Amit Sahni is an Audiologist I consulted recently, together with my wife because of our increasing deafness. We found him
Modern hearing aids features and benefits
Modern hearing aids are incredibly sophisticated to help you hear conversations, music, nature and laughter with comfort and clarity. And all in devices so small that nobody would ever know you are wearing a hearing aid.
Features of modern hearing aids
If a hearing tests indicates that have a sensorineural hearing loss, you will be rapt to know that modern hearing solutions are nothing like the large, noisy, clunky and whistling solutions you recall from days gone by!
The most basic function of a hearing aid is to amplify sound. However since the advent of digital technology in the late 1990’s, hearing aids have begun doing this in an increasingly sophisticated way.
As explained in the section on hearing loss, individuals have unique patterns of hearing loss. As sound enters the hearing aid, it is broken into multiple frequency bands – up to 64 different frequency bands in the most sophisticated solutions!
Each band is then amplified by the amount necessary to return the individuals hearing to normal levels at that band.
Historically, the whistling sound (feedback) that many hearing aid wearers encountered was both uncomfortable and embarrassing. This was caused when the hearing aids microphone, causing squealing or whistling picks up amplified sound.
As you would know, sound travels in waves. The digital hearing aid can now detect the frequency of and the wave shape that is causing the feedback and counteract it within fractions of a second. So, there will be no annoying and embarrassing whistling from your hearing aid.
Open fit acoustics
While hearing aid wearers used to experience a “talking in a barrel” sensation, open fit hearing aids sound far more natural as they do not obstruct the natural passage of sound through the ear canal. Instead they have very thin tubes that enter the ear canal and smaller cases that rest behind the ear, making them barely visible. The result is far more comfort and clarity for the hearing aid wearer of today.
Modern digital hearing aids can actually tell the difference between speech and background noise – such as traffic, air conditioners, or ambient noise from a crowded room. The hearing aid then amplifies the speech sounds and reduces the amplification of background noise and does this at each frequency band. This improves listening comfort for hearing aid wearers and their ability to understand speech in noisy environments.
Following conversations in noisy environments can be a tremendous struggle for people with hearing loss.
Traditional hearing aids
Logically, most conversations are with people who we are facing, while distracting background noise will come from the sides and behind us. A modern digital hearing aid can actually pinpoint the location of sounds. It does this by using multiple microphones and gauging the difference in time that it takes sounds to reach each microphone – even though the microphones are often only a few millimeters apart!
Greater amplification is then given to a “main” sound, like speech, coming from in front of the wearer while suppressing sounds coming from the sides and behind. Directional microphones can be extremely beneficial in difficult situations like restaurants and are the greatest factor in improving a wearer’s ability to follow conversations in noisy places.
A new approach
While directional microphones can be a huge plus when focusing on one person speaking in a noisy environment, they can have the limitation of leading the wearer to “miss” people talking when conversations are taking place in groups and from many directions, such as a dinner table when conversations are happening in many directions.
In 2016 a new hearing aid, Oticon Opn, was released that uses incredible processing power to overcome the limitation. It scans sound in every direction, distinguishing between sounds that you want to hear (such as music and speech) and the noise that would otherwise be distracting. Now because the wearer can now hear important sounds in 360O, they have a much more natural hearing experience.
Multiple and automatic programming
When listening to music, the user would prefer to turn off features that may misinterpret elements of the music as noise. When in a quiet room, a wearer will not need the benefit of directional microphones and noise reduction to the same extent they would in a crowd at the football.
Advanced hearing aids allow the user to change the settings by pressing a small button on the device or via a remote control, or smartphone application.
Automatic program selection
Ease of use is a very important feature of the world’s leading hearing solutions. The most advanced hearing aids constantly listen to the environment and adjust the hearing aids settings smoothly and automatically, without the wearer needing to touch or think about their hearing aids.
Connectivity to mobile devices and entertainment
Wearers are increasingly looking for solutions to improve their ability to use their hearing aids more effectively in partnership with their mobile phones, digital radio, plasma televisions, and personal stereos (i.e. iPods and MP3 players).
In response, manufacturers have developed streamers that connect wireless devices to the user’s hearing aid. The benefit is that this delivers improved performance in terms of speech intelligibility and sound quality as signals from the external devices are streamed directly into the hearing aid, without background noise and the need for the hearing aid to first process a sound signal.
Made for iPhone
Rather than requiring users to purchase and carry additional “streaming devices”, the world’s leading solutions have been specifically engineered to work with Apple technology such as iPhones, iPads and iPods. So users can listen to phone calls in perfect stereo sound. They can also stream music directly into their hearing aids in perfect clarity is already balanced for their individual pattern of hearing loss.