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Hearing Health Q & A By Emily Steffel, Au.D., CCC-A


By Emily Steffel, Au.D., CCC-A

Q:    What is new in hearing aids lately?

A:    There are several new developments in hearing aids: rechargeability, “made for iPhone” technology, new noise-reduction strategies, and a new strategy for helping severe to profound hearing loss.

Rechargeabilty has evolved over the years and is available from both Phonak and Signia/Siemens. These receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) style hearing aids have a rechargeable battery cell fully enclosed in the hearing aid body. Instead of having to buy countless batteries, carry extra batteries at all times, and change tiny batteries in the middle of your daily life, patients will charge the hearing aids in the corresponding charger at night. While they sleep and recharge, so do the hearing aids. The battery cells inside are designed to last for years and are much more convenient than using disposable batteries. Although this rechargeability is currently only available in behind-the-ear (BTE) styles, hopefully it will extend someday to in-the-ear (ITE) styles as well

There are made-for-iPhone technologies as well as new strategies for noise reduction from both Oticon and Resound. Both companies allow patients with an iPhone 5 or newer to stream their phone calls directly to their hearing aids without an intermediary device worn around the neck which must be purchased separately. This is more convenient as well as more ascetically pleasing for many patients who dislike the idea of having to wear something or another something around their neck In order to use their phone “hands-free.”

Oticon and Resound also both utilize a different strategy for reducing background noise in places like restaurants, sporting events, and family get-togethers than hearing aid companies have traditionally used. Traditionally, the greater the level of background noise, the more strictly the hearing aid microphones focus on what signals are coming from directly in front and slightly to the sides of the patient, reducing in volume any sounds that come from behind and to the sides of the patient. This can sometimes lead to patients feeling like the hearing aids are quite soft in noisy situations. Resound utilizes a concept that uses one side in the traditional directional mode while the other ear is listening all around the patient. Oticon’s newest technology utilizes ultra-fast environmental sampling (listening to what is being heard in the environment of the patient many times a second) and using that to selectively reduce the noise while retaining the speech. Both of these concepts are designed to help patients feel less cut-off from the world around them in noisy environments while still allowing them to understand speech.

Lastly, Oticon has out a new superpower behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid that is designed to help patients with severe to profound hearing loss hear better, more comfortably, and more accurately. Traditionally, hearing aids for patients with this degree of loss were designed exactly like hearing aids for patients with more moderate degrees of loss, just louder. Research has shown that patients with severe to profound hearing losses hear differently that those with less loss, not just in the volume aspect. Therefore, this new hearing aid utilizes strategies that help to preserve the nuances of the “envelope” of speech (ups and downs of speech in the big picture) as well as the traditional preservation of the finer details of speech to better mimic how these patients best hear.

If any of these new technologies interest you and you want more details, set up an appointment to talk to your friendly local audiologist. If you have any questions about this article or your hearing health, please feel free to contact Audiology Consultants at 563-355-7712 or visit audiologyconsultants.com.