Recent Advances in Hearing Aid Technology

From the ear trumpet, transistor type, to the modern digital versions, rapidly evolving advancements in audiology technology has made it possible for manufacturers of hearing aids to develop more intuitive and functional devices. The precursor of the modern hearing aid was designed to merely amplify or minimize sound and nothing else. Throughout the years, modifications have been added, allowing customization of the device based on the usage and lifestyle requirements of the consumer.

Today, even hearing aids are digitally connected to smartphones. Some of the smart hearing aids available in the market today have a function redirecting calls and messages via Bluetooth to the device. Some smartphones even have built-in applications allowing the consumer or their audiologist to preset their device settings based on their environment. For example, if they are heading to a cafe or restaurant with a lot of background noise, the phone application allows the user to activate the setting as needed.

While sound quality and variability was an issue in the basic devices of old, modern hearing aids promise to deliver the most natural quality of sound to the consumer. A milestone in hearing aid technology was recently achieved with the first internet-connected device introduced in the market. During the recent 2017 Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the prototype for an internet connected hearing aid developed by Oticon was conferred with the innovation award. Called the Oticon Opn, the device is incorporated with the capability to manage sound reception in challenging environments where multiple sources and sound variation exist. The new technology also allows smooth pairing and connection with other digital devices.

Modern hearing aids are also less cumbersome and more ergonomically designed. Before, the devices have batteries which require constant changing, and less-than-user friendly audio controls. Today, consumers can choose from devices which are small enough to allow discreet placement. There are also newer devices being developed that operate via wireless technology and run without batteries. These hearing aids are recharged by connecting to a charging source or station, just like a modern smartphone.

Older hearing aid devices cannot be used for certain types of activities due to its electronic nature. Some of the newer devices are flexible, less obtrusive, and designed for tougher conditions. Without batteries, the consumer can wear these hearing aids while swimming or engaged in sports activities.

While modern hearing aid technology is not cheap, there are developments that allow consumers to self-manage and procure their devices online. These platforms offer users the opportunity to define their audio needs, customize and select, and then order the device. Some of these platforms connect the consumer with an audiologist or licensed hearing professional online for consultation, without leaving the house. There are also online applications which allow the consumer to take hearing tests, read tips, and provide feedback on the device through social media. Other applications allow the consumer to tweak their sound and music presets to optimize their experience.

Modern hearing aids is a big step in facilitating access to assistive technology. These new devices help improve the quality of life of those with hearing loss.