Hearing Aids: What's New - And Right for You
By Jennifer Gehlen, Educational Specialist at Siemens Hearing Instruments
After a certain age, we sometimes avoid invitations to what we anticipate will be noisy social gatherings. This isn’t because we’ve suddenly lost interest in our friends and family — rather, we’d like to avoid the frustration and embarrassment of not being able to hear and converse in these challenging situations.
One in 6 members of the “Baby Boomer” generation experiences hearing problems, yet only one out of four who would benefit from the advanced hearing solutions available takes advantage of the opportunity. If you’re someone who could really use some help hearing, but has hesitated to take the next step to treat your hearing loss, here are some technological advances that may convince you.
Great power — tiny packages.
Believe it or not, today’s digital technology holds more processing power than the computer that sent the first space shuttle into orbit, all packed into hearing aids that have become so tiny and discreet they are often unnoticeable — nothing like the clunky beige devices you might remember your grandparents wearing. There are options that sit completely behind your ear with clear tubes connecting to earpieces that are virtually impossible to see. Or there are custom-made instruments so tiny they are called “invisible-in-the-canal” — absolutely no one will know you’re wearing hearing aids unless you tell them.
Safe from the elements.
Water-resistant options mean you don’t have to worry if you wear them in the rain or tend to perspire. There is even a completely waterproof option on the market that allows you to swim underwater with your hearing aids in! Wind screening technology allows you to hear clearly with the car windows open while driving, golfing, or enjoying other outdoor activities.
Hear what you want to hear.
In fact, overall hearing aid technology has vastly improved over the past decade, particularly when it comes to hearing speech in noisy situations like crowded restaurants or cocktail parties. The use of directional microphones to pick up a voice coming from in front, behind, or to either side of the listener, combined with super-fast analysis and processing, allows some hearing aid wearers to hear even better than their counterparts with normal hearing in these difficult environments. Noise reduction technology keeps you hearing comfortably in noisy situations, reducing the fatigue that comes from straining to catch every word someone is saying over loud music or chatter.
Relief from ringing in the ear.
For those who suffer from tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear not due to any outside source) several hearing aids on the market include therapeutic features to reduce that aggravation. They provide relief by generating “white” or “pink” noise to counteract tinnitus, helping you to hear better while suppressing the distracting buzz.
No wires? No problem.
Did you know you can now stream music, telephone conversations, and soundtracks wirelessly into certain hearing aids through the use of Bluetooth®-compatible accessories? It is simple to pair these accessories with your smartphone, tablet, television, or other device and then sit back and enjoy clear sound without struggling to hear over background noise. Additionally, there are apps for hearing aids that allow you to change their settings —adjust their volume, select programs and audio sources right from your smartphone, so that all anyone else thinks is that you are sending a text message or checking email.
What you should do now.
Approximately 95 percent of people with hearing loss can regain their quality of life, live better and longer with the help of hearing aids (Better Hearing Institute, 2012). If you are ready to given the latest hearing aid technologya whirl, start with an evaluation by a qualified hearing care professional. It may take a little time to get used to wearing hearing aids, but once you do you’ll wonder why you waited so long to hear well again.
Dr. Gehlen is an Educational Specialist at Siemens Hearing Instruments. She provides training to customers and staff on Siemens technology, products and software via face-to-face meetings and virtual sessions. She holds an Au.D. from the University of Florida. At Siemens, she has previously held the roles of staff audiologist for manufacturing and support, and a field training consultant. She has practiced audiology and hearing aid fitting in a variety of clinical settings since 1993.