A while ago I wrote an ode to Bluetooth hearing aids and described how they changed my life. While that is totally true, it is not the whole truth. Not everything is super cool about Bluetooth hearing aids. In this article I’ll list the annoying quircks that you might encounter when when you buy Bluetooth hearing aids. While I still think they are an awesome piece of technology, I want you to have the full picture.
Note: I assume that most of these problems are not necessarily problems of the implementation in the hearing aids itself. A lot things things that are annoying are due to Bluetooth itself, how it is implemented in the sending device (the phone, the laptop) and how other devices in the room might interfere with the hearing aids. Hence I am not necessarily blaming the hearing aid manufacturers here, but if there is something they can do about these things, I would be grateful for an update.
A while ago, I mentioned the research project Hear how you like to hear. The researchers want to find out how users use hearables and what requirements they have for hearables. They have a very human-centered approach, which I like a lot, as it includes that hearing is very subjective and not everything about hearing can be captured in an audiogram.
The project is soon coming to an end. Peggy, the main researcher, gave a talk about the project and the results (the talk is in German, the slides are English). In particular, she found out that 90% of hearing aid users don’t find it important that the devices are small. That is pretty much the opposite of what the hearing aid industry is still selling. Great project, I hope there are more like this in the pipeline.
I attended the 32c3 last year and watched the talk “Unpatchable“, a talk which is related to hacking medical devices. In this case it wasn’t hearing aids, but pacemakers. Interestingly, the speakers raised similar questions as I did in my talk at 28c3.
The questions being for example:
This device is part of my body, why do I not know what code is in it?
How can I trust that the device is not vulnerable from the outside?
Does a doctor have to tell me when he flashes the firmware or that the device is tracking my very personal data?
Agreeable, the consequences for patients wearing pace makers are more impactful than for patients wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, I still found the talk worth watching, I hope you do too.
It has been silent around here, but that does not mean other people don’t to awesome things in the hearing aid world. I’d like to point everyone of you to a slack chat/forum to discuss hearing aids technology and hacks around it.
So far it has been rather calm, which is why we are looking for more people! My friend Gianluca is managing it. You can request an invite here: http://slack.hearinghacks.com/ Hope to see you there! 🙂
I also offer a version with detailed speaker notes, because especially my hearing-impaired audience might need it to be able to follow. I had to downsample the images in this version to avoid the files getting too big. Please have a look at the “slides only” version for details in the images.
As announced earlier, I will give a talk about hearing aids at the 28c3 conference in Berlin. Here is the link to my talk in the conference schedule.
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