The Latest in Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aids have come a long way since the days of big body and analogue hearing aids. Digital hearing aids can be discreet, offer excellent sound quality, support hearing in background noise and even tinnitus management. Today’s hearing aids are robust and easy to use, but don’t be fooled: They’re tiny powerhouses that carry sophisticated technology – and they might just be what will help you hear better and improve your everyday quality of life.
Dealing with hearing loss can be frustrating, to say the least. Untreated hearing loss worsens gradually over time. It can lead to social isolation and even change the structure of the brain, increasing a person’s risk of dementia and affecting their ability to function in the workplace or at school.
Whilst hearing loss isn’t reversible, modern hearing healthcare can make living with hearing loss a lot easier. But nowadays, hearing aid technology can do a lot more.
What are hearing aids?
- Hearing aids are small electronic devices that are worn in or behind the ear.
- They work by amplifying the volume of sound, allowing people with hearing loss to listen, communicate, and participate in daily activities.
- Hearing aids can help to avoid further hearing loss by retraining the brain.
- A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations.
- Hearing aids have three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker.
Hearing devices have evolved greatly over the centuries. Incredible advancements have been made since their humble beginnings in the 17th Century. If you’d like to learn more about the history of hearing aid technology, we’ve charted the most important developments in a previous article.
But enough of the past: Let’s have a look at modern solutions to help you start hearing better.
Please note that every person experiences hearing loss differently. Some may require more or less technology to suit their type of hearing loss and personal preferences. Your individual needs can be determined with a thorough evaluation and a diagnostic hearing test. As a registered hearing healthcare provider, your Attune audiologist can then discuss with you which hearing aids are best suited for you.
Features that make hearing aids more discreet
- Feedback suppression
Gone are the days when hearing aids whistled and squealed. Digital feedback suppression, means that most people’s hearing aids should not squeal unless something is amiss.
- Remote control in your mobile phone
Remote controls can be used to adjust the volume and settings of hearing aids. Hearing aids may come with buttons on the aids themselves for adjustments, or buttons may be absent to make the hearing aids smaller and more water-resistant. Remote control apps can even be downloaded onto mobile phones giving access to remote controls without requiring any additional devices.
- Small size
Hearing aids that fit behind the ears can be as tiny as 20.2mm by 6.5mm. In-the-ear hearing aids can be so tiny that they can barely be seen when looking into the ear canal. There are also invisible, long-wear, disposable in-the-ear hearing aids which can be taken out and replaced every three months.
Features that improve sound quality
- Stream sound directly from your television or mobile phone
The sound from your television can travel wirelessly to your hearing aid by plugging a small device into your television to transmit the signal to your aids. This allows the benefit of crystal clear sound here in both your ears at the level best suited to your hearing loss free from the background noise in your home. Sound can be transmitted from the television over a distance of up to 15m.
If you prefer to listen to music, the transmission device can be plugged into your stereo system instead. In fact, music or phone calls can even be streamed directly from your mobile phone to your hearing aids. In the case of the mobile phone, the mobile phone is the transmitter and no additional transmitting device is needed. It is even possible for the hearing aids to pick up your voice such that you do not need to hold your phone, but can be hands-free. This allows the benefit of superb sound quality in both your ears at the level best suited to your hearing loss free from any background noise around you.
- Music appreciation
Quality hearing aids can offer a broader range of pitches and a greater range of volumes to allow excellent music appreciation. Settings for listening to music use different sound processing formulas or algorithms to ensure the best music enjoyment given your unique hearing loss.
- Frequency lowering technology
Hearing aids can shift high pitched sound to a lower pitch where hearing is better such that those of us with significant hearing loss in the high pitches can still access this sound information. Sounds that have been moved to a lower pitch will sound different and take some getting used to, but will allow us access to more sound information for better hearing.
Features that improve hearing in background noise
- Speech focus and noise reduction in background noise.
The best hearing aids can form a narrow “beam” toward the speech you wish to hear and reduce background noise so that you can hear clearly even in difficult listening environments. Some hearing aids allow the beam to focus on someone speaking beside or behind you.
This improves hearing in traditionally difficult environments such as driving a car when a passenger is talking from behind or beside you. The hearing aids can reduce the road noise and focus on the speech which is particularly helpful since you cannot look at the speaker while driving.
