Advancements in Digital Hearing Aids

Watching the progression of hearing aids over the years is nothing short of amazing. Today’s digital hearing aids are considered revolutionary, thanks to remote controls, Bluetooth connections and omnidirectional microphones. It’s been awhile since hearing impaired individuals in the 1800s only had the ear trumpet at their disposal when they wanted to amplify sound back in the 1800s. Fast forward many years later and digital hearing aids have revolutionized the way we hear. These devices underwent several models and prototypes until the ones we see today came out. With one eye on the future, audiologists can now customize each device depending on the requirements of each user, such as automatic adjustments on volume to ensure a comfortable level for the user. Taking out distracting background noise is another advantage, something that plagued users for many years.

The First Digital Hearing Aids

DSP is what makes digital hearing aids possible. They first were invented back in the mid-90s. Also referred to as digital signal processing, DSP allows users to benefit from higher processing speeds for improved hearing and farther range of amplification.

DNR

Digital noise reduction technology has surpassed that of multi-directional microphones, where it used to be that hearing devices were based on separation of speech to create speech modulation and other factors. However, today they are based on physical traits related to noise and speech.

Self-Learning

Were you aware that digital hearing aids have the capability to regulate settings like volume? This is so individuals don’t have to set these factors every time they wear their devices. Added control for the user gives peace of mind.

Better Connections

In regards to improved connections, Bluetooth and other wireless technological services can further add to the overall listening experience. Three perks in particular include digital noise reduction, improved frequency transposition and increased range.

Single Sided Deafness

Used to be, if you were deaf on one side, you had to contend with background noise, which means you had to use your “good ear” to be able to hear and conduct conversations. Now, CROS devices and bone conduction devices make it possible to receive signals from the good ear and send them to the bad ear for sound amplification.

The Outlook

Looking ahead for hearing aid technology, the outlook for digital hearing aids is vastly superior because they are able to offer so many benefits to hearing impaired individuals. These benefits range from noise reduction to automatic volume setting adjustments, made possible by up to the minute wireless technology and microelectronics.

Electric Cochlear Implants: Functions And Benefits

There are many different ways that the hearing industry has changed and evolved over the last ten years or so. In this time there has been an emergence of new techniques and technologies which are able to influence the lives of people who suffer from hearing loss. However, some forms of hearing loss are so significant that the sufferer is not able to use their ears in order to pick up any sound at all. The new solution to this form of hearing impairment is the electric cochlear implant, a device that has the medical community extremely excited.

What Is The Excitement About?

There are many reasons that the people in the hearing industry are excited about the electric cochlear implant. It does not use the inner ear in order to generate hearing like most other contraptions and surgeries. Rather, it uses an implant to directly stimulate the auditory nerves which control hearing in the human body. The result is that a person is able to “hear” a synthetic form of sound even if their ears have been unable to hear sound before. The outcomes for most people are that they are eventually able to speak to others in normal conversation and also engage in leisure activities that require hearing.

The Product

A hearing device like the electric cochlear implant is an amalgamation of five different pieces of technology that need to work together for a successful outcome. There are parts of the device that are inside the body and those that are outside of the body. Inside the body is the receiver device as well as the electrode bundle that is implanted near major nerves in the head. Worn on the outside of the body are the microphone, transmitter, as well as the speech interpretation box. Together, these comprise the electric cochlear implant.

Making It Work

There are many steps to the process of making synthetic hearing take place in the brain of the implantee. The first thing that needs to happen is that the device needs to pick up sounds from the environment around the person using the active device. The microphone brings sounds in and then sends them to the speech processing center in the implant, which is usually worn near the neck or around the ear. From there, the sound is reconfigured and pumped into the transmission device that is worn behind the ear piece. The transmitter has to send the sound through the skin layer and into the receiver that is actually implanted with the person’s body. After that, the receiver takes the sound waves in their magnetic form and sends the impulse down the implant and into the electrode bundle, which stimulates the nerve that it is near in order to create the sensation of sound within the wearer’s brain. In the end, they hear a metallic sound representation of the original sound that took place in less than a few seconds after it occurred outside of the body.

10 Ways Good Hearing can Help Keep Seniors Young

Your hearing health is correlated to your overall youth and vitality, just like physical exercise helps you keep illness and disease at bay. When you care for your ears throughout your senior years, you are making an investment in your youth. Who new better hearing was the secret to unlocking the fountain of youth? This is particularly important in areas of life where you have to be alerted to danger quickly or must interact with coworkers and friends.

 

