Hearing aid technology has made huge advancements. The hearing aids that you would have purchased five years ago can’t compare to the new ones on the market today. Today's technology is faster, more efficient and more customizable than ever before.
It can be challenging to navigate all the different hearing aid features. This article can guide you when it is time to compare options and decide what is right for you.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a tiny device that houses an entire sound processing system. It has:
What does the amplifier do?
The amplifier is a tiny programmable computer chip. It takes the sound information from the microphone. It then adds amplification, removes background noise, and sends it to the receiver.
When you choose a technology, you are deciding whether you want a basic or advanced chip. The amplifier is what determines the different features that can be in your hearing aid.
Basic, advanced, or premium?
After you choose a style, you'll need to choose a hearing aid level. The levels are premium, advanced and basic.
The technology level determines the features you get. You should weigh the features you need against your budget. The price of premium level hearing aids are going to be higher than advanced or basic.
All hearing aids are going to be an improvement over no hearing aids. If a basic model is what is in your budget, don't worry: You will still notice a significant improvement.
Basic hearing aids have limitations, particularly in crowds and group conversations.
Below are eight key features that come in modern hearing aids. Decide with your hearing professional which technology level is right for you.
1. Rechargeable hearing aids
Rechargeable hearing aids have been one of the most exciting advancements in technology. They are available on all technology levels.
Rechargeable hearing aids remove the need for standard hearing aid batteries. You will no longer need to handle very small batteries. Instead, place your hearing aids in a provided charger overnight while you sleep.
2. Bluetooth technology and hearing aid apps
Hearing aids in all technology levels come equipped with Bluetooth technology.
Bluetooth technology makes using assistive listening devices easier. It also allows smartphone users to connect directly to their hearing aids. This allows you to take calls or stream music.
3. Fitness trackers and fall detection
Some modern premium hearing aids include fitness trackers and fall detection. Starkey’s evolvAI or Phonak’s Audéo Fit are some examples. These devices come with a heart sensor or a gyroscope that pairs to an app on your phone.
These trackers can be set up to track your health statistics. They can even alert a family member if you've fallen, which can help keep you safe.
4. Feedback management
If you have an older hearing aid, you may be familiar with the screeching sound of feedback. This happens when the receiver falls out of the ear canal and is too close to the microphone.
Modern hearing aids have a feedback canceller that reduces feedback. This can prevent the moment when you give a loved one a hug and your hearing aid squeals in their ear!
Premium level hearing aids have a more advanced feedback canceller. This can be more effective for those with persistent feedback.
5. Tinnitus masking
Tinnitus is a condition in which a person will hear a ring or buzz in their ear when no outside sound is present. Tinnitus can range from mild to very severe.
Hearing aids often have a feature called "tinnitus masking." The hearing aids create a sound to disguise, or mask, the sound of the tinnitus, providing you with relief. This sound is customizable to your needs.
6. Background noise processing
The number one complaint that most people have with their hearing aids? They continue to have difficulty hearing when in background noise. Their hearing aids are great, but they struggle to hear in places like restaurants and crowds.
This is the greatest difference between basic, advanced, and premium technology. The more advanced the technology, the better the hearing aid performance.
To help reduce background noise, hearing devices will use:
7. Sound localization
Your brain can identify the location of a sound. This is because the sound will reach one ear slightly faster and louder than it reaches the other. This is called sound localization.
This difference in timing and volume is so tiny you could never notice it even if you paid attention.
Binaural processing, also called ear-to-ear communication, is a premium level technology. It mimics sound localization.
Modern hearing aids notice these sound differences between your two hearing aids. This gives your brain the cues it needs to know where a sound is coming from. This is particularly important when in a group conversation.
8. Artificial intelligence
Premium hearing aid technology sometimes comes with artificial intelligence (AI). Programmers train AI with millions of different sounds. This helps it learn what you want to hear and ignore what you don't.
Separating the sounds you don’t want to hear from the sounds you do is a big challenge for your brain. That is where artificial intelligence helps. Oticon’s Deep Neural Network and Widex’s Moment are among the best hearing aids in this area.
AI uses millions of sound samples so the hearing aid can learn different sounds. The hearing aid can then separate them, and send them to your brain in a clear signal.
Technology differs for people with severe to profound hearing loss. Hearing aids come in "power" or "superpower" levels for severe hearing loss. This provides added amplification.
Pediatric hearing aids are more durable and tamper-resistant to withstand typical children's activities. The features may look different. They may also appear in different technology levels based on the design of the hearing device.
Brief history of hearing aids
The World War II era produced many inventions. Some notable ones were the telephone and microphone. After, Miller Reese Hutchison invented the electronic hearing aid. It was battery powered, but a cord connected the headset to a large, heavy amplifier.
In 1920, Earl Hanson invented a more portable hearing solution. It was the vacuum tube hearing aid. It used a telephone transmitter to turn speech into electronic signals. The signals were then amplified into a receiver for the user to hear.
In 1948, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley invented the transistor hearing aid. This hearing aid was smaller and required less battery power. It also had less distortion and heat than the vacuum tube hearing aid.
The invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s drastically improved hearing aid technology. This has allowed us to enjoy the wireless digital hearing aids that are on the market today.
Ready to get help?
Modern hearing aids have made significant improvements over those of the past. More than ever, you can customize hearing aids to your lifestyle. This can improve your engagement in religious services, family gatherings, even outdoor activities.
Get started on the path to healthy hearing. Find a hearing healthcare professional near you today.