High-tech help for hearing

What do cell phones, TV’s, and hearing aids have in common? They are all getting smaller and smarter with new advances every year. Gone are the days of oversized hearing aids. Say hello to small, sleek devices that are often virtually unnoticeable.

Not only have hearings aids taken a giant leap in appearance, but they have also made major progress on the inside as well. Think back at how different your cell phone is today compared to the cell phone in your pocket 10 years ago. Hearing aids have made the same progress into today’s wireless world of endless possibilities.

Here are five things I bet you didn’t know hearing aids could do:

1. Talk to each other

Various hearing aids are equipped with the ability to wirelessly communicate with each other (i.e., right and left ear). This enables hearing aids the ability to “talk to each other” to facilitate features that greatly improve speech understanding in the presence of background noise.

2. Stream music and other audio media

Bluetooth technology and other connective devices allow hearing aids to serve as wireless headphones that are able to connect to cell phones, tablets, televisions and other media sources.

3. Be manipulated via a cell phone

With the help of smartphone applications, various manufacturers have developed apps that allow hearing aid users the ability to manipulate various hearing aid features. Some features include the ability to control volume settings, change programs, stream audio from the phone and hear telephone conversations in both ears.

4. Be located via GPS technology

Though a small sleek design is desirable for cosmetic reasons, the tiny size of these new hearing aids can make misplacing these devices a challenge. Some hearing aids have the ability to be located via GPS technology by using a smartphone app. It can provide the GPS location of your hearing aids left behind at the gym. This technology also allows a user to locate the devices within their home. Similar to the child’s game of “hot and cold,” the cell phone app features a visible scale to let you know how close you are to the hearing aids.

5. Aid in reduction of tinnitus.

Affecting one in five people, tinnitus is the occurrence of ringing or buzzing in the ear in the absence of a stimulus. This is an extremely bothersome and common symptom of hearing loss.  Various hearing aids have features that help significantly reduce the notability of tinnitus. This can be achieved through masking, or use of white noise to cover up the tinnitus making less noticeable; and tinnitus retraining therapy, a method that utilizes a sound-generating source such as a white noise to help patients learn to reduce the perception of tinnitus.

Allyson M. Womack, Au.D., F-AAA is an audiologist at University Health System

Photo by bykst/pixabay