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Dream Hearing Aid Wish List

Kate Johnston Kate at ricochet.net
Sun Jun 30 11:30:13 EST 1996

I am not an audiologist, but have been wearing hearing aids for about 40 
years, and would like to voice my opinions on a dream hearing aid.  I 
started out wearing a body aid when I was three years old, and 
progressed to BTEs as I got older.  I have normal hearing in the low 
frequencies, and in the speech range, my loss is about 75 db in one ear, 
and 80 db in the other ear.

> >From: Bertrand Chan <tsdi at intergate.bc.ca>
> >Subject: Dream Hearing Aid Wish List
> >Date: 24 Jun 1996 23:24:11 GMT
> >We are a group of people (P.eng, ENT surgeon & MD) who are conceiving a
> >new generation of hearing aid. At the moment, we are doing some research
> >into what our clients would want. We would be most grateful if you could
> >give us some opinion on the followings:
> >1. Functions/ Features
Telecoils are important, not just for telephone use, but for using in 
the increasing numbers of public places that are looped.  

Volume controls are also important, as I don't think any programmable 
hearing aid is going to be able to judge accurately the noise level any 
person will tolerate.  Remember that hearing loss changes according to 
health and general well-being.  If a person is tired, the sounds that 
come through might be way too loud for comfort, even though they are the 
same frequencies that are comfortable at other times.

Changing batteries is a big problem.  It should be possible to change a 
battery without resorting to all sorts of contortions.  I guess that 
means a battery drawer should be easily accessible, and it should be 
relatively easy to get that little thing out to put a new one in.  (see 
more below on Size)
> >2. Size
Personally, I think the hearing aid industry has done hearing impaired 
customers a disservice by making hearing aids so small.  The really 
small ones require a lot of dexterity, and how much dexterity do the 
older hearing aid users have?  No wonder so many hearing aids wind up in 
the dresser drawer!  I guess it is obvious I will not be getting any 
ITEs in the near future!

Size of batteries is also important.  My current HAs use the 13a 
batteries, and those are really too small!  I -can- handle them, and I 
have a very mild case of cerebral palsy.  But many older people will not 
be able to handle them.  Think of the blow to one's independence when 
you have to depend on someone else to change the batteries for you!
> >3. Price
Personally, I can afford hearing aids, but I know of many people who 
cannot afford even the old, analog hearing aids.  I am currently 
corresponding via the Internet with someone who was told by an 
audiologist last October that she would benefit from HAs, but cannot 
afford them.  Hearing people I meet are constantly shocked at the price 
I paid for my current aids ($650 each, 6 years ago) -- they will 
definitely be shocked when I tell them the price of my next set, as I 
will probably be getting digitial ones.  If there is any way the prices 
can be dropped, please do so.  
> >4. Appearance
This is very important!  Just last week, on the Say What Club, we had a 
rousing discussion on different hearing aid housings. Why?  Because it 
is a way of making our hearing losses visible; when hearing loss is 
visible, (some) people have an easier time understanding our needs (i.e. 
facing us when talking to us, getting our attention first, etc.) 

We heard of someone who made gold-plated Mercury Wings for his hearing 
aids, we heard of bright-red and grape bubble-gum colored hearing aids. 
One woman even uses brightly-colored refrigerator magnets on her 
cochlear implant! We talked about making hearing aids more visible, and 
fashionable.  We talked about making them different colors, and perhaps 
making the hearing aid housings custom made to reflect the wearer's 
personal intreests (i.e. an Impressionist painting-colored hearing aid 
housing for someone who is an artist). 

Why not?  I firmly believe if we can make hearing aids more fashionable, 
more people wouldn't mind wearing them.  When I get my next pair of 
hearing aids, I am going to see if I can get them housed in bright 
hot-pink.  Look what has happened with eyeglasses:  My four-year-old 
daughter, who has perfect eyesight, went with me to the optical store a 
month ago and told me she needed glasses because she covets the pink 
Minnie-mouse frames!  
> >5. Ease of use
See my point above, on size.  Also, if there is a remote, might be a 
good idea to provide some accessory to easily to attach to clothing.  
Hey!  Make it a fashion accessory!  (See Appearance, above)  A pin, or a 
brightly colored pendant to wear on a chain, or on a belt.  For men,  it 
could be like a pocket protector thing, like a pen.
> >6. Durability
For the prices I've been paying, I expect my hearing aids to last a long 
time .. and they do!  But some people have to replace their hearing aids 
more often than I do.  But I don't know if this is due to the quality of 
their hearing aids or if they don't treat their hearing aids as well as 
I do. (this from someone who has dropped her hearing aids on the kitchen 
floor twice in the last two weeks!  Oops!  Oh, well, they are six years 
old, and I plan on getting new ones next year anyway!)

I bet lots of hearing aids get dropped: they are small, and kind of 
clumsy to hold when trying to change batteries.  That being so, they 
should be able to better withstand the shock of being dropped.

Also, batteries should last a while.  For me, I want to forget when I 
last put in my new batteries.  In other words, I want it to be so long 
ago, that I can't remember when I last changed the batteries.
> >7. Other related issues
Make them easy to clean, without having to separate the mold and tubing 
from the receiver.  (Probably a tall order, but with my mild CP, I would 
definitely appreciate this)  

Speaking of batteries (and I have, two times above), it would really be 
good to keep the standard sizes.  I bought my current HAs because they 
seemed to give me the best sound, and cut out a lot of the background 
noise for me.  But then I went from the 675 batteries to the 13a.  Not 
really a problem, and this is really a minor nit, but I used to be able 
to share batteries with my friends!  We all used 675 batteries, and if 
one of us found ourselves with a dead battery and no spares, we could 
just ask around, and someone else would have a spare!  (I bet this is 
something you never thought about before!)

Also, if you've seen my previous post on bionet.audiology, you know I've 
had problems with earmolds.  It would be nice if you could also come up 
with a dream earmold!  I am now on my second pair of newly made earmolds 
this year, and am still having problems.  Earmolds that are comfortable, 
and fit the first time, or that require only one or two audiologist 
visits for buffing would be wonderful.  

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to think up my dream hearing aids!  
I'll be happy to talk to you more if you want.

kate at ricochet.net
Sunnyvale, CA

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