Is there anything new in hearing aid technology?
Yes! Many years ago, hearing aids were big and bulky plastic pieces that continually produced feedback and needed endless fiddling. Not anymore. Tiny micro-processors or digital ‘chips’ sit inside today’s hearing aids that allow the devices to automatically regulate volume without the need to adjust. Much like a stereo equalizer, hearing aids can be set using well over 20 channels to match someone’s hearing loss at every pitch, or frequency so it is individualized.
Advanced feedback suppression systems have been developed that have made whistling largely a thing of the past, and has spawned a whole new style of hearing aid where there is just a very small, non-invasive dome that sits in the ear leaving the canal virtually open. These types of ‘open-fit’ hearing aids have been streamlined to look very different from your father or grandfather’s hearing aid, and in many cases are almost invisible while worn.
Hearing aids now have the ability to recognize the differences between speech and non-speech sounds, such as car noise. Certain hearing aids can lower down unwanted tire noise lessening fatigue during a long a road trip, but automatically boost volume when a friend or spouse in the passenger seat starts a conversation.
Miniature microphones filter away unwanted ambient sounds such as restaurant noise and helps isolate speech conversation directly in front of the hearing aid user.
Hearing aids are now Bluetooth compatible, allowing users to link to their cell-phones, laptops and televisions. Most require an adaptor that is worn around the neck, but two manufacturers have recently developed systems to relay directly from a user’s Bluetooth device into the hearing aids without the use of one.
Other recent developments include: waterproof hearing aids (yes, you can wear them in the pool!), rechargeable battery hearing aids, and hearing aids specifically designed to treat tinnitus.
A word of caution as well: while there have been many advances made in the world of hearing aids, they still are not perfect and the public should be wary of companies and advertisements that claim to ‘restore speech comprehension problems’. Hearing aids have improved greatly and will likely help, if they have been correctly selected and fit, but don’t have the expectation that they will restore speech comprehension back to normal. Just like with anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!