If you have been doing your research on hearing aids you should know by now the majority of hearing aids sold today are digital. Just as any other electronic device, digital technology has brought innovation and improvements to hearing aids on many different levels.
One improvement reported by consumers is the utility of their hearing aids - the number of places where the wearer reports their hearing aids have improved their ability to hear. And thank goodness for that reported improvement, isn't that is the point of wearing hearing aids – to hear better and improve your ability to hearing in many different environments?
In a recent report from the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), a non-profit organization, the utility of hearing aids is on the rise and consequently so is perceived benefit. According to BHI's report the utility of hearing aids is directly related to perceived benefit; thus the more number of listening environments a hearing aid wearer feels their hearing has been improved the more benefit they feel they have received. And any consumer knows benefit translates into satisfaction.
So exactly why has the utility of hearing aids improved recently? Well, many reasons with the core being a dramatic improvement in digital signal processing abilities of hearing aids – the ability to manipulate sound through digital technology. In addition today's hearing aids boast a variety of features which allow them to work harder and more efficiently in once challenging environments.
Bottom line, hearing aids deliver more features in more places than ever before.
And if you think hearing aids are big, clunky and complicated, it's time to rethink your hearing loss. Today, as shown in BHI's research, hearing aids deliver more than ever before based on the perceptions of those who actually use these tools in their daily lives.
Hearing Aids: Improvements in size and styles
The hearing aid market is highly competitive with numerous manufacturers all competing for that new consumer business. And like all things electronic, hearing aid prices have dropped relative to inflation while hearing aid manufacturers have added more and more features to improve the usefulness of hearing aids in more ways and in more places than ever before.
One example is the variety of hearing aids available to new hearing aid buyers. Today, you can pick from small, low-profile completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids that present a low profile option to attractive behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that are discrete or totally tricked out to make a fashion statement. With a new focus in design and style, hearing aid manufacturers have helped allow BTE hearing aids (specifically open fit BTE hearing aids) to become the fastest selling hearing aid style.
|Agil hearing aids in range of styles. Photo courtesy Oticon|
So why does size and style influence the utility of a hearing aid?
The benefit to having choice built in to your hearing loss solution is obvious. If you don't want the world to know you've experienced hearing loss you can go discrete with your solution. On the other hand, if you wear your hearing loss as a badge of honor, make a statement about the stigma associated with hearing loss. Choose something flashy to hang behind your ear – a pair of hearing aids that capture the flash that is you.
Today, you have choice, perhaps the biggest benefit of all the features found in modern hearing aids. And if you are less self conscience and comfortable with the cosmetics of your hearing aids you will wear them in more environments which will allow you to reap the benefits of them in more environments.
With the introduction of digital technology in recent years (the same tech used in your computer) hearing aids deliver a more natural, organic listening experience – hearing the way it used to be.
In the past, hearing aids compromised on sound quality. They had to. The technology just wasn't there to deliver full spectrum, broad range sound that was natural, like your own ears used to deliver. Today's contemporary hearing aids are designed to simulate natural sound with a wider frequency response – higher highs and lower lows – along with other features that actually produce a more natural listening experience.
And that translates into one, big benefit for hearing aid wearers. For example, take a look at the Agil product line from hearing aid manufacturer Oticon. Oticon's Agil employs Spatial Sound in this high-tech line of hearing aids – a feature that mimics the way the brain interprets speech.
This level of technology is light years ahead of where we were just a few short years ago. Spatial Sound, built into all Agil hearing aids, coupled with one of Oticon's binaural noise management systems, delivers full range, all natural sound to the ears in such a way that the brain interprets these sound signals in a more natural way. In other words, your brain "hears" sound like it did back in the day.
Other hearing quality benefits you'll find in today's digital marvels? Well, directional microphones that target the speaker in front of you while lowering background noise behind you have improved hearing in background noise. So, if you're in a loud restaurant, you hear your companion, not a conversation three booths over. Another digital marvel is noise reduction – the ability of the hearing aid to read the incoming signals and label them speech or noise. If noise, no amplification is applied this improves listening comfort and allows the hearing aid wearer to focus on what they want to hear, speech.
Wireless Connectivity and Hearing Aids
Because we live in a wireless world, hearing aids have adapted to this tech. The benefits?
- You don't have to remove hearing aids to use a cell phone or other audio devices.
- You stay connected to the communications grid even when you're out of the office.
- Your hearing aids actually become wireless receivers, connecting you with those who need contact.
Hearing aids are now capable of sending signals back and forth between right and left ear so the two can process sound together and allow your brain to receive sound like it once did naturally.
|ConnectLine allows hands free cell phone use through hearing aids. Photo courtesy Oticon.|
An example is the ConnectLine by Oticon. The ConnectLine allows hearing aid wearers to listen to audio devices through both of their hearing aids at the same time. With a simple push of a button, a hearing aid wearer can connect to the TV, landline phone, cell phone or MP3 player and listen to these devices directly through their hearing aids wirelessly.
The ability to stay connected to devices seamlessly improves the overall utility of yrou hearing aids and will no doubt improve the quality of your life. The stress and frustration felt when trying to listen to your cell phone or MP3 player will be a feeling of the past.
Before you buy any hearing aid, consider the benefits of wireless connectivity in your life. If you're plugged in, then wireless is the only way to go. Discuss this feature with your hearing professional so they are sure to recommend a product that has wireless capabilities.
Hearing Aid Automation
Think of hearing aid automation as the difference between a stick shift and an automatic transmission in your car.
You can go fully automated so you don't have to think about optimal settings. Your hearing aids read the environment and shift into the appropriate tuning configuration for the conditions. Volume is adjusted up or down automatically. Microphone directionality kicks in when it senses noise behind you. Tuned settings for large, open spaces shift automatically to "small room" settings and you don't have to do a thing.
However, some people want more control over what goes down their ears – the stick shifters who want to control volume with a discrete swipe of the outer casing, up or down. No big deal. No removing the hearing aid and gathering a crowd. It's all done automatically, or if you prefer, with a simple push of a button you can control things like volume or can even switch listening programs so you hear what needs to be heard.
- Automated feedback suppression prevents piercing feedback (whistling) when you're on the phone or put on a hat.
- A signal telling you the battery is near exhaustion.
- Ability to read a full range of listening environments, from outside on the golf course to a quiet little, romantic dinner at your favorite bistro. Automation makes it possible to move from one listening environment to another without having to stop and worry about changing your settings.
- The machinery adapts to all listening environments. That's a big benefit. A HUGE benefit when you consider that you and your hearing aids are connected 14-16 hours a day.
- The less you have to fuss, the happier you're going to be. Unless you drive a stick. Then, you can take manual control and manage sound on the fly without making a big deal about it.
Built in automation is probably one of the most influential aspects in digital technology that has influenced the increase in hearing aid utility. When a hearing aid wearer can move from one listening environment to another without fussing and making manual changes to their hearing aids, benefit is perceived even before they notice they are hearing better.
Automation also ensures the hearing aids are in the proper listening environment. It is not uncommon for hearing aid wearers to forget which program is for which environment and often find they are listening with the wrong settings. This can lead to frustration and the perception their hearing aids aren't working. When hearing aids switch automatically, the hearing aid wearer can be assured the hearing aid has switched to the setting that is most appropriate and will ultimately allow them to listen at the optimal settings and hear better (benefit perceived).
Discover the Benefits of Hearing Aids
Thanks to today's digital technology, hearing aids are smarter and are helping millions of persons with hearing loss hear better each and every day. The data doesn't lie – perceived benefit is at an all time high among hearing aid wearers. Sure you still have an unhappy wearer here and there but overall hearing aid technology has improved and wearers feel they are hearing better in more environments.
To discover the benefits of hearing aids, visit a hearing professional to have a full comprehensive hearing evaluation – the first step to better hearing.