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Exploring New Hearing Aid Technology

A new technology in the hearing aid industry is remote adjustment to the hearing aid. This reduces the number of trips back to the office to have fine tuning completed. An appointment is made with your audiologist to be seen remotely at your house or office. It has been an interesting option to implement during the last few months. Most of the people I have contacted remotely are happy about the process, as they can stay in the comfort of their home or go to the environment causing difficulty and have the hearing aids adjusted by their audiologist while they listen.  

Technologies Inside a Hearing Aid 

We now have reliable rechargeable hearing aids. The battery life is designed to last a full day, between 18 and 30 hours. The difference in the length of battery life is based on the type of technology used in that hearing aid. A person using the Bluetooth circuit while streaming the phone or other Bluetooth enabled devices will drain the battery more quickly than someone who rarely talks on the phone. The battery is charged every night and is designed to last about six years.  

Hearing aids are doing a better job of adjusting sound to make it more natural and realistic. The ability to change the way the hearing aid automatically modifies and enhances the sound in a place that has significant noise competition is now more successful. The two hearing aids are able to communicate with each other to focus on what you are looking at and diminish the input from other places in the room. This uses nearfield magnetic induction (NFMI) and requires little power drain. Battery life is an important consideration for anyone wearing hearing aids. The two aids will change volume and programs together automatically or with the touch of a button. This near-field signal is a safe and effective means of changing the settings and using the specialized features that require two hearing aids.  

Another circuit available in hearing aids is Bluetooth, which uses a band of radio frequencies around 2.4 GHz. Bluetooth technology works well to reduce the distance restriction of near-field technology but classic Bluetooth requires more energy than the NFMI. There are a few types of Bluetooth technologies on the market with different abilities. The type of Bluetooth in your car that streams your phone to the speakers requires significant power, which hearing aids are not able to accommodate (at this time). The Bluetooth circuit in a hearing aid is called Bluetooth low energy (BLE). The earlier versions of Bluetooth used in hearing aids needed a gateway device worn near or around the neck to send the signal to the hearing aids. Today, the gateway device is not needed! 

After pairing the hearing aids to the device that you want to hear, e.g. phone, computer, car phone system or TV, you are able to hear the sound in both ears. As you listen to the signal through the hearing aids, you hear the sound with the proper frequency enhancement for your particular hearing loss. To talk on a Bluetooth phone, you do not need to hold the phone in your hand, you simply touch a button on the hearing aid and magically, you hear the voice in both ears! The other person hears your voice through a microphone inside your hearing aid. The phone can be sitting up to 30 feet away from you before the signal becomes weak.  

The TV will need a transmitter to send the sound to your hearing aids. The device can be programmed to automatically connect to the TV sound when you walk into the room or you push a button on the hearing aid to hear the sound. This technology is nice because the other people in the room are able to set the volume where they want and the hearing aid user can listen at the volume he or she prefers 

Remote Microphone Use 

Some environments are so noisy that even normal hearing people have difficulty understanding speech. If a hearing aid wearer is in this type of environment, often a remote microphone helps increase understanding of speech. The tiny hearing aid with its two microphone openings is just not able to make a voice louder that is six or more feet away from you. The remote microphone can be placed near the person you want to hear and it streams the sound back to the hearing aids.  

As with any electronic device, change/improvement is a given. Don’t give up on hearing better, try out the new technology and decide if it improves your quality of life. QCBN  

By Karon Lynn, Au.D.  


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