Hearing Aids

Bionic Hearing Wish List

I am kicking off the process of buying new hearing aids, starting tomorrow! My audiologist asked me to make a wish list of what I want. Here’s my advanced, futuristic version of what I want from them.

1. Bluetooth

Bluetooth hearing aids would take me from feeling like someone with a disability to feeling like I’m a superhero. I’m reminded of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was blind, but he could see with his visor. He couldn’t see the way everyone else sees, but he could see better. Ever since I was in high school and I’d listen to my Walkman with headphones on, I’ve wanted to be able to pipe music in directly through my hearing aids. I’ve spent more money than most people will ever spend on expensive audio equipment, and I expect them to play music directly into my head. Frankly, if you’d asked me about this even 10 years ago, I would have been happy just to listen to music directly through the aids. Now, I also want my my phone calls piped into my aids, and while I’m at it, I plan to connect via Bluetooth to all of my computers, so I can hear movies, TV shows, and videos too. This will change my life.

2. Open Fit

The last time I bought hearing aids, I didn’t even consider buying open-fit models. But in the last few years this new style has taken off, and today more than 50% of new hearing aid sales are of this type. Open fit has a couple of advantages. To me, the best part is that it’s a BTE style with a new kind of tubing that doesn’t need to be replaced every 3-4 months. Open fit also sounds less “plugged-up” or occluded, which is probably more important to someone who hasn’t been wearing hearing aids for 27 years. I am hoping that open fit will be more physically comfortable, otherwise I’ll just stick with BTEs.

3. Data Logging

I don’t know much about this new feature, but it sounds great. Apparently newer models will record information about your different listening environments, which gives your audiologist more data to use in customizing your aids. I have always wanted to have my audiologist trail me around, reconfiguring my hearing aid settings for conferences, airplanes, and noisy bars. This might be even better!

4. Rechargeable Batteries

Battery life is a problem for every small, portable electronic device. My 2.5 year old MacBook Pro now gets about 24 minutes of battery life before it squawks and needs a recharge. But hearing aid batteries hold a special place in my heart for their environmentally-unfriendly neediness. Every purse I own holds a packet of hearing aid batteries, lest I get caught out on the town and wind up suddenly deafened. Every year or so I drop off a ziploc baggie filled with tiny batteries at my local recycler, the sight of which makes me relieved that I don’t have toddlers who might swallow them. I know hearing aids are more demanding than the average Bluetooth headset, but, as a society, aren’t we better than this?

5. Invisibility

I really don’t care that anyone knows that I wear hearing aids (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about them.) I just don’t want them looking clunky and ugly next to my jewelry. The kids these days seem to be all into having hearing aids in bright colors with contrasting molds. Call me old-fashioned, but my main goal is for them to be as unobtrustive as possible. There’s nothing I like better than someone I’ve known for years telling me “No way! I didn’t know you wore hearing aids!”


7 thoughts on “Bionic Hearing Wish List

  1. Karen, I’m really interested in how you arrived at your decision to choose the Oticon Epoq. How do you like them so far?

    My Big Question: Did you get them from the NY League for the Hard of Hearing; and if so, did you get your noise reduction program(s) set up in their new Listening Studio?

    Also, did you get the XW version (the ones that talk to each other for improved noise performance)? Did you get the Streamer as well? If so, how do you like it?

    Since you’re a Mac addict, let us know how they connect up to OS X as well as your iPhone, and whether it’s full A2HD stereo or just monaural on both platforms.

    When you get a chance, please do indeed write a new blog entry on this, and I’ll try to feature it on The Telegraph (UK) Hearing Blog so many others can learn from your experience. I’ll also pass it along to my Hearing Healthcare colleagues.

  2. Hi Karen,

    I’ve just read your whish-list and also your review of the Oticon with the much desired bluetooth which didn’t work out. I’m just about to have my first hearing aid myself – it’s great help you pass on your experience. I think I’ll let the bluetooth thing go untill next time I’m having new hearing aids.

    However, in your wish-list you state another thing which I find quite interesting as well: data logging. Did you find any hearing aids which let you take out the data and manipulate them in some way (like Nike+ or my iPhone-sleep-cycle-alarm-clock)?

    Best regards

    Jon Lund

  3. Hi Karen,

    I met you at CSForum 2010 in Paris only briefly because I was one of the organisers running around (I’m the one who organised the dinner at Chez Papa and then showed up late…). I regret I didn’t have more time to have a “proper chat” with you.

    I have a son who wears one hearing aid (Oticon) and one cochlear implant. In my wildest dreams, I never thought to turn my work knowledge into demands for his hearing aids! This is both hilarious and comes packed with a really good point: why don’t we? The world would be a better place. I hope you get everything you want!

    I didn’t know you wore hearing aids! But I do love it that the kids around here are all wearing jewelry and bright colours on theirs now – they don’t think of them as next to their jewelry; they think of the aids themselves as a beautiful fashion assessory. You’d be gorgeous!

    • Karen McGrane says:

      Hi CJ! Great to hear from you. It’s nice to know who to blame for the extra 5 pounds I gained at Chez Papa! That was an amazing dinner, thank you so much for suggesting it. I have been talking to some other UX people who wear HAs and I think we should demand more user-centered design from the manufacturers.

    • CJ:

      Are you using The Ear Foundation in Nottingham for auditory-verbal support for your son?

      Also, does he use FM? If so (and he should be!), configuring an FM system for a CI can be tricky, especially if it’s a Nucleus, as there can be interference problems as well as mix ratio issues. Ear Foundation can get you all set up.

      As for ear bling, my buddy Katie-louise Bailey in Derby does a nice job. The link is to her blog, to a specific article on how she manages her CI processor while playing sports. Personally, I use TubeRiders on my hearing aids — And I’m older than Karen!

      In any case, the hearing aid and especially CI manufacturers do indeed pay attention to design; but generally not at the expense of performance (except for Cochlear). By the way, does your son have an Advanced Bionics CI? Those have, by far, the best implanted electronics (that is what I’m getting).

      Send me a Facebook friend request, or search for Expresso@Snip.Net and I’ll connect you to other parents of hearing impaired children on both sides of the pond.

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