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Ask Slashdot: Hearing Aids That Directly Connect To Smart Phones?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the all-the-better-to-hear-you dept.

Medicine 183

mtcups writes "I am a musician/IT guy whose hearing has suffered from VERY LOUD guitar players, (yes I do use earplugs now, but too late), and am faced with the outrageously priced hearing aids $4.5K+/pair and was appalled at their lack of integration with smart phones. It seems obvious to me that I should be able to control the hearing aids via a smart phone interface so I can shape the profile for different environments, and also control features like 'hearing loops' and Bluetooth connections. I have done some research, but my guess is that the hearing aid companies want proprietary systems and don't want a smartphone interface since they would loose control and it would allow for competition for cheaper & better programs. I am not convinced that a combination of good ear-buds, good microphone(s), and a smartphone interface couldn't totally replace these overpriced solutions."

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They exist.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396311)

I have several friends with hearing loss that have them. Frequently they have an interface box that connects to the phone with Bluetooth, and the hearing aids via, something else. Didn't pay further attention to it other than it being a small cool bit of hardware.

Re:They exist.... (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 2 years ago | (#41396437)

Searching the web produces some alternatives, and not all are that expensive.

So it may be a good idea to shop around - and also look at sites that aren't specific for the English-speaking, like some sites in Scandinavia where the hearing aids can be priced more reasonably.

The catch is that you should always tune the aid to suit your specific hearing condition.

Re:They exist.... (2)

Another, completely (812244) | about 2 years ago | (#41396887)

Gennum corporation made hearing aids for a long time, and decided five or six years ago that their technology could be transferred to making Bluetooth headsets. They had a product called nxZEN (great headsets for noisy environments), but searching for references shows that the company was bought by Samtech in March of this year, and I don't see any references to either nxZEN or hearing aids on the Samtech site.

Anyhow, the idea must have occurred to them at some point, but I can't find a reference. Especially now with the Bluetooth Low Energy, it shouldn't have any real impact on the hearing aid battery (for control, that is, using your hearing aid as a telephone headset would need a regular Bluetooth connection, which would start affecting battery life).

Re:They exist.... (2)

gmack (197796) | about 2 years ago | (#41397225)

Just found one on
Aliexpress [aliexpress.com]

old tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396329)

Didn't Nokia phones have T-loop integration on the 90s and 00s? What happened to it?

Fully agree.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396345)

I use Siemens headsets which utilize a propriarety low energy radio signal to communicate with each other and a separate bluetooth gateway. I was told that Bluetooth drains too much energy from the small batteries so thay had to choose the gateway approach.

I also agree with you: te lack of being able to configure the audio characteristics yourself with a Smartphone is disturbing. Probably the market for tech enthusiasts that wear hearing aids is too small :-(

Re:Fully agree.. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396503)

I guess the vast majority of people in need of a hearing aid is old enough to have spent the most time of their life without mobile phones at all, let alone smartphones, and are thus not very interested in smartphones in general, or in smartphone-controlled hearing aids specifically. Add to that the security implications of such an interface (imagine someone hacking your smartphone and then disabling your hearing aid in a critical moment so you can't hear something specific — more importantly for the hearing aid producer, you might sue them afterwards), and probably complex procedures of getting them approved (I'm pretty sure hearing aids count as medical devices), there's likely not much motivation for the producers to offer it.

Re:Fully agree.. (5, Informative)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41397111)

I use Phonak hearing aids, they have an external Bluetooth gateway called iCom which is an small box with an induction loop you have to wear as a necklace. The sound quality is very good when using the phone and both hearing aids are in usage when using the Bluetooth link. This is a big plus in my case since my capability to decipher the spoken language increase significantly when using both ears vs any single ear.

As mentioned, the reason the external box is required (in fact it is almost a battery only) is the required power would drain your hearing aids batteries very quickly if you have to power the Bluetooth chip.

However, with the new BT v4 low-power for medical devices, it is likely this will change in the few next years as the manufacturer will incorporate the new BT chip and convert to the new standard.

The necklace type gateways are better than nothing, however the design could have been much better. In the case the Phonak device, the material the wire was covered with harden with the time and eventually the wire simply break by lack of flexibility at the junction with the plug. I had to replace it at least once a year and the replacement cannot be done by the customer, that means you have to send the box to the company and be deprived of it for about a week. This should have been made field replaceable. At least the audioprothesist could have done the replacement without delay.

Re:Fully agree.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41398155)

I also have the Phonak and iCom. love it. nuisance to wear but the sound quality is beyond anything I've ever had. interfaces with my work phone using a bluetooth setup on work phone. am lost at work when I rush out of house and forget it at home. I have been using the system for several years. Have had no problem with antenna. However have had issues with the hearing aids themselves but that's a different problem altogether. I can't wait for BT to be embedded in aids. Current tech will drain the battery pronto hench the iCom scheme.

Hearing aids have been discussed before (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396353)

There are reasons why hearing aids are expensive, yada yada. Yet it does look like they're overinflated. Sounds like a great opportunity for a kickstarter project to me. If you can get to a point where you can develop a hearing at that does as well as existing ones at 1/8 of the price, I'm sure you can find more than 8 people that are willing to pay that 1/8 of the price for them.

When you enjoy your newfound wealth remember me!

Best,
Not a karma whore.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396393)

What about that awesome "seen on tv" hear things far away plugs. Those look absolutely terrible, but are probably a good starting point at the $20 pricetag.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (5, Insightful)

soundguy (415780) | about 2 years ago | (#41396473)

They're expensive because the cartel that makes them got them classified as medical devices decades ago. There are all kinds of legal and regulatory hoops you have to jump thru before you can call something a "hearing aid".

You can buy a bluetooth earpiece for $20-$80 that has the exact same parts - condenser mic, speaker element, battery, and opamp/EQ circuit - and has vastly more functionality, including the bluetooth radio system and spiffy LED indicator lights.

