Category Archives: Language : English

Longer battery life and non-proprietary batteries in peripheral hardware

This is the 5th part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

Peripheral hardware often needs their own batteries. Those are very often proprietary batteries and most often they don’t last very long. For example in order to use my bluetooth adapter a whole day, I need to buy an extra battery for it and often a charger station as well (if available at all). And situations where this is necessary are common for example when you travel have nothing else do to than listening to music while sitting in the air plane for 12 hours.

I would rather prefer peripheral hardware to use normal non-proprietary batteries which are available in every grocery store in the world and that I can use my charger for normal batteries for. And please don’t tell me those proprietary batteries are necessary for the design of the devices, most of them look dorky anyway, so I might at least have the benefit of using non-proprietary batteries.

See also the next point on my wishlist: Affordable hearing aids and full insurance coverage for devices and peripheral hardware and maintenance costs. Or the previous one: 24/7 Service and Availability of Replacement Devices.

24/7 Service and Availability of Replacement Devices

This is the 4th part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

Audiologists and accousticians have opening hours which are not compatible with a schedule of a working person [1]. They usually open only between Monday and Friday 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and most of them are closed on Saturday, with the exception of a very few shops in very big cities. This makes it nearly impossible for me to see an audiologist without spending valuable vacation days or risking trouble with my employer.

This is especially bad, when my hearing aids break. If they break on a Friday night, I have to wait until Monday morning to see my audiologist. Most likely, he will not be able to repair it right away, but will give me a spare hearing aid, which will mostly not be of the same model as my own hearing aid. Since the settings are not compatible between different hearing aid models, those will be poorly tuned and cause me a lot of distress.

What I want is a service similar to what you can buy for your car or your computer. If my car breaks down somewhere (not even necessarily in my home country), I can call that service and they come to me, repair my car right away or bring my car to the nearest repair shop and transfer me to wherever I was going. There is no service like that for hearing aids, although I am much more dependent on my hearing aids than on my car. I would even pay for it, but so far I have not heart of any offers like that [2].

I would even be willing to give my audiological data and hearing aid setting parameters to a third party provider if in case my hearing aids are broken, they guarantee to provide me with a set of hearing aids of the same model as I usually wear tuned with my parameters within 24 hours. It would be great if that was not only available in my home country, but everywhere in the world.

[1] This might only apply to Germany, I cannot give an exhausting description for other markets. Feel free to add comments about that.

[2] I heart rumors that some vendors offer service like that, but only for some of their hearing aid models. And so far, I haven’t seen those offers.

See also the next point on my wishlist: Longer battery life and non-proprietary batteries in peripheral hardware. Or the previous one: Seamless compatibility between hearing aids and peripheral hardware to consumer electronics.

Seamless compatibility between hearing aids and peripheral hardware to consumer electronics

This is the third part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

The compatibility between hearing aids and peripheral hardware and consumer  electronics like phones and mp3 players is often very bad. My bluetooth adapter often fails to pick up calls, so the first thing I do when someone calls is asking “Do you hear me? Wait, I don’t hear you, I’ll call you back.” And seriously, especially in a work environment, that is quite embarrassing and annoying.

Also, signal quality is often bad, especially with mobile and bluetooth-compatible phones of particular vendors. I cannot freely choose to buy a phone, I always have to borrow the same model from a friend first and check if it works. It often doesn’t, which restricts my freedom of choice significantly. If I have choice at all. My guess is, that there is not much testing going on to make a piece of peripheral hardware as compatible as possible to the consumer electronics market.

See also the next point on my wishlist: 24/7 Service and Availability of Replacement Devices. Or the previous one: Compatibility between vendors for hearing aids and peripheral hardware.

Compatibility between vendors for hearing aids and peripheral hardware

This is the second part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

Most modern hearing aids communicate with each other. If you switch the program on one side, the other hearing aid does so as well. Also, for the signal processing, they talk to each other and exchange information to analyze the acoustic setting more thoroughly. This does not work when two hearing aids come from different vendors, sometimes not even when they are different models from the same vendor.

The same applies for peripheral hardware. Hearing aids from one vendor most often are only compatible to peripheral hardware (such as bluetooth adapter or FM systems) of the same vendor. If you buy a hearing aid from that vendor and the compatible peripheral hardware, you are very likely to to choose your next hearing aid from the same vendor, because you don’t want to rebuy the peripheral hardware or the hearing aid for your other ear. You are stuck with one vendor and don’t have the freedom to choose the best product next time, just because there are no standards and/or no willingness of the vendors to coorporate with each other.

The same applies to compatibility between cochlear implants and peripheral hardware, other hearing aids or cochlear implants of other vendors.

