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Personal hearing aid software

I previously wrote about how letting hearing aid wearers program their own aids would be good thing. To briefly recap: I think that giving us wearers a simplified version of the software that audiologists use to program digital hearing aids to an individual’s requirements would allow us to get maximum benefit from our aids.

A comment from David made me realise I’d missed a few important things in that article and got me thinking some more….

One application to rule them all

As far as I am aware, the current situation is that each hearing aid manufacturer has their own software that an audiologist will use to adjust settings for their aids only. Having numerous different applications to use has many problems:

  • The patient’s audiogram has to be loaded into each piece of software individually. In some cases, I have seen my audiologist enter it manually. This wastes time and there’s the possibility that the audiogram details may be entered incorrectly.
  • The audiologist has to learn how to use all the different applications.
  • Some applications may have specific features that the audiologist really likes and they’d like to be able to use them when fitting any aid brand.
  • Each application has their own helpline. More number to remember and the audiologist may find themselves repeating the same problem to multiple helpline operators.

So, I’d really like to see an open standard for digital hearing aid connectivity and programming. If manufacturers collaborated on this they could save themselves time and money on software development, make audiologists lives easier AND produce a simplified version of the software for aid wearers.

I’d could go on and on here about how joint development and open standards could make better hearing aid software but this isn’t a software development blog so I’ll stop it there!

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19 comments
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  1. What you’re suggesting has been around for a fairly long while. NOAH does just what you’ve asked for and is supported by nearly all major manufacturers.

    http://www.himsa.com/

    and it’s free to most audiologists!

  2. In Australia, hearing aids and audilology consults are free for pensioners (over 65 years or disabled), veterans and children under 16 years. Is that not the situation in the US? I see that you have US only websites sites where you can buy high end one size fits all hearing aids with money back guarantees – nextdayears (no affiliation) and superbhearingaids among them.

  3. @Ed

    Thanks for the information on NOAH, sounds interesting, I’ll check it out.

    Would be nice, though, if software like NOAH was not just free to most audiologists but free to everyone.

  4. NOAH is very expensive. It requires a n entire IT department as a support system.
    This brings me to my point. A novice shouldn’t be programming their own hearing aids.
    When will Audiologists and Hearing Aid Specialists be given the respect that they deserve? I think some people think that this is just a very easily learned profession and “anyone can do that”. Its no wonder that a large percentage of people who order online and through magazines to save a few dollars quit wearing their aids. They have no support, no one to turn to. Pay the piper. Checkups are free, support and training is free when you purchase from a reputable dealer or Audiologist. Lets not get the common person involved in things they shouldn’t be in. I wouldn’t want to operate on myself or care to learn how to.

  5. I’d certainly agree with you, Brian, that NOAH does require and EXTRODINARY amount of ‘management’ and wastes all sorts of time as a change for one manufacturer will step on something from another. I should have added all of that in my first answer. Further, I fully agree that an end-user is going to wind up paying one way or another (time or money – or, when doing it by themself, probably both!) and I would never encourage someone to do that.

    However, there are those people who are NEVER satisfied with anything unless they do it themselves. Since I’d posted about NOAH some nine months ago, I’ve now seen a company offering a ‘program-it-yourself’ deal on the web and ostensibly selling hearing aids much cheaper as a result. In fact, it was brought to my attention by a friend who is quite enamoured with being able to ‘tweak’ his hearing aids all of the time. I’ve told him that he’d be FAR better served dealing with a professional but he’s convinced he’s going to get something for nothing – and, frankly, he’s a fiddler who’d drive any professional office right up the wall crazy! There will not be a THING I can do to disuade him from this and, sadly, he’ll never realize that the hearing aid he’s gotten is probably FAR inferior to what he would have bought from a dealer or Audiologist. That notwithstanding, his time is seemingly irrelevant and if it weren’t this, he’d be rebuilding a car engine or something so I just shrug and he can do whatever he wants.Further, those selling hearing aids in my area would probably want to have me shot if I ever sent him to one of them.

  6. Brian you said: “Checkups are free, support and training is free when you purchase from a reputable dealer or Audiologist”.