Hearing aids are configured with an equalization curve tailored the the wearer's specific hearing loss, but it's not like there are a million different kinds of loss. It's mostly "top down" according to age and environment. Only newborns can hear 20khz. We lose a few thousand before we hit puberty and pretty much everyone loses everything above 12k by their 30's. (by "lose" I mean response is down a considerable number of decibels from our factory abilities). Impact-type noise from construction, artillery, or rock bands can punch holes in what's left, especially in the voice frequencies, but it's not like it's DNA-complicated or something. A simple hearing test can identify your remaining response curve in a few minutes and it isn't going to be that much different from the guy on the next bulldozer on the left or the guitar player on the other side of the stage.

There's no reason an ear doctor or audiologist couldn't give you a "prescription" response curve when you go in for a hearing test that you could load into a device that costs two figures (three if you want it to be super tiny) yourself with an app of some kind. The 4-5-figure price tags are simple price gouging by a "medical" cartel.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396827)

So not to sound snippy, but lets see some links to these devices? I used a discount retailer and a free costco hearing test to get my hearing aids for $900, msrp of $3500. If I could replace them with smart earpieces, I would in a heartbeat, but there's so much fluff and garbage out there that without links, it's almost impossible to find what you're talking about.

And you're exactly right. The hearing aid industry is #$%^ing ridiculous, and Siemens is evil for taking advantage of old and deaf people.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (-1, Troll)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41396885)

So not to sound snippy, but lets see some links to these devices?

Umm... let me google that for you [lmgtfy.com]

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

FrkyD (545855) | about 2 years ago | (#41397259)

Wow. I know this is slashdot and no one ever rtfa's, but you managed to completely ignore the question from the original poster, AND the comment you were replying to. If you're going to play smart-ass with LMGTFY, you might want to at least have entered a relevant search string.

Looks like at least one child got left behind...

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41397331)

I ignored the question in the main article, but I answered the question of the guy I was replying to.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41397353)

I decided I'd better clarify, since you seemed to have missed it the same as the guy I was replying to. Which is hilarious given your snarky, "superior" attitude.

You can buy a bluetooth earpiece for $20-$80 that has the exact same parts - condenser mic, speaker element, battery, and opamp/EQ circuit - and has vastly more functionality, including the bluetooth radio system and spiffy LED indicator lights

So not to sound snippy, but lets see some links to these devices?

At no point was it said that these devices are hearing aids. Only that they have the same components, thus could technically be used as hearing aids given the right firmware.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

FrkyD (545855) | about 2 years ago | (#41398035)

Both posters were looking for bluetooth headsets that could replace a hearing aid. The important part of the post you were replying to was this "If I could replace them with smart earpieces, I would in a heartbeat, but there's so much fluff and garbage out there that without links, it's almost impossible to find what you're talking about."

In other words, he wanted specific links to products that would fit his requirements and NOT a basic listing of any link google would find if searched for "bluetooth headset". You just gave him the same list of fluff and garbage he was trying to avoid.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41398331)

I know what he wanted. The point is that such devices likely don't exist yet, but if they do then they aren't be allowed to be marketed as hearing aids without passing regulatory checks.

They're expensive because the cartel that makes them got them classified as medical devices decades ago. There are all kinds of legal and regulatory hoops you have to jump thru before you can call something a "hearing aid".

I'm trying hard not to be as condescending as you were trying to be to me, but you need to read the comment thread again to understand the context and why my first comment was so snarky itself. Nobody has so far said that bluetooth hearing aids are available, all we've said is that such devices are possible. We haven't provided links to actual devices, because it doesn't look like they exist so far.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41398607)

" The point is that such devices likely don't exist yet"

You obviously are winging it. If you aren't sure, you have to allow for argument.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41398497)

Yet again I feel the need to clarify since I realised you probably still won't get my point. Let's take the most important part of your "important part":

it's almost impossible to find what you're talking about

I gave him a link which explained exactly what the post he was replying to was talking about when he said this:

You can buy a bluetooth earpiece for $20-$80 that has the exact same parts - condenser mic, speaker element, battery, and opamp/EQ circuit - and has vastly more functionality, including the bluetooth radio system and spiffy LED indicator lights

He was talking about standard bluetooth headsets.

Both the original asker and yourself don't seem to understand what he was saying.

He simply said that many existing bluetooth headsets technically have hardware capable of providing the function of a hearing aid, given the right firmware.

He did NOT say that such firmware already exists. I was simply responding and trying to make this obvious point slightly clearer, but it still seems to have been too subtle for you.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396997)

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396897)

You can buy a bluetooth earpiece for $20-$80 that has the exact same parts - condenser mic, speaker element, battery, and opamp/EQ circuit - and has vastly more functionality, including the bluetooth radio system and spiffy LED indicator lights.

Please, links.

My father is using hearing aids and he's an engineer. We have both been looking for good bluetooth hearing aids, but there are none that can offer the same powerful amplification, noise processing and above all, battery life that pro hearing aids (with a bluetooth nokia coil) can do.
The tech specs of real hearing aids are so much better than the consumer bluetooth stuff that it's like comparing a Hasselblad camera with a iPhone camera.

But if there really are these magic bluetooth earpieces with true hearing aid specs- by all means, PLEASE post the links here.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396961)

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (4, Informative)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41397171)

These are toys, not real hearing aids. They just amplify the sound, it's like what I got 30 years ago. Even some of these are what my mother got 60 years ago and never really used because of the bad quality of the sound. I'm sorry, be this isn't serious stuff. Also, none of these are having BT except one model which is just a regular headset/earpiece, nothing to do with hearing aids again.

Here, in my country, the government is dealing directly with manufacturers to get the best price they can for hearing aids since they are provided for free to people with an audiologist/ORL prescription. They ensure to have medium quality devices that will last at least 6 years. The manufacturers are required to guarantee and do the repairs for the whole duration of the contract. There is two styles of hearing aids available: the analog hearing aids and the digital sound processor hearing aids. They are not the top of line products, but they are good products. The pricing is around 700-1000$/pair of hearing aids. Considering they will last six years and they quality is much more better than these toys, I think the pricing is competitive.

