Advancements in Hearing Technology and Hearing Loss Detection
About 48 million Americans experience some level of hearing loss, ranging from mild to severe. Thankfully, technological interventions in the field of audiology, such as hearing aids and implants, are available to help people with hearing loss. Even better, hearing technology is becoming increasingly more advanced and sophisticated, further improving the quality of life of millions. In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the incredible advancements that are helping people around the globe hear better and experience the world around them.
Hearing aid apps
It seems like everything has an app these days—and hearing aids are no different. Many of today’s advanced hearing aids come with smartphone apps that enable you to connect your hearing aid with your smart devices via Bluetooth. “There’s so much customization at the hands of the user so they can really customize their listening experience based on the environment they’re in,” said Cassandra Garver, a licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist.
While modern hearing aids can read sounds and automatically adjust to the noise levels in a room, hearing aid apps grant you the flexibility to easily and discreetly adjust settings such as volume, treble, and bass from your smartphone.
These sophisticated apps also let you create and save personalized hearing programs. For example, if you always find it difficult to hear in a particular restaurant, you can adjust your hearing aid levels to your liking and then save them. This allows you to quickly and easily apply the same settings when you’re in that restaurant in the future.
Most hearing aid apps even allow you to stream music and make phone calls through your hearing aid!
Another notable advancement in hearing aid technology is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). In simple terms, AI is the ability of a machine to stimulate human intelligence, performing a set of tasks that require intelligent decisions by following predetermined rules. In the context of a hearing aid, AI algorithms allow the hearing aid to analyze the wearer’s environment and the sounds coming in, identify sounds and specific people, and automatically adjust the audio based on the wearer’s level of hearing loss and preselected preferences.
Essentially, this technology allows hearing aids to mimic how your brain would hear sound if your hearing wasn’t impaired. “It can process sounds truer to their actual state, so things sound more natural—so it’s not that robotic artificial sounding hearing aid,” said Garver.
Like some new smartwatches, some advanced hearing aids can detect if the wearer has fallen. Upon detection, it wirelessly connects to the user’s smartphone to call 911 or text preselected contacts. In order for this feature to work, however, the hearing aid must remain near the smartphone it’s paired with.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, some hearing aids can even track the wearer’s movement and heart rate and transmit that information to their smartphone.
Traditionally, hearing aids are fitted by taking a custom mold of the interior of a person’s ears. This process can be messy, uncomfortable, and time-consuming. 3D scanning is a new technological advancement that takes the place of traditional ear casts. It involves using a special handheld device that utilizes a camera and several lasers to take precise measurements inside the patient’s ear. 3D models of the patient’s ears are then electronically sent to a hearing aid manufacturer who uses them to make hearing aids that are precisely tailored to the patient’s ears. This technology is highly beneficial, as it requires less time, discomfort, and messiness, as well as provides more accuracy.
In addition to functionality, today’s hearing aids are also much more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. “We want to improve our hearing, but we don’t want them to be such a burden that they’re uncomfortable and don’t want to wear them,” said Garver.
Thankfully, the days of bulky, unsightly hearing aids are gone. Technological advances mean that hearing aids have become smaller and less intrusive. So much so that some are hardly even noticeable.
Embracing new technology
Garver acknowledges that new technology can seem intimidating at first, but encourages her patients to embrace new technology, as she’s seen it greatly enhance people’s experiences and quality of life.