    That sounds all well and good, but the fact remains a Audiologist isn’t going to take the time and effort that I the user would in adjusting my HA’s.

    First off, you could be the greatest Audiologists in the world.. but the fact remains, if you and I hear the same identical sound.. you’re going to process and interpret that sound differently than I do. Also.. it’s most likely a assured bet that the sounds and daily situations that I’m in and hear are those that are drasticly different than yours. That being the case, how are you going to accomplish this adjustment miracle?

    What does this all mean? It’s simple. You as a Audiologist aren’t going to pack up all your equipment and following me around for several days at a time as I go here.. and stop there.. adjusting and tweeking my HA’s. On the other hand, if I had a program that would allow me to make some minor adjustments to my HA’s, while at the same time having the ability to return to my original base settings.. then what’s the problem?

    Oh.. you don’t like that idea. Well then, how about I come to your office and you program my HA’s. A day or two later I come back again to have them readjusted because they’re quite right and/or somethings just a little bit off. The next day I’m back again for more adjustments. It’s the weekend and on Sunday I need another adjustment/tweek. Are you going to open up your office to do this for me? NO! Hmmmmm. I thought so.

    Now you see why in situations like this it would be not only a good idea to allow self adjusting, but better for everyone involved.

    Shi-Ku Chishiki ShiKu.Chishiki@Gmail.com

  7. NOHA is interesting, would like to find the other software mentioned. Also not mentioned is the necessary interface box and cable to the aid…s.. My self, I am a electronics eng. tech type and hard of hearing (to much good LOUD rock music) .

  8. I agree 100% with all what Shi-Ku Chishiki says above.

    We , hearing aid users/wearers, need software and interface to continue with our own adjustments. We want the freedom to do it whenever we need to do it and at home in our real and daily environment. It should be the normal thing to do, at least for those of us (or relatives) that are willing to learn the how to.

    We cannot depend all the time on the audiologist . Regarding free checkups…uhmmm…I will check on that since I did get a bill for this third time after I purchased my Sonic Velocity 4(a pair) for $1450.

    Thanks Shi-Ku Chishiki for your feed back .

    L. Kilhefner

  9. I just read an article that dealt with the stigma of wearing hearing aids and that forward thinking with products like the Siemens Vibe was a step in the right direction in overcoming the stigma.

    At $5000 a pair it can easily be assumed that their impact will be small. If the industry is truly interested in increasing their market they might want to reconsider their protectionist position.

    They appeared to be so closely aligned with the manufacturers that none will write comprehensive reviews. Yet they are using the rationale that by restricting sales to just them they will be able to provide all of the service the client requires. Repeating the makers hype is about the best that can be found and even that information is so limited so as to render it worthless.

    If the only product the providers have is service then they should be willing to be judged by their service and not the price of the instrument they sell, which along with the stigma is what is stopping millions from using aids.

    It would seem that they are not only their own worst enemies, but those of the hearing impaired as well. Until the industry changes its business model it will be the single most important factor in the number of those needing hearing aids and the number not getting them.

    But, then the “common folks” might get involved, comparing an operation to adjusting hearing aids is an example of the lame thinking that runs through the industry. That people quit using aids because of a cheap product or their own mismanagement would serve more to send them to a professional, a concept that escapes many of them, than completely discourage them. They have no answer for those that don’t get them or can’t afford their “service” and turn to cheaper alternatives.

  10. Audiologists from HearSource make online house calls to hearing aid customers. Hearsource is a leading online supplier of premium digital hearing instruments. HearSource programming coaches provide technical support and training over the Internet on customers’ personal computers at home via the internet.

    HearSource has designed and developed hearing aids and fitting programs that place hearing aid users in control of their own hearing health. Many of our clientele are motivated by a ‘do-it-yourself’ ethic, and our hearing systems allows them do as much fine-tuning to their HearSource hearing instruments as they want. The result is the best possible hearing aid fitting with personal service in the comfort of your own home.”

