by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Distance and noise are two enemies of hearing aids. That is why hard of hearing people often need to use assistive devices coupled with their hearing aids in order to hear beautiful, clear sound.
There are many “generic” assistive listening devices that couple with hearing aids via their built-in t-coils. This is the industry “standard”.
However, each hearing aid manufacturer wants people to purchase their hearing aids (understandable—that is why they are in the business) so they come up with proprietary innovative ways to connect to various audio sources such as TVs, iPods, computers, etc.
This means when one of their customers (that’s you and me) buy their hearing aids, we are locked into their line of assistive devices (and they are not cheap). Then, if in the future we want to buy new hearing aids from a different manufacturer, we lose all our investment in the assistive devices we have purchased for our previous hearing aids.
This may be good business for the hearing aid manufacturers, but it is definitely bad for our pocketbooks! We now have to shell out big bucks, not only for new hearing aids, but for new assistive devices as well.
This should not be. Connectivity to assistive devices should be “open source” so all manufacturers can use the same modes of connectivity.
I’m all for innovative designs and advances in technology. I’m just against all the mutually incompatible proprietary devices we have to purchase in order to use the latest technology with our hearing aids.
What brought on the above diatribe is GN ReSounds new Alera hearing aid with yet another proprietary set of assistive devices.
The press releases are long on hype and short on hard facts, but from what I can gather, the Alera has a built-in (presumably FM) receiver operating at 2.4 GHz. Then, the customer purchases various proprietary transmitters that connect to the audio devices he wants to listen to. So you buy one so you can listen to your TV and another to listen to your computer, etc.
It sounds like cool technology. The FM receiver is built into the hearing aid so there is no need for using boots, neckloops or remotes. This makes for a “cleaner” design.
You hook up the appropriate transmitter to the audio device you want to listen to—and voila, you hear beautiful, clear sound. With the Alera, you can be 21 feet away, which is about the same distance as the effective range of the Bluetooth technology that is already out there.
If the “hypewriters” are correct, this new technology will deliver “unique sound quality” by employing ReSound’s “revolutionary” Surround Sound technology which delivers a rich and crisp 360-degree sound.
The Alera and its assistive devices will be available in June, 2010. If any of you try them, I’d love to hear how they work for you. Just be sure that the Alera comes with a standard t-coil, or, when you go to places that use loop technology, you’ll be left “out of the loop” and thus your fancy new hearing aids will be essentially useless.
Learn more about the Alera here.