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Technological Advancements Of Hearing Aids In The Last 20 Years

Hearing aids

Most adults can remember the days when hearing aids were obvious, bulky earpieces that marked the wearer as hard of hearing and carried drawbacks that were a trade off for slightly better auditory function. Technological advancements for hearing aids have come a long way in the last 20 years, making them more precise, streamlined and beneficial for every level of hearing loss. Two decades of research and testing have led to adjustments in size, noise and sound performance, automatic function and even wireless connectivity.

Size – Gone are the beige earpieces that visually defined an individual with hearing loss. These days, users can choose from options that range from discrete, barely noticeable digital units to decorated or flashy options that make a statement. Either way, individuals have more control over how they choose to treat and present their hearing loss solutions.

Sound – 10 to 20 years ago, hearing aid users had no choice but to put up with noise and sound issues. For instance, the occlusion effect, or the feedback that the wearer gets from their own voice when they speak due to the sound generated through the bones of the ear, was an accepted byproduct of wearing a hearing aid. Around 2005, smaller and non-occluding open fit hearing aids were introduced. Not only did they eliminate the occlusion effect, they were more comfortable and opened up the market to individuals that were unable to tolerate the earlier models.

Digital Hearing Aids – In the mid 1990’s, digital hearing aids became commercially available. While the earliest models didn’t do very much to eliminate feedback, or whistling, they were the forerunners of the current options, which incorporate feedback cancellations systems and allow for much smaller units with more detailed functional features.

Noise Reduction – Amplifying what a hearing aid user wants to hear while eliminating the background noise has been a consistent goal for audiologists and the digital units available today are much better at noise reduction than their counterparts of a few decades ago. Directional microphones and current technology’s ability to read and label input as speech or noise allows the user to significantly improve their experience.

Automatic Function – 20 years ago, individual hearing aids required manual volume adjustment. Early linear models couldn’t discriminate between loud and soft sounds and presented each at the same level and users had to constantly adjust them. Compression hearing aid models were next while they required less manual control, they were still less than ideal. Today’s models not only automatically adjust volume, but can also determine the environment and classification of the input, such as music, and make adjustments as needed. This advancement is particularly valuable for users that are active, very young or have poor manual dexterity.

Wireless Connectivity – In a world where everything seems to run on wireless connectivity, hearing aids are no different. Users are now able to hear the television, radio or phone directly through their aid, without having to adjust the volume on the secondary device. They can even connect to computers and cell phones.

With the rapid advance of hearing aid technology in the last few decades, it is not unreasonable to expect great things from the upcoming years.

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