One of the coolest evolving features of today’s top hearing aid gear is their connectivity with other electronic devices within our ever more connected world. The headlines recently have been filled with the latest incredible devices being invented and showcased at the South by Southwest conference in Austin Texas.
So in highlighting the connectivity of today’s hearing aids, i was interested in Google’s introduction of it’s new “Glass” head worn interface. Like a small pair of half horn rim glasses, this device offers the ability to have the world wide web accessed, viewed and controlled with a combination of voice commands and taps and swipes on their arm.
Current hearing aid technology requires an interface to convert the industry wide, yet power hungry, BlueTooth communications protocol to the particular ultra low drain, proprietary communications protocols being used by today’s hearing aid manufacturers.
Every model out, requires some sort of ‘Dongle’ to translate due to the power costs involved with maintaining pairing and streaming using the old, yet established Bluetooth protocol.
These dongles must be kept within inches of the hearing aids to maintain communications with them, though they may be several yards from the Bluetooth devices they are paired with.
Google’s ‘Glass’ offers an opportunity for a complete break with the antiquated, power hungry requirements of Bluetooth. Because the ‘Glass’ is worn like a pair of regular glasses, they provide the ideal proximity for low drain communications.
Google’s open source operating system will allow any manufacturer with the moxi, to write proprietary applications that would allow for communications with and through their hearing aids.
Such communications would allow for not only communications but control over the hearing aid system, right down to the programing level.
Not only could a ‘Glass’ wearer get the New York times headlines flashed across his field of view, the stories could be streamed directly into his hearing aids by the e reader.
Programming, from the hearing test, to fine adjustments could be made via the cloud based programming software accessed by voice commands, or taps and slides against the arms of the ‘Glass’.
Such a suite of applications would allow for the widespread sale of modular, RIC style gear that could then be loaded with the audio processing applications most suited to the customer’s needs, lifestyle and budget.
Such applications would also allow for widespread self testing of hearing, and the application of appropriate amplification via an online patient communications, and control interaction, that could include interaction with a hearing care professional, as needed in real time.
Taking maximum advantage of the benefits of manufacturing scale, and open platform technologies and by allowing for the individual customization of the level and sophistication of the software that controls the ear level gear, we’ve formerly known as hearing aids, would radically reduce to per unit cost to consumers.
While the applications and degree of lifestyle changes that will be wrought with Google’s new ‘Glass’ are just now poised to begin playing out, the real life enhancements provided by today’s high end hearing aids may soon be eclipsed, should Google and it’s developers see the potential.
Sometime in our near future, we may all be wearing something similar to a ‘Glass’, complete with hearing aid style, in the canal receivers to deliver our connected world, in high definition stereo, read the stock quotes we follow, or help us to understand conversations better in a noisy party, all as we choose.
These devices may become so ubiquitous (Think of how we went from only a few early adopters having cell phones, to twenty years later everyone having one.) that should you have a hearing loss, you simply go to the app. store and buy any number of applications that will provide the ability to test hearing thresholds, then load a set of sound processing algorithms that will be appropriate to whatever level of loss, and sound environment the individual user designates.
Want to hear better in noise? We’ve got an app for that.
Want to record, triangulate and identify that rare bird call, then share it with the world on your Facebook page? Someone will have an app for that.
Never have there been so many opportunities to manipulate, record and transmit sounds in so many ways that help folks with a hearing loss to hear better, and function at incredibly high levels in even some of the worst sound environments, like noisy restaurants and socials.
Sadly, the adaptation rate for hearing aids, as estimated by the total number of people who could benefit, versus those who have them, hovers just below one in five.
So, when it comes to getting the word out about the benefits of the great gear available today, as well as it’s ability to connect to a much wider world, we most definitely need an app for that.
If, you, or a loved one has a hearing loss, or even if you just want more information about what’s available today, please take the time to leave us a note with your question. Chances are, you aren’t the only one with it. We will do our best to answer each and every question as best we can and if we don’t know, we’ll do our best to find out from someone who can.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you’ve found what you were looking for, or at least have been entertained in the process. Stop back often, as we’re constantly adding things of interest.