10 things you should never say to a deaf / hearing-impaired person

This article nicely summarizes the frequent douche-bagginess that deaf / hearing-impaired people are facing.

I can confirm that every single point once in a while ruins my days. Interestingly, I find the point “But I find subtitles annoying” very upsetting. It happened to me several times that I was invited to a DVD evening with friends and when I asked for subtitles to be switched on I was facing an hour long discussion about whether or not it is necessary. Seriously, the most disappointing fact is that it is even highly intelligent people fail to get that a hearing loss is not “negotiable”. When I say I need subtitles, then it is a fact and not a matter of convenience.

Apple’s plans to improve support for the hearing impaired

I was recently (and repeatedly ;)) pointed to these news.

My personal opinion is that I am sceptical, if this is really aimed to actually help the hearing impaired or if it is just one piece in the game of patents. Even if this will yield to actual products, it might certainly not make the market any more open (at least with apple’s history, that would surprise me). I hope we do not end up in a scenario where you can only use Apple products with Apple hearing aids.

But maybe I am wrong and Apple will surprise me. We will see. 🙂

Hearing aid technology in consumer electronics?

The following article proposes to use hearing aid technology to enhance consumer electronics, specifically to tune out annoying noises from your environment.

I personally think he overestimates the current state of the art in hearing aid technology  and especially the quality of today’s signal processing algorithms, but I like the idea. I’d love to see the two markets merge in the future, since it will most probably result in dropping prices for hearing aids and awesome features for consumer headphones.


Waterproof Hearing Aids

This is the 10th (and so far last) 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 hearing aids are not waterproof. That leads to a lot of situations which are perfectly normal for hearing people but exclude hearing-impaired ones. For example: social water sports, pool parties, sauna with friends, a trip to the beach with friends, watching a movie with wet hair after you just had a shower, open air concerts in the rain, muddy festivals, listening to audiobooks or watching TV while lying the bathtub. I could go on and on. Also simply sweat is a problem for many people, especially those who perform a lot of sports.

There are a few hearing aids on the market that claim water resistance, I hope it will be standard and affordable soon.

See also the previous point on my wishlist: Legal certainty for situation related to broken hearing aids.

Legal certainty for situation related to broken hearing aids

This is the 9th 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.

When my hearing aids break, I am not able to go to work. I mean I could go there, but I would not be able to communicate with my coworkers properly. Also, I have to spend time at the audiologist, to hand in my hearing aids and get the spare hearing aids (roughly) tuned. Wearing poorly tuned hearing aids cause me headaches, which also reduce my work performance. The audiologist visit takes time, but I have no idea if I can officially call in sick for that. I am wondering if my employer can actually fire me if that happens too often. I asked this question several audiologists and none of them could give me a definitive answer.

Same applies to when my hearing aids break when I was doing something that might be considered “risky” with respect to the hearing aids. For example, am I allowed to attend a martial arts class with my hearing aids? Can my insurance refuse to pay the reparation if they break during that class? What about when I accidentally have a shower with my hearing aids on? (It happens because when you wear them every day, you forget that you are wearing them.) What about when I attend an open air concert, it starts raining and I did not seek cover, because I did not want to miss the awesome performance? Those situations might sound constructed, but actually they happen if you are are not an old grandpa, but a young person with an active life.

There are a lot of situations related to hearing aids where there is no legal certainty for the patient. Sick leave and reparation costs are only examples here.

See also the next point on my wishlist: Waterproof Hearing Aids. Or the previous one: Offer tuning in realistic circumstances, legalize and support self-tuning.

Offer tuning in realistic circumstances, legalize and support self-tuning

This is the 8th 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.

In order for hearing aids to improve a patient’s life, they have to be tuned correctly. The tuning is done in many meetings with an audiologist. The process of tuning hearing aids takes months and still after that most patients are not entirely happy with the result.

From my own experience I guess that one reason for this is that the tuning never takes place in a realistic hearing setting, but in the audiologist’s soundproof cabin. The only information he has is what I describe about that situation where I was not able to understand my friend at that party last week. In comparison, if you bring your car to a car repair shop and describe in what situations it makes problems, they for sure will try to reproduce the situation in order to examine it and fix the problem. The only thing audiologists do sometimes is taking you out on the street for a minute or two [1].

So getting your hearing aids tuned is a frustrating and time-consuming experience. As a patient you are totally dependent on your audiologist and spend a lot of your valuable time in his office without being happy about the result afterwards. It is no surprise that there are quite a number of people who started to tune their hearing aids themselves.

The problem with self-tuning is: you need special hard- and software and you need the knowledge. The knowledge is out there, although it might not be too easy, it is possible to teach yourself the required audiology.

The hardware and software on the other hand is hard to get. Officially it is only sold to audiologists and doctors [2]. There is no way to buy it on the free market like on ebay etc., because those hardware is classified as medical devices and as such not obtainable by patients.But for every market, there is a black market and when people are frustrated, they find a way. So, there are quite some people out there which tune their hearing aids, because they can do that wherever and whenever they want and not just when their audiologist is willing to give them an appointment and willing to do the tuning outside his office. So the situation is that there are people self-tuning, but because they have to do it inofficially, they don’t get any support for that. Support means software updates, manuals, maintenance material for the hardware, trainings for the software, warranty for the tuning hardware and their hearing aids etc.

What I want here is that interested and skilled patients are allowed to get a “hearing aid tuning license”. Similar to a driving license, I imagine that you take some classes and maybe have to do a test and in the end you are allowed to tune your own hearing aids. Most hearing conditions are permanent, which means as a young person, you are facing several decades of having to wear hearing aids. In that situation you might as well spend some weeks on learning how to tune your hearing aids yourself in order to be more independent.

Also, it would great, if the software would comply to common standards, meaning that it has open APIs which everyone can use to extend its functionality. The hardware should comply to open standards and be legally purchasable by patients. It would be even better if you don’t need special hardware at all but can use consumer hardware. Why do you need a special device when you hearing aids can talk bluetooth in the near future? So, why can’t I just tune my hearing aids using my smart phone or my tablet PC while I am sitting in the subway?

[1] I heart rumors, that some audiologists come home to people and adjust the hearing aids there. Of the four audiologists that I have seen so far, none of them offered that.

[2]  There is one exception in the U.S: americahears.com

See also the next point on my wishlist: Legal certainty for situation related to broken hearing aids. Or the previous one: Open hardware and software standards.