We’re living in an age of seemingly daily advances in medical technology. You can see it in today’s hearing aids, which bear little resemblance to the large, gray, squawking “bananas” worn by our grandparents.Every year, hearing aids get smaller and yet more powerful, thanks to advances in microelectronics and wireless technology.Here are just a few of the recent advances in hearing aid technology.
They’ve gotten smart.
Much like phones and other “smart” devices, hearing aids have gotten to the point where they can evaluate a listening situation their wearer is in (a restaurant), automatically detect they are talking to someone standing in front of them, and adjust their microphones to focus on that person’s speech while suppressing background noises (silverware clinking, music, chatter from other tables).
They have memories.
Hearing aids also capable of remembering any manual adjustments you make throughout the day and store that information for automatic implementation going forward.
They are adaptable.
They now have the ability to adapt to changing listening environments without manual adjustments. So you can drive to a concert, go inside and enjoy the show, then join friends for a nightcap at the local bar and hear everything you want in every situation without constantly adjusting your hearing devices.
They connect to any sound source.
Whether you’re watching television, streaming music or having a conversation on your cell phone, hearing aids can serve as wireless personal headsets. By using a streaming sound accessory or app, a flow of clear, uninterrupted sound can be directed right into your hearing aids from virtually any sound source. And in venues equipped hearing loops, hearing aids containing telecoils can be set to pick up sound tracks from films or a lecture delivered through a podium microphone directly.
They let you hear in the wind.
Wind noise has long been a source of aggravation for hearing aid wearers. But thanks to recent advances, binaurally-fit (one in each ear) hearing aids can recognize when wind noise is coming from your left or right side (as when you are driving a car with the window on your side open). The hearing aid on the windy side communicates with the hearing aid on the quiet side and automatically reroutes desired incoming sound to the quiet side hearing aid, so you can hear passenger conversations or the radio clearly.
While all of these are impressive advances in hearing aid technology, we’re eagerly looking forward to what comes next. There’s a lot of speculation out there, and a tremendous amount of R&D going on, so it’s hard to say exactly what we’ll experience and when. Here are a few exciting ideas we’ve heard are being discussed:
- Hearing aids will connect to wireless devices directly
- They will conduct music with enough accuracy and precision to meet professional musicians’ listening requirements
- They will communicate directly with “smart home” devices like smoke detectors, alarm systems, and emergency medical devices
- They will integrate with health and fitness trackers
- There will be versions available that are integrated into the frames of glasses for those with vision and hearing challenges
Questions as to whether all of these innovations will actually come to pass, and if so when they will become available, remain. What is clear is that we are living in a truly exciting time for hearing technology advancement!