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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Hearing Aid Hacking's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
12:57 pm
[ext_2924525]
Connecting Phonak Roger Pen to Bernafon Soundgate 3
Contrary to Oticon's Streamer the Soundgate 3 does not have a DAI Europort connector, only a stereo jack. This creates a problem with for me. Normally you would connect Phonak's Roger Pen to the Roger X and connect that to the bottom of your streamer. This means that I will have to make a connector female DAI 3-pin to stereo jack.

Does anyone have an idea what kind of problems I will run into? If I connect the outer pins to the stereo cable, should I give the center pin a voltage to power the Roger X connector? Should I put 330kOhm between the ground and the pin for attenuation or would that create the same problem as with Oticon: very low loudness?
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
1:43 am
[scruffycritter]
Captioned Cell Service!
The FCC has finally approved Innocaption's application to be a relay provider. The hold up was trying to make sure the service wouldn't be used by fraudsters...Purple just got smacked with a hefty fine for that.

So get their app (Android/iPhone), fill out their form and return it!

http://www.innocaption.com/
Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
11:31 am
[m0j0_69]
Leaving Livejournal?
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm having a very difficult time getting LiveJournal to work with the modern Chrome browser. It's painful. I'm posting this using the "mobile" version on my desktop, just to get the functionality to work. I have also tried Internet Explorer and Firefox, and I keep having issues with drop-down boxes not populating, comments not viewable, etc. It's JavaScript hell.

So...I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I have created an open community on Google+ with the same goal as this group: to discuss hearing aids and DIY electronic projects. If you would be interested in taking the discussion over there, the URL is: https://plus.google.com/communities/115646758603312375708

I will remain a member of this community, and if people want to remain with LJ that's fine. I just think there are better alternatives for discussion now that it's 2014 and not 2005. :)


Posted via m.livejournal.com.

Friday, March 21st, 2014
1:30 pm
[ext_2497711]
Resound LiNX - integrated BLE seems ripe for hacking
*knock knock - anyone alive in here? :)

I just picked up a pair of Resound LiNX aids that have integrated BLE, and are Apple certified & integrate directly with the iPhone.

These things just scream for hacking I think. I've just played around a bit with a BLE app on my iPhone and they seem to have about 40+ characteristic (key/value) pairs, that I'm assuming have to do with programmed state - default volumes, programming, etc.
Friday, November 30th, 2012
2:14 pm
[tenkan2001]
PHONAK ICOM
Hi there, can anyone help me with a hack so as to use my icom with a fm receiver,as the one from PHONAK (MLxi) is way to much ($1000) here in new zealand, I have the smartlink and would like to use the microphone from it through the icom to my naida's hearing aids,thanks
Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
1:11 pm
[rhlll]
Just got my new hearing aids
 After many months, the Foundation I approached for financial aid, finally answered. It turned out that lost my file, so the never processed it. I guess they choosed to losen up a bit on their usual rules, since I've been waiting for a long time, as they usually don't give help to people having less than a 35 decibels loss. So I finally had my new hearing aids last thursday. I was really happy, and I admit that they were long due.

The next morning, I arrived at my job, where one of my collegue was asking about the hearing aid, but didn't quite see them as he was expecting something bigger. I didn't say it to other people, so it came much later during the day until other noticed them. After I did show them to one of my collegue, she actually laughed noticing, it's weird I didn't say ''what!?'' yet that day. It's weird to hear so much noise around me, but I try keeping the aids on. At first, I had the impression it didn't make much difference while I was watching tv, but when I remove the subtitle, and compare with them on and off, I see an important difference. But well, they still need adjustments...

One thing that will look weird at first, is that I believe I have more trouble hearing some people I could hear before. They didn't increase the frequencies I could already hear kinda well, and it might be a problem to have a mold in my hear in this case. I was at the convenience store, and could hear very clearly the sound of the fridges, but the voice of the salesperson seemed to come from the back on the room, while the guy was standing in front of me.

I will be getting the Smartlink+ this thursday, but I tried the ComPilot this week. I don't know if mine is defective, but I hear a lot of noise when using it, especially when a female is talking (including my own voice). I wish it stayed connected when the sound from the bluetooth audio source goes off. Also, it's so long to change mode (I would deal better only with the color code) and the fact you don't hear external sound when the voice menu is speaking is a bit nuisible. Do you know if the settings could be altered?
Monday, November 26th, 2012
3:39 pm
[gertlex]
Modified DAI pinout idea
I've often desired to be able to have an earbud that you can plug a DAI cable into, and have a functional earbud. 

