Manufacturers, please integrate QUICKLY with the Pebble Smartwatch (and other wearable technology)!

This is my first post … I’m a software engineer in the Mobile Technology space, and I am wondering what the Hearing Industry is doing in regards to Wear-able computers? (this includes products like: Pebble Smartwatch, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Google Glass, and etc …)

Many of you who have hearing aids that can be controlled by a remote control probably cringe at the idea of taking that thing out in public to make an adjustment - I definitely do! The thing looks like it was built in the 1980s and it’s meant to open your garage door or something.

Where is the hearing aid integration into the sleek looking phones of today? Or better yet, the wearable technology of tomorrow?

Wearable technology is going to be making its first real breakthrough in the industry in 2014 according to analysts. I want to stress that new models of hearing aids that integrate with these technologies SHOULD be coming out this year … but the big question is “How long will we actually have to wait?” Smartphones have been out for years, and to date … we still don’t have a fully working phone application that can do simple things like change your program or increase/decrease the volume.

Now WHY would we want that?

  1. It’s discrete for those of us who are self-concious of our hearing loss.
  2. We don’t have to worry about carrying additional devices with us.
  3. It’s much “cooler” than a clunky remote.

NOW here is the “wearable computer” suggestion: BUILD AN APP THAT INTEGRATES INTO THE PEBBLE SMARTWATCH!

For those of you who have never heard of it, be sure to check it out! Essentially, you can get vibrating alerts on your wrist:

  1. When your phone rings (i.e. when you’re sleeping or in the shower)
  2. When you receive emails / sms and now BBMs.
  3. When your alarm clock rings.
  4. It’s wireless! Uses bluetooth!

Why not use this same device to control the volume and programs on your hearing aids? As a software developer, writing this kind of app and releasing it to the public takes no more than 2 - 3 months with the right software developers.

FYI: the smartwatch itself costs $150 and the app for it should cost no more than $2.99, since this is by no means rocket science to implement. THIS, is a cost-effective solution!

I encourage everyone reading this post to reach out to their hearing aid manufacturer and tell them “This is what I want and I want it this year!”

I think I’m done ranting for the night … I hope this has been an enjoyable read for you all!

P.S. I also invite you to join the Group: Hearing Aid Technology: Current Thoughts & Future Desires where I will be posting more articles of this nature for those interested. Hoping for some good discussion.

I recently got my aids and I wear Pebble. I passed up on BT because my first audiologist wanted $450 for a BT steaming remote, and at Costco I felt the BT technology was old on the aids my fitter recommended (BT 2.0). Hopefully in a few years manufacturers wise up and stop charging price of iPhone for outdated 80’s contraption!

I don’t know anyone who would cringe.

Resound, Siemens, Oticon, and Starkey have apps that act as remotes, changing programs and volume. Then there are the so-called “Made for iPhone” Resound and Starkey hearing aids that work with a different iphone app that allows the basic remote functions, plus treble/bass adjustments, and you can have settings for specific locations (the app recognizes the location and switches to the setup for that location). Also, Resound has a TV transmitter and a Mini-microphone that transmit directly to the hearing aids.

There are good solutions on the market so if you are going to work on an app, you better bring it.

I knew made-for-iPhone aids just came out, hopefully more there will be more choices at reasonable price when I need next set of aids :wink:

If Resound, Siemens, Oticon, and Starkey have apps … that’s great! However, to clarify a bit further … I currently wear Phonak CICs, my previous pairs were Starkey and Siemens … so that form factor WAS automatically not supported due to power constrains and other technical problems. The solutions you’ve mentioned above are good, but notice how none of interoperate with one another OR with 3rd party control. How if I buy a remote from Resound, it will never work with Phonak hearing aids … this lack of standards / protocols prevents users from having access to the best of all worlds.

With low-powered bluetooth technology currently on the market,integrating with 3rd party consumer electronics should be a staple feature of hearing aids. Also, considering that there are CICs with telecoil and telecoil has existed in some smartphones due to accessibility requirements… what’s prevent using a smartphone to control all types of hearing aids long before bluetooth options became available?

The barriers, I think, are more brand/manufacturer driven as opposed to technical. That’s the case when the competition between manufactures is low … this is stark contrast in how competition is within the mobile market, where you literally have to bring the best and major upgrades happen a lot faster as opposed to incremental improvements we seeing the hearing space. I’m trying to say, in the hearing space … speed to market doesn’t seem to be as high of a factor … the technology lags behind the cutting edge (that’s not to discredit the major advances in speech/ sound processing … i mean physical electronics).

I am definitely working on solution, but having something good requires manufactures to be on-board … if they make it hard to access to technology and be closed-sourced … that really stifles competition and limits innovation.

P.S. What if I was an Android or BlackBerry or Windows Phone user? Do remote control apps exist for those platforms as well? I don’t want to buy a new smartphone just because I want to control my hearing aids.

I personally feel embarassed using a remote like that … I do work in the high-tech industry, so it feels VERY dated to me. Not to mention all the questions it provokes from people if I take it out in public “Oh, what’s that?” … I don’t know too many people who like drawing attention to the fact that they have a hearing disability.

