By Janet Fang
Posting in Environment
The iMini sits so deeply in the auditory canal, it can't be seen from outside. This marks Siemens Healthcare's plunge into the invisible hearing aid market.
The new Siemens iMini is the company’s smallest hearing instrument, and as such, it can be inserted so far into the auditory canal, it becomes invisible.
Each one is individually crafted at iMini facilities in Germany and the US. According to Siemens, this labor-intensive manufacturing process is necessary because of the extreme miniaturization of the iMini.
First, the size of each customer’s auditory canal has to be measured, and then the hearing technology has to be arranged and mounted into its small porcelain-like, nano-coated shell.
- BestSound Technology developed by Siemens for “greater hearing comfort even in difficult noise environments,” found in several of the company’s hearing products.
- FeedbackStopper isolates and eliminates whistling before it starts
- SoundBrilliance extends high-frequency sounds
- SoundSmoothing and eWindScreen soften sudden noises and wind
- It’ll be located precisely where sound travels when no hearing aid is used, providing a natural, acoustic amplification.
Also, each iMini is programmed with the preferences and settings of the wearer, so no adjustments are needed later on. An ‘invisible’ nylon thread is used to pull the system out at night, and the batteries can last up to one week.
Siemens has been in the field of hearing technology for over 100 years, and it has offered in-the-ear hearing instruments for the past 45, but this is the first system that disappears far into the auditory canal. It's ideally suited for the “style-conscious” wearer with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Siemens' entry into the invisible in-the-canal (IIC) or completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid market indicates a strong demand for cosmetically appealing solutions that eliminate the stigma of wearing hearing aids.
In the European market, only white iMinis with dark-brown caps (pictured) will be available. In the US, a dozen colors will be sold.
Image: Siemens Healthcare
Mar 2, 2011
Stigma - smigna. The greatest issue with hearings aids is the cost. They just cost way too much. I had a look at them a few months ago and even "on sale" the price almost knocked me down. Now, how about a hearing aid that looks like an MP3 player? Earbuds (no stigma there) and all the guts in a much less expensive large form in a box you stick in your shirt pocket. De-minaturized hearing aids. Or better yet MP3 player/hearing aid combo.
I just ordered these hearing aids last Friday. I'm in my early 20's a full time college student, and okay -- so my appearance does somewhat matter to me. I don't think making hearing aids more "cosmetic" helps nor harms the overall issue. People don't wear a t-shirt that says "I take prozac" to let the world know about depression, why should I have to wear plastic on the back of my ear to let people know I have some hearing loss? I am fortunate enough to work for a small business owner who's dad is an ENT so I was able to get the hearing aids at cost, but I do agree that they should work to make them more affordable.
I agree about the stigma thing, more understanding is needed by the public about hearing loss. I just got my hearing aid about a year ago and wear it proudly but a quick story. Right after receiving my hearing aid we went to the movies, I happened to sit next to a young boy about 8 also wearing the same style hearing aid as me. He noticed mine and said they were alike and his mother embarrassed shushed him. I told her no apology was needed from him that I wasn't ashamed to be able to hear better. At that point the boy ask me if I was teased, I said no but he shouldn't be ashamed because kids are cruel sometimes and don't understand we all have God given flaws. Mine wasn't the hearing aid but that I stuttered when I was his age. He was amazed that I wasn't ashamed of not being able to hear and that I used to stutter. I told him to tell those that teased him that at least he could turn his hearing aids off, they couldn't. He laughed and said he was glad we got to talk. His mother later told me he was teased at school and even adults made comments such as ..did you forget your hearing aids? when he ask them to repeat something. Society must change the perceptions of disability and teach our young that we all have crosses to bare, no ones perfect.
What is really new about these aids? I've worn Lyric aids, which are good, but not overall better than the high quality BTE's I now wear. Is this article an ad for Siemens?
I totally agree with gregg...I really balk at the idea of paying 6 grand for something that may or may not make listening a pleasure, especially in noisy enviroments.
I would prefer if they would spend R&D on making hearing aids more affordable. I'd be quite happy to wear large "hi-vis" multi-coloured ones if they had the technology to allow me to hear other people talking to me around a table in a noisy environment - and didn't cost me an arm and a leg to buy.
As a person who is just beginning to seek his first hearing aid I certainly agree that there is reluctance to wear them, largely based upon social stigma. However, the comparison to glasses, which I also wear, is apt. There are some of us who wear our glasses and would not consider sticking our fingers in our eyes to mount contact lenses. There are others who for cosmetic reasons would rather wander about semi-blind than be seen wearing glasses. But for a very large number of contact lens wearers it is a combination of cosmetics, convenience, portability, fatigue and various other factors which lead them to select sontacts. The same applies to hearing aid consumers. IT is not all about consmetics.
I've been wearing hearing aids for almost 20 years, progressing from small in-the-canal ITC aids (that have been available for a long time) to more powerful behind-the-ear BTE aids today. ITC do not work well for severe loss as too much amplification is needed and feedback is an issue regardless of the suppression technologies (at least to date - those have been developing for a long time as well). So the old news aspects? ITC aids have been a round a long time. Programmed, custom fitted? Nothing new there. And feedback control? Also been around and developing for a number of years. Now on to the unfortunate aspect of a story like this. Aids that are marketed as "invisible" supposedly encourage people who are self-conscious about wearing one to get the devices they need. In reality it does the opposite. Sure a few people might get them because they can pretend they don't need or have hearing aids. But the larger message to the broader audience is that wearing hearing aids is indeed embarrassing, reinforcing the stereotypes that all of us with hearing loss are old and feeble, and that there is something wrong with us. The better approach would be to encourage people to proudly wear their hearing aids with no more of a second thought than wearing glasses. That will encourage people who would benefit from hearing aids to get them. Imagine if all the marketing around glasses focused on trying to make sure no one around you knows you need them. We'd have a lot of semi-blind people wandering around. There are literally tens of thousands of people with hearing loss who could be helped if we'd only make it acceptable, even smart, for them to do so.