by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man wrote,
I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) this morning and heard a story about a company in Chicago making affordable self-programmable hearing aids.
The price is $300. They say they can keep the price affordable by using off the shelf technology rather than spending millions of dollars developing proprietary technology. The head of the company says they do not intend to follow the ‘high-price/low volume’ business plan that other hearing aid companies selling aids that cost multiple thousands of dollars follow.
The thing looks like a Bluetooth device—because it is. It apparently can be programmed using apps on a smart phone. That’s something I would have appreciated back in my hearing aid days. In fact, I could see how people with Cochlear Implants (CIs) would benefit by having the ability to self-tweak their programs without making a trip to the clinic. Is this for real? Their website is at http://www.soundworldsolutions.com/index.htm.
The first thing to note is that these CS-10 devices are not hearing aids—they are personal sound amplifiers. As such, they cannot be advertised as hearing aids because they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are in the same class of devices known as assistive listening devices (ALDs) such as the PockeTalker and similar amplifiers.
Since they are not hearing aids, they should sell for much less than hearing aids—more in line with the price of other ALDs. That was just a bunch of puffery the way it is written about not developing “proprietary technology” and using “off the shelf technology”, although that much is true.
Since this is a Bluetooth device, you can only get a maximum of 9 hours per battery charge. And if you use it paired to a phone or computer, etc. you get even less. As a result, you have to have a second battery with you at all times if you wear it regularly. In contrast, hearing aids typically get a week or more per battery charge.
Note also that the CS-10 does not have a t-coil in it. (Many of the new ALDs now have built-in t-coils.) So this is a minus.
Being able to program the CS-10 via an app on your smart phone is a good idea—if you have a smart phone. Not everyone does.
Even so, this feature is not unique to the CS-10. Some hearing aid manufacturers are already making their hearing aids to be controlled/set by smart phones. I think this is a great way to go.
Finally, note that the manufacturer is very careful not to give any specifications for this device. However, from things they say, this device isn’t very powerful. Thus, it is only useful for people with mild to moderate hearing losses. (In contrast, many of the ALDs I use work for people with even profound hearing losses.)
Don’t be taken in by all the hype. This is a low-powered ALD—and quite expensive for what you actually get when compared to other ALDs already available.
However, if all you need is a low-powered amplifier that hangs on your ear like a hearing aid, this may be just the gizmo for you. Just don’t purchase one thinking you are getting a real hearing aid at a cut-rate price.