First fully-integrated 'Made for iPhone' hearing aids are set to hit the market

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2014
Hearing-impaired iPhone owners will soon have a smaller, more compact choice for handset-connected hearing aids as the first batch of "Made for iPhone" hearing aids are poised to roll out without the need for intermediary transmitters.

GN ReSound LiNX Made for iPhone hearing aids


Apple has worked closely with Copenhagen, Denmark-based GN ReSound to bring the Danish audiological company's LiNX hearing aids to market, according to a Monday report from Reuters. The LiNX represents not only the first Made for iPhone hearing aids to come to light since the program's announcement two years ago, but the first hearing aid of any type that can connect directly to a smartphone, bypassing tertiary "streamers" that act as intermediary transmitters between a Bluetooth-equipped device and existing wireless hearing aids.

The hearing aids communicate with Apple devices in the 2.4-gigahertz band using Bluetooth 4.0's low energy mode, the same power-sipping wireless technology that underpins Apple's iBeacons microlocation services and synchronization for connected devices like Fitbit's activity trackers. The hearing aids can be used to stream music and as a two-way headset for receiving phone calls, and owners are able to adjust the hearing aids' settings through a companion iOS app.

Similar Made for iPhone products from competing companies like Minnesota's Starkey Technologies and Sm?rum, Denmark's William Demant are also said to be on the way, though official announcements have not been made. LiNX is expected to ship early in 2014 at a cost of just over $3,000 per hearing aid.

Apple appears to have dedicated a significant amount of resources toward device accessibility for hearing-impaired users. According to Reuters, "frequent visits" were made in both directions by Apple and GN ReSound personnel in an effort to refine communication APIs and extend battery life in the hearing aids, where space is at a premium.

Hearing aid social network patent


In addition, Apple is the owner of multiple patents that define a system in which the owners of hearing aids --?and even the hearing aids themselves --?could communicate with one another to share information on how best to configure the hearing aids in specific circumstances.

Most modern hearing aids are programmable --?that is, the parameters of audio capture and amplification can be tuned to deliver the best performance in different environments. A coffee shop, for example, requires the hearing aid to process input differently than it might in a symphony hall.

Apple imagines a future in which hearing aids connected to iOS devices could detect their location and automatically prompt the user to switch programs based on the experience of other hearing aid users in the same place. When combined with other Apple technologies like the iBeacons microlocation service, these advances could lead to a notable increase in quality of life for hearing-impaired iPhone owners.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    Given the extent to which earphones are in use these days, and the volume levels that are being piped through them, one would expect that hearing aids are going to be a big item 20, 30 years from now when the long term damage starts showing up. Talk about skating to where the puck is going to be!
  • Reply 2 of 34
    Hmm, hearing aids cost $3000 ; a nice bluetooth headset with a noise-canceling microphone costs $100. How hard would it be for a headset to be enhanced to use the noise-canceling mic to selectively amplify, market-disrupting Apple?
  • Reply 3 of 34
    To many, paying $3000 for a hearing aid sounds outrageous. After all, isn't it just a tiny sound amplifier?

    Done right, a hearing aid is actually much, much more than that, with a lot of speech processing in the more expensive models to make them work effectively. Prices can run up to twice as high as Apple's model. Here's a recent Consumer's Report description of the market:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/hearing-aids/buying-guide.htm

    It'll be interesting to see:

    1. How good the professional fitting bundled with the hearing aid is. That's probably why Apple partnered with one of the largest hearing aid companies in the world.

    2. If the app allows not just for expert adjustment for particular patients, but for users to quickly adapt the aid for changing situations, such as quiet v. noisy environments.

    3. How well the integration with other, non-Apple iPhone apps is done.

    My own limited contact with Apple's accessibility group left me impressed that they are a dedicated group and that Apple gives them the support they need. I have relatives with hearing problems, so I hope this succeeds.

    --Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia
  • Reply 4 of 34

    Ouch at the price. My daughter has a hearing aid in one ear. I'm not an expert on hearing aids, but according to the audiologist we went to (who is a health care provider that works for the government and is not affiliated with any particular brand), the aid we bought was one of the best on the market. It cost me $900 (it's the over-the-ear type with a custom molded piece for inside the ear). I'm not sure if that's the "real" price, or a subsidized price (seeing as we have health car in Canada).

