By Holly Hosford-Dunn
PHOENIX–Blogging lived up to its name last week. Starkey’s new “Made for iPhone” hearing aid platform was unveiled, apparently prematurely, in a special student workshop at this year’s Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) conference in Phoenix. Those sessions were marked “students only,” and it seems that an audiology student took good notes and wrote them up.
Dan Schwartz snagged the report, added technical comments, and quickly got the preliminary information into a post at The Hearing Blog — the most recent of four posts in his Apple/iPhone series. Here’s a bit of history mixed with a synopsis of Dan’s post, which you’ll want to read in its entirety for all the techy details.
RUMORS SPREAD OF “iPHONE HEARING AIDS”
There are tons of iPhone applications for people with hearing loss. But change was in the air when the iPhone 5 announcements promised “iPhone hearing aids,” whatever those were. The cryptic promise turned on an ambiguous phrase that left everyone speculating:
“…the idea of a computing company manufacturing its own brand of hearing aids intrigues me. It may not be happening here, but I could easily see it happening sometime in the future.” Megan Sparks at HearingSparks
Over the summer, four hearing device manufacturers (Starkey, GN Resound, Cochlear, and Oticon) made noises that they, not Apple, were developing Made for iPhone hearing aids and wireless protocols. Licensing agreements of some sort will allow hearing aid manufacturers to bring them to market as the awkwardly named Made for iPhone hearing aids. Hope that gets an acronym soon.
A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE
That’s all that was known until November 8 when a Starkey presentation at an ADA student workshop got down to details and into the weeds.
- The hearing aid manufacturers’ Made for iPhone hearing aids will apparently operate using the 2.4-gHz low-power protocol of the Bluetooth 4.0 communications standard.
- Made for iPhone hearing aids will only work with the iOS6 operating system in an iPhone5, both released by Apple in mid-September.
- Hearing aid control will be app-based.
- Starkey’s first Made for iPhone hearing aid will be a RIC.
- Starkey’s initial iPhone apps will enable audio streaming, remote mic, Bluetooth, audio file processing (recording, saving, emailing), and limited programing through an abbreviated version of its Sound Point software.
- Starkey’s Made for iPhone instruments will not have apps for directionality or noise reduction, at least initially.
As an audiologist/economist and not an engineer, I have to say that out of everything the audiology student reported, s/he had me at “Walk into Starbucks and your phone will ask if you’d like to change programs.” I can’t wait.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Soon after Dan Schwartz posted on The Hearing Blog, an “Urgent Update” popped up there alerting readers that he’d been requested to take down the information because it was preliminary, not-ready-for-publication, and inaccurate in some details.
Dan elected to encourage the flow of information by keeping the post up and adding details/corrections as they become available. Good 21st-century two-way journalism, Dan! We expect GN Resound, Cochlear, and William Demant/Oticon will be opening their kimonos soon, now that Starkey has flashed us.
Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, is Editor-in-Chief of HearingHealthMatters.org. She is also blogging this week, as every week, at Hearing Economics. Look for more news from the ADA Annual Meeting this week at Hearing News Watch.