How hearing aids have advanced and some of the latest technologies that can improve your hearing
In the past all hearing aids used analogue technology, which simply amplifies all sound for the wearer. However as digital technology took over in the 1990’s, hearing aids became programmable, which meant that they could be programmed via computer to help with a person’s specific level of hearing loss.
Further advances in technology have allowed hearing aids to hold more programme options so that they can have settings for noisy or quiet environments and suppress feedback, that whistling sound which some hearing aids make.
Today there are many hearing aid options to choose from to give you a better hearing experience which fits in with your lifestyle. Hearing aids are getting smaller and look better than they have done in the past. They were once large and clunky, and only available in beige. Now they are available in a variety of different styles from those that fit behind the ear to smaller ones which fit in the outer ear or invisibly inside the ear canal. There is also a range of colours available, allowing the wearer to show it off as an accessory instead of trying to hide it.
Whilst the first digital hearing aids only had one microphone to pick up sound, the latest hearing aids have more. This allows the wearer to change where the sound is coming from. Some directional microphones focus on the front of the head so that the wearer can hear what is in front of them. Other programmes can focus the microphones in lots of different directions giving the wearer the effect of surround sound.
They can also hold many more programmes and features. These include background noise suppression and speech recognition, which helps you to listen to conversation in noisy environments such as a restaurant or social gathering.
Despite the fact that their hearing is not as good as other peoples, many people with hearing loss are sensitive to loud noise. Sudden loud noise can be very uncomfortable or even painful especially when it is amplified by a hearing aid. Digital technology can actually soften these sounds before they are heard by the hearing aid wearer, so that, whilst they can still hear the noise it will not seem so loud.
The processor inside the hearing aid can detect the changes in sound when you move from a quiet environment to a noisy one and change the listening program automatically. There are many programmes available and you can choose the ones which best suit your lifestyle.
Wireless technology allows your hearing aids to synchronise with each other so they are always on the same program, if you change the program or volume on one, the other changes as well. Wireless Bluetooth technology can also enable you to stream the sound from other wireless devices directly to your hearing aids.
This has allowed those with a hearing loss to engage with communication technology like never before. Whilst in the past mobile phones have been incompatible with hearing aids, those using smart phones can make hands free calls, with the sound being transmitted to both hearing aids simultaneously. They can also stream music from a smart phone or MP3 player allowing you to listen to the radio or your favourite music when you are out and about. This is ideal for active people who enjoy listening to music whilst walking or jogging as you no longer need to take out your hearing aids to wear your headphones. You can also listen to music in public and stop to have a conversation with someone without drawing attention to your hearing aids, just turn the music down.
These advances in wireless technology have also made it possible to engage in internet communication by streaming the sound directly to the user’s hearing aids when making skype calls or listening to podcasts and webinars.
Smart televisions are becoming popular and more affordable, allowing you to watch TV and films directly from the internet. Wireless hearing aids will be able to pick up the sound so that you do not have to turn up the television too loud for others in the room. This also gives a clearer sound so that you can follow more of the conversation. More and more theatres and cinemas are installing wireless systems so that those with a hearing loss can enjoy the entertainment.
This technology is constantly improving and there are lots of hearing aid options to choose from. Not only do the latest hearing aids allow users to get the most from new technology, it allows them to tailor their hearing aid to their needs and get the best possible hearing experience.
Bio: Paul Harrison has been in the hearing aid industry for over 20 years and in that time has worked at both retailer and wholesaler level. In the last 5 years has managed is own network of audiologists through his company www.yourhearing.co.uk who specialise on hearing aid supply.