     

    I remember going to have it set up at the audiologist and found it quite interesting. My daughter had previously had her hearing tested and they plotted a graph of frequency vs hearing loss. They placed the hearing aid on a small wireless pad that looks similar to a wireless charging pad. It was then connected to their computer where they "programmed" the hearing aid to deliver the right amount of equalization and amplification that matched her previous tests. As someone with a background in audio/recording, I found this rather clever. Instead of just making things louder they actually tailored the frequency response of her hearing aid to match her actual ear. Her hearing aid also came with a transmitter for the teacher at school which she wears around her neck and delivers clearer speech straight to my daughter.

     

    I remember thinking at that time it would be a great idea if you could have an App that would do the same thing. Of course, you can't let people at home start mucking around with ALL the hearing aid settings, but it would be great if they allowed you to choose from several presets for different conditions or allowed you to make minor adjustments so you don't have to keep returning to the audiologist when you want something changed. So I find this rather exciting technology.

  • Reply 5 of 34
    I am a hearing aid user and would like to commend the comments of Michael W. Perry above. Apple is smart as usual getting into this field, not just because of decibel labels, but because of our aging population, many of whom are or will be computer savvy in the first place.

    I paid $3000 for my pair - pricey, yes, but worth it because I definitely hear better. But I would love to have control of the "mix" through my iPhone because, as everyone knows, sound quality differs in different venues. Also, as with my tech items, prices will go down.
  • Reply 6 of 34
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,586member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post



    Given the extent to which earphones are in use these days, and the volume levels that are being piped through them, one would expect that hearing aids are going to be a big item 20, 30 years from now when the long term damage starts showing up. Talk about skating to where the puck is going to be!

    You don't have to wait.   Even high-school students have hearing loss in ever increasing numbers.    And such losses are not usually about level as much as they are about frequency response and threshold.   You lose high-end frequencies first.    A young child can hear to 20KHz, sometimes to 22KHz.   Most young adults can only hear to maybe 18KHz.    I'm in my early 60s and I'm an ex-recording engineer.   I've always been very careful, but I'm not hearing anything over 13KHz anymore and my threshold is down from about 9KHz, especially after photographing a rock show some years ago that was extraordinarily loud, even though I was wearing hearing protection.    Most hearing tests do not test high frequencies - they only test speech frequencies up to about 7KHz, which actually isn't very good (like an old landline telephone).    High frequencies are those that give music its life - it's that "airiness" around the sound.   You want to protect that as long as you can.   Threshold is the level at which you first begin to hear a sound, which is what hearing tests measure.   Once the nerve endings in the ear are damaged, that's it.  There's nothing that can bring them back.  There's some stem cell work being done, but any practical application is at least 20 years away.    

     

    If you can't hear a certain frequency at all, no hearing aid can bring it back.   It's only when you have threshold loss that a hearing aid can work.  And most are geared to helping people improve speech intelligibility, not to restore the overall quality of hearing.   

     

    Levels at most concerts, clubs and discos in the U.S. are at dangerous levels that would violate OSHA regulations if they were factories.   If you walk out of such a place with ears ringing, you already have damage.   The ear is not a muscle and it's not a matter of saying, "I can take it."    Most European countries have regulations that limit levels.   Almost every musician and house sound mixer I know has substantial hearing loss and/or tinnitus (a persistent ringing or noise), which is one of the reasons why the levels keep getting louder and louder - it becomes an endless cycle.  (Misplaced ego also plays a large role).    Ever see musicians on stage who can't hear themselves even though the sound is at painful levels?   The keep pointing to the stage mixer and saying, "turn it up".      Musicians now have more amplified power (and resulting SPL) just on the stage for them to hear the mix then entire 3000 seat auditoriums had back in the 1960s. 

     

    When I ride the subway and hear people blasting their earphones to get over the noise of the train, I want to warn them about the danger, but when I've done that in the past, I usually get the "mind your own freaking business" or "get away from me crazy person" look. 

     

    According to OSHA, you can only listen to 100db of "A-weighted" sound for 2 hours and 110db for half an hour before you can experience damage.       Street noise is at about 85db, live classical music is at about 95db, a subway is at 103db and thunder can be at about 110db.  Loud rock music on stage can be 115db.    Other sources place the limit at 115db at only 28 seconds and the 95db level at 47.5 minutes.  

