What's New in Hearing Aid Technology?
By, Emily Steffel, AuD
Q: What’s new in hearing aid technology?
There are three main “new things” in the world of hearing aids.
First, there are hearing aids that utilize rechargeable batteries rather than the traditional disposable batteries. The use of rechargeable batteries can be very beneficial for patients if: they have reduced vision, making seeing the battery or battery door difficult; if they have numbness or stiffness in their fingers, making feeling or manipulating the battery difficult; if they have tremors or shaking, making the placement of the battery difficult; if they are eco-conscious, therefore liking the reduced amount of “waste product” created by rechargeable hearing aids; or if they simply like the ease of use that rechargeability provides. The batteries in these rechargeable devices are designed to run for 3 years with nightly recharges (in the accompanying charger) and then be replaced with a new rechargeable battery.
Second, there are hearing aids that can connect via Bluetooth to your smart phone. This allows the wearer to have their phone calls stream to their hearing aids, eliminating the need to either hold the phone up to one ear (leaving only one hand free to go about activities and hearing in only one ear) or to use speakerphone (allowing everyone around you to hear your private conversations). They also can stream music from your smart phone, turning the hearing aids into wireless headphones and eliminating the need to take out your hearing aids to listen to music. Lastly, because the phone calls and music stream to the hearing aids, the patient can remain compliant with “hands-free” motor vehicle laws (helping reduce unsafe driving and costly tickets)
Lastly there are hearing aids that utilize a more open sound format for listening in noisy places. Unlike the traditional use of “directionality” (Amplifying sounds occurring in front of the wearer and reducing the volume of sounds occurring to the sides and behind the wearer) this open format samples the environment and reduces “noise” and amplifies “speech” no matter what direction it comes from. This type of noise reduction is very useful for patents who suffer from claustrophobia or otherwise feel like their (more traditional) hearing aids are too “closed off” in noisy places. It is also useful as some patients feel this noise reduction set up is more natural sounding to them.
And as always hearing aid companies are continually researching better ways to amplify speech and reduce noise without sacrificing ease of use and speech understanding. So whether you are a long-term hearing aid user or have never used hearing aids before but feel like you wish you could hear better, give an audiologist a call and set up an appointment to find out more about how new hearing aids can help improve your quality of life.
Emily Steffel, AuD