- Noise reduction
Noise reduction technology ensures that sounds such as wind noise, echo sounds or clanging sounds are minimised to such an extent that they are not bothersome. The hearing aids are able to respond so rapidly to sudden, sharp, unpleasant sounds that hearing aid wearer experiences no discomfort.
Hearing aids can automatically scan the environment and adjust the way sound is processed to optimise speech understanding even in challenging environments. Working with your mobile phone to measure where you are in space, certain hearing aids can determine when you are walking and talking. The hearing aids can then pick up speech to the side where your companion is walking rather than in from of your face.
- Tinnitus support
Hearing aids can offer masking sound to support tinnitus management. Certain hearing aids also offer tinnitus notch therapy to reduce tinnitus annoyance. Our audiologists can also explain the benefits of wearing hearing aids if you have tinnitus and hearing loss.
Features that improve durability
- Dust and water-resistant
A modern hearing aid is made to be robust such that they may well be undamaged if a few drops of rain fall on them or they are accidentally worn in the shower briefly. Although you, hopefully, never intentionally expose your hearing aids to water or dust, the high level of water and dust resistance in modern hearing aids means that they are very reliable and will rarely, if ever, break down.
- Secure in the ear
Hearing aid parts come in different sizes to fit most any ear. Fitting options offer additions for added security of the aids in the ears. Our hearing aids are unlikely to fall out unexpectedly and be lost or damaged.
Features for ease of use
Rechargeable hearing aids use state-of-the-art Lithium-ion batteries like the battery in your mobile phone. Rechargeable hearing aids offer a battery life span to match the life span of the hearing aids so that you are unlikely to ever have to replace your hearing aid’s rechargeable battery.
Rechargeable hearing aids offer quick recharge taking as little as 3 hours to recharge fully. One full charge provides a full day of hearing such that the hearing aids only need recharging at night while you sleep. For emergencies,15 minutes of charging can provide a few hours of use.
- Comfortable to wear
Hearing aids are made to be compact and lightweight for all-day comfortable wearing. Our audiologists know how to match our aids to our ears for best fit and comfort.
- The natural sound of one’s own voice
Certain hearing aids can respond differently to our own voices than to other speech. Own voice specific processing overcomes the difficulty new hearing aid users often find with accepting amplification of their own voices. Yet other people’s voices remain clear and easy to hear.
- Potential for remote hearing aid adjustment via the mobile phone.
Certain hearing aids can conveniently be adjusted remotely from the comfort of your own home. Your hearing care provider can adjust your hearing aids by sending the signal from their computer to your mobile phone which adjusts your hearing aids as needed.
Modern hearing aids are truly fantastic. Hearing aids can be discreet, offer excellent sound quality, support hearing in background noise and support tinnitus management too. Today’s hearing aids are robust and can be easy to use. Your audiologist can discuss with you which hearing aids offer which features.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA)
As their name promises, bone-anchored hearing aids conduct sound directly through the bones of the skull by increasing the transmission of sound vibrations entering the inner ear. BAHAs are of benefit for people with middle ear problems or deafness in one ear. Since surgery is required to implant these devices, you and your audiologist will have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks in your individual case.
To give you further guidance, we’ve written a comprehensive guide that explains in detail how bone-anchored hearing aids work, what their benefits are, and how you can access the assessment process for getting a bone-anchored hearing aid.
Which hearing aid will work best for you?
When it comes to buying a hearing aid, making the right decision is extremely important.
Hearing aids can cost several thousands of dollars, and like with so many purchases you make, style and high-tech features greatly affect cost. However, you shouldn’t make your decision solemnly based on the price. More expensive hearing aids don’t necessarily match your needs and lifestyle better.
What matters is that you will want to wear your hearing aid regularly and enjoy doing so. We highly recommend selecting one that is not only convenient but easy for you to use. You should also consider costs for maintenance and repairs, what’s covered under warranty, and whether you have opportunities for upgrades further down the line.
You and your audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your type of hearing loss and personal preferences.
If you have any questions about the latest hearing aid technology available, feel free to give us a call or get in touch with your local Attune Hearing clinic to schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to answer all of your questions!