Hearing loss is a heavily researched condition in the medical field because it affects so many people, whether it is present from birth, blocking of the ear canal through working in noisy environments, or occurs later in life as part of the natural process of aging. Thanks to this research we continue to see developments in treatment and prevention of hearing loss, and technological advancements in digital hearing aids are always on the horizon.
The most important step for anyone suffering from hearing loss of any degree such as background noise is to first seek the consultation of a medical professional. A hearing specialist can work with you to determine the root cause of the loss, whether it is tied into other issues that require medical treatment, and whether a hearing aid is the best option for you. Some temporary cases of hearing loss may resolve on their own without costly treatment (a good hearing aid isn’t cheap). Tinnitus is a common and often temporary condition that can be coupled with hearing loss; it’s possible that limiting your exposure to loud noise or simply adopting some healthy lifestyle habits could restore your hearing.
For others, however, hearing loss can be an ongoing burden and a hearing aid can provide considerable relief. We will take a look at exciting new technologies that may make your hearing aid a more powerful tool than ever before.
The Basics: How a Hearing Aid Works
Hearing aids are designed to receive sounds and magnify their vibrations as they enter the individual’s ear. Analog hearing aids convert the sounds into electronic signals in the ear, while digital hearing aids will convert incoming sounds into numerical codes, which are then amplified.
Hearing aids come in a wide variety of styles: they can be worn behind the ear or even placed within the ear canal.
When sound vibrations enter the ear, they are magnified by the hearing aid. The hair cells will detect these vibrations and, in turn, convert them to signals. Those signals are then sent to the brain. Hearing aids can improve hearing quality for many different degrees of hearing loss, though it should be noted that in cases of extreme damage to the inner ear, those vibrations may not be successfully converted. Surgical intervention is an option for a small number of these cases.
Hearing Aid Technology for 2018 and Beyond
One of the primary aims of hearing aid manufacturers is to create a product that is discreet. In 2018 and beyond, we will continue to see hearing aids that are smaller and sleeker than ever. It is an unfortunate reality that some who could benefit from the use of a hearing aid shy away from it because of stigma; they simply do not want to be seen wearing one. However, it is increasingly possible to find hearing aids that are barely noticeable, and, in turn, we may see more people benefiting from their use. And while size continues to be a focus for manufacturers, they are also looking for innovative ways to increase comfort for wearers, too.
Technological advancements in hearing aids are closely linked to the advancements we have seen with all of our personal electronic devices: hearing aids made specifically for use with an iPhone are a popular choice and wireless connectivity is one of today’s most in-demand features. This connectivity allows users to simplify and streamline how they control the hearing aid, making it easier than ever before to maximize its effectiveness.
Apple has certainly led the way in technological advancements compatible with hearing aids. It began in 2013 when the launch of iOS 7 included a new Made for iPhone Hearing Aid program. Ultimately this innovation gave hearing aid users the opportunity to control and adjust their devices with an iPhone or an Apple Watch connected to an iPhone.
Hearing aids produced to work with iPhones allow users to access the features of their hearing aids via the phone: they can adjust and program settings, check the status of the hearing aid battery, and stream wirelessly. The volume of one or both hearing aids can be controlled by the iPhone as well, making it easy to adjust in different settings, from a quiet coffee shop to a noisy nightclub.
The list of hearing aids compatible with this iPhone technology can be found here.
Additionally, Android users have a number of options available to pair their devices with hearing aids via Bluetooth technology.
Beyond Bluetooth: What Else Can We Expect from the Newest Hearing Aid Technology?
In addition to the many useful tools and user conveniences associated with smartphone-compatible hearing aids, we will also see more enhanced features across the industry, which will eventually become industry standard.
Data logging is one of the most exciting developments. Ultimately, this feature stores data about the environments in which you wear your hearing aid, allowing adjustments to be made by your hearing care professional, which will make it easier for you to program the hearing aid for specific environments. Coupled with “learning features” in some hearing aids, the device can begin to automatically detect changes over time. So, if your typical Wednesday afternoon involves a trip to the local library followed by your grandson’s soccer game, you may not need to stop to make manual adjustments between the two activities.
Wind noise reduction is an especially important innovation for those who engage in frequent outdoor activity, such as sailing or golfing. Newer hearing aids have improved wind noise reduction features which will detect the sound of wind and reduce its amplification.
All of these features and developments continue to enhance the quality of the experience for the user. Hearing loss is a burdensome and often devastating condition, having a major impact on quality of life. These smart features and technological advancements can help those suffering from hearing loss get back to the activities they love.