Bay Area residents newly diagnosed with hearing loss are likely to have some misconceptions about hearing aids, especially if they don’t know anybody who wears one. These devices are no longer big and bulky like the ones from a generation ago, and in fact, advances in technology have led to significantly smaller instruments with a variety of features that help improve sound quality and simplify life for the millions of Americans who wear them.
If your Bay Area audiologist has recommended hearing aids, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how far they have come. Even long-time users are sure to be impressed by the recent technological breakthroughs.
Here are some of the most important breakthroughs in hearing aid technology.
For many decades, hearing aids operated on analog technology. But with the digital revolution of the late 90s and early 2000s, manufacturers made the switch and haven’t looked back since. Digital is a much better platform all around.
Digital programming works by converting sound waves into digital signals through the use of digitized sound processing. Digital hearing aids have a built-in computer chip that is able to differentiate whether a sound is speech or noise, and convert it into a clear signal, and amplify it so those with a hearing impairment are better able to communicate. Compared with analog devices, digital hearing aids offer improved sound quality, more programming options, a better fit, and a wide range of features that improve and enhance their versatility.
One of the most popular advances in technology is the rise of Bluetooth® and its prevalence in a number of electronic devices these days. This wireless communication platform enables devices to “communicate” with one another wirelessly; computers, smartphones, televisions, portable music players, and even hearing aids all take advantage of the technology. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids let users stream signals directly from other wireless devices, allowing them to watch TV, listen to music, and make telephone calls right through their hearing aids without disturbing others.
Within the past year or two, rechargeable technology has really become popular with hearing aid manufacturers. Users clamor for the convenience of rechargeable batteries and the long-term cost savings. Rechargeable batteries are also good for the environment, reducing the number of disposable batteries that end up in landfills. They will provide up to 24 hours of performance on a single charge, allowing you to wear your hearing aids all day long and not have to worry about the batteries dying.
Other Hearing Aid Technologies
Other popular features available thanks to advanced hearing aid technology include:
- Gain processing, which reduces background and microphone noise for a clear sound.
- Digital feedback reduction, which utilizes built-in cancellation systems to limit or get rid of feedback entirely.
- Digital noise reduction, which reduces background sounds for better speech recognition.
- Directional microphones, which focus on the sound source while decreasing background noise. The result is better localization of sounds for improved hearing.
- Automatic programming, which uses preset programs that automatically adjust to a variety of sound environments for an optimal listening experience.
You’re probably suitably convinced that hearing aids have come a long way! If you’re a Bay Area patient with hearing loss and have questions about hearing aids or need help in selecting them, contact your local audiologist today.