Save Up to $120 On Our Audicus 200 Hearing Aids!

Do you want to hear better this holiday season? Audicus is running a promotion, where you can get a 15% rebate on all Audicus 200 hearing aids… that’s up to $120 in value for a pair! Simply email the code “ECHO” to contact@audicus.com during your next purchase. Happy holidays!

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From Trumpet to iPhone: A Visual History of Hearing Aids

ear-trmpet-audicus-hearing-aidsHearing aids have been around for longer than the English language. In 100 A.D., Greek physician Archigenes suggested blowing trumpets into a patient’s ear as a cure for deafness. Luckily humanity has bridged those rather dim times into the digital age. Let’s hear it:

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1600-1900s: The Trumpet Age

The first modern “devices” were introduced in the 17th Century, by French mathematician Jean Leurechon. Leurechon wrote the world’s first known description of a hearing aid—the ear trumpet. Ear trumpets were the primary hearing aid until the turn of the 20th century. These non-electric aids were essentially sophisticated, powerful and fairly effective ways of amplifying and directing sound, much like cupping a hand behind your ear. Ear trumpets came in a number of forms, with names like London domes, pipe trumpets, and Dippers (pictured here). Some even became fashion statements, as they were adapted to  headbands and hats or designed to look like flowers tucked behind a lady’s ear.

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1900-1920s: The Telephone Age

Electric hearings aids came into play at the beginning of the 20th century, with the advent of the carbon microphone. While based on the telephone principle, Alexander Graham Bell was not involved in their development. The carbon microphone reproduced sound by using sound waves to compress carbon against a diaphragm. As such, these carbon models were ineffective for serious hearing loss.

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1920-40s: The Vacuum Tube Age

By the 1940s, the more portable vacuum tube was introduced. Supposedly invented by Earl C. Hanson, he called his hearing aid the “Vactuphone.” These models were able to address more severe hearing loss, however they required two batteries, so costs were rather high at the time. Vacuum tubes became smaller but remained awkward over the next decade, until transistors appeared.

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1950s-80s: The Transistor Age

The introduction of transistors was a massive step forward, allowing for the production of far more portable hearing aids. The prototypes for today’s Behind and In the Ear (BTE/ITE) arrived on the market, containing analog technology. While analog technology allowed for far more comfort, discreetness and sound quality, their ability to filter noise and speech was quite limited. Analog hearing aids can still be found to the present day.

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The  1980-2000s: The Digital Age

By the time the 1980s rolled around, companies started introducing digital signal processors (DSPs) into their hearing aid designs. The form factor shrank substantially and the proliferation of channels and bands allowed for vastly more granular sound filtering and amplification. DSPs are the cornerstone of today’s hearing aids, making up the vast majority of sales in the US.

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Future: Convergence?

The future looks bright and fascinating: the introduction of wireless technology and Bluetooth will allow users to link up with technology in their surroundings (cellphones, HiFi, TVs, etc.). Some ultra modern designs today allow a pair of hearing aids to communicate wirelessly with each other (left and right ear), providing ever more precise sounds. Users will hopefully also be able to control and fine tune their hearing aids themselves. Advancement in genetics and medicine might one day even correct nerve damage and thus alleviate hearing loss altogether.

Very importantly, hearing technology will hopefully also become more accessible and affordable… a mission that we at Audicus are particularly interested in. As of today, virtually all hearing aids are produced with digital microchips and microprocessors. This technology, as used in all of Audicus products, means hearing aids are of the smallest, sleekest, most powerful design ever… a result of two millennia of ingenuity!

Sources: Audicus, About.comHearingCenterOnlineWustl.eduMIT Tech Review

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Hearing Loss by Attention: How Extreme Focus Can Block Awareness of Sounds

The scene is familiar: you’re so caught up in your crime novel that you completely overhear the 12th ring of your telephone. The crossword puzzle got you so hooked that your bus stops 5 stations after your supposed destination. Similarly, typing that message on your mobile phone while crossing the street almost gets you killed because you don’t hear the approaching traffic. There are times when we unintentionally block out certain sounds and other outside goings-on that would otherwise distract us from what we’re currently doing.  This type of “hearing loss” is called selective hearing and has been the focus of much research as of recently.

