The Future of Hearing Aids Is Already Here

By on February 21, 2018
The Future of Hearing Aids Is Already Here

By Dr. Catherine Jons –

Hearing aid wearers have an incredible amount of options and features available in their devices today. They have evolved far beyond what many thought was possible a decade or even a few years ago. No longer limited to those uncomfortable beige devices that beep and whistle uncontrollably, today’s hearing aids offer a new level of functionality, personalization, and connectivity. And, 2017 was a banner year in the advancement of hearing aid technology to improve how people hear – and enhance their quality of life.

Hearing loss continues to affect a growing number of people around the world, including a greater number of the younger generations. As these individuals want more from their hearing aids beyond simple sound amplification, the industry has kept up to meet this demand. The result is an advanced array of hearing aid solutions which provide more options to suit how people live, work, and play.

A solution to the own voice problem

For new hearing aid wearers, early acceptance of their hearing aids is key to long-term success. Yet, one of the main reasons a new hearing aid wearer might reject their devices is because they don’t like how their own voice sounds. It prevents people with hearing loss from benefiting from hearing aids because previously, the methods used to address this challenge were to increase the venting or adjust the gain to minimize the volume of the wearer’s own voice. Neither solutions were effective, because they resulted in decreased audibility of not only the wearer’s own voice, but also all other external sounds which, in turn, reduced speech understanding. However, 2017 saw the introduction of the world’s first solution to the own voice problem without compromising audibility and speech understanding.

This functionality is made possible by advanced ear-to-ear binaural link and powerful scanning technology to identify the unique sound path of your own voice as it travels from your mouth to the to your hearing aids. With full-bandwidth audio exchange and dual processing, the hearing aids process your own voice independently from all other sounds – even other people’s voices. The result is a more natural hearing experience when you speak, no matter the level of noise in the surrounding environment. Such technology has already been proven to drive faster acceptance of new hearing aids among 75 percent of dissatisfied hearing aid wearers by eliminating the own voice problem.

More connectivity and personalization than ever

The rapid advancement of technology has enabled us to connect to our mobile and electronic devices like never before, and hearing aid wearers haven’t been left behind. Modern hearing aids can now pair with your smartphone, enabling you to stream music, phone calls, and TV directly into your hearing aids in stereo. Such connectivity prevents you from having to turn up the volume when enjoying these activities, ensuring you can hear well at a safe volume.

In addition to convenience, new hearing aid technology enables you to take your hearing health into your own hands – as with everything else today, there’s an app for that. By using a smartphone app, you can discreetly and safely adjust the volume or settings of your hearing aids at any time. Such an app will include a variety of support tools, including instructions on how your hearing aids work and answers to frequently asked questions. It can also guide you through various activities to further optimize your hearing aids’ performance. By rating how they function across a variety of tasks (such as dining at a restaurant or listening to music), you can let your hearing care professional (HCP) know how they’re working for you.

Hearing aid apps have also made interactions between patients and their HCPs more convenient and efficient. New apps enable you to connect directly with your HCP from your smartphone for a real-time consultation. Rather than having to schedule an appointment and travel to the office, your HCP can assess your hearing aids’ performance and make any necessary adjustments remotely. This is especially important for first-time hearing aid wearers. As the likelihood of rejection is highest during the first couple of weeks with hearing aids, real-time consultations with an HCP and remote fine-tuning capabilities can mitigate potential issues and ensure a successful experience from the start.

A modern approach to treating tinnitus

Tinnitus, the condition in which you hear a phantom ringing, humming, buzzing, or whistling, affects more than 50 million people in the United States. Hearing aids have long been used to treat the condition, as they can be programed to amplify other, more pleasant noises or play soothing sounds to distract from the annoying noises. However, these methods aren’t always enough.

Notch Therapy is a new development in tinnitus treatment to help those with tonal tinnitus, the most common form of the condition. Rather than adding tinnitus therapy signals, Notch Therapy provides a more unobtrusive approach. By identifying the frequency of your tinnitus, your HCP activates a notch within the hearing aids to match the exact pitch. The corresponding notch suppresses tinnitus at the neurological source, relegating the disruptive noises to the background and helping you hear the important sounds around you. With the tinnitus sounds no longer front and center, your brain learns to ignore the irritating sounds, helping to bring long-term relief.

Hearing aid technology evolves

The hearing aid industry has advanced considerably in recent years, with new features and accessories that transform how people hear and how they interact with their hearing aids and HCPs. From solving the own voice problem and introducing new levels of connectivity and personalization, to using technology to create a modern way to treat tinnitus, hearing aids have moved forward considerably in the past year. While it will be fascinating to see what innovations arise in 2018, it’s clear that the future of hearing aids is already here.

Dr. Catherine Jons is an Educational Specialist with Signia hearing aids. She is responsible for training customers and staff on existing and new developments in the areas of technology, products, and software. She has published peer-reviewed articles in the area of amplification. Catherine received her doctorate in Audiology from Central Michigan University. Previously, she worked at the University of Minnesota Medical Center as a clinical audiologist and coordinator of the Hearing-Aid Program for more than 20 years. She also worked clinically at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital where she concentrated on the area of amplification.

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The Future of Hearing Aids Is Already Here