Disability Advice

Reviews and advice for disabled people by disabled people.

New technology to support hearing aid users

Hearing graphic

People who are losing their hearing worry about the thought of having to wear a hearing aid. Many of these people still remember the older styles of NHS hearing aids which were large, whistled a lot and were always beige.

Times have moved on and in the last few years there have been many technological advances in hearing aid technology. The processors which power the hearing aids have not only become more powerful but they are much smaller than they once were. This means that the smaller styles of hearing aids, such as receiver in the ear, or full and half shell styles, can help those with more severe hearing losses.

Hearing aids are also available in a wider range of colours than ever before, allowing the user more choice about whether to hide their hearing aid or show it off as an accessory.

Because modern hearing aids are so powerful, they can incorporate more channels. Channels are used to detect and process sounds in all the hearing frequencies. The more channels the hearing aid has, the better it’s ability to process the sound. They can be programmed to process the sound in the hearing frequencies that the person has lost and bring it within their hearing range. Many people lose the ability to hear higher frequency sounds first, so these will be lowered, so they are easier to hear.

They can also include more programmes and listening settings, giving the user more choice over their hearing experience. Most modern hearing aids include a feedback suppression program. This is to reduce the annoying whistling noise when you hug someone or touch the aid accidentally. Other programmes can reduce the sound of background noise in noisy environments and make speech sounds clearer, reduce the sound of the wind when outdoors and change the direction of the microphones. This allows the wearer to focus their listening range on what is directly in front of them or widen the focus to listen the whole room.

Depending on the style of your hearing aid, more options may be available. Telephone listening settings automatically increase the volume on the side that you are using the phone on. The other side will automatically lower its volume to reduce distractions and background noise whilst you are talking.

For those who have sensitive hearing along with their hearing loss there is a noise suppression program which reduces the noise of sudden loud sounds such as plates clattering or someone sneezing loudly next to you.

Some programmes can also assess your environment and adjust their programmes accordingly. If you move from a quiet environment to a noisy one, the program will reduce the volume to a comfortable level without reducing the clarity of sound. It will also turn the volume up when you move back to a quiet environment so that you can still hear well. These settings are easy to change and adjust using the remote control, so you can choose to be in full control or let the hearing aids work out the best settings for you.

These small and discrete hearing aids are also powerful enough to incorporate wireless technology. If you wear two hearing aids they will be able to communicate with each other and synchronise their programs and volume. This means that if you change the setting on one hearing aid, the other will change automatically.  Small remote controls are also available allowing you to alter your hearing aid settings without touching them or drawing attention to the fact you are wearing them. The remote control may also let you check on your battery levels.

More recently hearing aids are equipped with Bluetooth technology which allows the user to interact with other wireless devices such as their smart phone or their computer.  The phone clip pairs easily with your smart phone allowing you to make mobile phone calls. The sound is streamed directly to your hearing aids and you can change the volume to make things clearer. There are many different types of Bluetooth phone streamers available from larger ones which are worn on a cord around your neck to ones so small they simply clip discretely to your clothing.

Streamers are also available which work with your computer or television, sending the sound directly to your hearing aids. They allow you to change the volume to a comfortable setting for you, without making it too loud for others in the room. They also allow you to take part in skype calls and webinars on your computer. You can easily change the hearing aids from streaming sound to their normal hearing program to listen to others in the room.

A miniature microphone can be used to stream the voice of someone speaking straight to your hearing aids. You can clip it to the clothing of someone speaking when you are in a noisy environment or even a lecture, to allow you to hear clearly using your t setting. You can also clip it to a child’s clothing so that you can listen and interact with them whilst they are playing.

The most recent developments in hearing aid technology include a made for iPhone hearing aid. This hearing aid was created in collaboration with Apple and can stream sound directly from a person’s iPhone, iPod or iPad without the need for additional accessories. You can take part in face time chats and make hands free calls without using a separate streaming device. You can use your iPhone as a microphone to pick up someone’s speech in noisy environments.  It can also turn your iPhone into a remote control with the use of a special app. This allows you to change the settings and programs from an iPhone.

With this ability to stream sound from smart phones, computers and televisions, modern hearing aids help those with hearing loss to interact and stay in touch just as easily as those without any hearing loss. With so many programmes and listening options available, hearing aids can be tailored to suit you and your lifestyle.

About the Author:  Paul Harrison has been in the hearing aid industry for over 15 years working at both manufacturer level and retailer level.  He now operates a UK online hearing aid business www.yourhearing.co.uk which offers all the major hearing aid manufacturer hearing aids.

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