About 48 million Americans experience hearing loss ranging from mild, moderate, severe or profound. Research in the field of audiology has led to some pretty cool innovations to help patients with hearing loss, including hearing aids, implants, and other revolutionary devices.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss and results from damage to sensory cells in the inner ear. Amplification devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or assistive listening devices work with your remaining sense of hearing to boost sounds.
“The newest hearing aid devices are significantly better than they were even a few years ago,” Meghan Spriggs, AuD, CCC-A, audiologist and assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego Health Sciences, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Some of the features of today’s hearing aids include:
- Smaller, sleeker design
- Built-in rechargeable batteries
- Improved background noise management
- Improved microphone technology
- Mobile apps to adjust sound quality and settings and locate your hearing aids using GPS
- Compatibility with Bluetooth-enabled devices
- Better moisture, dust and wax protection
“Hearing aids today are programmed specifically for your hearing loss, include adjustments on the unique acoustics of your individual ear canals, and have the best available processing to improve communication,” Spriggs says.
People with severe hearing loss can benefit from a cochlear implant. Unlike a hearing aid that can raise the volume of sounds but doesn’t improve speech understanding, a cochlear implant will improve the ability to hear and understand speech. Advancements made with cochlear implants now allow people with severe hearing loss in one ear and normal (or mild to moderate) hearing in the other ear, and children as young as 9 months old, to wear the device.
“One of the neat parts about the continuous improvements to cochlear implant technology is that the majority of the innovation is housed in the processor (external part), meaning that patients who underwent surgery years ago are able to access many of these latest features,” Spriggs says.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are sometimes paired with hearing aids and cochlear devices to further improve hearing
“The newer technology of ALDs provides awareness for environmental signaling, such as flashing lights or vibrating devices, coupled with a smoke detector, doorbell or alarm,” Spriggs says. “These technologies can help improve safety, particularly at night when most people remove their hearing aids.”
There are many types of ALDs available. They include:
- Personal amplifiers: Handheld amplifiers with microphones can be used to amplify voices and sounds.
- Amplified telephones: If you struggle to hear on the phone, amplified telephones adjust volume and have a loud ringer.
- Notification systems: These include alarm clocks, doorbells and wrist watches using sound, flashing lights or vibration.
- TV streamers: Also known as infrared television headsets, these allow you to adjust the volume of the TV for yourself without bothering those around you.
Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.
In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.