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Apple Plans Hearing Aid Social Networking

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the hearing-aids-are-amazingly-expensive dept.

Google 70

theodp writes "Apple may have killed off Ping, its attempt at a music social network, but the USPTO on Thursday disclosed that Apple has patent-pending plans for a hearing aid-based social network. So, if Apple's granted patents covering its Social Network for Sharing a Hearing Aid Setting and method of Remotely Updating a Hearing Aid Profile, will it use them to 'go thermonuclear' on Google when the search giant gets around to improving its current offerings for the hard of hearing?"

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WHAT?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731847)

I couldn't hear you.

Re:WHAT?! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731923)

I couldn't hear you.

You're holding it wrong.

google should stop copying apple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731849)

come up with your own shit. you bitch ass jews.

Re:google should stop copying apple (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40733607)

Apple should stop copying Google. Come up with your own shit. you bitch ass jews.

Re:google should stop copying apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40740019)

Apple and Google should stop copying Microsoft. Come up with your own sh.... sorry, couldn't keep a straight face.

Cue the Wiretapping lawsuits in 3...2...1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731853)

nt

Remote updating of devices on your person? (3, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | about 2 years ago | (#40731859)

Why would people share hearing aid settings with others? Isn't this the type of device set by the operator's preferences?

Having a short range communication between hearing aids and external devices has advantages in calibration, but I just don't get the social part.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (5, Insightful)

SilenceBE (1439827) | about 2 years ago | (#40731903)

The only "social" part is - by reading the article - that people are able to share settings.

The problem is that this summary is written by an idiot it seems - is this the infamous timothy which I seems some comments of now an then ? - and has nothing really to do with Google or even a social network in the typical sense when we speak about "social networks".

The person written this summary has really mental problems as it seems he wants to abuse people with hearing disabilities to spread FUD about a scenario which really don't make any sense if I read the article. I don't even know what is has to do with subtitles on youtube.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (1)

SilenceBE (1439827) | about 2 years ago | (#40731915)

Dammit I mean "abuse the situation of people with hearing disabilities" - it is to late at this part of the world.

WTF is WRONG with YOU?!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40737169)

Who are you calling disabled, bigot?!

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40731921)

I just don't get the social part.

Data mining for the end user instead of advertisers?

"95% of your social network of fellow diesel engine mechanics boost the 11 KHz band by an average of 8 dB and you're only boosting 6 dB are you sure your settings are correct?"

Also probably psychological support of "here's a whole community at exactly your level of hearing loss, not more, not less"

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (2)

only_human (761334) | about 2 years ago | (#40732049)

Next will be the patents on recreational drinking: 95% of your social network prefer to drink beer while watching sunsets but drink wine at candlelit dinners. Are you sure your drinking parameters are correct?

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (5, Funny)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40731941)

Freemium hearing aids: you get it for free but it will whisper ads it downloads from the net in your ears constantly.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (1)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#40732055)

...but you can upgrade it now for a low fee*, and it'll give you less ads and more special magic powers, like the PeepingTom Spell Powered by Polaroid that has a 1 in 100 chance of printing out a iShowerphoto! You'll also get special color chips to customize your aid (because modifications like jailbreaks and paint are against the Terms of Use and Service).

*lowness of fee not guaranteed

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733019)

I would be running AdBlock but it conflicts with WaxBlock.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (2)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733041)

Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 21st century?"
Fry: Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio, and in magazines, and movies, and at ball games, and whispered in our ears... and on buses and milk cartons and t-shirts, and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams, no siree.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40734279)

Social Ear; to share you mindless drivel with everyone else! And as an added bonus you get to listen to special programing (as in we interrupt your regular programing to bring you this special message) from your very trusted friends at Apple/Google!

In Soviet Russia ads listen to you!
In USA/UK; Big Brother listens in!

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732013)

I use my hearing aids in loop systems on a weekly basis at different churches. All of them have different levels on the loop system requiring me to turn the levels up and down on my hearing aids, since most of them aren't set to the (British) government standards (and of course, the output from different mixing desks are different). It would be great if there was a network to give me a baseline for the setup of the system that would work reliably, since hearing aid loops ARE set to the baseline.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732131)

Oh, stop with your relevant and insightful commentary, will you?

