by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A Dutch firm has just unveiled their latest invention–Varibel eyeglass hearing aids. The hype says they:
offer older people the chance to stay active longer – free from the aesthetically unpleasing and technologically limited traditional hearing aids.
The release goes on to say,
The Varibel cannot be compared to traditional hearing aids. In each leg of the eyeglass frame there is a row of four tiny, interconnected microphones, which selectively intensify the sounds that come from the front, while dampening the surrounding noise. The result is a directional sensitivity of +8.2 dB.
Let’s look at this supposed invention a bit closer. First, eyeglass hearing aids have come and gone. They became popular 45 years ago–way back in the 1960s. In fact, I still have my old pair of eyeglass hearing aids I purchased in 1961. These new Varibel eyeglass hearing aids actually look very similar to my old ones, so what’s new about them?
They claim that these new eyeglass hearing aids are aesthetically pleasing. If you call having plain frames with thick gawky legs “aesthetically pleasing” then these are for you.
In my opinion, wearing modern glasses and modern hearing aids are much less noticeable than the pictures showing these Varibel hearing aids.
To their credit, these hearing aids are supposed to have a great innovation–4 microphones on each leg of the eyeglass frames thus giving them very good directional sound. In actual fact, that is an error. They do have 4 microphones–but only 2 on each leg of the eyeglass frames, not 4 like they blurb claims.
However, before you rush out and purchase a pair, remember that many BTE hearing aids also have multiple microphones on them. About 3 years ago, I tried on a pair of Seimens Triano hearing aids. Each of them had 3 microphones–and boy were they directional! I was totally impressed! So even this is not unique. You do not need to get eyeglass hearing aids in order to have good directionality.
Furthermore, eyeglass hearing aids fell out of favor in the 1970s for a good reason. When you take your glasses off, you also have to take your hearing aids off. For example, one lady remembered, “Every time I went to the eye doctor, I would have to take off my glasses and my hearing aids. Thus I could neither lipread nor hear during the eye appointments.”
Even worse is if either the hearing aid or the glasses break, you lose both your eyes and both your ears at the same, leaving you deaf and blind to whatever degree your hearing and vision are defective. And you remain thus until they are sent away and repaired, in some cases days or weeks later. If you wear two traditional hearing aids and one breaks, you can wear the one while the other is fixed. Not so, if they are both on the same pair of glasses!
Also, if you have two or more pairs of glasses–unless you want to pay for two or more sets of hearing aids you have to decide which pair of glasses have the hearing aids in them. For example, say you had reading/computer glasses and driving glasses as I do, if I only had the hearing aids on one pair, I’d have to decide whether I want to be deaf when driving or when reading.
At first glance, these Varibel devices may look like a nice invention, but they are just not as practical as having separate glasses and hearing aids. So unless you have a compelling reason to get these new eyeglass hearing aids, I recommend you get glasses you like for your eyes, and separate hearing aids you like for your ears!
If you want to see what these Varibel eyeglass hearing aids look like, click on the following link (http://www.varibel.nl), then click on “De hooroplossing” on the left and scroll down for some pictures. Sorry the whole website is in Dutch.