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Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy HearingAugust 12, 20192019-08-12T00:00:00-05002019-08-12T00:00:00-0500
You might say it was a case of divine intervention when Calvin Huit heard his minister deliver a sermon on faith six years ago. The previous three weeks had been rough. As a hearing aid user for more than 18 years without incident, Huit had just replaced three pairs of hearing aids.
“I looked around and thought 'the economy sucks. We aren’t getting raises.' I recognized if this keeps up, I won’t be able to afford wearing hearing aids,” he said. “In that moment, I felt I was being directed to come up with the hearing aid case that I couldn’t find. So I launched off on a little bit of faith and started to prototype the hearing aid case I wished I had.”
Within six months Huit was working with a patent attorney. Eighteen months later he launched AidKeeper. After testing different models, he's now focused his efforts on creating two different products:
“After 24 years of wearing hearing aids, I know which features are important in a hearing aid case,” Huit said. As a result, AidKeepers are water resistant, crush resistant, UV resistant and lightweight. Both models fit in a pocket, won’t break upon impact and store spare batteries, he said. The Alturas also floats if it falls into water.
More than two decades ago Huit was diagnosed with profound hearing loss. Now 54 years old, he describes himself as a “latchkey kid” who suffered with ear infections as a child. “Some were treated, some were not,” he said. “I also worked on a farm where we fabricated metal, which included welding, hammering, grinding steel, often without ear protection. I wonder if my hearing loss is also genetically related.”
His undiagnosed hearing loss created challenges for him at the College of Idaho, where he eventually graduated with a degree in mathematics.
“I didn’t realize my inability to understand speech was caused by my hearing loss,” he said, explaining that he struggled in college, yet blamed noisy classrooms and mumbling professors. "Even after college I didn’t realize I was dependent on my dog to know when someone rang the doorbell.”
His wife told him he had a hearing problem and encouraged him to see a hearing healthcare professional. The watershed moment came one day when he was online with a computer help desk and couldn’t understand the automated voice prompts.
Huit, who is now on his seventh pair of hearing aids, said he successfully wore hearing aids for 18 years before he ran into a three-week string of bad luck.
Crushed by a rocking chair, destroyed in a washing machine, and sucked up by a car wash vacuum: These are all ways that Huit lost hearing aids, inspiring him to create the near-indestructible AidKeeper.
"My work responsibilities more than doubled and my ability to pay attention to my hearing aids decreased," he said.
His first hearing aid catastrophe occurred when the hearing aid he had removed and set on an end table was accidentally knocked onto the floor and crushed beneath the runners of a rocking chair recliner.
His second pair ended up in the washing machine after he forgot to remove them from his shirt pocket.
The third pair was not-so-comically sucked from its manufacturer-issued clamshell case into a powerful vacuum at the car wash. Although the car wash company was able to retrieve the hearing aids from the vacuum’s filter within a few days, Huit spent more than $800 (and three weeks) to have them repaired.
Similar stories from friends and colleagues began to emerge. A vendor shared photos of the remnants of new hearing aids his customer’s dog absconded with and ultimately destroyed in the backyard. An acquaintance related the story of an ATV aficionado who unwittingly lost his devices when he took off his helmet in the middle of a long ride. A fisherman lost his hearing aid case over the edge of a boat trying to net a fish. A farming friend removed his devices to run the tractor and never saw them again.
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Huit understands the best place for hearing aids are in the ears but says there are many situations in which “wearing a hearing aid just doesn’t work.” And, while the industry and its providers understandably focus their resources on providing high-quality hearing instruments, Huit believes the cases they provide should offer better protection.
“People spend as much as $50 on a cell phone case,” he said. “Given hearing aids cost as much as seven times more than a cell phone, shouldn’t there be an awesome hearing aid case available? From a humanity perspective, this product (AidKeeper) is definitely needed in the marketplace and I think a lot of people would benefit from it.”
Debbie Clason holds a master's degree from Indiana University. Her impressive client list includes financial institutions, real estate developers, physicians, pharmacists and nonprofit organizations. Read more about Debbie.
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