These comments are for paranoid, delusional rambling about how Apple is evil and Google can never, ever, ever do wrong.

Anything that does not confirm that bias, or which seeks to point out the fact that this has nothing to do with "Apple going nuclear on Google," or that there is actually a USEFUL application for this functionality, is immediately going to be modded flamebait.

Re:Remote updating of devices on your person? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40732489)

Yes, you can innovate, patent, and go first... Or you can copy and fight patents.

Will Apple go Thermonuclear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731863)

This used to be more of an "if" question, now it's definitely more of a "when."

Brilliant move! (2, Funny)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#40731877)

I knew they had a for after their earbuds made everyone prematurely deaf.

Re:Brilliant move! (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733733)

Weird. I can't hear well, and me reading your comment is like me listening to people. Every now and then, words will just drop out, and I'll have to struggle to figure out what is being said.

Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (2, Insightful)

StueyNZ (2657297) | about 2 years ago | (#40731881)

Dear Apple, I paid a bucket of money for my hearing aids - in excess of NZ$7000 - please leave the damn things alone. If I need to tune them with wizzy settings, I will let the professionals who know what they're doing do it. PS. If I want to join a social network for sharing hearing aid settings - I'll join the 'Patents Killed by Prior Art network' on facebook.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731911)

Actually Apple has revolutionized many medical devices. Electronic devices for assisted communication used to cost thousands of dollars had horrible interfaces and were hardly portable. Then apple released the iPad and a lot changed.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (1)

zmughal (1343549) | about 2 years ago | (#40731981)

Sadly, these same patent issues [slashdot.org] still apply.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40731993)

Actually Apple has revolutionized many medical devices. Electronic devices for assisted communication used to cost thousands of dollars had horrible interfaces and were hardly portable. Then apple released the iPad and a lot changed.

Then patent holders of medical devices sued Apple and called the lawyers to make sure dumbshits like you knew that an iPad is no-way similar to a patented medical device.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#40732413)

Yes. For one thing, the iPad costs a small fraction of what a bulkier, cruder, and heavier "medical" device would cost.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | about 2 years ago | (#40732023)

Working in techology in public health, most of the iPads and iPhones around here are with managers and are used more as mobile email tools.

Having legacy applications, most sitting on windows machines has seen no practacle move to the tablet. Infact, the standard P.C build around here is winXP with i.e.6 and Office 2003 as some of our critical clinical applications have dependancies on these.

yes, Apple has made communication on the go easier (or possibly more desireable) but as far as impact for front line clerical and clinical staff in the medical field; from where I am sitting, those roads are yet to be crossed.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732153)

Herp derp. ASSISTED COMMUNICATION. As in, picture boards, text-to-speech, and other ASSISTED communication devices - for people who cannot communicate via the spoken or written word as I would. (I'd say "as you or I would," but your post leads me to believe that you're an undiagnosed retard who needs an Assisted Communication device yourself). Assisted communication doesn't cover your "email and instant message with the other fucktards in my office" use.

Also, it's "practical," and "dependencies," and "desirable," dipshit.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (5, Insightful)

neBelcnU (663059) | about 2 years ago | (#40732039)

I've also paid a fortune for my hearing aids, 100% of my own funds because health insurance in the US doesn't cover any hearing-related expenses beyond the most basic testing.

With that in mind, I do NOT want the "professionals" touching my hearing aids. Having watched them repeatedly, I'm certain that I can do a better job--even with Siemens' cripple-ware. In fact, there are a number of hacks I think would be really impressive: The software packages the 4 settings by default in a manner that requires 3x the button-pushes should they be arrayed in simple "loudness order". Or this one: the feedback defaults to a series of beeps: 1 per setting position, 1 beep=1st setting, 2=2nd, etc. There's an option to set the tone to one of 4 different frequencies, so in my first visit, I figured out we should select ever higher tones for the counts. (1=lowest/least, 4=highest/most) The "professional" was so astonished by the usability improvement of this, he was going to apply it to other customers.

Oh, and see what I did there? I just socially-shared a trick that others may find helpful." I know it's a licensed job, they're not idiots, and they do have skills, but they do not wear hearing aids. I cannot stress that last enough, every "professional" I've seen all have perfect hearing. They may understand the physiology better, but they do not understand the electronics, psychoacoustics, or the limitations better than I do.

