won’t Help
Tinnitus Treatments Present A Great Opportunity For Audiologists And Hearing Aid Makers To Reach More People In Need
Today’s announcement by ReSound that it will become the preferred hearing aid provider to the Tinnitus Practitioners Association (TPA) reminded me of an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in a number of my over-50 friends.
These guys (yes, they are usually guys) wouldn’t be caught dead being treated for their very normal age-related hearing loss, but they run right to the audiologist at the first sign of tinnitus-related ringing, hissing, humming, whooshing or other unwanted sounds in their ears. They must somehow reason that while noise in their ears is a diagnosable medical problem, hearing loss is just a sign of old age that may end up requiring them to wear–horror of horrors–hearing aids.
Even more interesting is that when they come home from the audiologist, they often are wearing tinnitus-treatment devices in their ears that look suspiciously like, yes, hearing aids. But I guess if you wear something in your ear to treat your tinnitus then there’s no stigma, even if it looks exactly like a hearing aid that you would never, ever want to be seen wearing.
In fact, sound-generating tinnitus-masking devices are kissing cousins of hearing aids. Instead of amplifying sounds, they create their own sounds to compete with the noises in the user’s ear. But it’s a short leap from there to an identical looking device that also has microphones and a chip to process environmental sound. That’s why premium hearing aid manufacturers are starting to integrate tinnitus-masking features directly into their hearing aids. Read more
We’ve just completed a new, updated chart listing the flagship brands of the world’s leading hearing aid companies. The chart tries to bring a little bit of simplicity to the confusion surrounding the purchase of new hearing aids. With dozens of brands and hundreds of products out there, it’s helpful to know which hearing aids are the most commonly sold by audiologists. And, with only a handful of multinational companies accounting for a large majority of global hearing-aid sales, it’s also important to know which companies are behind each of the brands you may be thinking about buying. So click on the following link to get to the list, which you can also access from the drop-down menu on the navigation under Products->Hearing Aids->Premium Hearing Aids.
Product Update: Phonak Bolero and Virto Hearing Aids Use Wireless Binaural Sound Processing To Improve Speech Comprehension
Phonak’s new Bolero Q behind-the-ear (BTE) and Virto Q in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid families are a good example of how next-generation wireless binaural sound processing technology is starting to deliver real speech-comprehension improvements in challenging listening environments.
Phonak’s new Quest technology platform leverages a new high-performance digital signal processor to reduce wind interference as well as improve speech comprehension in noise.
Phonak says its autoStereoZoom feature delivers a 3 decibel improvement in signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in an improvement in speech intelligibility of up to 45 percent (click on the video at right for a demonstration). Phonak adds the Speech in Wind function has delivered measurable improvements in speech intelligibility of up to 40 percent. Read more
Product Review: Sony’s Entertainment Access Glasses Are A Closed Caption Dream Come True For Hard-Of-Hearing Movie Theater Patrons
I’ve got a Regal Theaters movie complex near my home, and last night I finally got to try out Sony’s new Entertainment Access Glasses. Magically projecting holographic text captions right in front of my eyes, where they appeared to be embedded at the bottom of the screen, the Sony glasses were a closed-caption dream come true.
Regal Entertainment Group, the giant movie chain with more than 500 theaters and 47,000 screens, announced last spring it would put the Access Glasses into all its theaters. In the complex near my home it has certainly made good on that promise, with the captioning system available for every movie it was showing. Read more
Widex scored a PR coup today with a CNN report on its advanced manufacturing technology used for its in-the-ear hearing aids.
The on-air report (right) shows how Widex’s proprietary CAMISHA process — Computer Aided Manufacturing of Individual Shells for Hearing Aids — produces the tiny invisible in-the-canal (IIC) shells for its mind and Menu hearing aid models.
3D-print technologies are revolutionizing the world of manufacturing, dramatically reducing the time and cost of producing custom products to extremely demanding specifications. The Widex CAMISHA 3D-print manufacturing technology works from a digital scan of a patient’s ear mold impression to automatically produce a plastic shell for the tiny hearing aid. If you scroll to the 1:30 mark in the CNN video, you will get a rare glimpse of 3D printing at work.
Click here ro read more from CNN about the Widex CAMISHA 3D-print manufacturing technology.