There was a time, not too long ago, when hearing aids were bulky, uncomfortable, in the way and, frankly, a pain in the ear. But in the arena of electronics, advances come quickly –, especially in a highly competitive market. Just look at computers. A few years back you couldn’t buy a laptop – any laptop – for under $1,000. Today, you can get a mini for $299. Competition in competitive markets drives down price while driving up quality and features.
This is especially true in the hearing aid market. Roughly 34 million folks admit to some degree of hearing loss, a number projected to reach 50 million by 2030 as the Baby Boomer bubble moves through the system according to a recent hearing loss study.
And hearing aid manufacturers are taking sure-shot aim at this growing market segment by developing hearing aids that are less of a hassle to wear, easier to maintain and present a low profile. Hearing aid wearers today want convenience, durability, and value in hearing aids and the major manufacturers of hearing aids have been more than happy to oblige.
Today’s quality hearing aids are convenient, totally invisible and all but maintenance free. Today’s hearing aids range from lightweight, powerful behind-the-ear (BTE) devices in a rainbow of colors, to receiver in the canal (RIC) hearing aid hybrids that provide an open ear sound, to completely-in-the-canal devices (CIC) that rest inside the ear canal, invisible to the world.
This gives consumers plenty of options. You can purchase a pair of styling chrome BTEs and show the world a little attitude and ear bling, or you can go completely invisible with a CIC hearing aid that’s totally discrete. You’ve got options.
The Headaches of Hearing Aids
Indeed, digital technology has led to hearing aids that are lighter, more powerful, and smaller and deliver a full range of sounds from the highest high notes to the deepest bass. Today’s hearing aids even “learn” your personal preferences in various listening environments and adapt automatically so you don’t even have to think about making manual adjustments.
Even so, study groups found that hearing aid users still had complaints – complaints about battery swaps, ear wax problems, the “stuffy head” syndrome and the care and feeding of hearing aids. One complaint, heard often, was that hearing aid wearers had to take extra precautions to protect their hearing aids.
In other words, even though the hearing aid experience has improved tremendously in a very short time, there were still headaches associated with wearing hearing aids, just as there are hassles wearing glasses and using other adaptive devices.
Well, that’s changed quickly in the hearing aid marketplace. Today, quality hearing aid manufacturers can pack a lot of features into a small package. But, technology is always moving forward and one hearing aid manufacturer, InSound Medical, has pushed the envelope with the introduction of a long-term wearing hearing aid – the Lyric.
The Lyric Hearing Aid: Long-Term Convenience
The Lyric is a small, bullet-shaped hearing aid that sits deep in the ear canal – just 4 millimeters from the eardrum itself, deeper than the traditional hearing aid, making it completely invisible. But also, because the Lyric sits so close to your natural hearing mechanism, it delivers a lot of sound in a small, comfortable casing.
However, what makes Lyric distinctive is that once inserted, the device stays in place for up to 120 days – as long as the battery provides the juice. This eliminates the need to remove hearing aids daily for routine maintenance like cleaning or weekly battery swaps. Once the Lyric is inserted, it stays put until it runs out of juice.
Then, it’s replaced by a qualified hearing professional, which consists of an ENT physician, audiologist or hearing aid dispenser who has completed the required training by InSound Medical. Now, how is this possible with all of that delicate circuitry exposed to showers, cloudbursts, and ear wax?
Lyric has created a stronger casing seal that prevents moisture from reaching Lyric’s inner workings, so with minimal protective precautions, Lyric wearers can shower, swim and manage a sudden downpour.
Take 62-year old, Kathy Burkhard of San Jose – an avid swimmer. “It’s my preferred exercise,” Ms. Burkhard explains. And she swims with her Lyric hearing aids in place by wearing special earplugs, a water-resistant headband, and a swimming cap to protect that precious hardware. But she still gets in her laps.
However, lucky for Kathy, she may soon be able to remove all the protective gear for her swimming. Lyric has begun testing a new improved casing and seal on 60 swimmers to see if improved sealants and stronger coatings can withstand the three-times-a-week swimmer.