Run the tests, start up the app, and head out for lunch, I'll take it from here. And you bet your sweet bippy I'm going to publish MY settings, and compare notes with other users. If you don't want to, fine, don't. But I'll pay to get out of the highest walled-garden in the world.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (2)

compwizrd (166184) | more than 2 years ago | (#40732737)

I've got a set of Siemens Centra SP's... and yes, their programming software is just horrid... unstable and VERY slow. The multiple beeps to set programs bugs me too, as by the time you go through program 3, it's taking about a second and a half to beep at me. The only reason that makes any sense would be for people who can't distinguish tone levels very well? I did get them to set the lowest frequency possible, the default was stupidly high pitched.

For my hearing aids, I have the first program set to almost no noise cancel, it works best for music for me.. second program has the highest noise cancel it will do, this is my speech program, and third is for telecoil.. mine only has a 4th and 5th program if i have the audio boots.. They mean to tell me in 2006 NVRam was still too expensive to store a dozen programs customized to what I want???

They rely too much on "here's the audiogram, here's what the software says it should be set to for levels".. but never "you grew up missing the high frequencies, so having a bit heavier bass than what the machine says would beneficial so it sounds more natural"..

I'm with you all the way on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40732755)

I have worked hard to get my aids to pre from at their best,and no thanks to the supposed hearing aid professionals who called me "too demanding, "too specialized" expects too much" and totally ignored my work. My work has been published in Hearing Review, and I still get treated like a problem child.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40737895)

If you use Siemens, that's your own fault. Use Phonak.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#40732421)

Apple's iHear device will be smaller, lighter, more comfortable, less expensive and way cooler than your $7000 hearing aid.
Either that, or it's a set of defensive patents designed to clear the patent minefield for the new Siri.

Re:Leave my Hearing Aids Alone (1)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733101)

And will be manufactured using child labour in China!

Earbook? (1)

theodp (442580) | about 2 years ago | (#40731913)

"John has changed his hearing aid microphone setting from omni-directional to directional."

Re:Earbook? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#40731969)

Maybe it enables you do "un-hear" people you don't want to hear? You know, automatically turn down the volume when people you don't like speak?

Re:Earbook? (1)

pegasustonans (589396) | about 2 years ago | (#40731991)

Maybe it enables you do "un-hear" people you don't want to hear? You know, automatically turn down the volume when people you don't like speak?

I'm sure this will be available at some point. Sadly, though, it's pretty much a great way to become a complete fool:

Want to rebut the arguments of the people you don't like? Well, you can't, because you don't know what they're saying...

Location-based settings (3, Insightful)

MemoryAid (675811) | about 2 years ago | (#40731999)

I can see where it may be helpful to crowd-source settings at certain locations. Maybe the noise profile at a pub responds best to a certain setup for most people, but you don't want to twiddle with your hearing aid until you figure it out. A statistical analysis of others' settings, along with some rating of satisfaction with them, could help adjust a hearing aid more quickly.

I'm sure Apple could come up with an easy interface on the iPhone to quickly adjust, rate and share settings. Maybe even store some info about each person's hearing loss profile to better match people with settings...

Of course, I haven't read the article yet, so this could be redundant.

Re:Location-based settings (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732183)

Or, since many public facilities often offer induction loop capabilities for users with telecoil-equipped hearing aids, but the induction loop settings can vary wildly, it'd be nice to be able to see what settings other people at that location are using (or have used) to quickly and easily calibrate your own settings to work best with the loop.

I'd rather have some "informed advice" to start with, instead of blowing out my eardrums because somebody calibrated an induction loop wrong.

Now that is the most offensive thing I ever heard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732149)

You are smearing WHAT on apple cans?

What's Next? (0)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#40732215)

After Apple corners the hearing aid social networking market, they'll network insulin pumps before moving on to the Holy Grail of medical device social networking...pace makers. In a related story, hackers are clamoring for developer SDKs to be first in line to wreck havoc in this new threat vector.

Re:What's Next? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40738789)

Wrecking havoc is the exact opposite of wreaking havok. Wrecking havok would be destroying havoc, while wreaking havok is creating havok.

Re:What's Next? (1)

craigminah (1885846) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742637)

Thanks for the correction. I obviously need to incorporate the term "wreaking havoc" more into my day-to-day vocabulary.

