Tom Rishel made an old-style hearing aid, as a gift for his audiologist Dr. Leslie Purcell, who's affiliated with Mt. Nittany Medical Center in State College.
Rishel's hearing aid is tiny compared to his creation. You can barely see it when he's wearing it, but it's made a huge difference after 25 years of gradual hearing loss.
The first time he turned on a faucet after getting the device, the noise scared him. And then, when he got in his car, "who started putting all these sounds in cars?" That stuff wasn't there 25 years ago, all the little dings and bings and things like that I didn't hear before," he says,laughing
Not only can he now hear common everyday noises, his nearly-top-of-the-line technology device plugs him into the digital age.
What looks like a necklace is actually a device called a ComPilot, with the wires serving as an aerial to connect him with an iPhone, computer, or any blue-tooth capable product.
Dr. Purcell says, "for him, it's very beneficial, because he travels a lot when he's in a car and when gets a phone call, it goes directly to his hearing aids, is imported directly to his hearing loss."
She programmed the hearing aid system specifically to deal with Rishel's hearing loss and the demands of his lifestyle, and it can be updated if they change.
Dr Purcell says hearing aid technology is changing constantly, and for many people the next move, a hearing aid that streams directly to a cell phone, will be dramatic.
"It is a game changer in technology, for many people, " she says. Dr purcell says most area audiologists already have it available, but none of her patients are using it, yet.
According to Purcell, you can get a basic digital hearing aid for around $2000 a pair, a mid-level system costs around $4,000 a pair and high-end premium level products are anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 a pair. The additional blue tooth technology increases the bill.
Medicare doesn't cover anything toward a hearing device.