The main problem with this has been that the DAI cable often is (and should be!) attenuated.  Thus, the earbud would be super quiet if you just attached it in this manner.

It just occurred to me that the middle pin could be connected as unattenuated.  Earbuds would then connect to the ground and center pins, and ignore the attenuated pin.

To illustrate, it is this
http://www.gfern.com/btha/BTE-DAI-Cable.png
but with the V_dd pins connected to the respective left and right connections on the stereo jack.

As far as I can recall, I've never seen this pin actually connected to anything - it's just there for robustness and/or ease of insertion of DAI connector into a hearing aid's boot, I think?  Has anyone ever seen a situation where this would be a bad idea?  Obviously this is only really relevant if you're making a custom DAI connector (does anyone besides me do this?...).

Thanks!
-Gert
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
3:56 pm
[divxfiat]
Newbie, Looking for first HA
Wishes to all Guru's of this community ...

Every since my ENT doctor asked me to go for a HA, sometime back in 2010, I have been looking for HA info over the internet. Today, I am lucky to find this group.

I am from Bangalore, India and in Mid 30's, Married with two kids. (Was) Leading a active life. Now a days, it becoming very tough to lead a day to day activities due to hearing loss. My latest test shows 40% - 50% loss. There is a humming sound or the sound of fly flying always in the Ear.

I have been to various hospitals & HA clinics and have got the tests done. The doctors advise is to go for HA. The audiologist in the private HA centers always recommend HA's above 1200+$ to 2200 $per ear -  which is total way out of Budget.

Bangalore has one HA clinic per manufacture (ReSound, Phonak, Seimens, Oticon, rexton, widex etc) except for panasonic who are yet to be seen in India.

I understand that I really do not fit into your your hearing-aid-hackers as of now as I still do not own any HA. But I intend to use the knowledge here to know more about after affect of buying & using HA. Thanks to you all in this forum.

I still have not closed on the brand or the type. I need a great help here. These new generation HA are complicated and confusing. Do not have clear understanding about them. Has anyone bought HA from 'www.audicus.com', how are their products? Are they recommended? found this website to be honest. There are lot of articles covering hearing loss including 'diabetes and hearing'

I would alos like to check with fellow HAH in Bangalore to get more understanding. From old post's I could find flycatcher27.
@flyCatcher27: If you are still around, can you please help me out.

Current Mood: calm
Friday, October 12th, 2012
1:00 am
[metamel]
You have 8 audiology students, 8 hrs/week for 16 weeks - what do you teach them? (Really happening!)
Okay, folks -- I need some help. I get to teach an audiology class next semester to 2nd year doctoral students preparing to become clinicians. (My background is in electrical and computer engineering; the course title is "signal processing for speech and hearing systems," so they'll need to do something around that topic.)

My mission for this class is to help the audiology students become the sort of audiologists I’d want to have myself as a deaf geek. I have three ideas that I’d like folks to give the “crazy test” to (as in, feedback: is this cool or is this crazy?) and I'm super-open to suggestions. I'm co-teaching with a (hearing) friend of mine who's also a PhD student in engineering education and specializes in teaching DSP and researching how to teach it better, so we're really prepared to tackle just about anything in this technical realm (the trick will be translating it for audiology students -- who, by and large, aren't electrical engineers or programmers.)

In short, what I'm thinking is:
  1. Have the class write the course textbook — open-licensed resourcesfor an audience of geeky hearing aid users and their companions. (Hi. Interested in being a test audience?)
  2. Flip the classroom, Oxford style - we only have 8 students, so use class time as "project time" (for us to all work on the book together). Since we won't be lecturing, students will have readings/videos to self-pace-learn through materials, then meet with one of us for 30-45 minutes each week to go over questions in a far more individualized manner.
  3. Use Python, not MATLAB. Waaaaaaaay less painful for people who have never coded before. And makes it possible for any code samples we come up with for the "textbook" to be run by people without a fancy software budget.