For the Bluetooth gateway, I had to pay 400$ for it. This is exagerated given the price of the BT chips. The hearing aids themselves are coupled with the gateway via an induction loop and a radioMF signal, so the hearing aids themselves have nothing special, the coupling with BT is all handled by the gateway.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (2)

takshaka (15297) | about 2 years ago | (#41397565)

The tech specs of real hearing aids are so much better than the consumer bluetooth stuff that it's like comparing a Hasselblad camera with a iPhone camera.

In other words, the average consumer can't tell the difference in quality?

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41398671)

That was a silly analogy wasn't it? Without the lens and large format a Hasselblad is just another box.
But then he was implying hearing aids are hi-fi. Some people just like to argue.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396955)

Hearing aids do a lot more than just amplify sound. Although your thresholds for different frequencies do go up such that you can no longer hear softer sounds, the limit at which the level is uncomfortable may not change (or it could actually go down). That means your dynamic range is substantially reduced. Hearing aids have to automatic gain controllers that respond to different frequencies. They can do a lot more besides that such as frequency transposition for high-frequency speech sounds.

And then there's the ergonomics. They're designed to stay in your ear canal for long periods of time each day.

And they are medical devices. You don't want just anyone making an ear mold for a device that goes deep in your ear canal.

While the price may not be justified, your characterisation of them leaves something to be desired.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396985)

Over 30 and I can still very much hear 20k and everything's nice and loud over 12k as well. It's the human speech range I have problems with. At least that's what I tell people I'm ignoring.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41397057)

I'm the same. I was never into loud music, and at 40 still hear fine. My problem has been the same as long as I can remember. I can't pick out voices. If a person is talking to me in a loud environment, I can't hear it. My brain filter for sounds is broken. Others tell me they can hear the same thing I can't, so it's not just the sound, it's the processing, as I pass every hearing test with "no loss found".

And I'm not just ignoring them.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

gmack (197796) | about 2 years ago | (#41397251)

I have the same problem. I think it's related to the issue of background noise. Most people tell me that they stop hearing certain sounds such as clocks ticking and refrigerators humming, fans etc but that never happens to me. I hear all sounds in a room always.

Makes getting to sleep a total pain.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

vrt3 (62368) | about 2 years ago | (#41397407)

Same here. In hearing tests everything is ok, I can still hear relatively high frequencies. But in a loud environment, it is *very* difficult for me to understand what people are saying, and it's also difficult for me to speak myself -- because I can't hear what I'm saying, I guess.

Even in a moderately noisy environment (think busy cafeteria with the background noise of everybody talking and maybe some music playing) it is difficult and tiring, but still doable, to participate in conversations.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396989)

They're expensive because the cartel that makes them got them classified as medical devices decades ago. There are all kinds of legal and regulatory hoops you have to jump thru before you can call something a "hearing aid".

Being an acoustic engineer with knowledge of these matters it sounds to me (no pun intended) that you do not quite appreciate the engineering work that goes into developing these aids, apart from the extensive testing a medical device goes through to make sure it does no further damage to the user.

You can buy a bluetooth earpiece for $20-$80 that has the exact same parts - condenser mic, speaker element, battery, and opamp/EQ circuit - and has vastly more functionality, including the bluetooth radio system and spiffy LED indicator lights.

My fiancée has a hearing aid because of some extraordinal mechanical damage in the middle ear and that kind of damage can not be remedied with a "normal" aid, into which catagory your bluetooth headset would fall. Granted, she wears a "normal" hearing aid now, but that's just because she didn't feel like a permanent titanium screw in her scull was what she wanted (see. www.cochlear.com for examples), she gets by using what she has but the quality of sound it delivers into her inner ear is not very good, putting it mildly. I have tested them myself and it's like having a bucket over your head listening through them (and these are quality ones). It is precisely this quality of sound that is one of the most expensive parts. It does not suffice just to amp up and amplify whatever frequencies you have lost, it is, in the end, a question of the quality of the soundsource (i.e. the speaker unit) in the aid that will be the determining factor. Quite frankly, these tiny speakers are just so good because of their mechanical function that depending on your specific damage they just might not be what delivers a natural soundscape into your ear.

Hearing aids are configured with an equalization curve tailored the the wearer's specific hearing loss, but it's not like there are a million different kinds of loss. It's mostly "top down" according to age and environment. Only newborns can hear 20khz. We lose a few thousand before we hit puberty and pretty much everyone loses everything above 12k by their 30's. (by "lose" I mean response is down a considerable number of decibels from our factory abilities). Impact-type noise from construction, artillery, or rock bands can punch holes in what's left, especially in the voice frequencies, but it's not like it's DNA-complicated or something. A simple hearing test can identify your remaining response curve in a few minutes and it isn't going to be that much different from the guy on the next bulldozer on the left or the guitar player on the other side of the stage.

There are exactly three types of hearing loss you can suffer from. Damage to your middle ear, inner ear or to your nerve that goes into your brain. How these present themselves from person to person is, as you might guess, highly individual. And this is where the audiologist comes in.

There's no reason an ear doctor or audiologist couldn't give you a "prescription" response curve when you go in for a hearing test that you could load into a device that costs two figures (three if you want it to be super tiny) yourself with an app of some kind. The 4-5-figure price tags are simple price gouging by a "medical" cartel.

Your doc could also give you a scalpel and offer you the option of removing that cancer yourself, for just 2 figures instead of 4-5. Taking the expertice out of the hands of common laymen by medical staff is, in my opinion, a nice gesture to keep them from messing things up even more. If the user could change settings of EQ or volume, there is no guarantee that he would not induce further damage to himself due to lack of knowledge or even just lust for experiments.

To summarize: Loss of hearing is not a simple matter to be remedied with inexpensive solutions and when it comes to medical equipment would I gladly pay a 4-5 figure prize (I'm just lucky I don't have to since I don't live in the USA) for something I can be sure does not cause further damage to my body, be it infections, toxins or fungi etc. This has all been tested and checked so the prizetag is not totally uncalled for IMHO. Rant over, please excuse my typos...
   

