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Medicine Technology

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

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  • Fully agree.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:56AM (#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.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @06:27AM (#41397111) Homepage

      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.

    • In the pas that was true of Bluetooth. However, with the release of Bluetooth low energy this is resolved. In addition there will be things like hearing aid profiles. Until the last year, it would have been very impracticable to use Bluetooth in a hearing aid. Especially given that folks who wear aids want them to be as small as possible.

      If you are interested to read about it, it can be found here:
      http://www.bluetooth.com/Pages/Loud-and-Clear.aspx [bluetooth.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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!

    Not a karma whore.

    • by soundguy ( 415780 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:48AM (#41396473) Homepage

      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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 ther

        • Hearing aids have to automatic gain controllers that respond to different frequencies.

          Don't tell the patent attorneys at Dolby Labs about that one. Or about frequency-related volume compression technologies. The Fraunhofer people (MP3 compression) would probably also take an interest.

          Ergonomics is a good point, although the number of people I saw the other day with stuff jammed into their ears more or less permanently makes me wonder if they really care.

          Frequency transposition is a new one on me, though. About the only circuitry I know of that's likely to fit entirely into a in-ear unit (as

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          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 wort
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Yeah yeah, and I sell the finest toothpicks available anywhere polished to sub-micron perfection and carefully balanced with a scientifically designed point, all for only $100 each. What a bargain!

          You seem to be saying that in spite of being extremely pricy, you're fiancee's hearing aid isn't even as good as a cheap bluetooth earpiece, much less an expensive one. Meanwhile you ignore that MANY people really do just need a simple boost in some bands with a bit of AGC and that they are currently forced to was

      • 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.

        • Older people just don't identify with the younger artists. I don't think it's anything more convoluted than that.
        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          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.

        • by Fished ( 574624 )

          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.

        • Of course it could simply be that (the vast majority of) new music does, in fact, suck. Once in a while i'll listen to something new that I like (which would seem to discount your theory), but most of the time it's crap. There is very little originality in music anymore. It's formulaic. There is no more real innovation (at least not done well). What you're saying also doesn't seem to explain why many younger listeners nowadays are listening to older music and agreeing it's better.
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Probably not. I do enjoy new music from the artists I liked before, and even music from a few artists I didn't know before but completely fail to relate to the newest pop sensations for the most part.

          It could be that we continue to enjoy some songs from our youth because we enjoyed them at the time but wouldn't if they came out today.

    • "When you enjoy your newfound wealth remember me!"

      "I set aside a million bucks to reward Anoymous Coward, but he couldn't be identified so we gave up and threw it in the party fund.

      C'est la vie!"

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:33AM (#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.

    • by neyla ( 2455118 )

      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.

      • 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.
        • by neyla ( 2455118 )

          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.

        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          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

        • by sjames ( 1099 )
          What we need are non-medical 'ear boosters'. There's no good reason for a hearing aid to be a 'medical device' with all that entails.
    • by Sique ( 173459 )

      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.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:57AM (#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.

    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:58AM (#41396517) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • 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.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        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

        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          Micups did not get the cheapest digital hearing aid out there. There seem to be three tiers of price/features, and he chose the middle. As I mentioned before, I chose the cheapest at $2K a pair. This included testing (in a fancy soundproofed booth), programming, and fitting. Difficult to see how this could have been done any cheaper.

          That said, I agree with you about the pervasive gouging in the medical industry. The most glaring case is scorpion antivenom. Scorpion stings aren't common in the U.S., so mos

          • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

            I'd think that the "basic" model shouldn't require any tuning at all. Do you even have that choice when using insurance?

            As far as antivenom goes - I suspect that the trials to get it approved in the US probably did cost a small fortune. Part of the reform has to be regulatory. If the manufacturer actually had to perform a clinical trial then the costs for that is in the millions of dollars. Then if you sell 10 vials a year you need to charge $3k per vial just to make up that up-front cost in 30 years.

            • by fm6 ( 162816 )

              I'd think that the "basic" model shouldn't require any tuning at all.

              I can understand that somebody who doesn't use hearing aids might think that, but you could at least read my post all the way through.

              • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

                I did, and I understand the concerns about not amplifying parts of the range that aren't deficient. However, why not just have a tiny dial that sets a high-pass filter, and individuals could just tweak that on the basic model? Sure, it isn't perfect, but it is better than going without because you don't have $2k.

                Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of good enough.