Only on Slashdot... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732235)

Would a post about Apple have a Google logo on.

Re:Only on Slashdot... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40732373)

That's Apple's fault for hanging off Google's nuts so much lately with all the patent troll lawsuits.

It has begun (0)

mechtech256 (2617089) | about 2 years ago | (#40732435)

"The computer giant today admitted to having a fleet of planes and helicopters which have been flying over major cities around the world." And so commences the Apple Invasion.

delay (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40732721)

the problem is accumulated delay. That is the time between presentation of the signal to its final output into the hearing aids' speakers. If only Bluetooth is involved then the delay is bearable, but if it requires another type of signal conversion, ala the Rexton or Bernafon type remote control / convertor then the delay becomes very noticeable and unacceptable. I have the Rexton aids and I can't use them as on stage monitors because of the delay. The real problem is the power consumption of a BT receiver /transmitter in the haring aids- it eats power quick and results in a quick fail when the power drops too low.

My guess is that Apple may have a way to put a power efficient BT device in a hearing aid - I really hope so. I have had a loss for years, have been programming my own aids through four models, and, by and large, most audiologists are way undertrained, especially when it comes to real world, as in live music, fidelity in hearing aids.. And hearing aid companies with the exception of Bernafon, ignore the needs of hard of hearing music lovers and musicians. And I speak from bitter experience.

Hyperbole (1)

MikeMo (521697) | more than 2 years ago | (#40732795)

Troll much?

Hearing as a Co-operative Effort (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40732843)

Given the mixed results of Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, this seems like talking about sending a man to mars. Given that warning, it would be nice if hearing aids worked together to deliver the best audio from the best vantage. The most obvious example would be two hearing-impaired people speaking at a party, Each could use the other's mic to pick-up their partner's voice, then cancel everything else out with their own device's mic. Obviously, this requires some kind of standard, which will never happen in the medical device business. Heaven forbid that such equipment becomes commoditized.

Breaking the Hearing Aid Oligarchy (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40733207)

In the U.S., the many hearing aid brands are manufactured by a tiny number of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) who control patents and technology. The remaining OEM's have bought up smaller competitors and their patent rights. For the most part, hearing aids are sold through branded stores or via distribution to audiologists and hearing specialists. The retail markups are ridiculously high, so that many pay $2,000 - $5,000 or more for a device far simpler in design than most any comparable consumer electronic device. To add even simple improvements (Bluetooth, coatings for moisture resistance, multiple profiles for sound equalization, more sophisticated feedback protection, rechargeable batteries) adds hundreds or thousands to the retail price.

If Apple or other major electronics suppliers can simplify and improve hearing aid technology, then bravo. My state-of-the-art aids are often flummoxed in large public spaces with complicated acoustics. If a crowd-sourced sound pattern would allow me to hear better, you bet I'd take advantage of it. But the real benefit for the long-term might be in standardization of hearing aid interfaces and protocols so that over time prices might come down. The overwhelming majority of hearing impaired people world wide have no access to aids. Apple and others may be able to bring better hearing technology to the masses.

Re:Breaking the Hearing Aid Oligarchy (1, Insightful)

LodCrappo (705968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40734085)

Um.. you do realize this is Apple we are talking about right??

Tiny number of OEMs, check. One in fact.
Controls patents and technology like an ironfisted asshole, check.
Bought up smaller companies and patents, check.
Sold only through branded stores, check.
Retail markups ridiculously high, check.

Sounds like Apple will fit right in, but I don't see how they will improve things for hearing aid customers one bit.

 

Re:Breaking the Hearing Aid Oligarchy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40735053)

Sells a product that works well for all but the anally retentive, check.

Sounds (har, har) good to me.

Re:Breaking the Hearing Aid Oligarchy (1)

Grudge2012 (2662391) | more than 2 years ago | (#40751647)

Um.. you do realize this is Apple we are talking about right??

Tiny number of OEMs, check. One in fact. Controls patents and technology like an ironfisted asshole, check. Bought up smaller companies and patents, check. Sold only through branded stores, check. Retail markups ridiculously high, check.

Sounds like Apple will fit right in, but I don't see how they will improve things for hearing aid customers one bit.

Oddly enough, whenever Apple entered a market, prices dropped.