  • Reply 7 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post



    Given the extent to which earphones are in use these days, and the volume levels that are being piped through them, one would expect that hearing aids are going to be a big item 20, 30 years from now when the long term damage starts showing up. Talk about skating to where the puck is going to be!

     

    In 20-30 years, most normal hearing disorders will be curable. You'll be able to get your inner ear cells regenerated during a normal doctor's visit.

  • Reply 8 of 34
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,769member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bluevoid View Post

     

     

    In 20-30 years, most normal hearing disorders will be curable. You'll be able to get your inner ear cells regenerated during a normal doctor's visit.


     

    As someone who suffers from high frequency hearing loss and the odd bout of tinnitus, oh, how I wish what you say comes true.

  • Reply 9 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bluevoid View Post

     

     

    In 20-30 years, most normal hearing disorders will be curable. You'll be able to get your inner ear cells regenerated during a normal doctor's visit.


    Scholarly Paper Link?  

  • Reply 10 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tundraboy View Post



    Given the extent to which earphones are in use these days, and the volume levels that are being piped through them, one would expect that hearing aids are going to be a big item 20, 30 years from now when the long term damage starts showing up.

     

    Almost everybody I know who has had military service has some level of hearing loss. And remember, the draft ended in 1973.

  • Reply 11 of 34
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

     

     

    Almost everybody I know who has had military service has some level of hearing loss. And remember, the draft ended in 1973.


    and all the other things in the 60s and 70s and 80s

     

    I didn't have military service but operated farm (everything from tractors with no mufflers, to grain driers, feed grinders, and the shrieks of castrated pigs ;-0 ),  and power equipment (chain saws, circular saws, etc etc), let alone 12 gauge shotguns from the age of 9 to 29.  'Muffs' were rare and often not as safe as not wearing them.

  • Reply 12 of 34
    I make $82h while I'm traveling the world. Last week I worked by my laptop in Rome, Monti Carlo and finally Paris…This week I'm back in the USA. All I do are easy tasks from this one cool site. check it out,.www.bar29.?om
  • Reply 13 of 34






    $85 an hour! Seriously I don't know why more people haven't tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids. Heres where I went,www.bar29.?om
  • Reply 14 of 34
    I'm curious if this will work with a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) device.
  • Reply 15 of 34
    zoetmb wrote: »
    ^ post

    Fantastic, detailed and informative post! I hear you. Thanks much.
  • Reply 16 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

     

    Scholarly Paper Link?  


    If you were requesting a link to a paper from the future, I cannot help you. If you were questioning my familiarity with the past and present advances in this field, I can assure you that I am quite familiar. In fact there is a good chance it will be < 20 years.

  • Reply 17 of 34

    what?

  • Reply 18 of 34
    Originally Posted by bluevoid View Post

    In fact there is a good chance it will be < 20 years.

     

    Show me a lab growing cochlear tissue and I’ll be more inclined to believe your cock-eyed optimism. 

  • Reply 19 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     Of course, you can't let people at home start mucking around with ALL the hearing aid settings, but it would be great if they allowed you to choose from several presets for different conditions or allowed you to make minor adjustments so you don't have to keep returning to the audiologist when you want something changed. So I find this rather exciting technology.

     

    Most modern hearing aids do exactly that. They let you switch between two, three, or four pre-programmed settings for various situations (business meeting, dinner, loud party, etc). But this isn't enough. I really think the individual should be able to use an app with a touch-controlled equalizer to adjust the settings across the entire sound spectrum. It is a  huge hassle to have to go to the audiologist to make an adjustment after setting up the presets with help from the professional.

     

    I own an aid from America Hears and they give you a device that connects the hearing aid to a PC which allows you to make all these adjustments yourself. It's really empowering, and the results are great, but the process is cumbersome. This could, and should, all be done via an iPhone. It should be as easy as adjusting the contrast and color balance of a photo in a photo app. The company that gets around any regulatory issues to offer this type of hearing aid & app combo will make a mint.

  • Reply 20 of 34
    takeotakeo Posts: 426member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bluevoid View Post

     

     

    In 20-30 years, most normal hearing disorders will be curable. You'll be able to get your inner ear cells regenerated during a normal doctor's visit.


     

    Yah right. Gimme a break. Not a chance.

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