                • by fm6 ( 162816 )

                  Well, aside from the fact that most users aren't geeks who like to hack everything they own, and the other fact that adding a little dial would add more to the cost than eliminating the hearing test and the programming, I guess it's a great idea.

                  It really astonishes me: we're all technogeeks here, and we spend our lives playing with cheap modern technology. Yet very few Slashdotters seem to understand why tech is so cheap. Tech can only be sold cheaply when it's produced in quantity. That's why not every g

      • Don't forget your technology triangle:

        Small - Cheap - Good. Pick two.
        • by fm6 ( 162816 )

          Maybe a little simplistic. "Good" changes over time as the tech becomes cheaper and people's expectations rise.

          • Precisely. I'm sick of old people lecturing about the "good old days" especially in reference to product quality and value. How anyone for instance can compare the piles of s*** people drove 'x' number of decades ago or appliances, or electronics, even clothing, food, houses, etc., etc. to modern goods, claim they were "better" then claim they were "cheaper" is beyond absurd.

            That's right gramps, you go drive your 1940 Packard, park it in the garage of your 700 sq. ft., drafty and cold cotton fiber insulat

            • by fm6 ( 162816 )

              Hey! I'm "old people". Not all of us think history should have ended during our youth.

              For that matter, the "way it was meant to be" fallacy is not restricted to old people wanting their youths back. Ron Paul's basic theory is that America was a Libertarian paradise before bluenoses and reformers screwed it up. Yeah, he's old, but he's not that old. And most of his followers are pretty young.

              BTW, I drive a 2009 Honda Fit. Beautiful piece of engineering.

  • 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 itsel

    • 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 bef

  • iPhone (Score:5, Informative)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @03:57AM (#41396511) Homepage Journal

    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].

    • 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.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      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.

  • by gnatman64 ( 688246 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:01AM (#41396531) Homepage
    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.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:07AM (#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).

    • by Gramie2 ( 411713 )

      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.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:08AM (#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]

  • by Rastloser ( 1364593 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:09AM (#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.

  • by jtownatpunk.net ( 245670 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:22AM (#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.

    • 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, un

  • by bemymonkey ( 1244086 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:23AM (#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?

    • by pthisis ( 27352 )

      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.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        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

    • 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.

      • 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. :(

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 pe

  • 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 withou

  • IHearYou (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward


    You can program/tweak these yourself.

  • 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.
  • Sounds like somebody should make this.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:38AM (#41397373) Journal

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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

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

  • 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 $
  • my ears are ringing from tinitus now, even though I haven't heard anything loud for days. you must protect yourself -- I've been wearing earplugs where necessary since realizing i was losing my top end in my 20's because of extremely loud guitarists and drummers (bassists usually aren't such dicks). being a keyboardist, I have had to compete with the guitars, and I can't stand playing so loud it hurts. just for once i want to be in a band where we play soft. if the audience can't hear, then they should STFU

  • I'm in the same boat. I've been going to shows and playing in bands for a long time. My hearing has been shot for years.

    However, I still play in bands(can't help myself...) and used the standard foam ear plugs for years, which cut so much of certain frequencies.

    My guitar player turned me onto the custom fit ear plugs with insertable db reducing "mini-plugs". These things are great. They custom fit your ear canal(via a visit to the ear doctor), so they fit perfect, and you have two different db cut
  • Some of us are losing our hearing, and in a hand full of years will be effectively deaf; it's chilling. My first thought was about hearing aids; but then I was looking at my Smart Phone and thought, "Is there an API so that I can make a Speech to Text App?" As for me, my Smart Phone is becoming useful in ways other than listening to it.
  • by fhic ( 214533 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @02:19PM (#41402521)

    I wear an Oticon Chili SP9, which is a high power digital aid, programmable by the audiologist. There's a DAI (direct audio input) boot available, which I use with my low-end MP3 player. There's also a much more sophisticated set of devices called "Connectline" http://oticonusa.com/Oticon/Professionals/professional_products/ConnectLine.html [oticonusa.com] based on a gadget that hangs around your neck or in your pocket. It adds Bluetooth connectivity (and limited control of the aid) from the gadget. It only works with certain Oticon aids using a protocol I haven't been able to decode.

    The Connectline gadget seemed like a good idea at the time, and I willingly spent the (lot) of extra money, but I find I mostly use the wired DAI boot. The Bluetooth gadget is more of a pain than a help. The battery doesn't last very long (less than a workday) and has to be shut off to recharge, which it does via a mini-USB connector. And it only links to one or two Bluetooth devices at a time. Also, it interferes with the Bluetooth system in my car.

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