People who have hearing aids which were fit before 2010 in most cases would brag to each other about how many programs they had for different situations. Most people had a button on top of their hearing aids and if they went into a noisy room they would push the button till they heard two beeps, in a restaurant they would push it again until they heard three beeps and so on. These hearing aids weren’t adaptive, relying on the user to use their judgement on which program to use based on what environment they were in. This did not lend itself to people who had no feeling in their fingers, bad dexterity, memory problems or vanity issues. Hearing aids these days do this type of adjustments on their own every time we are in a different environment making them adaptive.
A study was done before hearing aids became more adaptive and found when programs were manually manipulated, the average person was in the incorrect program 74% of the time. If different programs are created to perform well in different environments and we have to rely on ourselves to make the right choice, it seems we underperform ¾ of the time. As hearing aids became faster, they now have the ability to continually analyze the sounds coming in the hearing aid and transition between programs on their own. When you leave the quiet house, get into your car, walk next to the road and get to the office, we are encountering many different sound environments. Because the hearing aids can choose how to amplify, and how much back ground noise to cancel out when we switch environments, they are more efficient and accurate than the users.
When the hearing aid decides what type of listening situation we are in, it performs some automatic adjustments to maximize our ability to communicate with others. Depending on the technology of the hearing aids, they focus microphones, decrease background noise, reduce soft sounds and share information with each other to decide what type of room we are in and how to best handle back ground noise. All of these settings can be changed based on how the user is performing. Need more help in background noise? We can make an adjustment and decrease the amount of background noise you will hear therefore increasing your ability to understand speech in a noisy environment.
Adaptive hearing aids have been around for a while, but as technology advances so do the ability of the hearing aids. If you want to hear to the best of your ability, be sure to visit a trusted Audiologist and make your hearing part of your healthcare. Don’t settle for a provider who has a product to fix your hearing, its only one part of a larger picture.