Composer finds new technology strategies to deal with his hearing loss

David Kirkwood
May 9, 2012

For many years, Richard Einhorn has been best known as one of America’s leading composers. But recently, he is gaining fame as a resourceful hearing aid wearer who is learning to take advantage of technology beyond amplification.

Last fall, The New York Times and The Washington Post both ran articles that reported on the joy Einhorn felt when hearing loops allowed him to hear live music far better than he had since suffering sudden hearing loss in 2010. One of the looping systems was in the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the other, a temporary one installed for the Hearing Loss Association of America convention, was in Baltimore’s Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Last Saturday (May 5), Einhorn was back in the Times again (and in many newspapers and web sites that picked up the story). This time, he was extolling the virtues of a cleverly devised assistive system that he uses instead of his hearing aid in situations with background noise.

For example, when he went to a busy coffee shop for lunch with friends, he had great trouble understanding their words amid the clatter. Now he copes with the situation by removing his hearing aid, donning a pair of in-ear earphones (he likes the Etymotic hf5, which costs $149), and attaching a directional microphone (the Blue Mikey, available for $99.99) to his iPhone, which has an app to amplify and process sound (he suggests the soundAMP, priced at $4.99).

With the iPhone placed on the table, he told Anne Eisenberg, the reporter, he can point it toward whoever is speaking and carry on a conversation with him. He said, “Soon we forget the iPhone is sitting there.”

Those who wear or dispense hearing aids can find more about this and other bright ideas from the inventive Mr. Einhorn in the Technology column of the May 5 Times business section.

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