The full writeup is at http://blog.melchua.com/2012/10/11/how-would-you-teach-signal-processing-to-audiology-graduate-students-im-doing-it-spring-term-and-here-are-my-ideas/ and I'd really really love to hear thoughts.

I want to take book section inspirations, assessments/homework/etc, from questions in this forum and on the Big Tent forum for musicians with hearing loss -- real people, real users, asking actual questions about their hearing devices and their lives. (I want to have audiologists who can answer our questions about this stuff, but we've got to show them the questions first.) I want to do all sorts of things, and... I don't want to kill myself with overwork next term. So! Ideas, thoughts, resources, help, please!
Thursday, October 11th, 2012
11:39 am
[rhlll]
Challenges at workplace... and bit about me

After high school, I undertook higher education learning in my second language. I had problems hearing and learning to pronounce certain word (but, to be honest, it's the case in my first language). The thing that helped me the most, and I am not just talking about the immediate effect on learning language, was prononciation classes. In the begining, it was meant to be a single class in an course dedicated for English as a second language student... given to a rather small class. We started 4, and I ended up alone with the teacher few weeks after the first class. I realized that the particular class on prononciation was crucial for me, so did the teacher, so he changed the content of the class to concentrate on that subject. I still had trouble to understand subtilities in prononciation, but the teacher helped me overcome them by showing me pictures of the anatomy of the month (ex: to see where the tongue is placed). The class almost acted as a therapy, and after I could distinguish words better in a sentence.

I can hear well (still have to concentrate a lot) at frequencies 500 to 2000 Hz.  I will hear 80% of what  a person will say, and 15% of another... but it will radically drop if other people talking in the room or if there is noise (even low). I had hearing aids a few years ago, but they weren't so helpful. I had a student pair taking note for me during my studies, but now I am working and find it harder. I am an analyst programmer, mostly working with men, so it often fall outside my comfort zone (if I could call it like that). I get a strange look from some people when I say I'm deaf, as I can talk to them without hearing aids... and they would blame my lack of concentration for moment where I fail to hear what they say.

I got an evaluation done few months ago to get new hearing aids, and new technologies might give some hope. So, from the thousands of models available... we end up with 2 (it would be slightly more, if I didn't plan on buying a FM system): Naida V and IX. I just started working and paying my debts, so it's a bit challenging for me to come with 5000-7500$ for the aid. I tried asking foundations for money, but it didn't really give result... so I am finally going to get a loan.

I realized, it's too much stress to endure on a daily basis, not to hear anything in a conference, not to hear few people, having to ask assistance to take a phone call... when the solution might already exists. I feel a bit left with myself at moments, so I asked for an appointment in a readaptation center(in few weeks), to get professionnel advices for my workplace. The company I work for offered to pay for a new  phone, but even that was proven to be complicated (I didn't know exactly what to ask, and was getting conflicting information from the internet). The client uses IP phones from Cisco...and Cisco doesn't talk to individual. I am responsible for finding the specifications for the phone I need, and wasn't able to find  a clear answer from the web. I have finally been able to convince them to talk to me, even if this wasn't for a large purchase. I am consultant, so I have to get the phones approuved, before asking the firm I work for pay for the phone. The problem is the time elapsed between each step I took... it took 3 months for the client to answer that they would not provide the phone, that the consultation firm would have to pay. I hesitated between asking for a phone or simply an adaptor(Jabra). I saw many negative comments for the adapter, and I don't have that much time to lose (and my company won't pay twice). If other have comments on that or on Naida V and IX... it would be really welcomed.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
4:14 pm
[metamel]
Measuring effortfulness effects of hearing aids
I haven't been posting all my hearing aids notes because I didn't want to clog this group (of course, if people would rather be notified here when a new one pops up, I can do that too -- just let me know in the comments). However, last week's lecture was different enough that I thought I'd mention it; it's more on the cognitive side of things.

The topic was digital noise reduction (DNR) and we spent most of it talking about effortfulness, which I imagine most of us on this forum have a painfully intimate knowledge of. (It's the opposite of "effortlessness" and refers to how hard you need to work mentally to compensate for a hearing loss.)

