The right hearing aid can make all the difference in the life of someone who is hard of hearing. But what makes the right hearing aid? Nowadays, that answer is getting more and more specific to your lifestyle and your needs thanks to a range of improving technological features, some of which can range from the basic and common kind to the specific and advanced. Here, we’re going to break down some of the features and what it can mean in everyday life.
This should be the first thing you look for within a hearing aid. Of course, for first time users or those switching to a new kind of hearing aid for the first time will experience some sense of discomfort for a while. The feeling of the object on or in your ear can be new and strange, much like wearing a pair of glasses for the first time. Moreover, getting used to hearing noise much more clearly and picking up lower noises takes some getting used to. If you find it difficult acclimating to it after a week or you experience any pain in wearing it, something might have gone wrong with the fitting and it could be worth a trip to the audiologist to see what the problem is.
One of the more common features in modern hearing aids is the directional microphone. With natural hearing, it’s our brains that tend to filter and focus noise based on where the source comes from, but with some hearing aids, there’s no such filter. You receive noise from all sources evenly. Directionality is about using several microphones within the aid to measure how much time it takes for the noise to reach you. It balances the amplification based on noises that are directly ahead of you, i.e. where your attention is and helps lower the level of background noise at the same time.
There is a wide range of different kinds of hearing aids, ranging from larger devices that fit behind or over the ear, and devices that can be partially or entirely inside the ear. Thanks to advances in micromachining like the work of Laser Light Technologies, medical devices like hearing aids can be manufactured to much smaller scales. Some people prefer discretion in their choice and don’t want an obvious device, but their availability to every person with hearing loss isn’t guaranteed. Which devices are available to you might depend on the severity of the hearing loss you experience, or how much hand coordination and fine motor skills you have. Make sure you have an understanding of which devices will fit you best by consulting your audiologist before making any independent hearing aid purchases.
This is an example of an extremely specific feature that you’re not going to be able to find in all, or even most, hearing aids. Waterproof hearing aids like the Siemens Aquaris are one instance of how you can find devices that cater specifically to your lifestyle and, in particular, the hobbies you enjoy. A lot of people wearing hearing aids may assume that some of the things they enjoyed in life beforehand may not be readily available to them, but the truth is that there are hearing aids designed for all kinds of purposes. Whether you like swimming, working out, or going to concerts, there are features that can help you live the lifestyle you want.
While waterproofing might be a niche interest in the hearing aid world, everyone has to be concerned with feedback. Microphones of all kind suffer the risk of feedback. Hearing aids contain microphones and speakers. Feedback occurs when sound received is amplified continuously, thanks to the microphone picking up the sound from your own speaker. While most hearing aids nowadays come with some kind of feedback reduction features, it’s something you should be specifically keeping an eye out for. Feedback cancellation systems are the feature that most manufacturers will refer to it by. Feedback can be managed by changing the earmold to change how the microphone and speaker are positioned from one another, as well.
Beyond feedback, a hearing aid without any kind of noise reduction can result in quite a messy experience, where you receive all kinds of noise equally, including unwanted noise. The aforementioned directionality is one kind of noise control and reduction. As Hearing Reviews shows, however, you can also get more sophisticated levels of reduction, such as wind noise reduction, digital noise reduction, and impulse noise reduction. In this instance, impulse noise refers to sudden, and often unpleasant or unwanted loud noises like pops and bangs, categorized for their sudden and surprising nature. If you work in environments where occasional very loud noises can be a concern, then impulse noise reduction could make it more bearable for you. Similarly, if you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, you should consider wind noise reduction.
Hearing loss is a very multifaceted experience, so it should be no surprise that hearing aids have to be just as particular. Individuals find that the tones and pitches they can hear, and how well they can hear them, can be specific to them and can even change depending on context. Beyond cancelling out the noises you don’t want to hear, hearing aids can better amplify the noises that you are less able to pick up naturally. Picking devices with multiple hearing aid channels can allow you to customize your experience and make on-the-fly adjustments that help you hear better in any context. You can save your favorite channel profiles so that you can always return to a “default” and don’t have to worry about losing your preferred settings.
One of the issues of multi-channel hearing devices, however, is that they are not the most accessible of features. For those who are older or perhaps have trouble with their fine motor skills, tweaking a device in your ear might not be the easiest solution. However, hearing aids are getting more connected than ever and, as Listenclear shows, smartphone and digital device apps are just one of the things they can connect to. There is a whole range of different apps that can interface with your hearing aid, but one of the most useful is the ability to configure the features and select between channels with a digital interface.
Many modern hearing aids come with Bluetooth connectivity, but this does more than open you up to a world of apps that help you improve your experience. It can also connect your hearing directly with a wide range of digital devices. PCs, Macs, TVs, phones, gaming consoles. Hearing aids are being developed to interface directly with a range of devices. This can help you connect them directly to the device’s speaker so that rather than having to configure the sound transmitted through the air, you get it directly from your device, automatically configured to match your hearing preferences. Sites like Phonak can show you how to connect your hearing aids to the devices of your choice, so you don’t have to worry about it being too technically challenging.
From cancelling feedback to reducing background noise and amplifying specific kinds through channel switching, a lot of hearing aid manufacturers are developing the technology that can take the hassle out of the hands of you, the owner. Self-learning processes streamline your experience, by requiring you to the directly configure the device left and taking care of it automatically. Binaural processing is just one instance of this, where the device automatically learns to discern between background and foreground noise to create a more seamless experience of your environment. Of course, some people like to have manual control over these settings, too, and devices with self-learning still allow for your intervention if you’re not pleased with the settings they decide on.
Tinnitus is a very common concern amongst those who have hearing loss and a serious one, too. It can drastically impact emotional health, the ability to sleep, and much more. If you have tinnitus, then you need to look at the devices like those showcased at Everyday Hearing that can help provide some therapy for it. There is a range of approaches to tinnitus therapy, from producing low-level noise that can help cancel it out, such as white noise, or by helping you habituate to it. It can take some time to figure out which approach works best for you, so it’s a good idea to work closely with your audiologist before making any purchasing decisions of your own.
If you’re not happy with your hearing aid, or you’re looking to select your first one, bear in mind the different options available to you. Your experience with a hearing aid can be customized and personalized to degrees that simply weren’t possible even a decade ago and knowing the features you want can ensure that you get the aid that fits your lifestyle above all else.