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41397083)

In most cases it is. No, you wouldn't want to fix cancer yourself, but for most things, you can. My wife broke a finger. I told her to shut up, sit down, immobilize it (I offered to tape it to the adjacent finger) and take an asprin (actually Tylenol and Advil together, as they work differently they combine well). She yelled at me, wouldn't do anything I said, and so I took her to the doctor. After he x-rayed her, taped her fingers together and gave her Tylenol and Advil, she went home happy.

It's worth more from a doctor, but rarely is it any different.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41398557)

Damn bitch not trusting your x-ray vision to determine that it was not a full fracture of the bone and wanting to go to a doctor.

Oh you don't have x-ray vision? shocking!

PS: I'm sure she's not a bitch but since you told her to shut up I'm pretty sure you call her a bitch. Oh who am I kidding? A troglodite like yourself has a pillow for a lover.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (2)

jsebrech (525647) | about 2 years ago | (#41397055)

I'm wondering if the gradual loss of hearing fidelity with age is one part of the reason why most people at a certain age stop listening to new music. The music they already listen to is adjusted by their minds to sound like it used to, but new music sounds bad because their ears lack the ability to hear it properly.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | about 2 years ago | (#41397091)

Older people just don't identify with the younger artists. I don't think it's anything more convoluted than that.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (2)

gmack (197796) | about 2 years ago | (#41397263)

I think what it really is the fact that most music is crap and always has been. When we are young we find a list of bands that we like and ignore most of everything else but as we grow older we have less time for doing that and since we already have music we like, we never get past the horribly bad crap that is on the radio this week.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (1)

Fished (574624) | about 2 years ago | (#41397589)

I think it's more likely just a lack of time. Speaking as someone who is 40, I just don't have much time to spend listening to music or looking for new music.

Re:Hearing aids have been discussed before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41398529)

Excuse me.

"There are all kinds of legal and regulatory hoops you have to jump thru before you can call something a "hearing aid"

and

"The 4-5-figure price tags are simple price gouging by a "medical" cartel."

So answer me this. These legal and regulatory hoops cost nothing and the high cost is gouging then, is that about right?

lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396401)

enjoy the silence, retard.

Re:lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41397109)

WHAT?

You're right, it's a racket (2)

subreality (157447) | about 2 years ago | (#41396413)

They like making you dependent on audiologists to set the things up. In turn, their products get sold at MSRP instead of deeply discounted online with DIY setup. That said, I understand the tuning process isn't trivial, and you wouldn't necessarily do a good job unless you're very dedicated to learning about it.

A lot of the hardware cost is due to making them tiny, power efficient enough to run a long time off of rather small batteries and still having enough DSP performance to really process the audio into something you can understand. That's a tough mix, but you're right - if you're willing to carry an outboard processor in your pocket and put up with poor battery life, you can probably cobble together something that works much cheaper. You would need earbuds with outward facing mics - almost like a bluetooth headset, except you want high sample rate bidirectional audio, which is a combination curiously lacking in the bluetooth spec.

Just some thoughts from someone who doesn't actually have hearing aids, but who's heard a little about 'em.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

neyla (2455118) | about 2 years ago | (#41396447)

At this price-point ($4500) that hardly matters. Sure, you might need expert help for configuring them optimally. What's reasonable pay for a good audiologist, and how many hours does he need to help you tune them well ? If you said he'd need 4 hours, and he'd cost $250/hour, that still adds up to $1000, leaving $3500 for the hardware, which is utterly ridicolous.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 years ago | (#41396489)

Hearing aids, as medical devices, have to be approved by the FDA. That's a long, shitty process, and means that they're going to be expensive as a result.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

neyla (2455118) | about 2 years ago | (#41396605)

It's a long shitty process indeed. But it's a fixed cost, and not a per-unit cost, thus it's one of those costs that gets less and less relevant the higher number of devices you sell.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

gmack (197796) | about 2 years ago | (#41397203)

I would buy that excuse if they hadn't extended that pricing to include accessories and non FDA mandated equipment as well.

Adapter between a stereo headphone and an induction loop? Can't be more than $15 worth of electronics but they charge $200

Wireless hearing assisted listening system (for conferences) The transmitters start at $3000 in the end my friend priced out an FM transmitter for $150. The receivers? $500 each. In the end we went with $5 FM radios and some.

Hearing assisted doorbell that flickers the lights? $6000. I can read the doorbell using a current sensor and send the signal over WIFI to a smartphone (throwing in the smartphone and bluetooth bracelet) for a fraction of that cost.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41397307)

The Alertmaster:

http://shop.clarityproducts.com/products/clarity-alertmaster/al10-visual-alert-system/?cat=notification-systems

flashes lights throughout a house (alerting people to the doorbell, smoke alarms, telephone ringing, etc) for Deaf / Hard of Hearing people starts at $180 for the base unit. Additional units are $60.

Not quite the $6000 you mentioned.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#41396453)

There is no reason to run hearing aids solely on batteries. At the price tag current hearing aids have, you could power them with the energy your body emits anyway, via a thermoelectric element or a generator that turns body movements into electricity. Said that I know there are probably no hearing aids out there actually featuring those, that are more than proof of concepts. But as a former poster already said: It looks like a worthwhile kickstarter project.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41396507)

There is no reason to run hearing aids solely on batteries. At the price tag current hearing aids have, you could power them with the energy your body emits anyway, via a thermoelectric element or a generator that turns body movements into electricity. Said that I know there are probably no hearing aids out there actually featuring those, that are more than proof of concepts. But as a former poster already said: It looks like a worthwhile kickstarter project.

A thermo electric element needs a decent temperature differential to operate. Unless you're willing to tolerate a large heatsink hanging outside your ears (and are willing to accept that the hearing aid will be less and less effective as the ambient temperature approaches body temperature), then you're probably not going to have a thermocouple powered hearing aid. You'd probably be better off with a solar cell outside your ear to recharge the batteries.

Similarly, a generator that is powered by body movement requires body movement and unless you like to wiggle your ears all day long, you're not going to find much movement in your ears for powering the device. If you're willing to accept wires that connect the device to an area of your body that has more movement, then maybe you'd be better off with a bigger battery pack somewhere outside your ear.

