Hearing Aids vs PSAPs

The hearing aid industry is facing an Uber moment. Or is it?

This cool dude is sporting a Soundhawk PSAP Credit Soundhawk

The market is being disrupted by newcomers armed with new technology at a cheaper price.  If that sounds familiar remember the fate of the taxi industry. It too was sheltered by regulation but along came Uber and Lyft who skirted or ignored the rules.

The threat to the established order in the hearing aid industry comes in the form of personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs which, by the way, have a rather unappealing pronunciation: PEE-saps.

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The Search for a Cure

There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss, the type that 90% of us with fading hearing have.  But thanks to some deaf chickens, there is hope.

Stereocilia atop sensory hair cells in the cochlea Credit: Yoshiyuki Kawashima

The primary problem is the hair cells in our cochleas.  They convert vibrations into the electrical signals that flow to the brain.  Like all mammals we are born with a finite number of hair cells and as we age they start dying off or are killed by high decibel sounds.  They are never replaced and so begins the hearing loss.

But what if the genes can be tweaked to re-grow hair cells?

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Sex and Hearing Aids

That got your attention.

The psychological impact of hearing loss is well documented. Depression being the number one symptom. Frankly, that’s not particularly surprising since losing your hearing is obviously depressing since it disconnects you from the world. But it’s also associated with a range of other mental issues including, yes, your sex life.

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Canadian Financial Assistance

Hearing aids are expensive. But that’s for another post.  There is government financial assistance available for Canadians.  The amount and your eligibility depends on where you live.

It’s not easy to come up with a definitive cross-country guide since many of the rules and regulations are confusing to say the least. (Any clarifications or updates are welcome) So consider this a rough guide:

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Finding A Quiet Restaurant

restaurant noise Credit wineanddineusa.com
Credit: wineanddineusa.com

Background noise, music and hard walls that turn the restaurant into a noisy, echo chamber.  It all makes conversations with your dinner companions difficult or impossible.

In part, that’s because even the best hearing aids have trouble separating the voices of your companions from the sounds of other conversations around you.  All that hubbub submerges the voices you want to hear.

Another major factor is the acoustic design (or lack thereof) of most restaurants and bars.  Many owners prefer a loud establishment.  They crank the music up, use reflecting surfaces such as concrete walls or mirrors that amplify the general noise.  They want to create a lively, busy ambience.

So a couple of tips for anyone looking for a little peace and quiet on a night out:

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“The Big Six” Hearing Aid Companies

They are known as “The Big Six” for a reason.  Together they control about 98% of the global market for hearing aids.* And it’s a big and rapidly growing market that brings in about six billion dollars annually.

Oddly, three of them are Danish companies.

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