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whither hearing aids?

Subject:  whither hearing aids?
A couple of weeks ago, I attended this year's Lake Arrowhead Conference on
Issues in Advanced Hearing Aid Research.  I was there as an "outsider" (I've
worked in computer music and professional and consumer audio), hoping to get
some insight on the state of the art in hearing aid design and the most
promising directions for future research.

The conference was excellent.  The quality of presentations was uniformly
high, and it's clear that plenty of interesting and thoughtful work is being
done.  In addition to the discussions of specific research results, however,
I would have appreciated some more general and broad-ranging discussions
about where the field is going, perhaps in the form of a panel session.
(This was attempted in the "manufacturer's forum" session, but time was too

I'd like to initiate such a discussion here on the Auditory mailing list.
In the wake of Lake Arrowhead and the ASA meeting at MIT, I invite people to
post their thoughts about "Whither Hearing Aids".  Which avenues of research
seem most promising?  Or least promising?  Will digital aids offer
significant improvements?  Is development of improved fitting and evaluation
methods more important than inventing new processing techniques?  What are
the most important unanswered questions?

I look forward to reading responses.

- Dan Freed, Sonic Solutions (dfreed@sonic.com)