It seems every couple of months hearing aid companies tell us about the next latest and greatest innovation they've come to market with that will improve the lives of those of us living with hearing loss. So what technology is important and whats just clever marketing?
Lets focus on the different options we have for adjusting the volume of hearing aids.
Talk to ten hearing professionals and you'll be recommended ten different products and they will have drastically different views on whether you should have control over the volume & other settings of your hearing aid(s).
Here's the argument made to limit your ability to control the hearing aid volume.
"Normal hearing people can't turn up and down their ears. They hear everything within the normal limits of hearing. They like the way some things sound and they dislike the way some things sound. By keeping the stimulus of hearing aids constant it will force your brain to become acclimated to normal hearing limits."
Here's what I say to the audiologist with this out-dated view on volume control. Wake-up and watch a youtube video! Whether your watching your favourite TV program or streaming youtube you have surely noticed that come commercial break time the volume seems to double in intensity. Everybody I know who wears hearing aids really appreciates the ability to turn down those commercials. It doesn't have to be commercials. It can be screaming kids, the movies, a busy shopping centre, your wife (sorry hunny).
Okay, so having the ability to adjust the volume of your hearing aids is a benefit. Let's consider on device dials or buttons, remote controls, your iPhone or Apple watch.
Lets think about adjusting the volume of our hearing aids in a practical sense. Imagine your wife's streaming the latest Donald Trump documentary on youtube. Your somewhat zoned in and some what zoned out when out of nowhere an ad cuts in and the volume goes up 15 points. Your wife has the remote control to the TV - so what are your options?
Option 1: Reach up and push a button on your hearing aid that turns the volume down.
Option 2: Pull out your remote control and push a button to turn down your hearing aids volume.
Option 3: Open your iPhone, open your hearing aid app, push the screen to turn down the volume of your hearing aid.
Option 4: Open your apple watch app, push the screen to turn down the volume of your hearing aid.
Obviously the fastest way to adjust the volume is Option 1, so why are the marketers selling us on all the benefits of remote controls, apps, and additional devices to control our hearing aids?
Imagine instead of talking about adjusting the volume of our hearing aids we were talking about adjusting the volume of our TV's.
Same scenario as above, only now your sitting down in your living room watching the Trump Documentary from your favourite chair & your wife isn't holding the remote control hostage. Lets think about adjusting the volume of our TV's in a practical sense. Your watching the TV and again, a commercial cuts in and the intensity of the volume goes up 15 steps.
Option 1: Get up from your comfy chair, walk across the room to the TV and push a button that turns the volume down.
Option 2: Find your remote control and push a button to turn down the volume.
Option 3: Open your iPhone, open your TV app, push the screen to turn down the volume.
Option 4: Open your apple watch app, push the screen to turn down the volume.
A remote control was a great innovation for TV viewing. We all know how frustrating it is when we lose the remote control and have to get up to walk across the room and adjust the volume on the TV. Enter the next innovation, "Remote" on your iPhone. Chances are you'll lose your TV remote before you lose your iPhone, plus a remote app on your phone eliminates the need for a stand alone remote for the TV. Next innovation, apple watch. Your TV remote is lost, your iPhone is on the charger upstairs - thank heavens you have your Apple watch strapped right to your wrist.
You get the point, remotes, iphone and apple watch apps solve a problem in terms of making it easier to adjust the volume of the TV, where they don't really offer the same practical benefits when applied to hearing aids.
So why are these technologies being marketed to hearing aids as technological breakthroughs that will improve the lives of people living with hearing loss?
Well, it sounds pretty cool right? Adjusting your hearing aids with your phone or watch seems pretty darn hi-tech and it's very marketable. I wouldn't really call it an innovation though. I like to think of innovations as technological breakthroughs that make doing things simpler, easier or better. There must be a reason big business is pushing this technology at prices as high as $8000 per pair.
Look if you want iPhone or Apple Watch compatible hearing aids that's cool. I get the appeal, but don't expect a functional benefit over a simple push button located on your hearing aid.
Resound Smart and Starkey Halo hearing aids with their Truelink app make really good iPhone and even android compatible hearing aids.
If your looking to purchase a high end hearing aid at a fraction of the cost of some of the more recognizable brands you should check out SmartAid Digital Premium hearing aids. They use a push button feature on the hearing aid to adjust between 4 different volume settings. Which most people wearing hearing aids will find far easier, faster and more practical in controlling the volume of your hearing aids.