Musician requests truly badass bone conduction hearing aid

Following up on an earlier Boing Boing post about the wacky and extinct "Bone Fone" listening device, reader Seth Walot says,

I have Treacher Collins Syndrome. I was really intrigued by your "bone fone" post on because I have never seen any bone conduction stuff besides my hearing aid.

I have a Shiley Starkey BC-1 bone conduction hearing aid. As far as I know, they haven't really made any type of upgrades or anything to it because the market for bone conduction hearing aids is pretty limited (I have no outer ear, so I can't use any kind of around-the-ear aid, although there is a bone-implanted BAHA aid that I could get if I wanted to have the surgery for it).

Since there are alot of engineers and techy DIY hands on people who read Boing Boing, I was wondering if you could suggest some kind of contest or something to make a new bone conduction aid.

I'll be 23 in 2 weeks and I have had the exact same model of aid since I was born. Thats pretty depressing, although you could say I am indeed keeping it old school. I've always wanted a waterproof aid, or one that would help me hear the music I record a bit better.

I also found a picture of the aid here, to illustrate the relative antiquity of it.

On a side note, the aid has never stopped me from making music, and I do it under 2 aliases "horace the library turtle" and "chainfight winner" which you can find on and on

ps: I love to read!

Previously: Dead Tech — The Bone Fone

Reader comment: Christopher says,

Gizmodo wrote about this Motorola bluetooth headset a couple days back. Sounds like the type of product that may be useful for Seth Walot. I imagine that its the cel phone companies that are pouring the big bucks into hearing/speech hardware (precisely for Bluetooth headsets) rather than the more traditional manufacturers. Maybe Seth can try to get companies, like Shiley, to cooperate with Motorola on new product R&D… Link

Update: When I first posted this item, I used the word "disabled" in the title to describe Seth, but then thought about it a bit. I changed the title, and emailed him to ask whether he used that term to describe his condition. Seth sez:

I guess I don't really know what to classify my situation as. I suppose I am disabled, but I've led a pretty normal life. You can call it whatever you want I suppose, I feel like I don't exactly fit in with most disabled people because I was pretty much conditioned not to use it as a crutch. Its just a physical thing.

But its like everytime my hearing aid dies I have to buy another Mac Plus of hearing aids while a majority of people in the market get to buy their sweet new G5 towers.

Thanks again for putting my email up, I've written to Shiley Starkey a couple times over my life but they don't really care, they wouldn't make any money off of a new bone conduction aid, but it would make a difference in alot of peoples lives.

Could you maybe also put up that the aid would have to be on a headband? I dont have anything to attach it to.

Reader comment: ZTF says,

I remembered reading this on Gizmodo: it's a pair of headphones that uses bone conduction technology (sending vibrations directly through the skull) to achieve audiophile results, or so they claim.

Reader comment: James Allgood says,

As a motorcyclist I have been waiting for a good set of bone conducting headphones and it is looking like it is on the horizon. A little known feature is that bone conducting phones also serve as a microphone that eliminates the wind and engine noise that plagues most traditional microphones on motorcycles. There is a huge market out there but the technology is so unknown that there is little demand.

Reader comment: Chris Jeffries-Dowling says,

There is a bone conducting cell phone headset made by a company named Aliph. Their product is named, appropriately enough, Jawbone. I was the Lighting Designer at the show (DemoMoblie 2004 ) where this product launched and let me say, believe the hype. Their product silenced, and I mean silenced background noise from a gas powered weedeater, a boom box, and a blender, all by way of a bone conducting michrophone system they developed with the Department of Defense. Truly an impressive application of this technology.

Reader comment: John Norr9s says,

Back in 1999 there was Pop Radio Sound Bites. It was a holder for a lollipop that would play sound, music, something you recorded, or even AM radio through the candy. When you bit down, it sounded like it was playing in your head. Can't find much about it at the moment: Link

Reader comment: Glenn Fleishman says,

Seth wrote, "(I have no outer ear, so I can't use any kind of around-the-ear aid, although there is a bone-implanted BAHA aid that I could get if I wanted to have the surgery for it)."

My wife had a somewhat undiagnosed situation as a kid that led to a destruction of the inner-ear structure on her right ear. A few years ago, an otologist she was seeing suggest BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) that relies on having an intact nerve structure past the inner ear and conducts sound through vibration of a clip-on hearing aid that attaches to a bone-anchored screw.

If Seth or others are considering it, it's an interesting option, to be sure.
It's not perfect. She's using second-generation equipment, and while the surgery is now covered under insurance in Washington State, the hearing aid is not, and costs a few grand.

My wife had stereo hearing until age 8, so she was able to restore her directionality, but the device has funky settings, feeds back a little too easily, and has a few other minor problems. Still, it's a remarkable piece of technology.

Reader comment: Jason Berberich says,

Earlier this year I read that Hasbro plans to release a product called Tooth Tunes, a tooth brush appearing to be based on the same technology used in the 1999 lollipop.

It uses bone conduction to send sound waves through the front teeth, then the jawbone and finally into the inner ear, playing a pop song that lasts two minutes – the length of time dentists recommend kids brush their teeth.

It was supposed to be launched in late summer, but I haven't seen it in stores yet.

links: one, two, three.