The post is at http://blog.melchua.com/2012/09/25/hearing-aids-effortfulness-or-why-dnr-digital-noise-reduction-makes-a-difference-its-not-why-youd-think/ and two things that stood out for me:
  • intelligibility scores are not a measure of effortfulness; you might understand 100% of the words said because you can hear them easily, or you might understand 100% of the words said because your brain is churning furiously to decrypt the 60% you've heard, and you're a good guesser. This seems to be a fairly recent area of research -- instead of looking at intelligibility, what if we look at secondary task performance? ("how much extra mental bandwidth do you have to devote to doing things with the material vs trying to understand it being communicated?") For instance, DNR seems to improve an adult's ability to learn novel words (but not kids below age 10), which may be interesting to the polyglots here. Potentially useful ammo for advocating for assistive services when people go "but you cope so WELL you can LIPREAD and understand what I'm SAYING perfectly FINE!" (Yeah, but it's grueling.)
  • pupil dilation is one measure of effortfulness. (My boyfriend has told me that my eyes take on a certain look when I'm concentrating very, very hard on understanding something, but couldn't figure out exactly what it was that gave him the "ok, help adjust things for Mel" cue -- I think this might be it.)
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
10:37 pm
[metamel]
Liveblogging my Hearing Aids II class
Howdy, Mel here again. I'm the engineering education PhD student with new Phonak Naida SPs and a background in electrical and computer engineering as well as open source hacking. And I'm liveblogging the Hearing Aids II class I'm taking this semester . Basically, this is The Class that audiology grad students at Purdue get about hearing aid technologies. I'm having a fantastic time.

http://blog.melchua.com/2012/08/22/hearing-aids-ii-it-feels-so-weird-to-listen-to-a-timeline-of-hearing-aid-developments-you-lived-through/

Teaser preview: This week's lecture was an overview of historical trends and digital hearing aids, but there was also an interesting bit at the start where the professor talked about "what happened in hearing aid tech dev this summer" (short version: Apple patent, air-pressure controls let you switch modes by tapping your ear, lots of folks debating whether audiology can be outsourced to a remote clinician.)

If folks are particularly keen on the research literature out there, I can start also posting the citations for papers we come by; so far, Killion's 1979 PhD dissertation sounds... important, but not having read it yet I can't say why or what it's about, other than it answers (among other questions) why hearing-impaired listeners reject hearing aids.

Notes? Additions? Questions? It's a flood of data I'm just trying to keep up with at this point (it is also my first time with in-person CART, so that's taking a bit of adjusting-to) but if there is a way I can make this more useful to others in the hearing aid hacking sphere, I'd love to.
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
12:28 am
[tuliphead]
Phonak iCom to PC pairing - again
Phonak wearers who use iComs - I've been having a bit of conversation with Phonak about iCom -> PC pairing and they say it's possible now. I'll be trying this soon. Anyone have any luck with this lately? I haven't tried since I upgraded to Win7 Ultimate, so I'm curious to see how this goes.

http://www.facebook.com/phonaknaida/posts/363398417025729
Thursday, May 24th, 2012
2:51 pm
[markward]
How have you hacked a hearing aid?
Hello all and apologies if I'm barging in slightly.
I'm a BBC journalist writing about the work folks are doing to hack hearing aids. I've chatted to Helga (hello!) and some other folks who are on this list and got lots of help with my story. Thanks to everyone who has let me ask daft questions about what they are doing.
I'm posting this message to find out what else folks have done to hack hearing aids and how they have got on. Is it about solving specific problems (such as connecting to Bluetooth headsets) or a more general dis-satisfaction with the help a hearing aid can give? Thanks to Helga and others I'm getting the sense that people are generally unhappy with their hearing aids and it can take a long time for them to be tuned/tailored and customised to improve hearing or cope with a specific hearing impairment.
I'm keen to find out what folks have discovered about how hearing aids work, what they have built to make things better and the success they have had.
I can be reached via the discussion board, PM or on mark.ward.01@bbc.co.uk
I'm new to Livejournal so can only apologise again if I've outraged etiquette by posting this.
Many thanks
Regards
Mark
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
1:57 pm
[mnixon77550]
In ear device
Hello All,

As I'm new here, I thought I'd introduce myself.  I'm Mike and own a small company.  I'm an EE and working on a small in-ear device akin to a bluetooth headset.  However, we want these to be completely custom and have some processing capability.  These will communicate with a portable electronics "pod" for speed recognition for command and control.

