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Google Patents Social Networks Apple

Apple Plans Hearing Aid Social Networking 70

Posted by timothy
from the hearing-aids-are-amazingly-expensive dept.
theodp writes "Apple may have killed off Ping, its attempt at a music social network, but the USPTO on Thursday disclosed that Apple has patent-pending plans for a hearing aid-based social network. So, if Apple's granted patents covering its Social Network for Sharing a Hearing Aid Setting and method of Remotely Updating a Hearing Aid Profile, will it use them to 'go thermonuclear' on Google when the search giant gets around to improving its current offerings for the hard of hearing?"
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Apple Plans Hearing Aid Social Networking

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:53PM (#40731911)

    Actually Apple has revolutionized many medical devices. Electronic devices for assisted communication used to cost thousands of dollars had horrible interfaces and were hardly portable. Then apple released the iPad and a lot changed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:52PM (#40732183)

    Or, since many public facilities often offer induction loop capabilities for users with telecoil-equipped hearing aids, but the induction loop settings can vary wildly, it'd be nice to be able to see what settings other people at that location are using (or have used) to quickly and easily calibrate your own settings to work best with the loop.

    I'd rather have some "informed advice" to start with, instead of blowing out my eardrums because somebody calibrated an induction loop wrong.

  • delay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:46PM (#40732721)

    the problem is accumulated delay. That is the time between presentation of the signal to its final output into the hearing aids' speakers. If only Bluetooth is involved then the delay is bearable, but if it requires another type of signal conversion, ala the Rexton or Bernafon type remote control / convertor then the delay becomes very noticeable and unacceptable. I have the Rexton aids and I can't use them as on stage monitors because of the delay. The real problem is the power consumption of a BT receiver /transmitter in the haring aids- it eats power quick and results in a quick fail when the power drops too low.

    My guess is that Apple may have a way to put a power efficient BT device in a hearing aid - I really hope so. I have had a loss for years, have been programming my own aids through four models, and, by and large, most audiologists are way undertrained, especially when it comes to real world, as in live music, fidelity in hearing aids.. And hearing aid companies with the exception of Bernafon, ignore the needs of hard of hearing music lovers and musicians. And I speak from bitter experience.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @09:26PM (#40733207)

    In the U.S., the many hearing aid brands are manufactured by a tiny number of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) who control patents and technology. The remaining OEM's have bought up smaller competitors and their patent rights. For the most part, hearing aids are sold through branded stores or via distribution to audiologists and hearing specialists. The retail markups are ridiculously high, so that many pay $2,000 - $5,000 or more for a device far simpler in design than most any comparable consumer electronic device. To add even simple improvements (Bluetooth, coatings for moisture resistance, multiple profiles for sound equalization, more sophisticated feedback protection, rechargeable batteries) adds hundreds or thousands to the retail price.

    If Apple or other major electronics suppliers can simplify and improve hearing aid technology, then bravo. My state-of-the-art aids are often flummoxed in large public spaces with complicated acoustics. If a crowd-sourced sound pattern would allow me to hear better, you bet I'd take advantage of it. But the real benefit for the long-term might be in standardization of hearing aid interfaces and protocols so that over time prices might come down. The overwhelming majority of hearing impaired people world wide have no access to aids. Apple and others may be able to bring better hearing technology to the masses.

  • by mykro76 (1137341) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @09:44PM (#40733257)

    Apple's design concepts revolve around a simple experience for the 80%, and accessibility support for the 20% has historically been a long time in coming. It took 3 years for captioning to arrive on their Apple TV platform, and the iPhone didn't get accessibility features until its third iteration. I can and have recommended Apple products to others, but for this reason I am unable to use them myself.

    I cannot think of a worse company to have a lock up on accessibility-related patents :(

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