If you’re like many people in Portland, your image of hearing aids is probably somewhat antiquated. If you are picturing bulky, unsightly devices with poor sound quality, you’ll be surprised (and pleased) to learn that today’s hearing aid technology is vastly different from that of a generation ago. Modern hearing aids are smaller and utilize digital signal processing, microchips, advanced computerization and other cutting-edge technologies for enhanced sound quality. And they are so small, odds are few people will even realize you are wearing them. If you’re worried about any stigma associated with hearing aids, don’t fear: those days are long past!
Whether you’re a new hearing aid user or have been wearing them for years, chances are you’ll be surprised to learn all the improvements this advanced technology have made on the devices. It may be time to consider an upgrade, especially if your hearing aids are more than a few years old.
The most popular technology includes:
For decades, hearing aids were strictly analog. But the digital revolution has taken over many areas formerly devoted to analog technology, and hearing aids are no exception. Digital programming works by converting sound waves into digital signals using digitized sound processing. A built-in computer chip determines whether the signal is speech or noise and converts it into a clear, amplified signal. Digital programming offers many benefits including improved speech quality, advanced programming options, a better fit, and a multitude of features that work to improve and enhance functionality of the hearing aids.
You would be hard pressed to find somebody who has never heard of Bluetooth technology.® This wireless communication platform is prevalent and used in a wide range of electronic devices, including computers, smartphones, and MP3 players, to exchange data. In essence, Bluetooth allows devices to communicate with one another. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids let users stream signals from these and other electronic devices directly to their aids, improving their versatility and convenience. You can make phone calls, listen to music and watch television through your hearing aids, without disturbing other people around you.
One of the latest, and most welcome, breakthroughs in hearing aid technology is rechargeable batteries. Most of the major hearing aid manufacturers now offer rechargeable options or the ability to convert existing hearing aids into rechargeable ones, freeing users throughout Oregon and the Willamette Valley from the hassle of disposable batteries. Not only is this great for the environment; it saves you money in the long run. By utilizing lithium-ion batteries, you can get up to 24 hours of performance with a single charge, allowing you to wear your hearing aids all day long and not have to worry about having them run out of power during an especially inopportune moment. Many include disposable battery backups for an added measure of security.
Additional Hearing Aid Technologies
Other breakthroughs in hearing aid technology include the following:
- Gain processing, which reduces background and microphone noise for a clearer sound.
- Digital feedback reduction with built-in cancellation, which reduces or eliminates squelching and feedback.
- Digital noise reduction, which reduces background noises for better, more reliable speech recognition.
- Directional microphones, which provide better directionality by having one microphone focus on the sound source while the other decreases background noise.
- Automatic programming, which utilizes preset programs that automatically adapt to a range of different sound environments.
With all these advances in hearing aid technology, devices are better at providing clear sound than ever before. If you are experiencing hearing problems, have been diagnosed with hearing loss or are already a hearing aid user but looking to take advantage of some of the newest technology, talk to your Portland audiologist for information on the latest hearing aids.