Think "Siri over Bluetooth" and you'll have a good approximation of what we are creating.  So I'm interested in microphones, receivers, encoding, wireless transmission (low power), etc.  I'm starting back through the archives so hope to catch up soon.

Mike
Saturday, April 28th, 2012
2:46 pm
[nerak_rose]
recording sound with a phonak smartlink
Hello everyone. I have a Phonak Smartlink+

which I use mainly in class/lectures and when listening to music. I just plug it into the laptop or my ipod and voilá, sweet music in my ears.
I'm also involved in fandom and I've gotten to the point where I want to try to record podfic (like audiobooks, but of fanfiction) and podcasts and I'm not very keen on spending a lot of money on a new microphone for the purpose when I already have a high-quality mic in my smartlink - I know it is; I use it every day.

THE PROBLEM: according to the manual, I can only make sound go from the smartlink to my hearing aids (well, the boots to be precise). What I want to do is in some way to use my smartlink as a microphone while using audacity on the laptop to record whatever I'm speaking into it. Unfortunately my laptop doesn't have bluetooth (though I reckon a USB-bluetooth receiver would be more inexpensive than a brand new microphone, so that's not an issue).
In short: I don't care if it's via a cord or bluetooth, as long as there is a way for me to use the smartlink as a microphone. Only, I don't really know how to go about it...according to the manual, the plugin on the smartlink with the neat 'microphone' symbol is only for external microphones, that is to say, not really helpful to my situation as it still just means sound transmitting to my hearing aids.

Solutions? Do you beautiful people know of a way to make this work?

(p.s. I know there's a built-in microphone in the laptop, but the sound quality is atrocious.)
Saturday, April 14th, 2012
8:56 pm
[helgarhelgar]
Your voice heard!
Hi!

Some of you might remember me, I posted several times about my project hackandhear.com and the talk I gave about hearing aids at a hacker conference in Berlin. 

Since I gave this talk, among others journalists and hearing aid vendors started to approach me. Seems that my talk raised quite some interested in and awareness of the problems of hearing-impaired.
Because I often get asked the same question "What are your wishes to the hearing aid industry", I wrote down a 10-point-wishlist. I chose these points because of my own experiences, but also what I learned from talking to other patients, audiologists and doctors.
I regularly point people to this wishlist and some things will get picked there:

http://blog.hackandhear.com/?p=121

I wanted to mention this here, because this might be a chance for you to also speak up and add your wishes / comments to the list. My blog has a comment function and I am happy about your opinions. This is a chance for us to tell the industry what sucks and the more we speak up, the more we might get heart. So, please have a look at my list and comment (positively as much critically) on the points.

Cheers,
Helga
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
5:42 pm
[metamel]
Made a call: Phonak Ambra Power
Thanks to everyone for their questions/comments/everything on my last (and first) post! Met with my audiologist today and we are going for the Phonak Ambra Power. (Widex is too expensive for Voc Rehab, sorry. Maybe in a decade when I can afford them myself? Or at least I hope I can afford them myself then...) I'm hoping for the M H2O (water/mud/dirt/dust/ADHD-engineer-resistant) case because I'm running Muddy Buddy in the fall (and tend to do that sort of crazy thing). We're doing iCom, the FM unit that plugs into iCom, and I asked her to throw in a DAI cable as well. (She's awesome, and came back at me with "sure, 2 foot or 5 foot?")

So, adventures from here:
  1. Getting hearing aids! (Voc Rehab, please please please approve these.) I'm hoping to get them before the end of the semester (April 25) or at least before the start of summer term (May 14).
  2. Aural rehab + speech therapy...
  3. ...for learning German pronunciation. I've been teaching myself how to read and write German (I am awful at speaking and listening for obvious reasons), and a grad student in the languages department here happens to be doing her dissertation on the pronunciation of German by German language-learners, so we're going to experiment with that in conjunction with speech therapy, probably.
  4. Taking a hearing aid tech class here (Purdue) in the fall -- the one the audiology students take to learn how to evaluate/choose/test hearing aids. Involves playing with DSP and funky lab test equipment. Will keep y'all posted.
  5. Taking a qualitative research methods class here in the summer along with some classmates who know me and my hearing pretty well. And CART. Lots of CART. I hear the class has tons of reading, so that's good; I figured it would be the easiest way for me to test out my HAs "in the wild" where I'm going to use it (academia) because I could have (almost) simultaneous text (CART) and new-audio (HAs) on a subject know pretty well where I have supportive friends (yay, classmates!) to help me if I totally miss everything. (I read super-fast and often trade my reading skills with classmates for "what did the lecturer say again?" support.)
There's a way longer post detailing this morass on my blog. But it is going to be one heck of an adventure. I'm excited. (Just remind me to remember this in a month or so when I'm clawing at my ears screaming "sounds don't make SENSE anymore!" in agonized frustration.)
Monday, March 26th, 2012
5:32 pm
[metamel]
Whoa. I think I've found my tribe.
I'm sure others have had this reaction before, but... how in the world did I go this long without finding this group?