If you're willing to accept an implanted power device, there are probably some biochemical reactions that can provide enough power to run the device.

Of all the complaints I hear from dad about his hearing aids, battery life is not one of them. He gets a little under a week of battery life, and given that he takes them out every night, replacing the batteries once a week is not a big deal.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (5, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41396517)

If it's just a racket, why not buy the cheap hearing aids you see advertised all over the place? Less than $200 each.

I'll tell you why: because they're crap. They uniformly amplify the entire sound spectrum, which means that sounds in the range of your hearing that are not impaired, driving you crazy with feedback and overamplification. Real hearing aids selectively amplify the frequencies you need. Mine (which I only paid $2k for) don't actually make sound like they're amplifying sound, more like restoring missing texture.

Mine not only contain sophisticated DSP hardware, they have small radios so they can talk to each other and work together. If you think you can build something like that for less than $1K a unit (which also has to cover the cost of fitting and programming) then go for it.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

subreality (157447) | about 2 years ago | (#41396529)

Like I said: one of the key things that makes them expensive is cramming enough DSP performance in to process the sound into something you can understand.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#41397201)

The truth likely is somewhere in-between. I suspect the cost to make these things is way less than $4500, but it may very well be more than $200.

Consumers should have a choice in products, and a choice in whether they need them tuned more extensively or not, and so on.

While I don't have any experience with hearing aids in particular, I've had to deal with other "medical devices" and it definitely is like working with a cartel. You're often just handed something and if you want to actually have some choice in the matter you sometimes have to go to war with your doctor (who no doubts gets kickbacks or at least free classes from his brand of choice), and you end up paying through the nose especially if you want insurance to pay part of it. The FDA is really big on patients not having any control over their own devices, so things get super-locked down, and so on.

One example was a several-year-old Macbook preloaded with some accessibility software for $50k, and with everything and the kitchen sink disabled and locked down on it. It so happens that it would have been really useful if that software could have been used with things like email/facebook/etc, but those things sound like fun and are evil, so if you want to use those you need to get somebody who isn't disabled to do your typing/reading for you from a separate device. There wasn't anything about the setup that couldn't have been handled by selling a CD in a box, but hey that isn't a fully-integrated medical device so it can't be helpful and bill Medicare.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41397489)

Don't forget your technology triangle:

Small - Cheap - Good. Pick two.

Re:You're right, it's a racket (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 years ago | (#41398451)

The DSP thing is such a joke. They are just equalizers, and the difference between models is how many bands the equalizer has. There are a bunch of useful dynamic things a hearing aid could do, and they are doing none of them.

self fitting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396461)

Look at the damage you've already done - and you want to be given full control over a device which makes things louder?
There's a reason the general public isnt permitted to fit their own devices.

It's worse with kids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396465)

Have two young daughters who have to wear Hearing Aids... Add in the cost of loss, damage replacement (because kids are hard on things, or lose them) and be thankful you're only in it for one set and don't have to get new custom ear molds/tubes, and sound level readjustments every few months because you're outgrowing them like kids do. Unfortunately, no medical insurance that I'm aware of, certainly not mine, covers them (can't even get an extra cost rider for them). It's a serious medical racket.

Re:It's worse with kids... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396729)

But, but... anything else is socialist!!! lol

Energy issue (1)

Josiah C. (2734911) | about 2 years ago | (#41396471)

One issue with hearing aid interfaces might be the energy required and the impact on hearing aid battery life. Building a bluetooth interface into the hearing aid itself might be an issue for the in the ear models, and would certainly take a lot of energy. That is why an intermediate device is used which has a bluetooth interface to other devices, such as telephones, computers, etc. and a proprietary interface with the hearing aid (in my case, the effective distance of that interface is 50 cms., which must take a lot less energy than the 10m radius that bluetooth provides. The intermediate device has its own battery and is not used all the time, so the global autonomy of the system is much longer than if the hearing aid had bluetooth on board. For people with light or moderate hearing loss, the top of the line models might be overkill. For people with severe loss, such as myself, very few models provide the power and features that make social and business life possible at all in a semi-normal way. Are the devices over-priced? Probably. But I am happy to have the competition and the research that leads to continual improvements in the technology, and that needs to be funded somehow.

Loose/Lose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396483)

That really shouldn't have got past the editors...

Features wanted, but what about safety+security (2)

mathew7 (863867) | about 2 years ago | (#41396505)

You want a standard for controlling, so that everyone can control their aid, but that also opens the door to those that want to control OTHERS aid, without their permission. Sometimes the standards have holes in design, other times the implementation can have bugs. Either way, it's a risk no medical company will take. They prefer a closed protocol, that can not go through external scrutiny (security by obscurity).
Another such example (in my line of work) is usage of ethernet in cars. While ethernet by itself would be ok, they also want internet in cars, which means there will be at least 1 device with both connections (internet and in-car ethernet) which will be vulnerable to external attacks (think about someone locking your brakes at 100mph, after disabling ABS+ESP). I even think they will try controller updating over internet which will be even worse.

Re:Features wanted, but what about safety+security (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | about 2 years ago | (#41397107)

Medical devices have these problems on proprietary interfaces, look at insulin pumps with remote control. An overdose of insulin can be fatal to a diabetic, yet anyone with a radio and a computer can adjust the pump to do just that. Oh, I forgot to add, they also don't tell you about it. At least with open standards like TLS at least we have a lot of people verifying it.

We can do security in such devices if we want to, just ask the right people.

Same goes with cars, get the information security engineers before you hook up the car alarm, immobilizer and central locking to the same bloody computer that has a 3G interface that will allow anyone to send it an SMS with an unlock and start command.

iPhone (4, Informative)

mr100percent (57156) | about 2 years ago | (#41396511)

Apple has already made iPhones compatible with hearing aids [apple.com] and appears to be looking to refine it with "made for iPhone" aids [appleinsider.com] .

