Colour Run for Colourful Ears (and Puppies)

This is just a very quick update to gauge the level of support out there for this ridiculous project.

Many of you will know that just over six months ago I started to wear hearing aids. These teeny little bionic devices have changed my life. I am always happy to show them off, especially when people have questions. And a lot of people have questions…! We’re naturally curious folk and it’s an issue that is relevant to a lot of people.

Did you know that 1 in 6 people in the UK have some form of hearing loss? That’s 10 million people. And of those there are about 2 million people in the UK who have hearing aids. However, only 70% of these people use their hearing aids regularly and there are another 4 million people who could benefit from using them.

The reasons many people don’t use hearing aids vary widely, but one of the most common is the perceived social stigma against them. But, thankfully, there are a lot of people who are challenging this perception with just a few… minor adjustments.

Now, I have no problems with the look of my hearing aids. As technology has improved they have come a long way and there are loads of different options out there. The types that I use are quite small, silver (like an awesome robot), and they tuck comfortably behind my ears. In fact, with my hair down, you usually can’t see them. However, I choose to make them visible… scrap that, extra visible… because I don’t just see them as fantastic pieces of kit which enable me to hear, but I also see them as a way to express my individuality (much like ma super sweet glasses). And so I decorate them, like this:


Polka dots checks and stripes, all together. Polka dots checks and stripes. Yipes! (Hearing aids and direct audio input shoes.)

Christmas Jumpers

Winter jumpers, which kept my ears filled with cozy warm sounds over Christmas. (Hearing aids and micro-tubes.)

Lisa Frank

The current setup that would make Lisa Frank proud. (Hearing aids.)

There are a lot of people who decorate their hearing aids. In fact, there are entire groups of people devoted to sharing ideas, resources, help, and of course photos of completed efforts! It is usually done with stickers (that don’t damage the hearing aids) and most audiology departments are happy for you to decorate-away.

However, I have encountered a few problems that Dr. Atkin (that’s not me, I’m only soon-to-be-Dr.Atkin) is currently attempting to help me remedy.

1)      Applying the stickers can be a bit fiddly, especially in getting around the microphones and buttons and battery-case door, etc. < Super frustrating, which is why many people don’t give it a go – also drives you bonkers if you’re OCD about things being just so…

2)      It can be time consuming, meaning you usually pick a design and stick with it for a few weeks/months. <BORRRING! And, more importantly, what if they don’t go with the incredible outfit I’m wearing?

Therefore, we are attempting to design an add-on for our hearing aids (yes, Dr. Atkin as a hearing aid too), which would allow us to switch between designs really easily, as well as make them easier to decorate. Right now we’re trialling this with 3D modelling and printing. I have made it my mission to eventually get my hearing aids to show the stapes, incus, and malleus bones in the correct position, so it’d be like you’re seeing an x-ray of my ears…!

If (and that’s an if yeah) this add-on works, then we’d like to be able to make it available to other people too.

Now, this is the bit where you come in. We are already working on this, and we are going to be putting our own money into the project, which we don’t think should cost too much as any prototypes will be quite small (so even if we need to tweak, re-tweak, and re-re-tweak) it shouldn’t cost a fortune. It may however take some time. Therefore… if you wanted to help us out, then that would be awesome!

In order to raise funds, people usually do things, and so I’ve come up with the idea of signing up for the local Manchester Colour Run in July to try and help raise some money for this project to make people’s ear more colourful (and hopefully convince more people to wear their hearing aids with pride… or to even wear them at all).

Because we’re not sure of the exact costs of the project, I’d also like to raise some money for the Hearing Dogs charity. This is a brilliant organisation that relies on donations in order to train up puppies to become fabulous hearing dogs for people who are hard of hearing or deaf – completely changing their lives.

So, if I can raise any money we will use only what we need for the hearing aid project (which I will disclose publicly in regular updates) and everything else will go to Hearing Dogs.

Because of the practicalities involved in raising money to split between two things: a personal project and an organised charity, it would probably involve a website like GoFundMe or Yimby (an off-shoot of JustGiving). This would mean the funds would come directly to me and then any excess not required to cover the project costs would go to Hearing Dogs via a lump sum donation.

And now to the crux of the post: Would you support this project?

If yes, please let me know in the comment, on Twitter, by e-mail, etc!

5 responses to “Colour Run for Colourful Ears (and Puppies)

  1. Would totally like to support users of assistive technology. Posthuman and proud! I’d also be interested in designing some personalisation for them, but they might end up all Geiger-y rather than, you know, wearable.

  2. Pingback: Colourful Ears: Update | Deathsplanation·

  3. Pingback: This and that | hack and hear·

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