Hi, I'm Mel. http://blog.melchua.com/about has the detailed version, but I'm an electrical and computer engineer, open source hacker, and engineering education researcher currently mid-PhD at Purdue University (amazing audiology & speech department!). Audiogram here, though mid-tones have dropped around 15-30 dB since; I've had a severe high-freq bilateral sensorineural loss since age 2 thanks to mycin meds for pneumonia (I can't complain, though; I'm alive), was fitted with my first HAs at 5 but refused to wear them by the time I was 10.

Oral, lipread, have mainstreamed myself into the hearing world my whole life, just now learning about disability resource centers ("wait... CART? wait... this is weird, classes just got way easier") and am trying, in occasional spurts of awkward shyness, to learn more about the Deaf community I spent my entire childhood fighting against being stereotyped into (my family and practically everyone I know is hearing). I play piano (and a couple other instruments, but none as well as piano) and enjoy playing with foreign languages; thankfully I started doing both before they found out about my hearing or I would have believed the folks who are surprised that I can ever talk.

Anyway. I'm now 25, looking at getting my first pair of HAs since childhood. Consequently I've been geeking out about this on my own, and am psyched to find like-minded folks online... I've got six options and am torn between them. Reposting here for conciseness:
This selection is partially dictated by the constraint of having my HAs funded by Indiana's Voc Rehab office (I'm a grad student and can't possibly afford them on my own; I figure that 7 years from now I should at least be on something more than a barebones stipend and will solve the money problem then).

Looking through the past posts here, I see a lot of references to Phonak (including the Naida) and fewer Oticon. Tips? Thoughts? Good ways to think about selection? I'm tempted by the Phonak Solana because it comes with a water-resistant (or -proof, but I'm skeptical) casing and I'm pretty rough-and-tumble, though we're not sure that's going to get me the amplification I need. That's something for me and my audiologist to figure out, but I'm hoping that the folks here might have insight as to which manufacturers are friendlier/more receptive to technical inquiries, which things are more hackable/abusable/poke-around-able and better to learn on and with. I'm a Linux hacker and the sort of person who ran Gentoo in college (and switched to Fedora a few months later for maintenance sanity), if that gives you any indication.
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
1:50 pm
[rippah]
Widex Clear C4FSBR - the good and the bad
Context
After ten years of using my GN Resound Canta 7's, I was informed by my audiologist that the manufacturer would no longer repair them even if I pay the extra for an out of warranty servicing.  Each time I sent them in to be repaired, I basically got new hearing aids back as they typically replace the entire thing.  My right hearing aid was either not fitted well or it was starting to wear out after 18 months of use, so it was time for me to buy new hearing aids -- especially as professional necessity required that I communicate far more over the phone and in group settings than before.

It was not a purchase that I wanted to make at that time, as $6,000 out of pocket is an extraordinary expense -- I had investigated new hearing aids at points in time over the last decade, but did not judge that the improvement in quality worthwhile enough for the cost.  In my perception, hearing aid technology did not improve enough to match the experience of a quantum leap that was going from my Phonak digitally programmable analog hearing aids to my digital Canta 7's.  I have a severe-profound hearing loss with a SRT of 90-92dB, but yet I have a low tolerance for loudness and intensity, so I was a challenge to fit.

I am an audiologists' worst and best patient at the same time.  I do not have the professional training, nor do I have anecdotal experience of fitting patients, but I know and understand the technology and science behind signal compression, and psychoacoustic models.

I have divided the the rest of this post into three sections, written from the perspective of a major technology geek who is Deaf.

