Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bluetooth Hearing Aid Accessories: As Mainstream as iPods?

Yesterday at work I met a man I really liked. He tried to take my Dr Pepper*, but I liked him anyway. He just needed a little direction to the nonfiction section. All in all, it was perfectly ordinary. Except for one thing - he had an Oticon Streamer around his neck.

If it weren't for the Streamer, I wouldn't have noticed he had a hearing loss. His hearing aids were practically invisible and, although he needed a few things repeated, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Seeing the Streamer made me smile, though. He was just wearing it around his neck - a bright white object that most people probably thought was a music player or maybe a cellphone.

Photo taken by me.
Image shows the white Oticon Streamer next to a computer keyboard.

It struck me that with the trend towards smaller and less visible hearing devices, hearing loss is becoming even more of an invisible disability for people. There is a lot of marketing for "invisible" devices.

Just go to any of the websites of major manufacturers of hearing aids. Lyric Hearing trumpets that it is 100% invisible. The Esteem website starts off saying "invisible hearing." Oticon's website says, "Once upon a time there was nothing discreet about hearing aids but now subtle design is paramount in any hearing aid development." Siemens touts their Pure hearing aid, "designed for utmost discretion."

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Advances in hearing technology benefit everybody who uses it and making hearing technology more discreet can help people be convinced to buy something they might otherwise put off. However, my personal challenge with small hearing aids has been that, since they don't correct everything, people get more irritated with having to repeat things than they would if they had a visual cue indicating I have a hearing loss.

I wonder what would happen if more people wore Streamers (or comparative devices) around their neck all the time. People would slowly realize what they are, plus users would get the convenience of having the Bluetooth device there with them all the time. I'm sure these types of devices will also become smaller as technology advances (except devices designed for seniors or those with low mobility).

I just think it would be cool if Streamer-type devices became as acceptable as listening to an iPod with your headphones, or having your cellphone in a holster on your belt. Since more and more people are being diagnosed with hearing loss as they age, I think these types of things will become more mainstream in the future, as technology-oriented generations age.

* He was joking. Probably. But he did say next time he has a Dr Pepper and he's in the library, I can have some.


  1. Well said! Just yesterday some HoH friends and I were talking about the invisibility of hearing loss and how maybe we'd like it to be more visible, not less!

  2. Its certainly very smart and for the first time me seeing this here, if I had seen this around someone's next, I would have thought it was an MP3 or something.

  3. I wear my bluetooth all the time around my neck. If I had the choice, I would paint my aids bright orange or something--it is definitely advantageous when other people realize something is amok with my hearing.

  4. Bright orange! That would be awesome, Aaron! :)

  5. LOL I have the Streamer and I love it!
    I had my purple hearing aids since March and is much better than my old Oticon that are crap now *will be 7 in January*

  6. Megan, I have finally entered the 21st century and bought a phone I can use to listen to music through my Streamer. And with Pandora - so easy to find music I like. You were the inspiration...

  7. You did a nice job on that photo, Megan. Very professional.

    My friend has an Oticon streamer and she loves it.

    It will be interesting to see how perceptions of hearing assistive technology change as more people are diagnosed with hearing loss and make use of these products.

  8. Technology these days just make it easier for HA users to mix in fun, fashionable and functionalities all in one. Will certainly look into that soon.. Thanks.

  9. Studies show the #1 desired improvement sought in wireless hearing aid technologies is to not have to wear an intermediary device.


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