Aurilink Blows Smoke

In their latest press release, Aurilink Inc. claims that their new amplifier makes customized digital hearing aids obsolete:

Aurilink, Inc. has developed a “ready-to-wear” sound amplifier for individuals who want and need occasional hearing assistance due to mild hearing loss. Such assistance was previously only available with expensive custom hearing aids, but preliminary studies have shown that the Aurilink Sound Magnifier is equal or superior to the most advanced DSP (digital signal processing) hearing instruments currently available.

As part of the team that develops and produces some of the world’s most advanced DSP platforms for hearing instruments, I’m skeptical, to say the least.

Hearing aids are very similar to glasses. Just as people have different kinds of vision problems — near-sighted, far-sighted, and astigmatism — and to varying degrees, they also experience different kinds and varying degrees of hearing loss. A custom hearing aid doesn’t just make everything louder, it amplifies the specific frequencies where the wearer has suffered loss. That’s what makes them customized. Beyond that, high-end digital hearing aids offer other useful features, such as noise suppression, which can filter out the background chatter in a crowded room without affecting the voice of the person to whom the wearer is listening. The difference between a custom hearing aid and what Aurilink is selling is akin to the difference between prescription glasses from an optometrist and a the $10 reading glasses you can buy at the local drug store.

Indeed, Aurilink’s CEO admits it:

“We like to think of the Sound Magnifiers as reading glasses for your ears,” said Otis A. Whitcomb, President and CEO of Aurilink.

That’s not to say that I think their product is useless. Far from it. Reading glasses are a vast improvement over no glasses at all. Aurilink’s products offer a similar value. I’m sure it’s an excellent product for what it does (even if it is built on our competitor’s platform, which is only a guess on my part), but “equal or superior to the most advanced DSP […] hearing instruments currently available?” Come on! Who are you kidding?

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