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The future of hearing aids

A not always completely serious look at the technology that might, or might not, be available for hearing aid users in the future.

Music and radio player

I like listening to music but I always find it uncomfortable to wear headphones over the top of my hearing aids. There’s a few basic reasons why it can be uncomfortable:

  • many types of headphones press down on the ear, which in turn pushes on the hearing aid
  • some headphones reduce the air-flow around the ear
  • Some can cause feedback from the hearing aid

So, I think it would be really useful, and cool, to have a hearing aid with a built-in music player and radio! You could have the player in your pocket, similar to an iPod, that allows you to select albums or radio channels – but instead of connecting a pair of headphones to the player, the sounds would be wirelessly sent to your aids. This would have several advantages over traditional headphones:

  • The aids would be able to better ‘integrate’ the music with background sounds
  • An inbuilt volume threshold or cut-off could be used so that the user cannot turn the volume up so much that they will damage their hearing
  • It would be a great way to listen to music at school, college or work without anyone knowing!

Nagging filter

If your wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend moaning on at you the whole time? Tired of the constant ear-bashing? Simply turn them off with your hearing aid’s new Nag Filter! With the new willyoushutthehellup™ voice recognition feature your hearing aid can learn when your nearest and dearest’s voice and will save you from another tongue-lashing! Simply record someone that you wish to mute by using the “record nagging” button on your hearing aid’s remote control and from then on your aid will recognise when you are being nagged and remove the offensive monologue to save you the hassle of having to ignore it.

Voice changer

Tired of listening to your boss giving you yet another assignment to do? Bored of listening to the monotonous school teacher? Are you finding it hard to stay awake whilst your tiresome neighbour recalls little Johnny’s first swimming trip for the 16th time? If you answered yes to any of these or there is someone else in your life in need of a bit of linguistic magic then transform them with your hearing aid’s new ComedyVoiceChanger™ feature! Simply record the person whose voice you wish to upgrade using the “voice change record” button on your hearing aid’s remote control, select the voice you wish to overlay them with and from then on they will sound much better to you! You can download different famous voices to use for your friends and family. Would your boss sound better as Donald Duck? Make your mother-in-law sound like Darth Vader! Put a smile on your face every morning by waking up to the sound of your husband as Mickey Mouse! Get a hearing aid fitted with ComedyVoiceChanger™ technology and spice up your life!

Personal aid software

These days, all hearing aid manufacturers provide audiologists and aid vendors with software that they can use to tailor an aid to the specific needs of their patient. The hearing aid will be set by default to match the results of your audiogram and can then be tweaked so that the wearer is totally comfortable with the sound. It is also possible to set different programs on most new hearing aids – different programs can be used for different situations, for example: a program for listening to music, a program for situations with excessive background noise or one to give an extra boost in volume. I would like to see basic versions of this programming software given out to the users to enable them to make tweaks themselves. This software could offer a subset of the options available to the audiologist and vendors, such as:

  • Being able to add and remove preset programs
  • A test mode in which the aid can check itself to make sure it is working properly

Mobile phone

I have never used a mobile phone that hasn’t caused some kind of problem with my hearing aid; they have all either caused feedback in the aid or the phone itself seems to produce a buzzing interference sound. I have always had to hold mobiles at an angle or slightly away from my ear to use them. It would be nice if my hearing aid would act as the ear-piece of my phone; this would probably be similar to the bluetooth mobile headsets that you can get at the moment, but without the mouthpiece attached! Also, the phone’s incoming-call ring could sound directly through the aid – no more missed calls because you never heard the ring.

You can read about hearing aid technology levels here, and hearing aid types here.