Tones and Colors

Recent research done by Dr. Nilli Lavie at University College London, showed that being engrossed in a difficult task makes us blind and deaf to other sources of information. Dr. Lavie ran two groups of test subjects through an exercise. One group was asked to identify changing colors on a pictures (= simple), whereas the other group was asked to answer not only questions about colors, but also about shapes on the picture (= requires more concentration). What the test subjects did not expect was that during the exercise a tone was played to them. The results were astounding: 80% of those who were given the easy exercise claimed to have heard the tone, in sharp contrast with the 20% of those who were given the difficult test.

Limited brain bandwith?

So far the most commonly accepted hypothesis for this “lack of hearing” is that our visual and hearing senses are trying to share the brain’s limited processing capacity (or bandwidth). Lavie’s findings may contribute to disproving the long-held notion that hearing has no real dependence on attention.  Though hearing is often employed as one of the body’s natural defenses, alerting us of dangers we may not have been able to see coming, Lavie’s experiment shows that it can be temporarily paralyzed through deep, focused visual concentration.

In fact, similar – and better researched – phenomena occur when processing visual information. The famous invisible gorilla test, where test subjects engulfed in a basketball game failed to observe a man in gorilla suit stalking around the playfield. This is just to highlight that processing sounds is highly dependent on the brain – and not only on our ears being intact. Thus, for hearing loss due to “too much attention” there’s only that much that a hearing aid (let alone a Audicus device) can do.

Sources: AudicusPsychcentral

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Mount Everest and Consumer Sensitivity to Hearing Aid Prices

everest-audicus-hearing-aidsThe discussion around why hearing aids are expensive has been raging on for a while. Rather than throwing more gasoline in the fire, in this week’s post we’d rather look at how price sensitivity affects the way we purchase hearing aids.

The Price vs. Adoption Problem

According to the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), 68% of those with hearing loss (an estimated 9Mn people) cite financial constraints as a core reason for not using hearing aids.  This is not surprising, considering the fact that a pair of hearing aids in the US can cost anywhere between $3000 and $8000. Let’s face it, the current price levels in the industry are a major barrier to hearing aid adoption.

By how much do prices need to drop for those with untreated hearing loss to feel properly incentivized to use hearing aids? A recent study done by the Henry Ford Medical Group looked at a group of 1,200 patients who obtained hearing aids between 2007 and 2010. The patients had either full insurance coverage, partial insurance coverage (from 20% to 40%) or had to cover the entire cost themselves. While patients with full coverage obtained their hearing aids about seven years earlier, there was no difference in the buying pattern between those who paid for the full cost of hearing aids or those who purchased hearing aids at the 20% to 40% discount. The study thus concluded (rather loudly) that “Lowering Cost Doesn’t Increase Hearing Aid Purchases”. That doesn’t smell right to us.

The Mount Everest Analogy

If a pair of hearing aids costs you $5,000 and you get a 20% to 40% savings, you’re still paying $3000 to $4000 on your own. Big deal; the price is still in the thousands of Dollars! If you had to climb half way up Mount Everest, it’s still a huge climb, right (that’s 15,000 feet, if you’re actually considering it)? And many people won’t or can’t climb it.

Our view is that lowering costs can increase hearing aid purchases – but for that to happen, far more substantial price drops are necessary than the 20%-40% mentioned in the study. To demonstrate that, data about government reimbursement (or inversely, “out of pocket” expense) and adoption rates of hearing aids in Europe lends itself particularly well.

