Hearing aids have been around for the last 70+ years and they continue to advance as time goes on. In the last 10-12 years, hearing aid technology seems to have advanced as fast as computers, making them obsolete after three years. This does not mean they stop working, but there have been advances that make the new ones far superior to older models. Hearing aids have been working under the same theory since their inception until now. The latest generation of hearing aids has changed the way we think about assistive technology. No longer are we limited when in background noise, on the phone or in life. Technology has changed and our methods have evolved to help us perform in those most difficult situations.
What were hearing aids’ biggest hurdles?
Most of the difficulty encountered with hearing aids has to do with background noise. Hearing aid companies have addressed this problem in the same way since digital hearing aids have been around (some more effectively than others). Each hearing aid uses two microphones to determine the direction of sounds; these communicate with each other to put together a picture of our environment. They reduce the sounds coming in from behind, and give extra amplification to the speech in front of us. This is done through focusing the microphones. If we are in a loud restaurant, our hearing aids are picking up what we are looking at and suppressing everything else. This can be beneficial, unless we are at a table with more than one person. When we encounter group situations, we have to move our head with the conversation to pick up what is being said.
How are new hearing aids different?
The newest hearing aids works differently. They utilize directionality, and the chip or processor is fast enough to deliver many more functions simultaneously. Instead of focusing microphones, they have the ability to distinguish each sound in the room or environment and manipulate or treat each sound differently. When we treat each sound differently based on its location, proximity and type of sound (modulating vs. constant, for example) we can then use different amounts of amplification, background noise control and filtering based on which environment we are in. You won’t have to participate only half the time, and can live more like you did before losing your hearing.
The second most difficult problem to fix is using the phone. Most phones are equipped with low quality speakers, making hearing aid efficiency poor. The newest addition to hearing aids is direct to iPhone connectivity. The ability to “stream” means the acoustic signal is transferred digitally instead of acoustically. When you use the phone you no longer need to hold it to your ear; it will transfer the signal to your hearing aids directly instead, making phone calls much clearer and easier to understand using both ears instead of one. Streaming can also be used for music, turning your hearing aids into a personal headset.
What new technologies do today’s hearing aids have?
Technology advancements are helpful and this newest hearing aid is no exception. Not everyone can use every function of the hearing aids, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to control different electronics through voice commands? Make a pot of coffee from your bathroom while you are getting ready in the morning? Turn on the TV to the morning talk show before you enter the room or change the channel without the remote? The newest hearing aids work on the IFTTT network, making our options limitless.
If you have tried hearing aids in the past but have gotten limited results or come to the conclusion that you get what you pay for when it comes to electronics, be sure to give these new hearing aids a try. Technology has finally caught up with hearing aids and this can mean the difference between aids performing marginally and performing well. Find your local audiologist who specializes in hearing aids and get your hearing back!
Interested in trying these new hearing aids? Schedule a consultation with our audiologists.