Let’s Hear it for technology!

Let’s Hear it for technology!

It wasn’t that long ago, that when someone came to our office for a check up, I would listen to their hearing aid through a plastic tube to try and ascertain how the instrument was performing.  

If a patient had an aversion to the sound that they were obtaining from the device, I would have them try and describe the sound they were experiencing so that I could make acoustic adjustments.   I would then take that information and try to transform it into a natural sound by turning a combination of 3  little screws on the hearing instrument. Those were basically the only tools we had:  A listening tube, and a mini screwdriver to adjust the potentiometers on the machine. This was around  the time when pay phones were still ubiquitous.  

I still use objective feedback from patients, and listening tubes are still a method for obtaining quick diagnostics. But today we have sophisticated tools like probe tubes, and HIT boxes to ascertain exactly what a hearing aid is doing.  Instead of a screwdriver, we adjust hearing instruments with complex computer programs. These are huge enhancements to my field, akin to comparing a stethoscope to an electrocardiogram.

Our patients seem to agree that we are heading in the right direction.  In those not so distant days, hearing aids had a return rate in excess of 20%. Currently that figure is in the single digits and falling. Hearing instruments these days are more comfortable, more discreet, and have better dynamic range than I could have imagined just a decade ago.

But wait, there’s more!  Today these little machines have connectivity with all of our other modern appliances. TVs, telephones, and iPads broadcast directly into your ears.

Imagine:  As you drive to a meeting at an unfamiliar location in Minneapolis, your hearing instruments give you turn by turn directions to the destination.  While in that meeting, a discreet voice reminds you to wrap things up because you have another appointment , and you have to leave in 15 minutes. On your way to that next meeting, this same familiar voice advises you that UPS delivered a package to your home.  This isn’t a scene from a science fiction movie. This happened to me last Thursday! 

Your cell phone can act as a remote microphone connected directly to your hearing aids. A feature one of our patients was able to utilize recently as an improvised baby monitor.  As if that is not high-tech enough, it is now common to be able to connect your hearing instruments to the internet. This means that hearing aids can discreetly notify you of anything from the final Vikings score, to someone ringing your doorbell. 

What is on the horizon?  The processors in hearing instruments are already advanced enough to utilize artificial intelligence, and machine learning to maximize the acoustic response to the environment. It is just a matter of creating the algorithms.   If recent patent applications, and crowd sourced funding are any indicator, biometric measurements like heart rate, and fall detection, are in the not too distant future. The people who study human/machine interface feel that verbal interfaces are more comfortable than visual ones. It stands to reason that ear level devices are here to stay, and that hearing aids will play a dramatic leading role.

At Hearswell in Isanti, we constantly strive to stay on top of the latest developments in hearing aids and assistive listening devices. Give us a call at (763) 444-4051, or visit our website: hearswell.com

INFO@HEARSWELL.COM * (763)444-4051* 33 Main St. W., Isanti, MN