Mimi Is Making Me Dream

When I did my frustrating trial of the M-DEX two years ago, I kind of gave up on using my hearing aids with my phone. I have a mute programme for when I need to put the phone to my ear (I have open tips), but most of the time, I take my hearing aids out, put my earbuds in, and crank up the volume.

Here’s what I wished for at the time:

I can’t believe there isn’t a simple “equalizer” software or application for my phone which I could feed my audiogram to and which would then amplify the frequencies I need. Clearly it wouldn’t be as good as a proper hearing aid, but I’m sure it would help a bit. If you know more about why this isn’t done, I’m all ears (!).

A few weeks ago, Vincent sent me a link to the Mimi launch announcement. It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch the video below:

I was almost jumping up and down with excitement. If they pull this off, I think it could be pretty cool. Let’s unpack a bit.

Mimi announces it’ll do exactly what I was wishing for two years ago! A lot of my “sound input” in life comes from my phone (conversations, music, podcasts). I’m impatiently waiting for Mimi to be available through the Swiss iTunes store, but if you live in the US, you can already get an early version of Mimi. I’m not sure it does the “equalizing” bit yet though, but works already as an application to measure hearing loss. Those already exist (remember Anna’s post about them?), so that’s not really new, but Mimi will be able to do much more.

These last days I’ve been reading through some of the results of MarkeTrack, a global US survey around hearing loss and the hearing aid market. One of the things the survey tries to figure out is what the obstacles are to hearing aid use. It’s complex, as you can imagine (and that reading would have come in handy as I was thinking about why we underestimate hearing loss) but one of the elements that stayed with me is that getting an objective measure of your hearing loss is one step towards getting fitted. If you never get tested, you never get fitted.

This actually fits with my story: during those years where I was “coping” and thinking that maybe I’d give hearing aids another go at some point, one pivotal moment was when I walked past the “hearing bus” and decided to drop in for a test. I’d already had an audiogram made, quite a few times, but it had been a while and I was in this phase of thinking that my “hearing problem” wasn’t very serious. The bus guy changed that perception for me: at most frequencies, I couldn’t hear two out of the four sounds, and he told me that when only one was missing he referred people to an audiologist. This is the moment when I started taking my hearing loss more seriously.

So, couple a “hearing test” app with a feature that will already let you benefit from adapted amplification when you’re using the phone, or use your phone as an amplifier: that might give some people a preview of what it is like to hear more sounds — and for people like me, who don’t want to deal with cumbersome intermediaries between phone and ears, and “get by” removing their hearing aids to use the phone, well, it might just be the little magic app we have been waiting for.

There is certainly much more to say about Mimi: the cheap subscription model they are working on for a Bluetooth “hearing enhancer”, or the fact that these are players who are approaching the hearing tech market using the smartphone as a starting-point, and thus tackling some long-standing issues from scratch again. But that sounds like material for another post.

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