What's new in hearing aid technology for 2016?


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Recently, we heard someone refer to himself as a hearing aid “fanboy.” At first it sounded strange, but then we decided “why not?” Hearing aids are quite impressive. They’re basically super minicomputers, weighing 2 grams or less, that impersonate a series of complex and delicate body parts. Not only do they provide the obvious benefit of improving speech comprehension for those with a hearing loss, they have been shown to benefit mood and health, and more recently to also prevent mental decline in people with hearing loss. Whoa. That’s some futuristic tech.

So if you’ve been on the fence about investing in hearing technologies or have been waiting to upgrade, then 2016 might be your year. Below are a few of the latest hearing aid technologies from established manufacturers.

Oticon’s Sensei SP, Dynamo, and BTE Plus Power—All three of these powerful hearing aids are made for severe to profound hearing losses. They use Oticon’s Inium Sense, a sound processing platform designed to provide signals that are easier for the brain to decode. The big news in hearing aids these days is all about how the brain needs sound to stay active and healthy. Oticon has gone all in focusing their technology on how the brain hears sound–“We hear with our brain. Not our ears.” They’ve actually trademarked the phrase BrainHearing™ technology. Oticon’s focus reminds consumers that hearing healthcare is an essential part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Plus BrainHearing™ just sounds cool. Let’s break these hearing aids down.

The Sensei SP—A pediatric hearing aid focused on helping kids understand speech. It does this with its Speech Guard E which preserves, “the important details of speech.” It’s a really powerful hearing aid with a peak output of 139 dB. It has a feedback shield that stops whistling, an automatic noise damper, wireless connectivity, and is pretty rugged with a hypoallergenic nano-shield, and an LED light to let parents know the hearing aid is working.

Dynamo—This super power hearing aid is remarkably discreet. Like the Sensei SP it uses Speech Guard E which preserves speech and Speech Rescue which can deliver higher frequency sounds at a lower frequency. Though there’s some debate on the benefits of turning higher frequency sounds into lower frequency, this hearing aid also amplifies higher frequency sounds and that allows sound stimulation at the higher level too. Dynamo uses Inium Sense feedback shield that offers better feedback management—a plus with all the higher output hearing aids. These hearing aids also provide comprehensive support for tinnitus sufferers and stress-free wireless connectivity to today’s advanced technology through ConnectLine.

BTE Plus Power—A tiny powerhouse, this BTE has a 96% user approval rating. That’s pretty impressive. It also has incredibly quick processing power, captures even soft speech sounds, and provides a customized fit. Along with the other two new Oticon power hearing aids, it uses Inium Sense feedback shield and BrainHearing™ technology.

Sonic’s Cheer—Designed to offer affordable wireless functionality to a greater majority of people, Sonic’s Cheer can accommodate mild to profound hearing loss. Cheer is based on Sonic’s Speech Variable Processing platform—which focuses on creating natural sounds and promoting clearer speech. The Cheer line offers a lot of custom options, and various models to accommodate different hearing losses, and several accessories that enhance connectivity.

Cheer’s focus on understanding speech includes not just speech in noise, which is pretty essential, but clarifying consonants like F, S, T, and Z for high frequency hearing losses, and preserving soft and loud sounds that help differentiate certain spoken words. They’re also offering wireless capability at a good price point, so you can connect your phone and other devices. Cheer hearing aids require user manipulation, but the manufacturer says they have “delightfully intuitive” program buttons to make things easier. Note: Not all models come with wireless capability.

Phonak’s Virto V—Phonak’s Virto V for mild to severe hearing loss is based on its popular Venture platform—groundbreaking tech that combines greater processing power with less battery usage. One of Virto V’s big claims is its ability to continually and seamlessly compensate for changes in the listening environment. They call this feature the AutoSense OS.

According to the manufacturer, most hearing aids switch modes only when environmental markers like noise, wind, and speech are present. But the Virto V doesn’t hang back waiting for these specific environmental changes. Instead it’s constantly analyzing acoustics, creating a unique blend from seven programs and over 200 settings to compensate for countless active soundscapes. That’s pretty cool. Additionally these hearing aids work in tandem (binaural), have wireless functionality, tinnitus relief, protective nanotechnology coating, and comprehensive personalization—it’s measured and created specifically for your ears.

Widex’s Unique— With a marketing campaign geared toward the adventurer, Unique really is unique. The hearing aids’ ability to adapt to any listening environment has been honed through Widex’s own Sound Class Library.  This sound library is basically a recording of every kind of listening environment a person might reasonably encounter. Widex uses these recorded sounds to train their hearing aids to recognize and adjust to varying environments. They’ve also designed their hearing aids to work in more extreme wind settings. Widex’s Wind Noise Attenuation System allows for hearing aids to be used comfortably when it’s windy. Their attractive marketing has a person on a sailboat, but they are just as well suited for walking around on a windy day or when you create your own wind, like when you’re jogging.

Unique’s Sound Class Technology is designed to help a person hear what they want to hear while diminishing distracting or unwanted noises. It seems to be working, because a recent survey showed 100% of users were satisfied or very satisfied with the improvement in the hearing aids. This could also be due to advanced features like the Audibility extender, an option that delivers higher frequency sounds to the user in a lower frequency register. This option can be programed to be used in only some listening environments, creating ample opportunities to still engage the brain with high frequency sounds.

In addition to the pretty intense tech inside the Unique hearing aids, Widex has developed COM-DEX to be paired with the hearing aids. The communication device allows users to discreetly stream music and cell phone calls directly into their hearing aids. It also allows them to control their hearing aid via their cell phone.

Beltone’s Ally—Labeling their product line advanced and simple—sort of a hearing aids for dummies—Beltone has set out to give users exactly what they want, functionality without the stress. This class of hearing aids has a broad reach and can accommodate 90% of hearing losses. It’s designed with a few key features like Sound Cleanser to reduce background noise, Speech Spotter to zero in on speech, Whistle Stop to reduce annoying feedback, and tinnitus relief with Tinnitus Breaker Pro. Basically Ally gives users a way to hear better without the hoopla. It’s not without any flash though. Direct Phone Link 2 allows your phone to control your hearing aids remotely. In addition, Beltone has its companion Direct Line series. These accessories and products enhance connectivity and streaming.  In compliment to its interior technology, Ally’s exterior is coated in nanotechnology, Ally’s HPF80 NanoBlock™. This coating helps keep out water, wax, dust, and debris.

So that’s a wrap on the latest hearing aid technology for 2016. YourHearing loves user feedback and learning more about these exciting technologies—we consider ourselves fans too—so don’t be shy, please let us know about your experience with any of these new technologies!

Ready to find the hearing aid that’s right for you? You’ll need to schedule a screening and discuss what features best suit your lifestyle with a qualified hearing care professional. We can help, give us a call at 888.902.9310 now, or find a clinic near you.



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