Karen McGrane

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!”