Can hearing aids mimic an individual’s natural hearing? Today’s advances have make it possible for digital aids to do that and more. Hearing aid innovations have reached a level of sophistication that has attracted global attention. But more important than all of the hoopla, is the benefits these devices have on the life of you, the hearing aid user. They allow you to hear better in many different situations, during various activities and can be programmed to fit your lifestyle and needs. Let’s take a look at some of today’s hearing aid advancements and features.
Hearing aid advancements
Digital processing and algorithms. Digital hearing aids use a step-by-step procedure called an algorithm to analyze and categorize sounds. These sophisticated algorithms isolate speech sounds, code them and cleanse them before processing and delivering the sounds to your ears. And here’s the incredible part, hearing technology does all of this instantly. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. Today’s hearing aids are lightweight little computers that you wear in or on your ears. In microseconds, hearing aids analyze and process a whole world of sounds then deliver them to your ears with spot-on accuracy.
Signal detection and microphones. Sound is everywhere and can come at you from a lot of different directions. That’s why today’s hearing aids use high-level microphones to detect where noise is coming from. But you don’t always want to process every little sound in your environment, so hearing aids can also be focused on narrow or wide areas depending on what you want to hear. This means if you’re in a restaurant, hearing aids can zoom in on an area directly in front of you. This allows you to pay attention to the person you’re with and not the other tables around you. Hearing aid microphones can also be aimed to hear sounds from the back and front. Allowing you to hear the person in the front seat and your kids in the back. You can decide, depending on the situation, where you want your hearing aids to focus. Even cooler, some advanced hearing aids learn your preferences and switch them on when faced with specific listening environments. So you never have to adjust your hearing aids for specific situations.
Feedback control software. If you’ve ever heard the whistle from a microphone when someone was onstage at a concert or business convention, you know what feedback is. It’s a loud. This high-pitched whistling sound used to be a real concern for hearing aid users. Today’s advanced feedback controls allows for this to happen less and less. A skilled hearing professional can even eliminate the possibility of feedback by learning how and where an individual will use the hearing aid and programming it accordingly. This is just another example of how hearing technologies can be specifically tailored for the individual.
The artistry of earmolds. A hearing aid earmold probably doesn’t seem like something too complicated or artistic, but actually a lot goes into designing them! Not only have earmolds undergone years of refinement to make them more comfortable and provide a better fit, the earmold itself has been designed to provide greater sound, be lighter weight and accommodate a longer lasting battery. What’s more a skillful hearing care professional can design earmolds to limit feedback, give greater power or make the hearing aid nearly invisible.
Sophisticated fitting software. You probably know that the software you put into your computer is really important for how it runs. The same is true of hearing aids. And this software isn’t just important for how hearing aids work in your everyday life, but how they are fit and programmed before you leave your hearing health provider’s office. Software for fitting and programming hearing aids have become more nuanced and exact, with questions that allow your hearing health provider to find what suits you best. That’s a benefit for you. It means that hearing aids are more responsive to your individual needs, preferences and circumstances. Making the technologies as unique to a person as their fingertips.
Chip size. There was a time, when you would’ve needed a whole room full of computers to accomplish what one little hearing aid chip can do today. The invention of smaller chips has allowed hearing aids to become sophisticated listening computers. They are constantly analyzing and assessing the sound environment around you, while processing and categorizing these different noises. These tiny super chips make it possible to process your hearing environment in microseconds, so that clear and rich sounds reach your ears in real time.
Hearing aid features
Depending on your personal preference, you can choose from a wide variety of hearing aid features, including:
Bluetooth compatible hearing aids allow you to connect wirelessly to mp3 players, televisions, cell phones and landline phones. The sound is delivered wirelessly to the hearing aid—just link the devices you want to connect to your hearing aid. With the click of a button, you can answer and talk on the telephone hands-free, watch TV or listen to your favorite music.
Waterproof resistant hearing aids are great for those who spend time exercising or outdoors. A water resistant hearing aid is protected from perspiration, humidity and splashes of water while delivering clear sound quality.
FM compatible hearing aids have a receiver which allows listeners to overcome a variety of challenging listening environments including background noise and distance from a person.
Directional microphones may make it easier to hear in noisy environments by reducing background noise from the back and side directions and allowing you to focus on who is speaking.
Noise reduction works in combination with directional microphones to reduce unwanted environmental sounds. Advanced technology has made it possible to track and reduce multiple noises from different directions.
Impulse noise reduction allows the hearing aid to “soften” sudden loud sounds.
Multiple channels can be compared to the sliders on a stereo equalizer, the number of channels/sliders determines how much the sound can be fine-tuned to suit you. When your hearing aid offers many channels, a hearing care professional will be able to adjust each frequency that is too loud while still allowing you to hear the sounds you want to focus on.
Telephone/telecoil switch (“T” setting) filters out background noise while on the phone. Individuals can also use the “T” setting with the hearing loops available in many public places to listen to plays, concerts, meetings and more.
Multiple memories are settings you can set for different environments, including for quiet and loud environments and for talking on the phone.
Binaural (ear to ear) processing is when two pairs of hearing aids communicate wireless with one another (so the user can tell where sounds are coming from). This allows hearing aids in both ears to receive information faster, providing more natural sound with less listening effort (available in Oticon’s Opn™).
Wind noise reduction reduces the unwanted sound of wind rushing past the hearing aid microphone.
Remote controls allow you to adjust the volume or switch between settings in the hearing aid.
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