Re:iPhone (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#41396871)

Well, you know - given Apple's obsession with groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, it makes perfect sense they'd want to get their hardware working with other devices predominantly used by old people.

Re:iPhone (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41397021)

some nokia smartphones have had inductive loop support for ages now..

also, they sell a bluetooth thing that goes around your neck and interfaces to the inductive loop hearing aid.

Try it in EU. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396527)

Local market isn't so skewed as the american health market, where everything costs 10x to 100x more than it's worth. AKA: The story of a woman bitten by a scorpio being forced to fork out $40 000 for an antidote worth $100. So, try your reserarch in the EU. You can't go wrong with that.

Not quite a hearing aid, but... (4, Interesting)

gnatman64 (688246) | about 2 years ago | (#41396531)

I'm deaf in one ear, but I get by in life without a hearing aid. I recently started using AfterShokz headphones for my running, and was pleasantly surprised that I could hear stereo sound again through these headphones. I also started using an Android app at work called AroundSound which stops your music when someone starts talking to you and replays the last thing that was said through your headphones. So by combining these two, it's allowed me to hear the beginning of conversations better, when normally I would have to ask someone to repeat what they said before I could turn around and actively listen. It's not an all day solution, but I find it's helped me a bit in my day-to-day work life.

You are right and wrong (3, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 years ago | (#41396547)

So you are right that some good mics, earbuds, and a DSP could mostly replace hearing aids, with the right programming and calibration. The issue would be size. Those expensive hearing aids fit all that in or around your ear, and get pretty good battery life to boot.

So sure, I could design you something using off the shelf components, but it would be large. It takes some pretty advanced manufacturing to pack it all in to that tiny a package.

You are right that tunability would be a good feature. I'm not sure why they don't have it, may be a mixture of regulations (medical devices have pretty tight restrictions on them), anti-competitiveness, and just lack of adaptation.

So if you want to geek out and roll your own, go for it. Just realize it will end up being a bit bulky. In terms of software implementation it depends on what you want. Good hearing aids work like multi-band dynamics compressors/limiters. They bring up the frequencies you have problems hearing, but make sure to compress things so that loud frequencies don't cause more damage. If you are doing it on a device with a lot of power you might go multi-stage, do noise reduction, EQ, multi-band compression, and brick-wall limiting in that order. That would give you sound superior to any hearing aid out there, and require a fairly beefy processor (by mobile standards).

Re:You are right and wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396873)

If you build the android app, I will buy it.

The processing power will be there in the next generation or two.

Re:You are right and wrong (1)

Gramie2 (411713) | about 2 years ago | (#41398599)

I think that modern hearing aids have a lot of very complex programming as well. My GF, who is an audiologist, just showed me how aids can be programmed to increase sensitivity in the direction from where human voices are coming -- so if you are driving a car, and someone in the back seat starts talking, the aids automatically increase the gain in that direction.

They are also very good at extracting human voices from background noise, and it's not just a simple frequency filter.

Why are you surprised? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41396555)

Why are you surprised that there's no Smartphone interface to your hearing aid? There are few people that know enough about audiology to make effective and safe adjustments to their hearing aid, and there's little incentive for the hearing aid companies to provide such an interface, or to collaborate on an industry wide standard. Besides, adding something like Bluetooth would really eat into the power budget of the hearing aid, greatly limiting battery life, while the Bluetooth chipset would take up room that could be better used for more DSP hardware or better microphones/speakers in the unit.

That said, here's a link with resources for finding PC programming software for your hearing aid. You may need to choose your hearing aid based on which manufacturers are willing to provide the software to end users:

http://www.amperordirect.com/pc/help-hearing-aid/z-hearing-aid-program-tools.html [amperordirect.com]

Link tip: Helga Velroyen (4, Informative)

Rastloser (1364593) | about 2 years ago | (#41396557)

At the last Chaos Communication Congress, Helga Velroyen discussed this and other topics around hearing aid evolution. You can find her talk at ftp://ftp.ccc.de/congress/2011/mp4-h264-HQ/28c3-4669-en-bionic_ears_h264.mp4 [ftp.ccc.de] and a corresponding blog project at http://blog.hackandhear.com/ [hackandhear.com] . While I do not have to rely on hearing aids and thus have not looked very deeply into her activities, I get the impression that she is one of the most knowledgeable persons regarding this topic in the European hacker scene.

Re:Mod parent up (3, Informative)

davide marney (231845) | about 2 years ago | (#41397017)

An interesting and informative blog. She points to America Hears [americahears.com] as one of the very few vendors who sell a software interface to their hearing aids so users can self-tune.

You get what you pay for. (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 2 years ago | (#41396611)

I've had to turn my "good ear" to quiet people since my early 20s thanks to countless hours in bands so I can sympathize but there are a number of reasons why you don't see the kind of control your asking for. The most obvious is that most people who need these devices are not technically savvy and would either be turned off by the complicated process of adjusting their hearing aid(s) or would just ignore the feature. You're talking about something that is on the wish list of a very small percentage of a very small market. In 30 or 40 years, that will change as today's tech addicts age and expand the market so that there is enough demand to create the product. But, right now, the market is mostly people who are in their 70s and up. Try to imagine your grandma tweaking her hearing aid with her iphone.

Also, there is a lot that goes into setting up one of those high end hearing aids. I'm blind as a bat and, while I know a lot about vision correction, I know that there's no way I'd be able to grind lenses as well as a pro. It takes a lot of training and experience to do that kind of thing. Something that drives me nuts is those racks of "reading glasses" at the drug store. Sure they're cheap but spending the money for an eye exam and lenses that actually match the individual correction requirements for each eye is soooo much better. $5 vs. $200 is a no brainer for me. I want to see and I want to see well. (Actually, my glasses are closer to a grand because of my insane prescription but I'm pricing it at what a "drug store" buyer would be paying.) Your "earbuds and a microphone" concept is like drug store reading glasses. It's cheap and better than nothing but a far cry from what's possible.

