StromIn the January 2005 edition of HR, we explored the emerging trend of wireless technology being incorporated into hearing instruments and diagnostic equipment. In this edition of HR, you’ll find three more articles on the application of wireless technologies—including Bluetooth and wireless fidelity (WiFi)—within hearing instrument designs. As interesting as these individual products may be, the implications for the hearing care field may be just as intriguing. The electronic transfer of data between hearing instruments and other devices may be the harbinger of a future trend: a blurring of the line between what we now call a “hearing aid” and a more ubiquitous aid that could be called a “total communication device.” Indeed, the terms “hearing aid” or “hearing instrument” may become outmoded in the future, as we witness the introduction of a wide assortment electronic devices and services that have, as only one of their advantages, the ability to link with ear-level amplifiers and/or hearing instruments.

This “brave new world” of hearing looked like a futuristic pipe-dream only 10 years ago. However, when one sees the rapid popularity of personal digital assistants, personal music systems (eg, iPod and other MP3 players), Bluetooth-enabled computers, and the new generation of personalized media and information outlets that are offered via satellite (eg, Tivo, Sirus, OnStar), it is not a huge leap to imagine a world in which everyone wears a hearing device—a device that is called something far more sexy than “hearing aid” (eg, the “iStarEar”) but still looks like one! When it becomes “hip” to wear something that looks exactly like a BTE, we can all sigh a breath of relief. In fact, why don’t we just modify our current terminology now and call it an iBTE, iCIC, etc, to denote that these are already individualized personal listening devices (iPLDs)?

There is a natural tendency to become uncomfortable when envisioning how hearing care services will fit into this new world of satellite-assisted listening. But here’s a basic fact: however technology evolves, people with hearing impairment will require hearing care services. In fact, as the world becomes even more “connected” and these worldwide networks of devices for our ears move from the category of “gadgetry” to “essential equipment” (cf, cell phones, PCs), the demand for quality hearing care products and services will only grow greater.

Pass the Hearing Aid Tax Credit during the 109th Congress! The Hearing Aid Tax Credit Bill (HR 414) has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jim Ryun (R-KS) and currently has 35 cosponsors. This bill would revolutionize access to hearing care for US seniors and children by providing a $500 tax credit per hearing aid for those people ages 55+ or under age 18. Reducing the cost of hearing aids by $500-$1000 (roughly 25%) would prove to be a boon for your patients and your practice.

This is legislation that the entire hearing care field can get behind; indeed, virtually every hearing-related organization—including the Hearing Industries Assn (HIA), the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), and the International Hearing Society (IHS)—has pledged its support for the bill. During the recent AAA convention, husband-and-wife political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin disagreed on virtually everything political except one thing: Washington is a “squeaky hinge” town that listens to people who are passionate about their causes. HR urges you to contact your Congressional representatives via both phone and fax, and voice your support for HR 414. Examples of sample letters and talking points can be found at the HIA Web site (go to www.hearing.org, then click on “Action Alerts”). If you are unsure about how to contact your members of Congress, go to the local government Web site at http://thomas.loc.gov  and click on the “House Directory” or “Senate Directory” links. Contact your legislators today!

Karl Strom
Editor-In-Chief