Don’t wait for “Made for iPhone” hearing aids

Fifth in our “Made for iPhone” hearing aid series

Several people who wear 5-6 year old hearing aids have written in asking if they should wait the 6-9 months for the “Made for iPhone” hearing aids to become available; and our answer is a strong NO, for at least five reasons:

First off, hearing aids built before approximately 2010 lack nanocoating, making them much less reliable — They could be on the hook for an expensive overhaul between now and next summer;

Second, these people who choose to wait will be missing out on 6-9 months of much better hearing than they are receiving now with their borderline-obsolete instruments, especially since the core audiological performance will essentially be unchanged;

Third, most (but not all) of the functionality of the “Made for iPhone” hearing aids is already here, but in separate proprietary devices such as “spouse mics,” Bluetooth streamers, TV/stereo transmitters, and remote controls: Just as the iPhone has wrapped up things we used to carry separately (cell phone, watch, MP3 player, sound meter, stopwatch, etc… into one package, the “Made for iPhone” hearing aids will have most of the functionality of these separate accessories integrated into the iPhone apps;

Fourth, due to the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) architecture built by ON Semiconductor & used by five of the “Big Six” hearing aid manufacturers (Widex uses Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) architecture¹), there will be a constant parade of bugfix firmware updates expected with any v1.0 release;

Fifth, here in the United States many people have Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA’s) averaging $5500 as part of their health insurance package, with year-end “use it or lose it” requirements. What’s more, starting in 2013 under ØbamaCare FSA’s will be capped at $2500, so you’ll lose about half of the tax advantage if you postpone into 2013. That being said, this is the busy season for medical  professionals, as this very “use it or lose it” issue has waiting rooms overflowing at cosmetic surgeons, dentists… And at hearing aid professionals. Instead, the best time to buy new hearing aids is in the first two weeks of January, as quarterly tax payments are due on January 15th.

For these reasons, if your hearing aids are more than 3-4 years old, we at The Hearing Blog Do Not recommend postponing replacing them.


1) Widex is unlike the other five of the “Big Six” (Oticon, Phonak, Starkey, Siemens & ReSound) hearing aid manufacturers that use ON Semi FPGA’s & Two-Pi signal processing libraries, which provide for a 6-9 month cycle (including regression testing). Instead, the successful Danish company, which proverbally marches to their own drummer, does their own in-house development using ASIC’s which do not use flash memory (firmware). Because of this choice, Widex’ instruments have a much longer — Up to 3 year — design & regression testing cycle, as all of the bugs need to be wrung out before committing the design to the masks for the foundry: This is why they didn’t release their wireless Clear platform until Spring 2011. However, there is one big advantage to using an ASIC over an FPGA in a hearing aid: Battery drain is about half, with the Clear Fusion sipping 1.0mA, allowing for 10A cells to be effectively used in CIC’s for 2-3 days.

Comment problems:

It’s been brought to our attention from several of our readers that they were having their comments rejected by the Akismet plug-in for WordPress as spam. This is unacceptable to us; and we are soliciting suggestions for a replacement. Unfortunately, we have to use something to screen for spam, as we were receiving over 100 spam comments per day at its’ peak. In the interim, to save retyping, we recommend selecting & copying all of your text to the clipboard: If your comment is accidentally rejected, simply paste it into an e-mail message, put “Rejected Comment” in the subject line, and send it to us at Dan@Snip.Net and we’ll manually post it for you~


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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

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