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Hearing evolution

The digital age is looking good for those with hearing aids.

By Patrick Kampert, Chicago Tribune
Last update: April 10, 2007

bluebooth-enabled.jpgCHICAGO — When people see the device on Jim Haniacek’s ear, they correctly assume that it’s connected to his cell phone. What they don’t know is that it’s connected to his hearing aids, too.
“It does look like a Bluetooth,” the 26-year-old private investigator said. “No one believes I have hearing aids.”

That he now has to convince people that he has hereditary hearing loss comes as a relief to Haniacek, of Chicago. He was concerned about the stigma of wearing hearing aids after the problem was diagnosed about a year ago.

“I kind of saw it as a disability. But I talked to other people with hearing aids, and it’s really not,” he said.

And having so many people without hearing loss walking around with cell phone appendages clasped to their ears has made it easy for hearing-aid users to blend in with the rest of society.

“We’ve actually heard from some of our patients that people are asking them what type of Bluetooth device they have,” said Alan Micco, an otolaryngologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“Hearing-aid companies have really gotten progressive with technology,” Micco said.

The accessory Haniacek wears is called ELI and comes from Starkey Laboratories, which is the pioneer among Bluetooth hearing-aid gear and has its headquarters in Eden Prairie. It costs about $400 and was named a Time Magazine Invention of the Year in 2005. Haniacek’s hearing aids are made by Phonak. (A good pair of hearing aids runs about $2,000.) Continue

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