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Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Design - anyone?

Postby NURB » November 27th, 2016, 12:09 am

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For nearly the past three years, I've become much more in tune with what's happening in the world of hearing aids. My currently 6 year old son has hearing loss in both ears, and has been fitted with HA's for close to 3 years.

Recently, his hearing in his left ear has dropped off substantially and now he's a Cochlear implant candidate, so I'm engrossing myself in all things CI's to try and make the right decision for him. This one is tough because you've basically got to choose a brand for life (for the most part).

My question to the group:
Has anyone worked for any hearing aid or Cochlear device manufacturers? Ever worked in the design of the devices? They're all very amazing given what they can do, with a very very limited power supply.

My question is more out of curiosity than anything. If any one works in the industry and wants to share, please post!

Another question: can anyone think of another device that requires to commit to a single brand for 20-30, or more, years?
Chris Haar

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Re: Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Design - anyone?

Postby iab » November 28th, 2016, 8:43 am


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Best I can do is one coworker has 2 implants and another worked for a hearing testing for infants manufacturer.

Let me know if yo have any specific questions.

Re: Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Design - anyone?

Postby iab » November 28th, 2016, 11:24 am


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My coworker uses the Med-El implant. Primarily because he hates the behind-the-ear attachment. His has the rondo, the integrated audio processor. The concern with that is the magnets are strong enough to cause discomfort by the end of the day.

Re: Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Design - anyone?

Postby NURB » November 30th, 2016, 9:23 pm

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Interesting. Hadn't considered pain from the magnets. Makes sense. There's varying levels of power available, but the Rondo probably requires more since it's processor and all.

We met with an Advanced Bionics rep last night and learned quite a bit. My son's preference is behind the ear as he's used to hearing aids.

Most of the manufacturers are very similar in design for the most part. Some subtly between them, but nothing groundbreaking styling-wise. The engineering is probably the show stopper in this field.
Chris Haar

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You are correct. The medical device field is wholly lacking in aesthetics. But when you only have 3 or 4 competitive companies, it is not needed to gain an advantage. It's a tool not a jewel mentality won't be overcome and using excessive resources trying to will only be bad to the bottom line.

But that is to say there isn't design in medical devices. On the contrary, it is design is at its finest. The focus is on outcomes. Or at least, it should be. The new head of HHS may change it back to the way it was. Then new and shiny matters, not improvement.

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It's sad really. There's such a stigma to hearing loss that you'd think there would be a market for nicely designed products, not just sticker packs. They've got more skin-tone color choices than actual colors!

My sons hearing aids are $2800/each. The Cochlear implant sound processor (the outer part only) is close to $10K. For that kind of money, I'd expect some design.
Chris Haar

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My wife is an ASL teacher so she has a lot of Deaf friends and is very active in the community, I think in general most people who end up with implants go with the "hide it as much as possible" approach. That's why you see so many skin/hair color type choices for materials which are made to let them blend in. Most of her friends have hair styles that cover up as much of the tech as possible.

There is a lot of technology innovation that goes into the products, but I think it's just never been a big request to make them stand out more as products - could be an interesting design brief though. Underserved products are always the ripest for innovation. :D

My wife's cousin used to work in marketing at Starkey hearing aids in MN - probably has some contacts still floating around.


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