Take the UK and Denmark, for example. The Brits and Danes effectively get 50% to 100% of their hearing aid costs reimbursed by the government (depending on whether they attend a private or public clinic). In comparison, other European countries like France, Germany or Italy, reimburse on average only 25%.

The resulting difference in adoption rates of hearing aids in these two sets of countries is striking: the average adoption rate of hearing aids in the UK and Demark is more than two times higher than in countries where reimbursement lies between 10% and 40%!

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Where do You Start the Climb?

This is obviously a correlation, however there are some indicators that can be drawn from it. One of them being that lowering costs does increase hearing aid adoption (unlike previously claimed).But those price drops will have to be closer to the 50%-100% range – something that can certainly be achieved. Audicus’ hearing aids for instance are 75-80% more affordable, without a detriment in product quality. That puts you almost on top of Mount Everest.

Sources: AudicusBHIHenry Ford, Goldman Sachs Research, Wikipedia

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Got Ear? Audicus’ Ear Photo Campaign – Updated September 29th 2011

Got Ear? Share it! – Updated September 29th, 2011

The Audicus Got Ear?! Photo Campaign has been running for a couple of weeks now and has grown to a pretty sizeable gallery! The mission is simple: express our appreciation for our dear ears and the world of sounds they allow us to perceive – and raise awareness about hearing loss.  There are thousands of visual clues that remind us of that – if you see them, share them!

It’s easy: if you stumble across “eary” objects, pull out that camera, snatch a picture and send it to gotear@audicus.com. You’ll be featured on our lively blog, as well as our Facebook wall (of fame)!

Got Ear? See Ear? Share it!

Update: September 29th, 2011

This month we had some really good contributions from Edouard L., Alex G., Antoine B. and John F. – many thanks for the photographic finesse!
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Eary Hurricane Irene (thanks to John F. for that one!)
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Ear Swirl

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Guatemalan Ear Mural – many thanks to Alex G.! Well spotted!
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Digital Ear in NY’s Subway
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Ear Tree in a Las Vegas Hotel Lobby – thanks to Edouard L.!
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Historic Ear
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Ear Turbine – great pic from Antoine B.

Update: August 10th, 2011

We’ve been tremendously busy with the launch of our platform these last few weeks, but luckily the world doesn’t lack “eary” shapes…here are our favourite 5 pics of the week:

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The Ear Shirt

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The Eary Shadow

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The Ear Plant Hook

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The Eary Time Piece

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The Ear Lock

Update: July 8th, 2011

This week we’ve had some excellent additions to our campaign! Many thanks to (e (check out (e’s great blog here: Eh? What? Huh?) and Larry Herbert from Art In Place.

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Eary Fridge Magnet – thanks to (e for that

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The ear sculpture – thanks to Larry Herbert for that

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Eary Iron Chair – another one from (e, many thanks!

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Shiny mosaic ear

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Neon ear

Update: June 23rd, 2011

To kickstart it, we will be posting 5 “eary” pictures per week, starting with the following “out-of-the-box” shots:

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Feeling tired? Have a seat on one of our ear-shaped office chairs!

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Giant Ear. Extra points if you can tell us where this shot was taken!

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Ear-shaped street art in NY’s East Village

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Curious Pictures, Curious Ears?

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How many things did this park bench hear in its long life?

Source: Audicus

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10 Common Myths about Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids: Part 2

audicus-myth-hearing-aidsThis is the continuation of last week’s common myths about hearing loss and hearing aids. Feel free to submit your own “mythbusters” to blog@audicus.com and get a voice in Audicus’ blog.

6. Hearing aids will make everything louder, but not “clearer”.

Historically this has been a common concern with older analog devices. However, modern hearing aids have evolved substantially over the last 5 years due to the introduction of digital technology and better signal processing software. This means that noise cancellation algorithms inside the hearing aid are constantly working on filtering out noise and feedback. This is particularly relevant when understanding speech in noisy environments, like for example in a restaurant. Some hearing aids nowadays (such as our Audicus 300) also come with multiple directional microphones which can provide extra speech focus.

7. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive because the technology is complex

A recent survey of ours showed that 97% of hearing aid users thought that hearing aids from traditional clinics cost so much ($3000 to $8000 for a pair) because the technology is incredibly sophisticated. On the contrary; the cost to produce a hearing aid is generally less than $150, however gets marked up by up to 40 times as it passes through manufacturers and traditional retailers.

8. Medicare/Medicaid will cover the costs of my devices.

Not really. Unless you are part of the Veterans Affairs (VA), you are pretty much left on your own if you’re thinking about relying on public coverage schemes like Medicare or Medicaid. There has been a long debate about passing a $500 tax credit, but the bill has stalled in congress since 2009 – and probably sits pretty low on the priority list of policymakers, in this general political and economic turmoil.

9. Hearing loss affects only a small proportion of the population.

Really? Think again. Hearing loss is the 3rd most prevalent condition after cardiovascular disease and arthritis. It affects 35Mn Americans or approximately 1 in 9 people. If you want to put this in perspective, this is roughly the population of Canada.

10. Hearing loss is unavoidable, it’s partly genetics and everyone eventually gets it

That’s a pretty fatalistic view. While heritage can play a role, there are a lot of things you can do to delay hearing loss or avoid it altogether. You can start by protecting your ears from continuous exposure to loud sounds, altering your diet, quitting smoking and generally leading a more balanced life.

Do you have your own “mythbusters” that you would like to share? Feel free to send them to blog@audicus.com and claim you place in Audicus’ blog.

Sources: AudicusHansatonBetterhearingDrugs.com

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10 Common Myths about Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids: Part 1

This week we’re covering Part 1 of some common myths about hearing loss and hearing aids. Strap on your helmet and let’s dive into a first round of solid “mythbusting”.

1. Cleaning my ears with cotton swabs is good for my hearing.

Most still hear the voice of their moms telling us to clean our ears with a cotton swap. This can do more harm than good, since there is a risk of the eardrum getting damaged. Contrary to common belief, ear wax actually has a beneficial function: it contains beneficial oils that lubricate and protect the skin of the ear canal. It also traps dust and other particles and keeps them from reaching the sensitive eardrum. If you feel that you have excessive earwax to the point that it affects your hearing, we recommend you to visit a doctor.

2. Hearing loss affects everyone equally.

Men are more likely to exhibit hearing loss than women, making up 60% of all hearing impaired. While there are multiple factors, it is often attributed to more exposure to stress, an increased likelihood of noise at work, higher incidence of head injuries. Studies have also shown that African Americans are 20% less likely to suffer from hearing loss than whites.

3. Hearing loss affects only older people.

While one third of the people over 60 have a hearing loss, there are close to six million people in the US between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss. In fact, 65% of all people with hearing loss are below 64 years of age.

4. The implications of wearing a hearing aid are worse than not having one.

Not following the key part of a discussion, or not being able to laugh at joke for the nth time or having the “what?” and “huh?” as part of your standard vocabulary, make an untreated hearing loss far more apparent than a hearing aid. Isolation and a dent on your self-esteem are only the mild implications; studies have shown that there is a clear correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia and/or depression. Don’t let vanity get in the way; there are people with far more limelight exposure who have acknowledged and treated their hearing problems.

5. Hearing Aids are massive, bulky and clearly visible.

They used to be – a long while ago. Nowadays, hearing aids can be as tiny as a dime and fit almost invisibly behind the ear or in the ear canal. In fact, you probably haven’t noticed the vast majority of people who wear modern hearing aids.

We will cover the remaining 5 points next week, in Part 2. In the meantime, if you have your own “mythbusters” that you would like to share, feel free to send them toblog@audicus.com and we’ll do our best to feature them in our next installment!

Sources: AudicusHansatonBetter Hearing InstituteDrugs.com

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