Today’s hearing aids are not ear trumpets. They are digital devices, meaning they’re driven by a computer chip capable of more than a million instructions per second.
Old hearing aids amplified sounds — all sounds, even the ones in the background and the ones you heard just fine. But today’s hearing aids are programmed to match your unique hearing loss, providing amplification in the exact way you need it (turning up just the higher tones, for instance), while cutting down on distracting background noise.
David Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College in Michigan and author of “A Quiet World: Living with Hearing Loss,” got hearing aids in his 40s and wasn’t exactly impressed. Now 69, Myers said technological improvements in the past 10 years have changed his mind. “I now love the hearing instruments I once barely tolerated,” he told me.
Myers wears behind-the-ear hearing aids, which don’t block up the ear the way in-the-canal aids can. As a result, he says, the world no longer “sounds like your head is in a bucket.”
Myers has a variety of settings on his hearing aids to help him hear in different situations. One setting engages a directional microphone, which “prioritizes where I’m looking,” he said. “It amplifies sound from right in front of me and dampens sound from behind or to the side of me,” which helps in rooms with a lot of background noise, such as restaurants.
A noise-reduction setting, explained Meyers, helps “in a car or near an air conditioning system”; a reverberation-reduction setting is for use in rooms where there’s a lot of echoing sound,” such as large churches or gyms; and a default setting “allows the hearing instrument to choose what to do.”
Myers also has settings for a telecoil, which allows him to use his hearing aids in conjunction with assistive hearing loops installed in some public places.
Myers can change the volume on his hearing aid or move from setting to setting by pressing buttons on the aid itself or, in this era of wireless communication, by using a hand-held remote control, like a tiny television clicker.
Technophiles will have a great time with a device like Myers’s. But if you never learned how to set your VCR and all this makes your palms sweat, never fear. “Some people want the hearing aid to make all the decisions,” said Margaret McCabe, director of audiological services in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at the University of Maryland at College Park. “The aids are getting better at doing that.”
If you have any questions about hearing loss or the latest advanced hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing.