Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bluetooth headset or hearing aid?

I'm always pleased to see older folks wearing Bluetooth headsets. There's some truth in the stereotype that older people are often less comfortable with technology than younger people, but sometimes, they can benefit at least as much from it, if not more. For instance, many older folk have a hard time with manual dexterity and strength in the hands, and holding up a phone can be tiring or just challenging (particularly given how fumbly a lot of cell phones can be in their quest to be tiny). Dialing can also be tricky with those tiny buttons for people with limited eyesight and finger dexterity, and remembering numbers is tricky late in life, but a headset with voice dialing makes it easy. A properly set up Bluetooth headset offers the same advantages to an older person as to the busy executive on the go, but they're likely to be more valuable in the former case.

I recently started to see an interesting product: a hearing aid that looks just like a Bluetooth headset. This strikes me as even more brilliant. For years I've watched the constant battle between hearing aids being tinier and less visible (since people are very sensitive about them) and being less useful (doing less amplification and filtering, and running out of battery life sooner). Now you can have a hearing aid that is big enough to do a great job, but that can hide in plain sight. I just love the fact that the current ubiquity of Bluetooth headsets, and the concomitant social acceptance they have, makes hearing aids a whole new ball game.

Now what we need is a single device that is both. After all, the people who can best benefit from a hearing aid would probably also benefit from a Bluetooth headset that ensures their phone calls are easily audible, plus all the other benefits of the headset.

(Of course, before long, Bluetooth headsets will become smaller and disappear, and then we'll be back where we were. However, I'm still hopeful. The advances in technology brought by the Bluetooth headset craze will no doubt benefit the hearing aid market too.)

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