Advances in Hearing Aid Technology

Deaf man makes a hearing test

Over the years, there has been considerable advancement in the technology of hearing aids. The times where hearing impaired people had to deal with huge, noticeable, clunky hearing aids is definitely a thing of the past. Although the basic idea of hearing aids has always been comprised of the same parts, a microphone, processor, receiver, and power source, has remained, the way the technology works has changed considerably.

There are plenty of options of hearing aids, but with advancements in technology, the majority of them are tiny enough that nobody even has to know they’re there. With the digital age, the components of a hearing aid have advanced to the point that there are no wires and the devices are tiny enough to fit comfortably into the ear canal and discreetly over the ear. The majority of the technology is found in the portion of a hearing aid known as the processor. Thanks to technological improvements over the years, the processor is able to be programmed by an audiologist to offer just the right volume and other features based on the individual’s needs. A hearing aid can be programmed while connected to a computer and by using special software from the manufacturer of the devices.

In addition, there are more brands from which to choose than ever before. Many hearing aids are also capable of being paired up with a smartphone via Bluetooth and a special hearing device. This allows the individual to be able to better hear phone calls or music from their phone as they are streamed directly to their hearing aid.

One of the best technological advancements of today’s hearing aids is that there are directional microphones available for people who have hearing loss in both ears. Many people have a worse loss in one ear versus the other and as a result, they are excellent candidates for what’s known as a CROS hearing aid. With this type of hearing aid, the better ear uses the hearing aid and the worse one uses the receiver, a microphone that amazingly picks up sounds from the side in which the hearing is worse. The microphone will transmit sounds from that side to the ear that has the hearing aid, allowing for an overall better hearing experience.

People with nerve damage induced hearing loss have difficulty dealing with loud sounds because they tend to be painful to their ears. In that situation, if the individual is in a noisier situation, they can change the way sound is transmitted to their hearing aid by pressing a tiny button on their device. There are usually three modes: normal, comfort in noise, and conversation in noise. Comfort in noise mode can help when there are louder sounds that may cause distress. Conversation in noise mode is ideal for going out to dinner at a crowded restaurant where many people are talking and allows the individual to hear the people with whom they are dining. This technology is also known as digital noise reduction.

There is also technology known as impulse noise reduction. It is similar to digital noise reduction and works by softening any typically annoying white noise sound, such as the sound of someone typing on a keyboard.

In the past, a big issue with hearing aids was feedback. Feedback is a whistling sound that is present with a hearing aid that can be persistent and annoying, not to mention uncomfortable. However, with the technological advancements made in hearing devices over the years, there are now feedback management systems that can combat the issue by reducing the amount of amplification.

Perhaps most incredible is that there are now hearing aids that simply fit into the ear and don’t require batteries. There is a new extended wear type of hearing aid that sits in the ear canal on a daily basis that can even be worn while showering, swimming, and sleeping. In an incredible feat of technology, it doesn’t even require any daily maintenance. No doubt, even more advancements will be made in the area of hearing devices in the years to come that will allow an ear doctor to greatly improve the quality of the lives of individuals with hearing loss.