Next-gen implanted hearing aids are also headphones

A new generation of bone-conduction hearing aids have audio inputs for an MP3 player or phone headset. Wait until this goes bi-directional and allows its owner to start recording the ambient sound to a little drive -- just try to ban recording equipment from press-conferences, movie theaters and concert halls!
On Friday Mr Hughes had tiny titanium screws drilled into bone behind each ear during a 90-minute operation under general anaesthetic. Once the wounds heal and the screws have fused with bone, abutments will be screwed into the implants, and the processors, about the size of a postage stamp, are clicked into place.

Older-style hearing aids amplify all sounds, making it almost impossible for wearers to hear conversations in noisy environments. They also interfere with frequencies used by mobile and fixed phones and often emit high-pitched whistling sounds. But the newer processors, costing about $6000 each, shut out background noise, giving users up to 25 per cent better hearing, and can be attached directly to MP3 music players or wireless headsets for talking on the phone, Cochlear's territory manager, Katrina Martin, said.

High-tech hearing aid the ultimate iPod accessory (via Neatorama)


  1. I was born with normal hearing. How much for Tech-enhanced Super-hearing (R)? P.S.-record direct to MP3/Rar/Ogg

  2. mmmm….except hi-fi it ain’t. Last time I checked, these implants have seriously impaired bandwidth, as they are aimed solely at vocal intelligibility. They count on brain plasticity for interpreting speech from the noise bursts they provide.

    There’s a site with audio files that gives you some idea of what they sound like; search for “cochlear implant audio” – you’ll get the House Ear institute as one of the top results.

    It’ll be a while before these hit anything near audiophile standards.

  3. As someone who’s hearing has been declining for a few years now, and who now has a permanent high pitched ringing in both ears, all I can say is “Hot damn! Music pumped straight into my cortex! Yeah! Take that, you punk kids!”

  4. Yeah, I’m sure that the incredible sound quality you get from a tiny hearing-aid microphone will bring the recording industry to its knees.

  5. Assuming you have one on each side, (for proper stereo) once you have the basic hardware you could pipe in any part of the acouistic spectrum you like. Dial up into the ultrasound and listen to the bats feed, dial down into the infrasonic and listen to whatever is down there (I think elephants talk in ultrasound, but they are kind of scarce around here) Fire up an adapter and listen to the ambient magnetic or electrical or radio background, there’s no telling what you could find out there!

  6. My wife has one (for sudden single sided hearing loss). It helps, but it is not at all like normal hearing. No directionality at all (all sounds go to the good ear). We didn’t get the MP3 attachment, but something for a phone might not be a bad idea–if you put a phone in your good ear, you don’t hear much else. It is very hard for her to distinguish important noises from unimportant ones. It is neat technology and I am glad we went through the hassle to get it (denied by insurance at first, approved when we appealed), but we rather she hadn’t lost her hearing at all.

  7. @#3: This is a bone conduction hearing aid, not a cochlear implant. Buy a set of bone conduction headphones, and you can get a very good impression of how they sound.

  8. @Takuan:

    What kind of malice? Someone tackling you, plugging their iPod into your head, and looping Lady Gaga into your cranium?

  9. I was fitted with one of these a couple of years ago, being about 90% deaf on my left side, since a series of infections when I was about 2 left the eardrum and associated bones resembling the lunar surface.

    The device itself is one of the old analogue ones, which I think needs a bulky (and expensive) adaptor to do the iPod thing. It’s fairly ineffective when there’s a lot of high-frequency sound, and prevents the wearing of hats, but after a lifetime of semi deafness I’m glad I’ve got it.

  10. BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) has a reasonable frequency range, but relying as it does on transducing airborne sound into physical force there necessarily is quite a sharp roll off after about 3600Hz.

    Have to say that direct audio input for these devices is old old news, having been available on the analogue devices for approx 15 years…

    Utter nonsense about it ‘shutting out background noise’, no matter how advanced no hearing aid (as yet) is patched in to the auditory pathway so they cannot know what you consider to be background noise at any given moment. All it has is a switch that gives a low frequency roll off and the same sort of phase-inversion noise canceling at low frequencies that you find on a £50 pair of headphones.

    That said the people I fit these to frequently have their lives transformed. The evidence isn’t great for single sided deafness, those guys are usually fitted with CROS/BICROS aids that wirelessly route the sound from the dead ear to the better one, as with #11 some people get little benefit but others really feel connected to the world again.

  11. Sorry people, being a real-life cyborg still sucks. Maybe next year.

    Agree. According to my MD, cochlear/bone implants are a last-ditch effort for people who are really, truly deaf. If you aren’t, it’s much more likely to do harm than good.

  12. Still, this is a big step towards the on-eardrum, phased-array music listening technology described in Stephenson’s Diamond Age. Maybe just a few more years until we can truly listen to tunes during business meetings with impunity…

  13. #19 Nope, it’s nowhere near the eardrum, it’s plugged into the mastoid so it’s more like his BonePhone idea.

    Of course that also had a gun in it which would have pretty near instantly caused permanent Cochlear damage, rendering the ‘phone pretty useless.

    Love Neil Stephenson though – congratulations to him on his recent Hugo. Must get round to reading Anathem…

  14. if memory serves, old-school cochlear implants (yes, i know this article is not about coclear implants) involved attaching the external part to the internal part via an audio jack that was drilled into the skull. people found this a little bit too gross, so nowadays they use a pair of inductive coils.

  15. I want to hear bats and elephants! :)

    Why should I be limited to 200-5000hz by my hearing aid?
    Why should I not enjoy the details of the surrending sounds?
    Why could not the sound quality be much better in my hearing apparatus?
    I am born deaf with 100db hearing loss, I speak good, but I cannot enjoy the music as much as I want.

    That sucks. I love music.

    Why it’s so important to “hear peoples talking crap” while the sound is so much more than talking. When I talk with peoples I only uses my hearing as a support, I cannot barely understand them trought hearing so I have to read at the lips. Thats is fine, as I am good, but I have not learned to LISTEN. It’s really beautiful to enjoy the sounds. The music made me more consicous of the sound, but it took me over 10 year before I became consious. For few years ago I heard the birds sing. It was a weird sensantion. :)

    A small tip:
    Put your hearing aid on T, and put on a good quality headphones (big with low impedances or a lot of power, the magnets have to be close to your hearing aid, bigger is better and gives a more open sound) and enjoy the sound. You’ll may have to play it louder than usually. It’s usually better than these crappy mono-sounding inductive loop who cost too much. I want a stereo sound! I want to learn to be better at hearing differences between left and right!

    (Currently are I am playing from my computer connected from USB, to Beresford headphone amp with olds Denon AH-D750 who are slightly uncomfortable wearing on.)

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