Best Assistive Listening Devices
Modern hearing aids are a marvel of miniaturization, packing an enormous number of advanced technologies into a tiny space. In fact, because of the limited space available to designers, hearing aids are an arena in which technologists push the boundaries of what’s possible. With miniaturization nearly complete, the focus now is more on how hearing aids can connect with a broader ecosystem of devices, thanks to the proliferation of wireless communication and other “wearable” technologies.
It should come as no surprise that hearing aids – once seen exclusively as medical devices – are now becoming more integrated with the broader world of technology. No longer just used enhance incoming audio signals, modern hearing aids help to improve standards of living for those who are hard of hearing in ways many could not have imagined a decade earlier.
Here are some of the ways that hearing aids work in tandem with modern technology to improve hearing and enjoyment.
Stream FM radio services
FM radio receivers have become miniaturized to the point where they can now fit inside a hearing aid. Although people who wear hearing aids could listen to the radio directly, manufacturers know that pumping sound directly to the processor (and then onto the speaker) is a far better method because it eliminates feedback. Real noises traveling through the air to the microphone receiver can be problematic.
Thanks to smartphone integration, setting up a hearing aid has never been easier. Friendly apps allow users to adjust all sorts of things on their hearing devices, including the level of amplification, the various channels (for better pitch), noise canceling and integration with other devices. Manufacturers post their companion apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Bluetooth integration allows hearing aids to double up as wireless, portable assistive listening devices, capable of playing any audio streamed to them. For people who love listening to music or audiobooks, this is a real bonus, allowing them to receive amplified sounds without having to rely on the onboard microphone. As with FM radio receivers, Bluetooth signals are fed directly to the processor, eliminating any potential feedback issues.
Smart home integration
Smart homes are becoming more popular, thanks to their ability to take some of the donkey work out of running a household. For people with hearing issues, new smart home features in combination with hearing aid technologies could help revolutionize their independence.
Sometimes, those with hearing loss can struggle to react to critical household noises, such as the doorbell, smoke alarm or the sound of the microwave beeping. But with smart devices, all these sounds can be routed wirelessly to a person’s hearing aid, allowing them to react just like anybody else. What’s more, other systems in the smart home can communicate with hearing aids too using verbal feedback, such as security systems and lighting, providing much greater functionality.
Traditionally, hearing aids struggled to cancel out extraneous noise and provide users with an amplified signal of the sounds that they wanted to hear – for instance, the person opposite them in a noisy coffee shop. But new technology is making this easier to achieve. Already available on smartphones, noise suppression technology has now come to the hearing aid market and can cancel out distracting sounds, allowing the wearer to focus on those that matter.
Just like regular audio consumers, those with hearing aids want to be able to concentrate on the particular sounds streamed to their devices. But up until now, it hasn’t been practical to implement noise canceling technology on these devices because of space constraints. Now, though, hearing aid makers are using technology from the professional audio market to make noise-canceling earbuds that block out incoming sounds from the environment. These earbuds are particularly useful for those who want to use their devices to stream audio content from Audible or Spotify.
All these new technologies will eventually bring improvements to the quality of life of people who live with hearing loss. They represent the next step in hearing aid evolution, providing ever-more affordable options for those who want a higher standard of living. If you’re interested in enjoying any of these new and exciting technologies, one of our audiologists at The Center for Audio can give you advice on which hearing aid to choose.
Hearing aids are no longer devices with the sole purpose of amplifying sounds – they are a true augmentation, allowing you to better connect with the digital world. To find out more about affordable hearing aids, contact us at (713) 255-0035 for our Houston clinic or (713) 800-5050 for Pearland.