By Kathy Landon, V.P. Branding & Professional Services, Sonic
This is the third in a three-part series on hearing loss. The first article examined hearing loss in general terms and provided information on the various causes, types and effects hearing loss can have. The second piece highlighted how to get help if someone suspects they have hearing loss, and this article examines hearing loss treatment, technology and solutions.
Just like cars are available with different features, options and price points, hearing solutions are available with different features and options that meet various hearing, lifestyle, and pricing needs. When considering a hearing device, discuss the most appropriate options with a hearing care professional. Before discussing products with a professional, review the following basic information to be a more informed consumer, and to be more comfortable discussing the options with a provider.
Hearing Device Technology
Digital signal processing has revolutionized the hearing healthcare industry. Before the introduction of digital hearing devices, most instruments were very limited in how they could be personalized for an individual’s specific hearing loss. With digital signal processing, however, hearing technology has made tremendous advances. Today’s digital hearing devices have many sophisticated features that improve sound clarity and speech intelligibility, reduce noise, and provide connectivity to a host of other digital devices. Most importantly, modern hearing devices allow complete customization, allowing the hearing care professional to program or ‘tune’ the hearing device specifically to the patient’s needs.
Here are a few important technologies that should be considered for most hearing losses:
Digital Signal Processing
Converts the incoming electric signal from the microphone into digital values for processing, then converts them back to electric signals used by the speaker (called a ‘receiver’) to produce sound pressure waves that stimulate the auditory system. Nearly all hearing devices sold today use digital signal processing.
Noise reduction technology reduces annoying noise that can get in the way of conversational speech. Speech is amplified to increase audibility, and noise is decreased to provide comfort and better speech understanding. Most modern day hearing devices offer some form of this feature.
Adaptive Feedback Cancellation
Feedback cancellation detects sudden feedback (whistling or squeal) in the hearing device, and then removes it by applying a cancelling signal. The cancelling signal will automatically adapt if the cause of the feedback changes. Most modern day hearing devices offer this feature.
Emphasizes sounds coming from the front and de-emphasizes sounds coming from the sides and behind. Since most conversations occur with the listener facing the speaker, the assumption is that the speech will be coming from front and noise will be coming from the sides and behind the listener. Directional technology is available on all but the very smallest custom models (limited by size constraints).
Transmits electromagnetic signals from the handset of a telephone to the hearing device. Because the audio information is transmitted as an electromagnetic signal, telecoils can help prevent feedback. Telecoils are not available in some smaller models due to space limitations.
Hearing Device Styles
Hearing devices are available in a variety of styles designed to meet different cosmetic preferences and address different hearing loss needs. A hearing care professional can help identify which options are appropriate for specific needs.
Why Are Two Devices Better Than One?
In comparing the difference between stereo sound and mono sound, it’s easy to see why two hearing devices are better than one. Like mono sound, listening though one device will sound flat and unnatural; as with stereo sound, two devices provide depth perception and a more natural sound quality. The overall clarity, the richness and fullness of sound and the sense of location is simply better with two devices.
Why is this the case? The act of hearing is comprised of complex interactions between the ears and the brain. It is the brain that ultimately interprets the incoming acoustic energy into what we think of as sound. The brain is heavily dependent on input from both ears to correctly determine the location of sound, whether it is speech or noise, and the distance of the sound source.
Given the information shared in this series, the reader should be more knowledgeable about hearing loss and better able to get help for it, in addition to helping remove the negative stereotype regarding hearing loss and hearing solutions. For more information, please visit www.sonici.com.