Audiologist
I have not mentioned my audiologist directly previous to this, as this is primarily a hearing aid technology review.  But a good and conscientious audiologist is essential to the best fitting -- a good hearing aid can sound terrible, and an average hearing aid can sound great depending on the skill of the practitioner.  There is a definite difference in perspective and skill set between a 'hearing aid dispenser' such as the ones you find for the Miracle Ear ads, or at a Costco, and a licensed audiologist with a doctoral degree.

I have had an extremely positive experience with Lori McCorrry with the Audiological Consultants of Atlanta.  She took the time to have a detailed discussion about the merits of various manufacturers and to determine my needs.  There was a lot of humor involved, and I was an interesting specimen due to my outlook on hearing loss, and the need for hearing aids -- I am culturally Deaf, married to a deaf woman with whom I communicate primarily in American Sign Language.  I told her, "I only wear hearing aids when I have to communicate with hearing people."

One of the things that I wanted to determine was if going with the top of the line hearing aids would give me a substantial improvement over a new mid-line hearing aids.  The hearing test she performed helped determine that due to my intolerance for loud sounds as well as my hearing loss being all over the place, she was going to need a lot of control over the instrument to fit me exactly.

Earmold impression were made, and a follow appointment was set for two weeks later.  She was solicitous about the earmolds being so deep in my ears, and kept asking if they hurt -- it was an adjustment  After inserting the hearing aids for the first time, I could hear the quality difference even with the conservative initial settings the instruments were set to.  Much to my surprise, I was able to comprehend and understand a substantial portion of the audiologist's speech without looking at her.

The fitting process was quite involved, and it was really neat to see how the tools of the trade have improved.  On the screen of the computer, you can now see a near-realtime graph for each instrument what the actual output across the frequencies are, which makes adjustments much easier.  She also inserted some probes into my ears, which was a challenge with how deep the new earmolds were -- the audiometric tools have also improved dramatically, and we were able to see what the actual measured output in my ears were at various frequencies.

After about an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrived at a good first pass fit.  She walked me through some of the functionality of the remote and the programs that were set up on it. When I left, I was quite pleased with the service I received.

Widex Clear C4FSBR
The first major change for me was that the new hearing aids are RITE (receiver in the ear), rather than BTE (behind the ear) and transmitted down a hollow tube into the mold.  I'd been using silicone earmolds for a long while, and they did not go very deeply into the canal.  It was an unusual feeling for me to have something hard and immobile reach so deeply into my ear to park the receiver next to my eardrum.  The audiologist was repeatedly asking me if it hurt.  It didn't, although it was odd to feel an unyielding pressure on my ear canal bone when my expression changed, or my jaw opened.  With my silicone earmolds, when they shift, my first reaction is to push them in -- because breaking the tight seal at the high gains that I hear things at can cause severe feedback

By parking the receiver so close to my ear drum, the signal quality improves due to not having to bounce through the tubing of the old  BTE and mold combinations -- my understanding is that it improves the high frequencies especially.  There are some other cool technologies like the hearing aids able to communicate state and determine which sounds to focus on, and the Bluetooth bridge/remote.

The quality of sound and the jump in speech intelligibility was a quantum leap over the older Canta 7's I had, especially when combined with the superb job that Lori had performed in fitting me.  Especially now that I am married to a deaf woman, I do not wear my hearing aids as much as I used to, and so I had de-acclimatized to the high gains of the Canta 7's -- this meant that it became bothersome to hear after a while.  I do not have this experience with these new hearing aids.

My own speech quality and intelligibility has improved, as I am able to hear my own voice better -- much to my amazement, I am able to hear my wife's voice.  She is extremely soft spoken, and we do not need to speak with each other -- this is more a testament to the quality of the aids themselves.

When I listen to devices via the M-DEX remote control, it is quite clear -- I am able to hear nuances of sound effects and tone in films  that I play on my computer or iPad.    These are superb hearing aids, and I cannot be more happy with them.  The only caveat is that I am going to need to go back and add a few more programs for noise management, as I am able to hear entirely too much now.

M-DEX
After the glowing review of my hearing aids and my audiologist, it is unfortunate that I have to be so negative about the other component in question.  The M-DEX is a piece of shit -- I am a software engineer and architect, and I have never seen such poor interface quality or assumptions about the listener.