Re:Breaking the Hearing Aid Oligarchy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40769113)

Howdy Friend,

I like your comments....and maybe you have an "insight" into things the rest of us do not. You stated, "the real benefit for the long-term might be in standardization of hearing aid interfaces and protocols so that over time prices might come down..."

I will join you and watch for: 1) Standardized interfaces, 2) Prices to drop.

When prices do "drop"....I will pay close attention to the REAL REASONS they dropped. (I bet it will not be because of standardization of interface.....but GREAT, reasonable, sound explanation! Again,it will be interesting to know/see/understand WHAT REALLY makes hearing aid prices to consumers drop.)

Best regards!!!!

Reminder (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733211)

Apple products are not cool. Apple as a company is not cool. The brand, the logo, the marketing campaign: all no longer cool.

That's all I've been hearing lately. People talking about how it's so uncool to own Apple products now, how it makes you look like a douche because of Apple's shitty corporate behavior.

Meta-Reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40734595)

You need to be more subtle when trying to poison the well. If you want to propagate this anti-Apple meme you just invented, you need to insinuate it "in passing" as a tangent within a conversation that otherwise adheres to current social convention.

Don't try to get a supertanker to take a 90 degree turn. Instead, be patient and try to misalign the rudder calibration: cf. "Wow, that Retina display on the new MacBook could really be a game-changer in the market. My friends and I just wish that Apple engineers hadn't chosen to power the display backlights by using a module that torments the bottled souls of three orphans. There *has* to be another way to get decent battery life..."

Unless you were intending to target 6th graders with your campaign. In that case, carry on with the bludgeon tactics.

Re:Meta-Reminder (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40735339)

Unless you were intending to target 6th graders with your campaign. In that case, carry on with the bludgeon tactics.

I'm in this for the long haul. Of course I'm targeting the 6th graders.

And still, I will bet that it will influence a significant number of current Apple users, who are decent people and would be sick, just sick, if they were made aware of uncool Apple products have become thanks to the execrable behavior of the Apple Corporation.

Re:Meta-Reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40742035)

LOL.

You significantly underestimate 6th graders; I'm sure they can see straight through you.

Re:Meta-Reminder (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40742937)

You significantly underestimate 6th graders; I'm sure they can see straight through you.

They've already given up their iPhones because they're not cool. They are leading the trend away from Apple.

This is alarming news (3, Interesting)

mykro76 (1137341) | more than 2 years ago | (#40733257)

Apple's design concepts revolve around a simple experience for the 80%, and accessibility support for the 20% has historically been a long time in coming. It took 3 years for captioning to arrive on their Apple TV platform, and the iPhone didn't get accessibility features until its third iteration. I can and have recommended Apple products to others, but for this reason I am unable to use them myself.

I cannot think of a worse company to have a lock up on accessibility-related patents :(

Re:This is alarming news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40733745)

Also, DRM lockin is not acceptable on (replacement) body parts. Imagine no listening to music in unlicensed mp3s.

Obligatory Doctor Who reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40733825)

will it have battery life monitor?? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40736377)

Back in my Tandy days it was always fun to help somebody with hearing aid batteries.
the "correct" way to change the batteries

1 have the person hand you an old pack (you need this for the color/size)
2 grab the pack of batteries and pop 1 out
3 have them take the hearing aid out and pop open the battery compartment
4 check to make sure you have the correct battery
5 remove the tab from the battery and spend 30 seconds marveling at the engineering that went into the battery*
6 install the new battery (it should only fit one way)
7 close the compartment and hand the hearing aid back (give it a swipe with a cleaning towel if you want to go that far)
8 ring up the battery

Then you have a happy customer

* actually this is to make sure the Zinc Air cell lights up completely

trying to sell batteries to somebody that can't hear worth [redacted] is not fun.

Apple - the new Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40738323)

Is it me of is Apple quickly becoming the local bully? Screw them.

Get off my LAN, whippersnapper! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40738555)

Heh.

no (1)

dwightk (415372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40739905)

just no.

This is the worst slashdot title/article/posting yet.

I keep posting that, or meaning to post that and losing interest... let's see if this one makes it thorough.

