I attended the 32c3 last year and watched the talk “Unpatchable“, a talk which is related to hacking medical devices. In this case it wasn’t hearing aids, but pacemakers. Interestingly, the speakers raised similar questions as I did in my talk at 28c3.
The questions being for example:
- This device is part of my body, why do I not know what code is in it?
- How can I trust that the device is not vulnerable from the outside?
- Does a doctor have to tell me when he flashes the firmware or that the device is tracking my very personal data?
Agreeable, the consequences for patients wearing pace makers are more impactful than for patients wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, I still found the talk worth watching, I hope you do too.
My beloved employer is sponsoring scholarships again. As in the last years, there is one dedicated for students with disabilities. If you are a student which has a hearing impairment or know other students which have, please point them to this page.
It has been silent around here, but that does not mean other people don’t to awesome things in the hearing aid world. I’d like to point everyone of you to a slack chat/forum to discuss hearing aids technology and hacks around it.
So far it has been rather calm, which is why we are looking for more people! My friend Gianluca is managing it. You can request an invite here: http://slack.hearinghacks.com/ Hope to see you there!
I don’t have many activities in the hearing aid field going on myself, but since I still follow the news in the field and receive pointers here and there, I thought, I’ll write up some of the interesting stuff.
- I mailed with Frank Swain, who is a journalist wearing hearing aids. He made a piece about the process of becoming hearing impaired and getting hearing aids which was recently broadcast by the BBC and can still be streamed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03nt1st (it even works from outside the UK). I liked the piece very much, because it includes some nice sound samples how it sounds when you are hearing impaired and when you get hearing aids. Frank’s home page is: www.frankswain.com
- Apparently hearing aid case modding is a thing: http://deathsplaining.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/colour-run-for-colourful-ears/
- There is a company called Audiotoniq which claims to sell hearing aids which you can tune yourself. Unfortunately, this hasn’t hit the German market yet, as I would love to try their products: http://www.audiotoniq.com/
- Deutschland radio, a popular German radio station also made a piece about hearing loss and hearing aids. It also includes some nice sound samples. Unfortunately, the piece is only available in German though: http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/radiolexikon-gesundheit-hoergeraete.709.de.html?dram:article_id=283347
- I recently had a chat with Philipp from Mimi Technologies, a startup based in Berlin. They are developing a smartphone app that is entering the hearing aid market. It offers various hearing tests that you can do to do a self-assessment of your (or your granny’s hearing loss). The next stage will be to combine it with actual hearing aid hardware. They recently entered TechCrunch’s Disrupt competition. See their presentation here http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/06/the-6-disrupt-ny-finalists-boomerang-commerce-isi-technology-mimi-mink-showkit-and-vurb/ They are also looking for Android developers to bring their Android version forward. If you are interested, let Philipp know
Also, Mimi technologies hired a familiar face: Nick from Bioaid is on board as well.
- Alexander Goersdorf is a hearing impaired person from Germany who wrote a book about what it is like to be hearing impaired. It’s called “Taube Nuss” (which is a swear word literally translated to “deaf nut”). See this promotional video on Youtube about him and his book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVPpKLu2bj8&feature=youtu.be (Video and book are in German.)
- There is a German community called “cyborgs e.V.” whose goal (among others) is to hack protheses and implants. Interesting! http://cyborgs.cc
- Resound announce “Resound Linx”, a hearing aid ready to use in connection with an IPhone. While I welcome the general development towards integration with smartphones, I dislike that IPhones are always the first model they go for. Hearing aids are expensive enough as such, I would not want to spend an extra 500 dollars for the phone. http://www.resoundlinx.com/en/International/Welcome
- As far as I know, there are a couple of projects aiming for turning a phone into a hearing aid, most recently I stumbled upon this project: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/02/197639536/to-make-hearing-aids-affordable-firm-turns-on-bluetooth?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20130707&utm_source=mostemailed
- Another project aiming for reducing the costs of hearing aids dramatically: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-first-affordable-invisible-hearing-aid-with-superior-sound-by-ihear
- And because I am too lazy to comment on everything, a few more interesting links:
It has been nearly a year since 28c3, the chaos communication congress where I held my talk “Bionic Ears”. It’s been an interesting time since then with lots of developments that I hadn’t anticipated when I handed in the proposal for the talk. I have been planning to write a “what happened since then” post for a while and now, shortly before 29c3, here it is.
Continue reading What happened since 28c3?
This article nicely summarizes the frequent douche-bagginess that deaf / hearing-impaired people are facing.
I can confirm that every single point once in a while ruins my days. Interestingly, I find the point “But I find subtitles annoying” very upsetting. It happened to me several times that I was invited to a DVD evening with friends and when I asked for subtitles to be switched on I was facing an hour long discussion about whether or not it is necessary. Seriously, the most disappointing fact is that it is even highly intelligent people fail to get that a hearing loss is not “negotiable”. When I say I need subtitles, then it is a fact and not a matter of convenience.
I was recently (and repeatedly ;)) pointed to these news.
My personal opinion is that I am sceptical, if this is really aimed to actually help the hearing impaired or if it is just one piece in the game of patents. Even if this will yield to actual products, it might certainly not make the market any more open (at least with apple’s history, that would surprise me). I hope we do not end up in a scenario where you can only use Apple products with Apple hearing aids.
But maybe I am wrong and Apple will surprise me. We will see.
I gave an interview about hearing aid DYI and hacking in the BCC. See the full article here: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18690973
I love to point to this article, about a boy who was unhappy about having to wear hearing aids. His mother ask Marvel comics if there are any superheros with hearing aids and they send her a copy. Things like that make me smile.