For the last few decades, the image of hearing aids has not been flattering—big, bulky plugs in your grandparent’s ears that they were always fiddling with and that never seemed to work very well. However, rapid technological advancements have done wonders to vastly improve the effectiveness and precision of hearing aids in the recent years. Let’s take a look:
Hearing Aids for the Digital Age
Most hearing aids today are made with digital technology, as opposed to the analog aids of yesteryear. While some people still prefer analog, the majority of hearing aid wearers choose digital aids, which gives those with hearing loss many more options to hear their environment. Digital hearing aids have multiple listening programs, a feature that enables individuals to adjust their hearing aids based on the amount of background noise in a setting. Hearing aids can automatically switch between programs or be manually controlled by the wearer. Some even come with hand-held remote controls! Digital aids also offer other advantages over analog, including noise reduction and greater precision in fitting.
Hearing Aids Get Smart
Hearing aids are now being paired with smartphone and wireless technologies, to make clear hearing even easier and more accessible. There are several models of hearing aids that can be controlled through an iPhone app—the wearer can switch the device setting based on the environment through just a few taps on their phone. This also makes simple cell phone calls much easier to hear. Other models even allow users to extend their range of hearing by using their phone as an extra set of ears: the phone can be placed far away and stream sound into the hearing aids, making conversations across rooms or long conference tables much simpler.
Bluetooth is also an important technology that is pairing with hearing aids for a better hearing experience. Many hearing aids now are equipped with Bluetooth technology (including Audicus hearing aids), which allows users to connect their hearing aids to all sorts of wireless devices. Hearing aid users can use Bluetooth hearing aids like headphones, connecting them to MP3 players and other music devices. They can also be connected to a television, which allows people with hearing loss to watch TV at their desired volume, without turning it too loud for the rest of the family. Even computers can be connected to Bluetooth hearing aids, making it easier to watch videos or conduct video conferences
Tiny but Powerful
Of all the technological advancements in the hearing aid world, some of the most important have to do with the hardware inside hearing aids—all the minuscule pieces that somehow allow us to hear. Newer hearing aids contain a microcomputer that is incredibly sophisticated in reacting to background and environmental noises, which eliminate a lot of jarring feedback and distracting echoes.
Another advancement in hearing aid hardware has been the development of the directional microphone. A directional microphone is actually two microphones that have the ability to focus one mic towards a sound source to amplify it, and direct the second mic towards outside noise to filter it away. According to David Fabry, PhD, a Mayo Clinic audiologist, the directional microphone is the most important factor to maintain speech understand and filter out noise. Unfortunately, these magic mics don’t fit inside in-ear aids, but professionals like Dr. Fabry recommend hearing aids with directional microphones in order to get the best hearing experience.
With all the latest advancements in hearing aid technology, it’s not too crazy to think that one day hearing aids might be sold in stores next to laptops and smartphones. The technological progress in the last decade has been great, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for hearing aid technology!