FWIW, most cell phones do support hearing aids in that they'll provide audio to the hearing aid using various methods. Look at the specs of the phones to see which phones support what methods. They'll say "M4" "T3" "T4" etc. to indicate which hearing aid(s) they're compatible with.

Actually, drugstore reading glasses aren't bad (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 2 years ago | (#41397641)

Most optometrists or ophthalmologists that are being honest will tell people that otherwise don't need glasses to just use the drugstore models for a while until their prescription progresses to a point (if ever) that a more customized pair is required. Certainly you can't use them because of your particular problems, but that doesn't mean they are a bad option for people overall.

But your overall point is correct... "nice earbuds, a microphone, and a smartphone interface" are simply not going to cut it, unless the iPhone jammed in a high-quality DSP I'm unaware of.

DIY...? Latency :( (2)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 2 years ago | (#41396627)

"I am not convinced that a combination of good ear-buds, good microphone(s), and a smartphone interface couldn't totally replace these overpriced solutions."

Your only choice for this is probably iOS, since Android's latencies are still much much higher than is required for real time audio.

There's also the issue of actually getting a decent mic into the system without a custom preamp... and where would mount, say, an off-the-shelf lavalier? On your lapel? Permanently?

Re:DIY...? Latency :( (1)

pthisis (27352) | about 2 years ago | (#41396687)

and where would mount, say, an off-the-shelf lavalier

Why not come full circle? Before it was coöpted to mean a type of microphone, lavalier originally meant a pendant that hangs from a necklace.

Re:DIY...? Latency :( (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 2 years ago | (#41396741)

Someone on my degree course at university had some type of severe disability (cerebral palsy I think) coupled with being pretty deaf and more or less unable to speak. He had a microphone like a pendant, he would give it to the lecturer. I'm pretty certain his hearing aid system was pretty dreadful - despite the mic being on the lecturer, you could hear feedback shriek very often from the other side of the room, from a device in this guy's ear - it didn't seem to bother him though (perhaps the frequency was one he couldn't hear at all).

Re:DIY...? Latency :( (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396845)

Probably means the hearing aid was never fitted properly to his ear.
A properly fitted aid should never give feedback shriek

Re:DIY...? Latency :( (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | about 2 years ago | (#41397101)

Your only choice for this is probably iOS, since Android's latencies are still much much higher than is required for real time audio.

Audio Latency is much better in Jelly Bean [theverge.com] , so you're probably better off with Android given how much more hacker-friendly the ecosystem is.

Re:DIY...? Latency :( (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 2 years ago | (#41397141)

Better, but apparently still nowhere near real-time... IIRC it was something along the lines of 50-100ms, which is too long for real-time audio. There are still threads dedicated to workarounds on XDA-Dev... for JB - the problem is still there. :(

Autism / sensory overload (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396739)

The same principle could be applied to autism or other conditions that cause sensory overload. Hyperacusis and sensory integration disorder cause irritation, physical pain and difficulty comprehending spoken words. An amplifier containing some form of equalisation and some form of compression and limiting can hugely improve the listening experience - I have experimented with a guitar amplifier, which is not very portable.

Combining isolating, noise-cancelling headphones with a filter / limiter would allow people with hyperacusis to experience sound without discomfort. A smart phone would make an infinitely adaptable device that is socially acceptable and useable in places like cinema theatres.

Re:Autism / sensory overload (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41397389)

There is an Apple app called Ear Trumpet that is classified as "entertainment", providing equalization but no compression. A decent stereo lapel microphone and earbud (isolating) or over-ear (noise-cancelling) headphones would complete the set-up if this did have compression / limiting.

With autism affecting about 1% of the population and sensory sensitivity affecting many other people, that is a large potential marketplace - in fact some studies show hyperacusis affecting 10-15% of the adult population. An app for hearing sensitivity (in which you want to filter out the unpleasant sounds, and loud sounds) would not be a medical applicance and would not carry the same health risks as a hearing aid app.

somewhat off-topic but way cool (1)

nadaou (535365) | about 2 years ago | (#41396833)

AutoZen: http://www.linuxlabs.com/autozen.shtml [linuxlabs.com]

No matter how much you train with it it won't improve your hearing. But it might make you a more interesting person.

Actually to wrench this back on-topic, it might be a really good synthetic test input for your non-medial hearing helper android app, since it can save to .wav files.

Even better, this is far enough out there that it could help make your non-medical home hearing test app (I'd pay $0.99 for that) less of a target for selling a medical device without a license lobbying^W lawsuits.

IHearYou (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396851)

https://www.blameysaunders.com.au/hearing-aid-prices

You can program/tweak these yourself.

Check COSTCO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#41396857)

I have not looked at the details, but I know COSTCO carries some nice hearing aids with Bluetooth capability.

The newer version of Bluetooth uses far less power than older versions. It should be suitable for hearing aid use.

check siemens (1)

mallxs (2642117) | about 2 years ago | (#41396889)

I use Siemens headsets which utilize a propriarety low energy radio signal

Kickstarter? (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 2 years ago | (#41396899)

Sounds like somebody should make this.

Presentation about hearing aids (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41396913)

Last year's CCC had a nice talk about hacking them.

it's the amp and PA you fool. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41397255)

I am a musician/IT guy whose hearing has suffered from VERY LOUD guitar players

No, you fool. The guitar can't be played very loud. They amplify the sounds over a PA system -- That's where morons like you get hearing damage. There's never been a case of solely acoustic guitars causing hearing damage -- You can't play a guitar "VERY LOUD", you twit!

Battery Life (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41397343)

Hearing aid manufacturers are very worried about battery life. You can't have a hearing aid running Linux and doing DSP and blasting your brain with 2.4GHz radiation from inside your skull, in that small a form factor, without starting to deal with a battery lifetime measured in minutes.

not quite yet (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41397373)

I am not convinced that a combination of good ear-buds, good microphone(s), and a smartphone interface couldn't totally replace these overpriced solutions.

The expensive part of the hearing aid, is not the earbud part, but the microphone part. A cell phone mic is not nearly good enough. Remember, the "good microphones(s)" you would use have to be small enough to fit on what is basically an earbud and sensitive enough to pick up environmental sounds but not too sensitive. Then you need dumb filters (a DSP would be better) to be able to make adjustments), a place to hold the battery and an amplifier.

