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JAN

Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hearing Problem Fix

Forty-something female holds ears hoping to fix hearing problem.

Hearing problems have long created difficult and embarrassing situations for those with hearing loss. It's no surprise that people with hearing loss withdraw from social situations, but the latest hearing technologies seeks to change that in a big way. Today's hearing aids aren't just offering amplification or a host of new features, they have targeted the thus far unattainable, as hearing aid manufacturer Widex has dubbed it, "personally tailored sound."

Personally Tailored Sound

All of our senses are personal, but hearing is personal and complex. Hearing technology therefore has a near impossible job, because it has to provide comfort, increase sound, decrease background noise and a hundred other small details that make your hearing unique to you. Think about it. What is loud to one person may not be loud enough for another. As Professor Ray Meddis—who is developing customizing software for hearing aids, points out on Gizmag, “Our work has shown that, when it comes to hearing impairment, no two people are alike. That's why two people with apparently similar hearing thresholds often react very differently to their hearing aids."

Today's hearing aid technology has taken this personalized hearing into account. Not only are they programmable for a user's preference, but --and this is a little creepy, they listen and learn. According to the Hearing Aid Insider, "Input sounds are analyzed and classified before they get amplified. Sounds that don’t meet the manufacturer’s criteria to be classified as speech don’t get amplified as much as those sounds that do meet the speech criteria classification." As amazing as that bit of technology is, companies like Phonak and Widex have gone a step further in creating the ultimate in personal hearing experience. One of Widex's latest hearing aids, Inteo, has pushed the limits of hearing technology. According to Widex, "The core of Inteo is the Dynamic Integrator, which operates with the single goal: to create personally tailored sound that satisfies the individual user’s needs in any specific listening situation." Inteo accomplishes this personally tailored experience by being programmed with the user's preferences and needs at the first session and growing and adapting around those preferences. But the drive to "create personally tailored sound" doesn't stop there.

Sudden Sound, Wind, and Background Noise

In the past the basic job of a hearing aid was to amplify sound. That can be annoying on a windy day or startling when someone unexpectedly crashes a cymbal near you. So this basic function of hearing aids has adapted over the years in order to avoid past hearing aid user complaints of sudden spike in noise like from a wailing child. But today's hearing aids, as Phonak says, "... can do more than amplify a sound: A tiny processor works inside the hearing aid to optimize the sounds you just heard." In fact, the hearing aid can digest and amplify sounds that a person wants to hear and needs to hear, like speech, and can tell them apart from those sound that should be diminished, like the crashing sound of dishes being dropped. That's a pretty big step forward in normalizing sound for someone with hearing loss, but the future looks even better.

The Future of Hearing Aids

The hearing aid technology of today has come a long way, which explains why the majority of hearing aid users are happy with their hearing aids, but that doesn't mean hearing aid specialists and manufacturers are going to stop improving their product. In fact the future of hearing aids looks even more promising. According to the Better Hearing Institute, "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 having to think about it, to hearing aids that stand up to everything from a round of golf to laps in the pool, hearing aid technology will only get better and better."

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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