The long-term, water-resistant Lyric is just one example of how hearing aid manufacturers are making hearing aids more useful, more comfortable and less of a hassle to wear. Whoever thought someday hearing aids would be swim-proof?
In the last few years, there have been many advancements and enhanced capabilities of hearing aids. Hearing aid manufacturers are developing hearing aids with increased utility, convenience and functionality.
Hearing Aid Technology Today
Standard features on quality devices include:
- Lightweight, wearing comfort
- Directional microphones for improved listening while in background noise
- Digital noise reduction and speech enhancement to improve comfort and clarity
- Open-ear fitting option for a more natural, organic listening experience
- Programmed automated adjustments to different listening environments to reduce the need for manual adjustments when the listening environment changes
- Longer battery life
- Increased durability
- Discrete to flashy profiles to meet all cosmetic desires
- Intelligent by learning the user’s preferences and adjusting to them to reduce the need for manual adjustments
Even entry-level hearing aids come with some or even all of these features to one degree or another. And just as some people prefer a standard shift car, the consumer can also opt for hearing aids that have discrete, manual adjustment features like scroll wheels and even swipe casings that turn the volume up or down with an unnoticed touch of the hearing aid casing thanks to the same touch-screen technology you find at the local ATM.
Wireless Hearing Aids and the Connectivity Factor
Many of today’s most advanced hearing aids deliver wireless capability, delivering a couple of cutting-edge features.
One type of wireless hearing aid sends and receives signals from its companion in the other ear, delivering what has been described as a totally natural listening experience as sounds reach each ear a split second apart. This allows the hearing aids are working together and in unison just as nature intended.
We live in a world of wireless connectivity – there are iPhones and iPods, Nanos, Blackberries and cell phones that do everything but cook supper. Hearing aid users have been somewhat cut off from this digital connectivity because of connection issues as well as feedback problems that some people experience when they talk on the cell.
Today many of the most advanced hearing aids on the market have wireless capability, converting cell phone and PDA signals from a discrete descrambler carried in purse or pocket and sending those digital signals directly to the wearer’s hearing aids.
This wireless tech enables hearing aid users to remain plugged into a world going wireless at breakneck speed. With hearing aids that accept wireless signals from a variety of sources, hearing aid users are totally connected without making a big deal about it. Receive a cell phone call walking down the sidewalk? Take it. Your wireless transmitter will take it from there, delivering the phone call via a wireless signal directly to your hearing aids. No big deal.
What Does The Future Hold for Hearing Aids?
We can expect to see ongoing improvements in the usefulness and functionality of hearing aids. More convenience built in, as well.
Improved sound quality, more natural hearing, heightened focus on design and even featherweight BTEs you’ll forget you’re wearing. In the future, we’ll see hearing aids that require less maintenance, hearing aids that can stand up to the vigorous routine we all maintain throughout each day.
The hearing aids of the future will be more convenient with fewer hassles.
And as connectivity technology changes, hearing aids will follow suit, enabling hearing aid users to stay connected when out of the office. More importantly, this connectivity will keep people working and contributing longer. People don’t want to retire. They want to make a difference. We’ll see an aging workforce, but one that still does the job thanks to improvements in hearing aid technology.
From packaging that makes battery swaps as simple as slide and click to hearing aids, from hearing aids that adapt to your listening preferences without you have to think about it, to hearing devices that help in every activity from laps in the pool to a round of golf, hearing aid technology will only get better and better.
So, should you wait for the next best thing? No. Today’s hearing aids deliver a quality listening experience. Simple, convenient, comfortable, adaptable and tuned to your particular hearing needs. And the longer you wait to get yourself a new pair of ears, the harder it is to treat your hearing impairment.
Act today and your hearing loss problems will be more easily solved using the latest in rugged durability, improved water-proofing and wireless connectivity that eliminates hassles while delivering wearing comfort for months at a time.
It’s not science fiction. This technology is here today. Life is too short NOT to hear. And with today’s high-tech hearing aids, you hear like you used to way back then. In hearing aid technology, improvements travel at the speed of sound. It is best to consult a Hearing Health Professional Or an audiologist for any kind of hearing loss.