Category Archives: Technology

What sucks about Bluetooth Hearing Aids?

A while ago I wrote an ode to Bluetooth hearing aids and described how they changed my life. While that is totally true, it is not the whole truth. Not everything is super cool about Bluetooth hearing aids. In this article I’ll list the annoying quircks that you might encounter when when you buy Bluetooth hearing aids. While I still think they are an awesome piece of technology, I want you to have the full picture.

Note: I assume that most of these problems are not necessarily problems of the implementation in the hearing aids itself. A lot things things that are annoying are due to Bluetooth itself, how it is implemented in the sending device (the phone, the laptop) and how other devices in the room might interfere with the hearing aids. Hence I am not necessarily blaming the hearing aid manufacturers here, but if there is something they can do about these things, I would be grateful for an update.

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How Bluetooth Hearing Aids changed my life

While this might be unusal for my American-English speaking audience, I am the type of person who uses phrases like “changed my life” only for things that literally changed my life. Life-changing events happen usually not that frequent, but today I want to talk about one of them. Late 2019 I got my new hearing aids, the Phonak Audeo Marvels. Those have built-in Bluetooth technology and that really changed my life.

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Why rechargeable Hearing Aids aren’t there yet

When I tested hearing aids for my latest purchase late last year (2019), I was specifically curious about hearing aids with rechargeable batteries. Nowadays several manufacturers offer those. I wanted to do my part for the environment, and hence not having to buy new batteries all the time was on my wish list. However, it turns out that the offering of hearing aids with rechargeable batteries on the market does not do it for me yet. Sadly, it seems I have to wait till the next cycle. See my report.

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Just use a headset already

In times of Covid-19, social distancing and home quarantine, many people resort to meeting their people via (video or telephone) conferencing. You call your coworkers when you work from home, after work you have a with call with Aunt Amy, and later in the event you join your nerd group of friends that you play the latest boardgame with.

I don’t have a clue about virology or any of the medical stuff, but if I could give you one piece of advice in these times: do your peers a favor and use a headset.

A person wearing a mickey-mouse style headset with a fixed microphone. The headset is connected to a laptop.

To some people, especially the gamers, this might be the obvious way to do conference calls, but I noticed that even for my tech savvy colleagues this isn’t all that obvious.

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Why 90% is Not Cool

I recently stumbled upon this talk by professional real-time captioner Mirabai Knight about why human captioning (still) matters:

I highly recommend watching the talk in its entirety. I found it super interesting and learned a lot. However, if you have only 5 minutes, I suggest watching starting at minute 10:38, which contains my personal highlight.

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Google Live Transcribe

It’s not every day that I get to test an a11y app, that later became into a product. Google recently launched two apps to make the life of people who are deaf or hard of hearing easier: Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier.

Official announcement:
https://www.blog.google/outreach-initiatives/accessibility/making-audio-more-accessible-two-new-apps/

I am a fan of Live Transcribe in particular. The apps listens to your call or the surroundings of your phone and generates captions automatically. It works with even several languages.

I had the honor of testing it early and I am happy with the result. I hope it does a good job for you too.

Take-away from 32c3

I attended the 32c3 last year and watched the talk “Unpatchable“, a talk which┬áis related to hacking medical devices. In this case it wasn’t hearing aids, but pacemakers. Interestingly, the speakers raised similar questions as I did in my talk at 28c3.

The questions being for example:

  • This device is part of my body, why do I not know what code is in it?
  • How can I trust that the device is not vulnerable from the outside?
  • Does a doctor have to tell me when he flashes the firmware or that the device is tracking my very personal data?

Agreeable, the consequences for patients wearing pace makers are more impactful than for patients wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, I still found the talk worth watching, I hope you do too.