Using something like a smartwatch or a smartphone is a lot more discrete and “better looking”.

Yes, I use the Android Resound app.

I don’t think Resound would have a business case for making a remote that worked on Phonak aids. That would potentially extend the life of the Phonak aids. They are all proprietary systems and probably not a lot of market pressure to change that.

The comparison between mobile devices and hearing aids must also consider the size of the markets, and the normal lifecycles of the devices.

— Updated —

Yes, I use the Android Resound app.

I don’t think Resound would have a business case for making a remote that worked on Phonak aids. That would potentially extend the life of the Phonak aids. They are all proprietary systems and probably not a lot of market pressure to change that.

The comparison between mobile devices and hearing aids must also consider the size of the markets, and the normal lifecycles of the devices.

I depends whether you think that having about 1.2V and a couple of mA is a barrier and/or whether you can fit an aerial in a space occupied by a battery, extraction cord, vent hole and mic port. Doing this repeatably and reliably in a custom product is fair engineering balance.

Apple apps and accessories don’t, for the most part, work with Android phones or have their own little quirks and connectors; there is a lot of incompatibility. 3rd party manufacturers buy into the Apple or Android infrastructure and produce specific products for those devices. You could decide to work with Starkey, for example, if they were willing and produce other apps and devices for it. Also, a hearing aid is not a consumer device and it is not marketed to the young, but, primarily, to older people and is considered a medical device. Unlike consumer devices, they are sold with ongoing and needed support from an audiologist or a hearing aid specialist and should be using solid, reliable technology that can be easily supported.

FYI, I checked out the Halo. I won’t be getting one, even though I like the concept of controlling my hearing aid with an iPhone, because, in five years when I still have my hearing aid, the iPhone will be long gone or have morphed into something completely different using very different technology and will no long support the hearing aid. I will then have a pair of $6K devices that no longer work as originally built and marketed.

Your last comment was an eye opener. Will Halos or Linx not be able to operate independent of the iphone? If the iphone continues to live, I would hope that apple will have to honor the arrangement. Or maybe not. Not a good thought. I need to use a bluetooth, don’t want a lanyard, have glasses. So don’t use my ha while on the phone as that would be a three layer setup (glasses frame, HA and bluetooth). And I had thought Halo or Linx would be a viable long term solution.

— Updated —

Your last comment was an eye opener. Will Halos or Linx not be able to operate independent of the iphone? If the iphone continues to live, I would hope that apple will have to honor the arrangement. Or maybe not. Not a good thought. I need to use a bluetooth, don’t want a lanyard, have glasses. So don’t use my ha while on the phone as that would be a three layer setup (glasses frame, HA and bluetooth). And I had thought Halo or Linx would be a viable long term solution.

Speaking for myself, I don’t want more crap in my medical device. I want smaller size and longer battery life. This is largely incompatible with extra features. It’s already bad enough my favorite Widex CIC no longer slips down into my ear canal due to the addition of useless Bluetooth hardware.

that pebble smart-watch is butt ugly… I would think say Starkey making a device that would works with Phonaks would probably get them into court. Apple and Samsung have been in a pissing contest for years. the miniTek is the size of a book of matches and works from a shirt pocket.

Great thread but unfortunately - nothing will change in this industry. There are a small number of manufacturers and no real competition. You are forced to pay a lot of money (except for Costco) and must buy proprietary accessories that are not necessarily using the latest technology. (case in point Resound owning Jabra and producing a phone clip that doesn’t use Jabra’s excellent technology) and then paying top dollar for the accessory. The manufactures make great money and won’t give that up. Consumers I believe come second in this case. I would love to see the Chinese or Koreans produce hearing aids for purchase in North America or Europe and see what the would do to the industry. I would think this is a great time to enter the hearing aid field and shake it up as the huge wave of baby boomers are now getting older and I would assume have hearing issues associated with age and years of listening to loud music during their youth! The technology is available and seeing that the OP is from Kitchener Ontario (silicon valley north some would say) - you have an opportunity!

This is all very interesting. I’m writing about tech for seniors and would love to write about hearing aids that could be controlled from a smartwatch. My editor would love a story about it. So get in touch: askerica@gmail.com. My column is Aging with Geekitude.

I’m in the high tech industry, and I don’t want a high tech bells and whistles toy in my ear. I can only imagine how much less “seniors” will want to fiddle with useless toys when the concentration should be on improving the sound quality and programming of digital technology. Lets start with giving back some sense of relative volume, ie, when I turn the radio up, the damned hearing aid should not automatically compensate it right back down, and remove the saxophones, to boot.

— Updated —

I’m in the high tech industry, and I don’t want a high tech bells and whistles toy in my ear. I can only imagine how much less “seniors” will want to fiddle with useless toys when the concentration should be on improving the sound quality and programming of digital technology. Lets start with giving back some sense of relative volume, ie, when I turn the radio up, the damned hearing aid should not automatically compensate it right back down, and remove the saxophones, to boot.

low-power bluetooth will be around in all smartphones for decades and so will its compatibility with iOS or whatever OS is out there as long as there is a app for it.