Now fit it in something that will fit in your ear. There's a reason good hearing aids are so expensive. The best of the current crop are pretty impressive tech.

I don't know much about blue tooth, but can you make a bluetooth receiver small as an RFID that will fit inside an earbud?

I have no doubt that a committed hacker could put together a proper hearing aid out of a set of really high-end earphones, some stuff from Newark Electronics, a couple of microphones out of an iPhone and four dry-cell batteries and a football helmet and a wagon to pull it in.

Making something small enough to wear inside your ear unobtrusively is another story. It might cost you some money.

Consider this bluetooth to hearing aid RF bridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41397439)

This device can act as a bridge between a bluetooth device and the RF protocol supported by some Starkey hearing aids.
http://www.starkeypro.com/surflinkmobile/

ACEHearing (0)

Quantus347 (1220456) | about 2 years ago | (#41397573)

ACEHearing is an upcoming App for smartphones that administers a hearing test (verified as accurate as traditional tests given by audiologists) then it dynamically adjusts the volume of audio outputs in specific frequency ranges to compensate for your specific hearing loss.

http://www.economicswiki.com/acehearing-app-ximplar/ [economicswiki.com]

only ones (1)

ericartman (955413) | about 2 years ago | (#41397663)

The only ones I found that worked well at all were 12 thousand dollars, they used bluetooth , phones, ipods were crystal clear, but so was the price, same amount I put down on the house I'm living in. So I still say huh a lot, lol

For me... (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about 2 years ago | (#41397785)

I have an older cochlear implant with a 1/8" jack that allows me to plug "line in" type devices. Definitely not the same as a hearing aid. I bought a BluBridge Mini-Jack RX, and it does work for sound in, but I also need the TX unit to connect to the phone because the BT audio out doesn't work with my phone while I'm using it as a phone. BT works Ok when the phone's a music player.

Your mileage will probably vary.

Bluetooth and Hearing Aids (1)

mcspoo (933106) | about 2 years ago | (#41397803)

I've been deaf most of my life. I recently received a Chili Oticon hearing aid (http://oticon.com/products/hearing-aids/power/chili/about-chili.aspx) and a connectline streamer (http://oticon.com/products/wireless-accessories/connectline/about-connectline.aspx) which is a loop connection to the Chili, and picks up Bluetooth, so it was multipurpose, for working with phones and any bluetooth connectable sound sources.

Unfortunately, my hearing crashed worse and now I'm dealing with Cochlear implants... which WILL include a similar handheld device, and the Connectline *SHOULD* be fully compatible with the Cochlear processor!

iOS 6 just added it (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#41398023)

Its one of them 200 new features Apple is bragging about.

Oticon ConnectLine (1)

mleopold (415280) | about 2 years ago | (#41398049)

Sounds like Oticon ConnectLine might be what you are looking for.
http://oticon.com/products/wireless-accessories/connectline/about-connectline.aspx

remotes (2)

doginthewoods (668559) | about 2 years ago | (#41398117)

Siemens / Rexton (same company,more or less, use a remote bluetooth the FM translator. Like wise, bernafon. I think Resound uses a direct Bluetooth, but I'm not certain. I have Rextons. You major issue is accumulated lag time - I wanted to use the remote to take off the board for a direct feed into the aids, but, while it worked, the delay made it useless. If you are not syncing with real time audio, then you'll be fine. You should go to Costco to buy your aids- you'll get a pair plus remote for around $3k, and unlimited support. I hate to break it to you, but hearing aid companies, with the exception of Bernafon (Chronos 9) and Resound, do not know how to set aids for live music. The people that sell the aids don't either, and they do not have the gear to be able to test the aids in real world sound levels, especially with music. You will laugh when they play a clip of a symphony on a pair of tiny computer speakers and try to convince you that that is a test for "music". You will, as I have been doing for over 8 years now through 6 sets of aids, wind up programming the aids yourself. And here is a critical issue: Inout stage headroom. It is incredibly stupid, but hearing aid makers do not tell you how much sound the can take without overloading the input stage. Most of them seem to think that 95db input A/D is fine, but on stage can go past 100db quick. The trouble is, most makers do not use an input stage limiter, so what happens is the aids go into digital distortion, very ugly sounding. I am going to capitalize here: DO NOT BUY A PAIR OF AIDS UNTIL YOU GET VERBAL CONFIRMATION OF THE INPUT STAGE HEADROOM DIRECT FROM THE MAKER. Do not trust anyone until you know for sure, and I can tell you right now the info is not on any of the aid data sheets. I know - I have been through three pairs of aids with this problem, and have had the hearing aid makers' audiologists tell me the wrong thing - twice. They do not know, and they will say "Oh, no one ever asks this." If they say that, then you should not buy that aid. Resound has an Alera that will take 108 without distorting, and Bernafon may be your best bet - they have a music channel with Live music plus, designed by Marshall Chasen, that is a mimic of the old LP RIAA curve - rolls off top and bottom at input, then restores it at output. Neat. Google that name, and Google Mead Killien / K - amp. If you can hold off until mid Oct. there may be new models coming out. Aids are nothing more than a CPU and some programming, a microphone and a speaker, all put together by companies that focus on speech, but not fidelity. They tend to put in all these craptastic features that do nothing but inhibit fidelity. For instance, for music, you must turn off anti feedback, speech enhancers, multi microphone,s auto gain, etc. basically strip it down to an EQ, a bank of compressors and a multi band limiter, to get it to work. FInally make sure you get to see the adjustment software- this is the other weak link - as a musician, you will need as many EQ and compression bands as you can get, and you will need the fastest comp release times around. You will be amazed to find that most aids only give you two EQ band for half of the music spectrum - 500hz and 250hz - half of a piano. You will need at least one more at 125Hz and at least 8 compression bands. And you will need at least four bands of limiter called MPO in hearing aid parlance. If you want more info, email me direct.
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