    HearSource is the best product on the market allowing users to program their own 100% digital HearSource hearing aids. The fitting software features a user interface that is as easy to work with as the graphic equalizer on a home stereo system. It is compatible with Microsoft Windows 2000, XP and Vista operating systems. The HearSource system also allows for a HearSource audiologist or hearing instrument specialist to remotely adjust the hearing aids for you.

    Getting the right programming adjustments is the biggest obstacle to hearing aid consumer satisfaction, often requiring multiple time-consuming trips to the dispenser’s office before they get the right fit. HearSource allows our customers take control of their hearing aid adjustments in the comfort of their own homes while working directly with our dedicated staff of hearing professionals to ensure they get exactly what they want.

    HearSource hearing aids cost only $995 each and do come with all the needed hardware and software for any do-it-yourself hearing aid wearer. http://www.HearSource.com

  11. Noah Is Great, but like others have stated its expensive…. ANOTHER SOLUTION would be, Find Out What Kind of Digital Signal Processor “DSP” is INSIDE YOUR AID. If you are using a PHONAK Hearing AId, More than likely, inside your Hearing Instrument you have ON Semiconductor. The BELASIGNA 200™ BELASIGNA 250™ BELASIGNA 300™
    The MicroChip is Known as “WLCSP Package” The Physical size is 2.68mm x 3.63mm for the BELASIGNA 300.
    It is fully supported by ON Semiconductor with SOFTWARE. Yes the Software you can get for FREE from ON Semiconductor. You buy the Chip and software comes with it. In fact you don’t need to purchase the chip to Download the Software. However the BELASIGNA 300 is only $12.00
    The DSP EVALUATION KIT you can also Purchase. This will give you the INTERFACE needed to Talk to the DSP. It is much Like a High PRO programming box or whats known as the NOAH Link .
    I think the ON Semiconductor Evaluation Kit is Cheaper than both the HiPro and Noah.

    Just some Research I’ve been working on since NOVEMBER 2008 to Present Sept. 2009.

  12. Is there really a way fro me to program my own hearing aids?
    I am So frustrated hearing my audiologist say, bluetooth is new to me, and i’m not shure how to ddo this. we’ll call tech support when you come in does that sound better? can you hear me? Then I have to wait anywhere from 45-90 days for a new appt.

    This is insane. Why don’t they put tme back in the soundbooth and test me with the aids in place?

    won’t that tell them what to do?
    If I could tune them myself, I could respond promptly to what I like and don’t like in the real world, not his office.

  13. I have been using a 17 channel digital hearingaid for 2 years. I have made over 100 trios to the audiologists and still all it does is amplify noise! I am computer and audio litterate and know what the capabilities of digital devices are. If I could get my hands on their software, I could have this thing humming (or not humming) in no time.
    My audiologists have refused the idea of a second audio test so they are shooting in the dark!

    I have a MARQUE 17 BELTONE.

  14. Don and Jim,

    You can buy the kits that audiologists use but they are expensive and are really sold to be used by a trained audiologist. I’m really in favour of having simplified software that us wearers can use but there’s nothing around like that at the moment. America Hears and HearSource do have self-programmers but I have never tried them and you have to use their own-brand hearing aids with them.

    If you are not happy with the service you are getting have you thought about visiting another audiologist?

  15. I have owned a professional sound and electronics business since 1973. Thus, I found it to be quite frustrating, trying to describe the various adjustments that I needed through another person. Especially when I have far more experience setting up digital sound equipment than any hearing aid sales person would. It seems quite absurd that I am a professional sound engineer and cannot obtain a simple software program to adjust my own hearing aids. I would think that it would be an excellent marketing tool for hearing aid companies to offer this self-adjustment capability.

    There are a multitude of electronic products on the market today that can be interfaced with ones personal computer. When one purchases those products, they often include a connect cable and a program disk for their particular device. Why should hearing aids be any different?

    In my situation, I will have to drive a considerable distance if I want my hearing aids adjusted. Then, I must try to explain what I want to a hearing aid person that cannot hear what I am hearing. The problem is further exacerbated by the location where the adjusting is done. That acoustic environment may be totally different than one’s day to day use.

