Hearing aid technology continues to evolve and the latest trends include devices with Bluetooth capabilities, devices that are compatible with Apple products and hearing aids containing microcomputers. These aren’t your grandfather’s hearing aids. If you’re still reluctant to take the first step to improved hearing, this list of some of the latest technology trends in hearing aids might change your mind.
Hearing aid devices that leave the ear canal open are one of the newest and most important changes in hearing aid technology. These devices are small, discreet and fit behind the ear with only a thin wire or tube in the ear canal and allow the wearer to hear low frequencies.
In recent years, a change in hearing aid circuitry design has led to computer chips that can amplify sounds in a variety of ways and adapt to the noise level in a room and whether someone is speaking. This adaptation also makes it easier for those who spend time outside to hear conversations, even if there is wind.
In addition to advances in actual hearing aids, technology is also providing options to those in need of auditory support. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted hearing-aid compatibility (HAC) requirements for digital wireless phones, making phones a new type of hearing aid solution.
With recent technological advancements, most major hearing aid companies can now connect their products to Bluetooth technology via a gateway device worn around a user’s neck. While this device is small —about the size of an iPod— it’s not small enough to be incorporated within the hearing aid itself. These devices enable users to better hear their TVs, computers and telephones and because Bluetooth technology is generally short-range, theydo not have to worry about interference from other wireless devices.
Other devices using Bluetooth technology are personal sound amplifier products (PSAP), which amplify sounds in a recreational environment and look like a hybrid of a Bluetooth headset and a hearing aid. These devices are exempt from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight, and can be sold directly to a consumer without seeing a physician. However, PSAPs are limited in who can benefit from their use. Typical PSAP users have normal or near normal hearing.
Hearing aid companies continue to explore and expand this technology to develop more efficient Bluetooth devices, eliminate the intermediary device and introduce compatibility with all types of smartphones. One such technology is Bluetooth Smart, which is currently used by Fitbit and Nike Fuel band gadgets. Advanced Bionics recently released a new sound processor, named Naida, which allows cochlear implants to connect with devices using Bluetooth technology.
GN ReSound, a Danish hearing aid company, has announced the launch of a new hearing aid, named LiNX, which was developed in partnership and is compatible with Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and syncs wirelessly with iOS 7 options for the hearing-impaired.
LiNX performs as cross between a hearing aid and stereo Bluetooth headphones. Phone calls, music, movies, navigation or other audio can be streamed directly to a small earpiece but when audio isn’t pulled from a phone or tablet, the earpiece works like a typical hearing aid amplifying conversations and surrounding sounds.LiNX has other high tech features including a setting called Live Listen.
This feature turns an iOS device into microphone. If the hearing aid wearer is in a loud environment, they can get a stream directly from the smartphone’s microphone to their ears, cutting out background noise. LiNX devices communicate with and can be controlled directly from an Apple mobile device, meaning users don’t have to wear an intermediary device around their neck.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, more than 36 million people, in the United States have some level of hearing loss. However, only one in five people wear a hearing aid and those needing hearing assistance will wait, on average, eight years before seeing a professional.
With the technological advances in hearing aids, hopefully stereotypes of the large, clunky hearing aids will become a thing of the past, and more individuals will be able to find the hearing device that works best for them with the help of a professional audiologist.
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