Hearing aid technology has come a long way

By Christine Boatwright • Published: January 17th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Can you hear me now? If you have a hearing problem, the sound of good news may be right around the corner. Those large, plug-like hearing aids are going out of style, and the sleeker next generation has reached the market.

The first analog hearing aids debuted in the 1970s. They have a volume-control wheel so you can adjust them to fit your environment. Unfortunately, they also highlight background noise and are difficult to fine-tune.

Today, digital hearing aids are more readily available and more affordable than ever before. Hearing aids come in different styles and sizes, but they contain the same parts to carry sound into your ear.

Hearing loss affects one in four people over the age of 65. The most common form is called sensorineural (SEN-so-ri-NEU-ral) hearing loss. This occurs when noise, illness, injury or infection damages either the auditory nerve or the hair cells that help transmit sound.

Audiologists can input conventional, less-expensive hearing aids with more than one program, so the person can adjust the settings according to his or her environment.

Digital or programmable hearing aids are more precise and can be personalized to the person’s preferences. A microphone and computer chip provide the best aid for those with hearing loss.

Some hearing aids can be linked with Bluetooth technology, which allows the hearing aid to link with a cell phone. This cuts out background noise and allows the person with the hearing aid to communicate more clearly.

Some devices come with a remote control that regulates the volume and can turn on directional microphones or increase noise reduction.

With new technology, those whistling hearing aids may be a thing of the past, and people with hearing loss can experience improved quality of life. So, can you hear me now? Good.