    On page 32, of the July, 2009, issue of Consumer Reports Magazine: CR did a review on purchasing hearing aids. In that article, CR reported that two-thirds of the hearing aids purchased were misfit. That large number is understandable when one considers how and where most hearing aid adjustments are made.

  16. The answer to your question is HearSource.com. Everything you need to do your own hearing aid programming.

    Programmable hearing aids
    Hearing aid programming software
    Hearing aid programming cables
    Hearing aid programmer
    Hearing aid programming instruction manual
    Free support and remote assistance

    Good luck to all. I have been happily using their system for several years. Could not be happier.

    Steve

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  18. Hello all!
    It sounds like there are a lot of experienced hearing aid (HA) users on this forum. As an Audiologist, I am sorry that some of you are either not getting your needs met by your current Audiologist/HIS or that some of you feel like you have no control over your hearing aids.

    For the non-experienced HA users out there, there is a reason why you are given little controls in the beginning of your hearing aid trial: acclimatization. It takes at least 4 weeks for the auditory nerves and brain to learn how to process and adjust to acoustically amplified sound. What does this mean? If you have a high-pitched hearing loss, the hearing aid will likely sound “tinny” when you first wear it, due to your brain not being used to hearing those sounds again. With time, your brain learns how to adapt and the “tinniness” will decrease with time. That’s one reason there is at least a 30 day trial period mandated by most states.

    For the experienced HA users, if your audiologist is not using real ear measurements to verify how your ear canal is resonating the HA sounds in your ear, then you might as well program your own HAs. The software is typically easy-to-use. Unfortunately in the US, only ~20% of Audiologists do “Real Ear.” However, if your Audiologist is sticking a weird probe in your ear and sending sounds to your ear canal to get funny looking measurements, it’s to your benefit! By doing this, your hearing loss can be fit with a more accurate prescription, which will make sure you get enough gain in each channel. If you do not do this measurement, the hearing aid will typically not put out enough high-pitched gain, which are the important frequencies for speech understanding. Or, it may put out too much low-pitched gain, which can impede incoming signals. However, listening through the aid, it is not likely that you know exactly which pitches you need to adjust to meet your prescription without the assistance of a real ear analyzer (i.e. Frye box, Verifit system).

    If you have fluctuating hearing loss, though- there’s something for you! Studies have shown that allowing a patient to take a mini “hearing test” in a quiet area with Widex’s SP3 Programmer helps to give appropriate gain for patients with fluctuating hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease. I haven’t read the article in a while, but I believe the programmer is a little different from the audiologist’s SP3 programmer in that it allows small adjustments in gain based on the hearing loss measured for that day. These typically are not for sale for patients, but if you have Meniere’s – you may be able to make a case based on this study.
    http://www.atypon-link.com/AAP/doi/abs/10.1375/audi.2005.27.1.78

    I genuinely hope that you all are able to become successful and satisfied hearing aid users. I wish you all the best.

  19. As a relatively new HA user (Jan ’11), I understand the acclimation period; however, after having gone back to my audiologist for three 45-day checkups (evaluations), I’m less than thrilled at the audiologist’s desire to do anything about the programming. One of the selling points for my aids was the 8 channels of programming to provide for various hearing environments (i.e., noisy restaurants, outside high windage, etc.), but he has continually put me off at my request to “tweak” or modify anything. What really was the final breaking point for me was when I went to his office for a checkup and found him assembling a cabinet for a television for his lobby. Seeing no indication that he would drop this project, I began assisting him, thinking that if he gets through, we can get on with the exam. This continued for almost an hour, after which he told me that he had to go since he had a session at the local gym. Needless to say, I haven’t been back and am reluctant to recommend this man to anyone else. I’ve spent several thousand dollars on HA’s and, while there is an improvement in my hearing situation, it’s nowhere near where promised before the purchase. This is why I want to be able to program my own HA’s. If I try to see another audiologist, besides them not having my audiograms, I’ll have to pay a second time for what care I should be getting now. I guess I’m just “ticked” at receiving less than what I purchased from someone who is supposed to be a “professional.”

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