This is not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40767541)

Apple seems to be touting that this remotely updaing your hearing aid profile is a brand new concept. It isn't. I say this because I've been researching hearing aids for my father and recently came across a compnay by the name of Audiotoniq. They claim they will be using blue tooth technology so that the hearing aid wearer can customize hearing aid profiles. This to me sounds almost exactly like what Apple is attempting to do. I don't know, but it def seems the hearing aid market is about to change completely. Which it should, bc these things are way way too expensive.

I design hearing aids at a startup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40776719)

I got wind of this article from my teammates. I'm the lead engineer at a tiny startup in Austin, TX called Audiotoniq. We built a bluetooth controlled hearing aid with an Android interface years ago. The iPhone app has always been second on our list due to technical hurdles and limited resources. We've shrunk the design for this final production rev, which is why we didn't release our (larger) functional betas to the public last fall. I think I can add some helpful information on this topic for anyone interested.

If you google for Audiotoniq patents, you'll find our patent disclosures that have published to get an idea of what we felt was worth protecting to keep the big guys from crushing us. We publish what's called a provisional patent so our initial filings stay hidden for about a year (there are many apps you can't see). This is what the little startups that don't have much money do as opposed to the big guys that go right to utility apps.

We poked around the web a bit and found a Danish article that claims GN ReSound is the company that has partnered with Apple (http://www.business.dk/digital/danskere-skal-lave-hoereapparater-til-apple). We noted a long time ago that the ReSound Alera had a 2.4GHz radio yet did not use bluetooth. This was quite puzzling at the time. When manufacturers go wireless, they either use the telecoil + streamer or a very low frequency/low power wireless protocol. At the time, bluetooth low energy was still in preliminary spec form, and now given the Apple WWDC announcement + this Danish article, it makes a lot more sense as to why the Alera has a 2.4GHz radio in it.

As far as social sharing of profiles, we talked about this years ago. Here's some background on hearing aids and how social settings could be applied:

Hearing loss is different from person to person. What happens in your audiologist office is that an audiogram (measure of hearing threshold levels) is taken and plugged into a computer. This computer runs what is called a fitting algorithm. Modern ones generate 3 gain target levels per frequency. These gain levels basically tell the device how loud to make soft sounds, how loud to make normal conversation speech sounds, and also how loud to make loud sounds. The goal is generally to make soft sounds audible, normal conversation comfortable, and loud sounds louder than normal conversation levels but not to an uncomfortable level. The techie term is wide dynamic range compression (WDRC). These modern prescriptive formulas usually fall into 2 main buckets: NAL-NL1/NAL-NL2 (National Acoustics Laboratory, Non-Linear Version 1/2) and the Desired Sensation Level (DSL) with various versions. There are others (CAM2, FIG6, IHAFF, LGOB, etc.) but those are the 2 most well-known currently. Most manufacturers license these algorithms, some modify them slightly, then include this in their audiologist software. This provides the starting point for fitting. After that, there is sound shaping of those curves using an equalizer. From a social perspective, it would be possible to share some parameters that are not necessarily associated with WDRC. For example, noise reduction, the sound shaping of equalizers on top of the WDRC settings (perhaps cutting lows and highs if significant environmental noise is contained in those frequencies), whether or not directionality is applied, and so on.

Of course, we have a better plan, but I have to keep some things secret ;-).

My best guess is that the folks that have partnered with Apple will be using BLE (hence iPhone 4s and beyond). Most hearing aids today use zinc air batteries. These have a good energy density for their size as one of the chemicals involved in the reaction to make energy is air, thus they have tiny air holes in them. The size of these air holes limits the rate of the chemical reaction, and hence limits the current that can be produced. Typically bluetooth often has high peak currents (the average current is quite acceptable) when the radio turns on to listen for inquiries or sync clocks. In the experiments we've done in our lab, these peaks were high and frequent enough to suffocate standard zinc air batteries. I have not looked at the BLE spec in detail yet, but I'm assuming that the peak currents are lower (or perhaps length of time to sync is longer) and hence manufacturers chose to support this over standard bluetooth. We use a different battery technology that can handle it, so this is of no concern to us other than it's an issue our competition will have to grapple with.

I could go on about the technical aspects for hours because the technology and industry both fascinate me, but I'll cut this short.

I will conclude with the standard startup plea (I'm sure lots of slashdot readers have lived it), if you know any VCs or angels interested in this area, pls give them our name as a production ramp is expensive :-).

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