[Avodah] Modern hearing aids

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Sun Sep 26 15:11:26 PDT 2021

I was asked about my concerns with modern hearing aids.

I'll begin with a story about the telephones that we used in my office in
the 1990s. Remember the old fashioned bulky business telephones, that sat
on your desk and had these clear buttons on the side? About four or five
buttons, each was a plastic cube about one centimeter on a side, and one of
them was usually red. Different buttons allowed you to switch extensions or
put a person on hold.

One day, the entire office got brand new, very sleek and modern,
telephones. There was an orientation session where they taught us how to
use them, and I very clearly remember the first line that they said to us.
"It looks like a telephone, but it's really not. Really, it's a computer,
designed to LOOK like a telephone."

Similarly, today's hearing aids are not simply hearing aids that take sound
and amplify it so that the hard of hearing can hear it. They are computers,
which analyze the sound coming in, filter it, modify it, and/or adjust it,
in whatever ways the user needs. For example, Wikipedia says:


<<< The Oticon Company developed the first commercial full digital hearing
aid in 1995 ... Current digital hearing aids are now programmable which
enables digital hearing aids to regulate the sound on their own, without
using a separate control. The full digital hearing aid can now adjust
itself depending on what environment it is in and often does not even need
a physical volume control button. >>>

A *casual* reading of that paragraph sounds wonderful to a shomer Shabbos,
because the hearing aid adjusts itself and does not need the person to
adjust the volume control. But a *careful* reading of that paragraph points
out that this is dependent upon the environment. My concern is that when a
person moves from one environment to another, such as from a quiet area to
a noisy area, he is adjusting his hearing aid in a "psik reisha d'nicha
lei" manner.

Here are some examples. I don't have any idea whether these are features
are standard today, but it is safe to say that many features which cost
extra now will become standard in the future.


<<< Motion sensing - A new ultra-low power accelerometer detects when you
move and adjusts the hearing aid microphones and noise cancellation
<<< ...
<<< Improved noise cancellation - Phonak is introducing “Dynamic Noise
Cancellation”, which is an automated spatial noise cancellation system that
works in combination with a directional beamformer microphone system. >>>


<<< Artificial Intelligence - Some advanced hearing aids are equipped with
artificial intelligence (AI) that helps learn your listening preferences
and target the sounds you need and want to hear, making those sounds more
prominent. For example, when seated in a noisy room with a friend or
spouse, hearing aids with AI can automatically shift to provide more
comfort or more clarity to help you hear and communicate your best. These
hearing aids also can remember your preferred settings and automatically
adjust when you enter locations you often visit. >>>


<<< Each device contains a microprocessor that completes thousands of
calculations every second and often self-adjusts, so no matter what
environment you’re in, the device makes sure you’re hearing your best.
Automatic adjustments are made when you enter a noisy room, and other
adjustments are made when you enter a quiet room. >>>

This is a sample of what I've been reading. Like the marketing materials
for modern refrigerators, many of these features are wonderful
"gotta-have-it"s for the typical consumer, but they can be bright red
warning signs for us.

I have many deep thanks to R' Michael Poppers who posted a few references
on this topic. The third of them (
included a quote from Machon Tzomet which addressed my above questions
quite directly:

<<< However, the latest most sophisticated "digital" devices have internal
computer controls which automatically change the parameters of the hearing
aid depending on the environment (such as sound level). We allow such
hearing aids to be used, and we do not see any halachic problem even when
the user moves from one place to another, causing the internal parameters
to change automatically. >>>

I plan to look at that more carefully, in hopes of understandingthe
halachos better. There were also a good number of resources in RMP's second
link that seem promising. Meanwhile, if anyone else has ideas, I thank you
in advance.

Akiva Miller
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20210926/48e94623/attachment.html>

More information about the Avodah mailing list