Also the parameters and settings between hearing aids are not compatible, often not even between different models of the same vendor. When your hearing aids break and you temporarily get a spare hearing aid of a different model, the accoustician can only roughly tune it and you have to live with those crappy settings until you get back your own hearing aids from the reparation.

See also the next point on my wishlist: Seamless compatibility between hearing aids and peripheral hardware to consumer electronics. Or the previous one: Better Signal Processing.

Better Signal Processing

This is the first part of my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

Nowadays hearing aids still don’t fully compensate a hearing loss. They fail particularly in difficult but frequently occurring acoustic situations. The reality is that the cocktail party problem still exists and that it makes life hard for the hard of hearing. Hearing-impaired people still avoid noisy situations like in restaurants, bars, at parties, or any kind of event where a lot of people are talking. Since those are exactly the situations where people socialize, hearing-impaired people have significant problems in connecting to other people – both in their personal life as well as in professional environments. That means if you are not able to make friends and business partners, you will get isolated and won’t make a career.

Also, many hearing-impaired people depend on lip-reading and ‘guessing from the context’, because hearing aids are just not good enough. It is not uncommon that hearing-impaired people still avoid situations where they have to rely on acoustic channels and switch to workarounds like subtitles for movies or text messaging instead of calling on the phone.

One specific problem of the signal processing of hearing aids are feedback loops. Feedback loops occur frequently when something is close to the hearing devices, for example if you put on a hat, if someone hugs you, or you lay down on the sofa to watch a movie. The only effective measure that today’s hearing aids have is to detect the feedback loop and then damp the affected frequencies. But those frequencies might be the ones that you need to understand speech. Thus, you have the choice between wearing a hat on a cold winter day or being able to understand the person in front of you.

See also the next point on my wishlist: Compatibility between vendors for hearing aids and peripheral hardware.

Wishlist

In the last couple of months, I was often ask to list the things that I wish to be addressed by the hearing aid industry. This list got lengthy, but I figured I have to illustrate each point sufficiently. Thus, every point gets its own article.

This is my wishlist to audiologists and accousticians, hearing aid manufacturers, and the health care system. If you like to add something, share your experiences, or provide more information, I encourage you to submit a comment.

1. Better Signal Processing

2. Compatibility between vendors for hearing aids and peripheral hardware

3. Seamless compatibility between hearing aids and peripheral hardware to consumer electronics

4. 24/7 service and availability of replacement devices

5. Longer battery life and non-proprietary batteries in peripheral hardware

6. Affordable hearing aids and full insurance coverage for devices and peripheral hardware and maintenance costs

7. Open hardware and software standards

8. Tuning in realistic circumstances, legalize and support self-tuning

9. Legal certainty for situation related to broken hearing aids

10. Waterproof Hearing Aids

Subtitles for my 28c3 talk available now

Good news! With the help of some great people, I was able to provide subtitles for the recording of my talk at the 28c3 conference. You can watch the video on youtube and switch on the subtitles as explained in the following screenshot.

Just click on the “CC” button at the left bottom of the video.

How to switch on subtitles

If you have any problems viewing the video, please let me know. Also, I highly appreciate it if you have feedback for me. Just send me an email or drop a comment here. Thanks a lot!

Slides and speaker notes of my talk “Bionic Ears” at 28c3

As promised, I provide the slides of my talk “Bionic Ears” at the 28c3 hacker conference in Berlin.

28c3 “Bionic Ears” Slides

I also offer a version with detailed speaker notes, because especially my hearing-impaired audience might need it to be able to follow. I had to downsample the images in this version to avoid the files getting too big. Please have a look at the “slides only” version for details in the images.

28c3 “Bionic Ears” Slides + Speakernotes

I played different audio samples during the talk, you can download them here:

Sad robot (original)

Sad robot (with hearing loss of high frequencies)

Sad robot (with hearing loss of high frequencies and tinnitus added)

Sound of Cochlear Implants

Update: If you want everything in one packet, you can get it here:

28c3 “Bionic Ears” (Slides, speaker notes and audio samples) (about 20MB)

Sound of my Hearing Loss

At my talk at 28c3, I played a couple of sound files to show my audience how I hear.

The original file is a song “Sad Robot” by “Pornophonique“.

Sad robot (original)

This version has the high frequencies removed, which is typical for a hearing loss.

Sad robot (with hearing loss of high frequencies)

Additionally, I have a nasty tinnitus sound in the frequency range which is affected by my hearing loss. The following file has this sampled in. Since the tinnitus sound is similar to a feedback loop’s sound, you are advised not to play it too loud, because it could destroy audio equipment.

Sad robot (with hearing loss of high frequencies and tinnitus added)

The tinnitus sound is taken from a website which provides a collection of typical tinnitus noises: http://www.ata.org/sounds-of-tinnitus