First, let's start with the good things:
  • FreeFocus -- being able to tell the hearing aids in what direction to focus on.  This is very useful.
  • Bluetooth pairing with iPad -- when I pair it with my iPad to watch a film, the quality is remarkable as I have noted earlier.
  • Direct audio input - if I run a cord from my device to the M-DEX, it works well.
  • Changing programs -- this is moderately useful, though I am able to change it directly on my hearing aids.
However, these are the only positive things I can say about the M-DEX.
  • When a Bluetooth device drops a connection, such as my iPhone or iPad doing so when not actively playing sounds, it switches to the Master program, and loudly announces it.  So the cycle happens like this:  The program on the iPhone or iPad plays, the bluetooth connection is brought up, a beep emanates from my hearing aids.  When it stops, it changes back to the Master program.  Every time this happens, this announcement is made.  Repeatedly.
  • Further compounding this issue is that the 'room off' which mutes my hearing aids microphones turns off, and unmutes every time the bluetooth connection drops.   If I am listening to a movie, and I exit out of the film to check on something, I get the loud announcement, 'Master program', and a blast of environmental noise.  I then have to re-mute.
  • Further compounding the unacceptable state of affairs, it does not work well as a headset or headphones.  The Widex engineers obviously did no testing or quality assurance outside of mobile phones.  It does not work at all with my Mac laptop or my Mac desktop -- when I attempt to play sounds through it, the M-DEX believes it to be a phone call for the duration of the sound effect and then disconnect.  This causes the computer to no longer play sound effects through the Bluetooth connection, as it is disconnected.  Most of the time, it does not even work -- the computer tells me that there was a Bluetooth error.
  • The M-DEX barely works with the iPad and iPhone outside the context of a phone call -- as I have mentioned before, it works as a hands-free profile, and a headphone profile.  But it does not work as a headset with a microphone.  Skype on my iPad and iPhone is a no-go due to this -- I briefly get a connection and then it drops.
  • The microphone quality on the M-DEX is poor -- I would have imagined that Widex with its state of the art research into microphone and signal quality, would be able to put some of this technology into the M-DEX.  This is a $350 device that is surpassed by a $10 piece of electronics.
  • Effectively, the only way I can do phone calls with the M-DEX is as a handsfree headset for phone calls.  Which is unfortunate, as my mobile phone quality is far inferior to what I can get over VoIP which is important to me as a Deaf person.  I need every bit of call quality I can get, and this device cripples me.
  • The user-interface is extremely poor.  I am a software engineer, and I get a little confused as to how to get to certain functionality.  How is a normal non-geek supposed to use this device?
  • Also rage-inducing is the fact that this device only pairs with one bluetooth device at a time.  If I have it paired with my iPad and want to use it with my iPhone, I have to go through the whole pairing process.  Logitech with its cheap headsets is able to support multiple bluetooth pairings!
It is obvious that the people who worked on the M-DEX have no understanding of people with hearing loss and their actual needs.  This is perhaps due to being an entirely different product and project than the hearing aids themselves which are wonderful.

The following naive assumptions were made:
  • That other devices would maintain a Bluetooth connection throughout the life of the session.  This is only true for mobile calls.  In every other context, Bluetooth connections are dropped, to conserve battery.
  • That the user would want the program to actively change when the Bluetooth connection drops.  Again, this is only true for mobile calls.  If an user is using this device for other purposes, the user does not want to hear the loud announcement that the program has changed.
  • That the user would only want to use Bluetooth for phones.  This shows a shocking lack of creativity, vision and initiative.  Bluetooth is much more versatile than that, and they should have expected that an user would want to use this device with their computer or to watch films on a mobile device with.
  • That the user would not care about his own voice quality with the shoddy microphone -- sometimes, those of us that have hearing loss need every bit of clarity that can be transmitted to the other party, due to accents or inflections.  Did they actually test the microphone as a deaf person?
  • That they do not need to put thought or effort into the user interface of the device -- the paths to some of the functionality are simplified to the point of being un-simple to use.  Any good human interface person would have spotted these issues.
It is extremely unfortunate that with all the careful engineering and thought that Widex put into the hearing aid instruments, to see them fumble so severely with the M-DEX.  The whole experience is basically like getting a flawless one-hundred yard pass for the touchdown, and then suddenly fumbling and going back thirty yards.


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