As a device that amplified speech and featured settings to improve speech comprehension, such as volume and frequency, the world's first-ever hearing aid was actually the telephone!
Thankfully, hearing aids have come a long way since then. Discreet, and packed with some of the latest features, modern hearing instruments are more advanced than ever. Here are some of the latest features to look out for when you're shopping for your next device.
Direct-connectivity Bluetooth technology
Bluetooth has been a feature in hearing aids for some time, but you always needed a separate device to connect your hearing aid to your smartphone.
Hearing aids featuring direct Bluetooth communication have revolutionized the industry in recent years. These 'Made For iPhone' and 'Made For Any Phone' hearing aids allow you to connect your smartphones directly via Bluetooth to your hearing aids, thereby freeing you from carrying a separate device around. You can connect your phone to your hearing aids through Bluetooth, then chat to friends on the phone and stream your favorite shows without ever having to remove your hearing aids.
Remote programming (telehealth)
As we handle many changes to our everyday lives due to this pandemic, many hearing providers have limited in-person services. They are choosing to rely more heavily on remote care. As such, it's now possible for many hearing aid users to have their hearing aids reprogrammed from the comfort of their homes.
A pair of compatible hearing aids and a paired smartphone are all you need. Your remote programming is usually done through a smartphone app developed by your hearing aid manufacturer. Depending on what hearing aids you have, it can be a live session, or it can merely be settings uploaded to your hearing aid.
It takes time to get used to a new pair of hearing aids, and you might need to go through a few rounds of programming before you are fully satisfied. This is particularly true of first-time hearing aid wearers. Without the inconvenience of scheduling and driving to in-office appointments repeatedly, remote hearing aid programming helps you get the sound you need safely and conveniently.
Hearing aids are no stranger to rechargeable battery technology, but the technology was never quite there. That all changed in the past few years with the arrival of lithium-ion technology.
You're probably used to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries on your smartphone or laptop, and now the same convenient power option is available for many of today's hearing aids. Simply place your hearing aids on the provided charger at night, and in the morning, they'll be ready for whatever the day holds - no need to change batteries every few days, and no fiddling around with battery compartment covers.
Plus, the average life of a lithium-ion battery is around the same life span as your hearing aids, so you don't have to worry about replacing the battery, ever.
With an entire day of power, hearing aid users can go the entire day with the reassurance that their device won't suddenly turn off. This is true even if they are engaged in power-hungry hearing aid activities such as Bluetooth streaming.
Features for tinnitus relief
According to the American Tinnitus Association, nearly 20 million Americans have chronic tinnitus (a persistent ringing in the ear), with two million of those cases being particularly severe and disabling. What's more, over 80% of tinnitus cases appear alongside a hearing loss.
With this connection between hearing loss and tinnitus, it's no wonder that most manufacturers of hearing aids have built features into their devices designed to manage tinnitus symptoms.
Hearing aids help tinnitus in two ways. First, they amplify other sounds that the patient needs to hear, thereby reducing tinnitus sounds. Many modern hearing aids also come with tinnitus masking features that play tones, white noise, music, or sounds of nature straight into the ear to help mask the tinnitus's sound.
Artificial intelligence has been revolutionizing the hearing experience for a few years now, and it will only get better. It has been used in recent years to make hearing aids more automated and user-friendly. Using algorithms and data from the actions of the wearer, artificial intelligence powers the following hearing aid features:
- Automated environmental settings: AI hearing aids detect the user's environment and automatically switch to the best sound settings.
- Improved speech recognition: AI hearing aids can separate the wearer's voice from external noise so that the individual can hear their voice more naturally and clearly.
- Health monitoring: AI hearing aids can track social interaction, physical activity, brain health, etc., using integrated motion sensors.
These recent advances in hearing technology will undoubtedly play a significant role in helping those with hearing loss adjust to the challenges associated with hearing loss, from hearing better in noisy conditions to receiving hearing treatment during a pandemic.