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
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.
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.
Unitron’s Flex Hearing Aids Let New Users Find Out Right Away What Hearing Enhancement Can Do For Them
Unitron’s new Flex hearing aids will make it easier for first-time customers to immediately discover the benefits of hearing enhancement. The Flex:trial hearing aids can be programmed to replicate a very broad range of sound profiles addressed by multiple models in Unitron’s broad product line.
Unitron will stock audiologists and authorized fitters with Flex:trial devices which can be programmed immediately after patients get their hearing tests, so the customer can go home with fully programmed digital hearing aids immediately after the first office visit.
The usual process takes longer, with the hearing test results dictating the right choice of hearing aids, the audiologist ordering the devices, and then scheduling a second meeting with the patient to try on the new hearing aids. Read more
New Quest Hearing Aid Sound Processing System From Phonak Improves Speech Comprehension In Noisy Environments
Phonak has introduced new Quest sound processing software to take further advantage of the wireless communication capabilities of its high-end hearing aids, with new algorithms that make it easier to hear in noise, on the telephone, in crowded rooms, in situations where the speaker is off to one side or behind the listener, and in wind. Initially available in its new Phonak Bolero Q and Virto Q hearing aid families introduced this week at the EUHA Congress in Frankfurt, the company claims its “Binaural VoiceStream Technology” automatically delivers up to 45 percent improvement in speech intelligibility in certain challenging listening environments.
According to a technical paper on VoiceStream technology published by Phonak, the new algorithms enhance the wireless collaboration between two hearing aids, which make joint decisions on where to aim their directional microphones, on which background noises to suppress, and on how to amplify telephone signals that flow directly into both hearing aids. Read more
New Siemens Micon Technology Platform Doubles The Processing Power In Its Most Popular Hearing Aid Models
Siemens Hearing Instruments, Inc. introduced its next-generation Micon technology platform, driven by a microprocessor chip with twice the power of previous Siemens hearing-aid sound processing systems. The new processor executes 250 million instructions per second, enabling 48 channels of amplification in Siemens hearing aids.
The Micon technology is integrated in the new Siemens Ace hearing-aid family as well as new versions of the current Siemens Pure, Life and Aquaris hearing aid families introduced at the 57th International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians 2012 (EUHA) in Frankfurt this week. Read more
Unitron Max Super Power Hearing Aids Use Automatic Gain Reduction To Protect Against Over-Amplification
New Unitron Max Super-Power hearing aids address one of the biggest dangers people with severe-to-profound hearing loss face — the temptation to turn up the volume to catch conversations in noisy settings to levels that can damage your hearing. Unitron Max is the first super power hearing instrument on the market with a Power Adaptation Manager that automatically moderates over-amplification while continuing to maximize speech intelligibility.
Over-amplification is a bigger concern than you might think. I find myself constantly turning up my hearing aids to follow conversations, even when the over-amplification of very noisy ambient sound bothers my ears. Worse, I’ll often forget to turn the volume down long after I need the extra boost. I’ve also been guilty of badgering my fitter for even more gain to let me tune into other people’s voices — even when I know that too much amplification can further degrade the hearing that I still do have. Read more
New Verso Hearing Aid Family Adds Wireless Binaural Communication To ReSound’s High-End Sound Processing Platform
With its new Verso hearing aid family, ReSound has joined other leading global hearing aid brands in delivering binaural sound processing for more natural hearing.
Also integrating ReSound’s advanced 2.4 gigahertz wireless digital audio streaming technology, which transmits audio from your TV, stereo system, or external microphones through the air directly into your hearing aids, the Verso family is a contender for leadership in bells-and-whistles features at the high end of the hearing aid market.
The ReSound Verso’s “binaural fusion” technology features wireless ear-to-ear (“e2e”) communication between the hearing aids. The technology “leverages both hearing instruments to work as one synchronized system, delivering outstanding speech understanding in noise and providing the most natural sound experience of any other ReSound instrument.” Read more