Technology That Can Help Millions With Hearing Loss
Modern technology allows us to treat and manage hearing loss in ways that were never possible before. Hearing aids are the most obvious example, but personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs) can also have a valuable role to play, as do cochlear implants. It means that many people with hearing loss will still be able to experience audible sound.
In the case of the most modern devices, recent advancements range from everything from improved microphones and batteries to the incorporation of microprocessors and Bluetooth. Smaller, cheaper and simpler to use devices are more common. Advances have also made it easier for people to self-fit hearing aids instead of being reliant on professional assistance.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a partial or complete inability to perceive sounds, either in one or both ears. Sometimes it is present at birth and sometimes it develops later in life, but there are over a billion people around the world impacted to a greater or lesser extent. Causes are varied and can include genetic factors, birth complications, infections, disease, toxins, trauma, exposure to noise (such as heavy machinery or loud music) and cochlear hair cell loss linked to aging.
At its most basic, a hearing aid is a piece of technology that helps people with hearing loss hear better. In the past, they took the form of ear trumpets; today, they tend to be small electronic devices that sits in or behind the ear. An example might be the Heariq 4 App-Controlled Hearing Aid.
There are many different types of hearing aid depending on the degree and cause of your hearing loss. It is also dependent on the physical shape and condition of your ear, as well as your lifestyle. For example, if you are active, you probably want one that is small and extra secure. Your hearing aid also needs to be able to adapt to different levels of noise, from background conversations in a restaurant to loud music at a concert.
Two of the most common kinds of hearing aid are receiver-in-canal (RIC) and behind-the-ear (BTE), which refers to the device’s placement in or around the ear. BTE hearing aids are some of the most common types. Traditionally, they are larger and fairly powerful, but more recent designs have become smaller and less conspicuous. They are relatively easy to use and keep clean and have space for longer-lasting batteries. However, their sound quality is not always the best.
RIC hearing aids are a more recent development. They are similar to BTE in design, with part of the device sitting behind the ear, but the receiver is placed in the ear instead, allowing it to be less conspicuous to passers-by and more comfortable for you. These hearing aids are particularly good at detecting the high-pitched sounds that are often the first to disappear with hearing loss, and they offer a sharp, clean sound without distortion. They are fairly easy to damage, however.
Personal sound amplification devices like the Bhearing PSAP: Personal Sound Amplification are not the same as hearing aids but are worn in the ear and serve a similar purpose. As the name suggests, they can be used to amplify sound or make your surroundings louder, but they are often used by people who are not deaf or hard of hearing.
Situations where a person with ordinary levels of hearing might choose to amplify sound include everything from watching television from the other side of the room to going out bird watching. People who have experienced hearing loss do use them as well because they tend to be cheaper and simpler to use than hearing aids. Moreover, because they are not considered medical devices, they are easier to fit without professional guidance.
Whether or not a technology is suitable for you will depend on a range of different factors, and you will need to consult with a professional, but with such a wide range of devices available, it is likely that there will be at least one that can mitigate the effects of your hearing loss if that is what you want.