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Advancements in hearing aid technology you should consider today

A breakdown of some exciting innovations in hearing technology, from Dr. Audra Branham, Audiologist
2 Hearing Innovations

In the last couple of years great strides have been taken in hearing aid technology. To learn more, we spoke to Dr. Audra Branham, Audiologist at Hearing Innovations. Here she breaks down some of the biggest advancements and shares a glimpse of what else we can expect in the near future.

Smaller in size

The devices themselves tend to be smaller, to start. “These aren’t your grandmother’s hearing aids,” says the doctor. “The days of big, bulky, noisy hearing aids are long gone. As technology has improved, we see smaller and smaller computer chips, allowing for a smaller fit if desired.”

Artificial Intelligence

Hearing aids are no longer just about hearing health, they contribute to whole body health as well.

An important development in this space has been in artificial intelligence. With a free app, patients can track their steps and their activity throughout the day, to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Reminders can be set simply by talking out loud. For example, you could say, “Remind me at 3:00 pm to pick up the car” or “Remind me to take my medication at 7 p.m.”

If a patient falls, the hearing aids can even be set up to alert a family member or emergency services, if needed. This technology has also significantly improved the sound quality and hearing experience for patients.

Did you know that some hearing aids can even translate languages through your hearing aids? When speaking with someone of another language, as the other person speaks your hearing aids translate what is picked up and sends the speech to your hearing aids in your own language. When speaking, your speech is translated on your phone’s screen for the other party to read.

Rechargeable batteries

The days of being out and about and hearing the dreaded low-battery warning—only to realize you don’t have any batteries with you—are no more. These newer devices charge in their case in a just a couple of hours. Patients can plug their hearing aids in at night and charge them while they sleep, and no longer have to carry replacement batteries around with them during the day.

Bluetooth compatibility

Bluetooth compatibility is a game-changer. It allows patients to have phone calls, videos and music from Bluetooth devices stream directly through their hearing aids. If you lose them, you can find them through a free app on your phone. If you’re sick or unable to make it into the office in person, you can even have remote programming sessions done with your audiologist through the free app.

Hearing care

“In my 11 years of experience, I have found that even as technology has significantly improved over the years, the cost of hearing aids has remained steady,” says Dr. Branham.

Another great benefit for patients who are purchasing hearing aids to treat hearing loss is that many audiologists are starting to offer different hearing care packages to choose from. Patients can decide, along with their audiologist, how much service they would like and need. This helps ensure they receive the hearing they need without having to face undue financial constraints.

Standard life expectancy

Manufacturers say that your hearing aids will last about five years, but in reality, the average in the U.S. is closer to seven. “It doesn’t mean that in seven years if the hearing aids die that you have to buy new ones,” says Dr. Branham. “Hearing aids can always be repaired, you have that option.”

The doctor usually tells her patients that if you were doing well before the hearing aid needed repair, there’s no reason you have to get new ones; we can get them repaired. It’s only when a patient reports that they weren’t finding success with their hearing aids anymore or they want to take advantage of some of the new technology that’s available now that they purchase a new set. Many are excited to try versions that have Bluetooth capability or rechargeable batteries—technologies that simply weren’t around when they purchased their original hearing aids.

Costs

Hearing aids are a great investment for patients who need them, and Dr. Branham is always looking for ways to help patients with the costs associated with better hearing treatments.

Ten years ago, economy hearing aids were only slightly better than inexpensive amplifiers. Today the technology has advanced so significantly (and so quickly) that many features you would once find only in hearing aids considered to be premium have started trickling down to ones that use lower levels of technology. This has allowed many patients to get the hearing assistance they need at a lower cost.

“For me, this has been one of the greatest advancements in terms of being our patients’

advocates. We can find the best technology for their needs at a cost that fits their budgets,” she says.

What’s next

The audiologist has no doubt that hearing aid technology will continue to advance, but she believes that it is already in such an impressive state that waiting for something better to come along isn’t necessary anymore. There are already so many more options to choose from that we didn’t have years ago.

She is most excited about developments in lower-cost options for patients.

In the next few years, we may see over-the-counter hearing aid options, says the doctor, the equivalent of those “readers” glasses you can find at pharmacies. Patients will be able to buy them and program them on their own at home. Dr. Branham’s main concern, however, is that there will be many companies entering the market to make and sell hearing aids for a quick dollar. Patients could get inundated with a variety of ineffective options and those companies may disappear as quickly as they showed up, leaving them stranded.

Her clinic will be offering these OTC options at their offices when they’re available, once they’ve been able to test them and ensure that there’s a quality, safe device for patients to use. They’ll be ready to answer patients’ questions and help them get the most out of the product.

Hearing Innovations is celebrating 40 years in business and just received the 2021 Best of Youngstown Award for Audiology. To learn more, visit Hearing Innovations or call 330-726-8155.

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