A Case For Extra Speaker Links For The Consumer
Some RIC (Receiver-in-the-Canal) hearing aids allow for the speaker link to be removable (Figure 1). This has significant advantages to both the user and to the dispenser because when a problem occurs with the hearing aid, it is more likely a speaker link problem than a problem with the processing device. The problems mostly encountered relate to cerumen (ear wax) blockage of the sound pathway, broken linkage, or a speaker that becomes defective for various reasons.
Many of my patients purchase extra speaker links. Having an extra link while on a vacation, business trip, or other important function can be a lifesaver for a person who depends on amplification. While it would be nice if they had a second set of hearing aids, this is not always economically feasible. And, having them revert to their “old” hearing aids as a backup seems to be defeating the purpose of having purchased a new set. With a second set of speaker links, if the hearing aid becomes nonfunctional, replacement of the speaker link will more than likely, save the day. Replacement is not usually difficult and can be taught to either the user or a significant other. In most cases, a “pull” or “turn” of the speaker link where it attaches to the hearing aid will do the job.
Some patients purchase only one hearing aid because of cost, uncertainty that two will help them more than a single unit, or for various other reasons. Some are not interested in a trial that includes a second hearing aid. These may be good candidates for a second speaker link. This allows them to switch the hearing aid between the two ears and often brings them to the conclusion that a second hearing aid is advantageous. That second hearing aid sale under these circumstances makes selling as easy as it gets. And, selling a second speaker link is much better than no sale at all, and is an advantage to the consumer as well. Most already know how to change the dome that fits over the speaker.
In a binaural fitting, if a processor becomes nonfunctional, and the user depends mostly on that ear, having an extra set of speaker links allows the user to take the hearing aid from the opposite side, attach the proper ear link, and continue to have amplification at least from the ear they feel is most important to them. Of course, it is necessary to have programmed at least one setting of each hearing aid ear to the opposite ear. With many hearing aids today this is no problem, especially if the aid has at least 3 listening options. Programming one for the opposite ear, in most cases, does not interfere with the use of settings, especially since most users listen to only one setting, and on occasion, two.
How Consistent Are Speaker Links?
A legitimate question relates to the consistency of speaker link performances, especially when an exchange is made. This issue is not related to their length or other physical features, but to the electroacoustical characteristics. In other words, will the hearing aid performance change if a speaker link is exchanged? One would think that all dispensers would have asked this question and would have made measurements to check this. However, in my travels around the country, when this question is asked, I generally get a blank stare and then a statement with the “assumption” that the performance is the same.
So, in my “spare time” I decided to check on this “assumption.”
RIC Speaker Link Performance Consistency
A single RIC hearing aid was used for the test (SeboTek Model 821). The number 1 setting of the aid was used as sent for ANSI measurement purposes from the manufacturer. A Frye Electronics 7000 Hearing Aid Test Chamber was used for measurement purposes. The hearing aid was powered through the test box to ensure that there were no power supply issues that would vary the measured results. A miniature hearing aid speaker was employed, but with no silicone tip attached. Digital speech was the input, at 60 dB SPL. Measurements were made into a Frye open coupler (Figure 2) to avoid Fun-Tak® sealing errors.
Ten speaker links were taken from their sealed packages and measured: 5 right and 5 left (4 small, 4 medium, and 2 large speaker link lengths).
Figure 3 shows the measured results for the left speaker links for all three lengths (small, medium, and large). Figure 4 shows the measured results for the right speaker links for all three lengths. Overall, the results show great consistency.
Dispensers can feel confident that there is very good consistency when different speaker links are used, especially if they are taken from the shipment package. Although only one hearing aid and its associated speaker links from a single manufacturer was used, I would expect the results to be similar with all mainstream hearing aid manufacturers.
Are the results surprising? As a previous manufacturer of hearing aids, not really. But, it is often good to confirm at the dispensing side.
Fun-Tak® is a registered product of Locktite®.