Posts Tagged 'hearing aid hacking'

I Have A Dream

Nacht und Traume

One day, in a far-off digital future, all hearing aid users will be able to tune their hearing aids to their own specifications, all by themselves. Instead of just being able to choose between programmes which suit listening to the tv in quiet, conversing in a noisy restaurant, or trying to tune into a non-functioning loop, they will have access to multiple programmes tailored to individual activities in different types of acoustic spaces. They will be able to swap effortlessly between an open or closed fitting, and they will be able to prioritise music over speech if they feel like it.

Cookiebiters and reverse slopers will benefit most from this brave new world. Instead of being forced to endure a badly modified version of an algorithm designed to fit high frequency losses, they will have specially designed algorithms which will allow access to minute adjustments across the entire frequency spectrum, with smooth transitions in amplification which, for me, will mean no more terrifyingly loud keys in the C6 area of the piano keyboard. I will enjoy full harmonic resonance on the mid to lows when playing Schubert, and spend hours playing low notes with the left hand just because it sounds wonderful.

bass bung

Until that historic moment arrives, I am making do with my latest hearing aid hack for digital piano playing. The Kookybite Bass Bung® (pictured) transforms an open dome to sort of semi-closed for home musical purposes. Carved from a 60p eraser from WH Smith, it may be a little eccentric, but it works. By turning down the volume switch on my music programme, and trapping the previously lost low frequencies in my ear with the bung, the troublesome C6 zone is dampened, whilst resonance returns to the previously thin bass notes. My piano no longer sounds like the speakers are stuffed with cotton wool, and I have fallen back in love with it again after a rather prolonged playing hiatus. Naturally, speech is pretty incomprehensible with this arrangement, and your breathing becomes a bit Darth Vader, but this doesn’t matter unless you’re playing your piano in a crowded cocktail bar whilst suffering from a lung infection.

One day, when I find someone who knows anything about fitting cookie bite hearing loss, I shall get them to set up my hearing aids to do this properly, so that I can enjoy playing Schubert without the unfortunate downside of being deafened by passing cars…


Update: After finding little bits of coloured rubber everywhere, the spouse recently asked me to consider the possibility that I was going a bit mad. I am vindicated, however, by this article which very clearly and succinctly explains the shortcomings of hearing aids in relation to listening to music, and notes how important those low frequencies are. The bit in the article about the high proportion of keys on the piano sitting below the 1kHz threshold  also illustrates why the reverse sloper/ cookiebiter may be on a hiding to nothing with their piano and a default Autofit NHS hearing aid fitting…

Kookybite Innovation #11

Aidcam finalKookybite Aidcam2

I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon recently. At noisy social events, when people try to speak directly into my ear in the mistaken belief that I will hear them better, I instinctively turn my head to get a view of their lips instead of staring blankly into space like everyone else. This makes the speaker very uncomfortable both in terms of the unexpected eye contact at such close range, and the loss of proximity of the ear in relation to their mouth. It makes me very uncomfortable because my neck is now twisted painfully.

In response to my head twisting to see their lips, they then turn to follow the ear, I twist further to see their lips, they turn further to follow the ear…you get the drift. To the outside observer, it must give the impression of a slow motion version of an Exorcist-style 720º head rotation, or some sort of bizarre mating ritual. Help is at hand, however, and the Kookybite Aidcam is designed to prevent all that.

I am also working on a low-tech version, which is simply a hearing aid sticker that says “TALK TO THE FACE”


Update 7th May 2015: Well I never, ahead of my time yet again, check this out. Look me in the ear and tell me it’s for real…

More from the team involved here

O ye of little faith, enter here  Update Jan 2018: Don’t bother, AOHL have deleted the link.

BioAid hearing aid app for iOS devices

BioAid screenshot

BioAid screenshot on cookie bite setting

For anyone interested in the mysterious inner workings of hearing aid algorithms, this free BioAid app which transforms your smart phone or iPod/iPad into a hearing aid could be just the thing. The Open Source code behind it is also available for tinkering purposes, but count me out on that one since I don’t know my coding arse from my elbow.

Having had a quick play with BioAid on the spouse’s iPad this morning, I don’t think I’m going to be throwing away the wondrous Oticons just yet, but I’m quite interested in using it to try and get some understanding of how different hearing aid settings would operate in the background noise of the studio at work. Watch this space.

It will also come in very handy for listening at doors to check if a room is occupied. If I had a penny for every time I’ve forgetfully pressed my ear to a door and received a painful cranial embossing and a loud squeal of feedback from a hearing aid…

You can download BioAid and read about it here. There’s a 1, 2 and 1-2 kHz setting for Cookiebiters to play with.

via Hearing Aid

Anatomy Of A Hearing Aid

All of this talk about hearing aid hacking has got me wondering about what’s actually inside a hearing aid. Quality images are hard to come by on the interweb, so I have produced one specially for you, the dedicated readers of the Cookie Bite Chronicles.

It is based on an exploded view of the Siemens Chroma S, which was skilfully deconstructed and drawn in great detail before being returned to Clinic O. Fear not, no hearing aids were harmed in the production of this painstakingly accurate drawing, the deconstruction was done using the power of my mind alone.

As you can see from the diagram, there’s a lot packed into a small space, so a few components had to be left out for the sake of clarity, including the Bagpipe Detectors, and the Random Transposition Module which capriciously lowers certain musical notes by a semitone, making everything sound out of tune. The Entrainment Spring, which generates strange reverberations in response to any beeps, squeaks and alarms, has been shown slightly larger than it actually is, again for the sake of clarity. In reality, it is actually the same diameter as a human hair.

All the other components need no explanation, since most hearing aid users will already be very familiar with them.

Things You’re Unlikely To See #3

Well I never. My latest wishful thinking pastiche above, based on the equally unlikely but very lovely Making a Transistor Radio Ladybird book published in 1972, may actually be about to become reality. According to this interesting article about hacking on the Beeb website (thanks Babs for the tip-off) it seems that hearing aid hacking is destined to become all the rage. Computer savvy deifies who like their hearing aids tuned to their needs, as opposed to what the Autofit setting on the computer dictates, are apparently taking matters into their own hands with a bit of digital DIY customisation.

On the back of this news, NHS clinics will now have to watch their under-60s like a hawk to make sure that they don’t switch their attentions from illegal cosmetic bejewelling activities to more serious functional modification of the inner workings. Mind you, Clinic O can rest assured that the wondrous Oticon Spirit Zests are currently safe from harm since I’m useless with computer technology. If anyone can knock me up a hair noise cancelling algorithm, though, I’ll be very interested, curly hair is very noisy.

Right, I’m off to study that Ladybird book now; young fellow-me-lad in the illustration below looks very pleased with his DIY device, which could easily pass for a 1970s NHS hearing aid.


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