  1. Keep your mind sharp as a tack. No one wants to think about it, but dementia is a very real possibility for older seniors. The National Institute on Aging has linked hearing loss with dementia, thanks to the brain shrinkage we experience as we get older.
  2. Lower your risk of falls. Individuals can trip and fall more readily when they have difficulties hearing. This is due to an unstable awareness of their surroundings, thanks to the fact that you are three times more likely to fall than others with no hearing issues. This is according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  3. Improve your hearing while on the job. When you strain to hear, you obviously can’t pick up on important instructions or safety precautions. You certainly can’t readily participate productively in coworker discussions or meetings, which can impact your overall performance.
  4. Have a quicker reaction time. When you have a healthy hearing level, you can better react to fire alarms, sirens and even blaring car horns so you can get out of danger quickly.
  5. Maintain productive interactions. This is crucial, as hearing loss can sadly alienate people from getting the information they need to go about their daily lives. It’s tough to effectively communicate with anyone from friends and co-workers to check-out clerks and butchers when you suffer from hearing loss.
  6. Increase the blood flow to your ears for good health. Exercise is great for the ears. Via aerobic activity, you send oxygen-rich blood flow to the ears which protects them from additional hearing loss.
  7. Take advantage of a better social life. Interacting with others is key in staying young. Studies point to the fact that hearing impaired seniors who wear hearing aids, as well as seniors who have no hearing loss, tend to have an improved social life and sex life, along with improved mental health and independence.
  8. Flourish in school. When you find yourself back in the classroom after many years in the workforce, you may be at a disadvantage if you strain to hear. It’s not productive to ask the teacher to repeat herself or ask your classmates to speak up.
  9. Lift your self confidence. Don’t fall victim to a lack in self esteem just because you have hearing loss. You may fear engaging in conversations with others and thus stay away from social situations, leading to further feelings of isolation.
  10. Enjoy better mental and physical health. Being hospitalized due to falls and other problems can make you depressed because you’re not active and can’t move about on your own. Staying out of the hospital can increase your sense of vitality and worth.

Take a Gander at the Many Advantages of Digital Earplugs

A proactive take on hearing health is sweeping the nation in the form of digital ear plugs. These devices are known to have come far in terms of technology over the last few decades. Following the history of ear plugs is imperative to understanding the evolution of this most popular way of protecting and improving hearing. Like most forms of modern technology, we can trace its evolution over the years to a point where now, digital earplugs help in the daily lives of many hearing-impaired individuals. They can even prevent certain degrees of hearing loss. Take a gander at how digital earplugs operate and the benefits they deliver.

How Do Digital Earplugs Work?

Digital earplugs are desirable due to many factors. First off, they provide a level of safety for those in loud prolonged situations. They also help to clear up limitations that may frustrate the user in everyday use. Another advantage of digital ear plugs? The support and protection that acts as a buffer between the inner ear from exterior sound. Each one works a little bit different even thought they’re all pretty similar. Blending protection, form, prevention and function, digital earplugs meet the same underlying criteria. The range of frequencies is limited when it comes to filtering sounds through the earplug, which helps change the frequency response, to positively impact the quality of your hearing.

Specific Uses of Digital Ear Plugs

Whether you need protection from loud, prolonged noises or sudden blasts, digital ear plugs can provide a benefit to you. They are designed to guard against the effects of sound inherent in anything from combat training to law enforcement. Digital earplugs can also aid rescue workers in detecting far-off sounds in the distance.

Benefits of Digital Ear Plugs

Because technology is such an integral part of how digital ear plugs are used, they offer several perks, such as being able to prevent sound from entering the ear canal. Other models feature a stop-gap technology that allows users to hear certain levels of sound, or only at certain intervals. Digital ear plugs, used to helping people detect speech more clearly, are designed to work even in a loud situation, such as a factory setting. They also are great for the need to pick up on some sounds but not others. Choosing the right pair of digital ear plugs that can benefit you is critical to your everyday functioning.

How Diabetes and Hearing Loss Relate

Due to the reasoning that many health conditions tend to affect each another, it’s no wonder that diabetes and hearing loss – the top two health concerns in the U.S. today, according to the American Diabetes Association – have been linked. Take a look at the statistics are incredible: 30 million people suffer from diabetes, while 34.5 million people have some degree of hearing loss. Recent studies have shown that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes than other people without the disease. The recent studies in question culled information from 20,000 people from various places around the globe, including the U.S., Asia, Brazil and Australia.

Correlation Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Certainly these many studies have illustrated a link between diabetes and hearing loss, but the fact remains that researchers still aren’t sure exactly why diabetes causes hearing loss or vice versa. One theory as to curbing this correlation? Diabetics should better control their blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of hearing impairment, but this is not proven yet. Even though loud noises contribute hearing loss in many people, a noisy workplace has also been ruled out as a factor in the above studies. The medications and diuretics diabetics take to keep their blood pressure low may incur hearing loss rather than the actual diabetes, so that’s one factor researchers must delve into to explain the connection. Or, the prevalence could involve the fact that high blood glucose levels tends to damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, leading to hearing impairment.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Signs to look out for include if you can’t distinguish words within a large noisy crowd, if words are muffled rather than clear, and if you have others repeat themselves over and over. You don’t want this to lead to the avoiding of certain social situations just so you don’t get embarrassed, so take action and see an audiologist for diagnosis and treatment so you don’t put yourself or others at risk. Usually, your spouse, partner, friend or family member will alert you to these displays of hearing impairment. Be on alert when looking for signature signs and symptoms of hearing loss so you can get diagnosed and begin treatment immediately. You could suffer from some degree of hearing impairment if you have trouble keeping track of conversations with two or more people, constantly only hear mumbling from others, put the volume on the TV or radio way up, or can’t easily pick out the voices of small children or women.

Testing for Diabetes

Hopefully, the results of the studies outlined above will spur more doctors to test for hearing loss in their diabetic patients. This is why you should get your hearing tested at the doctor’s office during your annual diabetic checkup and alert him to the correlation you’ve heard between diabetes and hearing loss. If the results come back showing you need further evaluation, your doctor can refer you to an audiologist. Hearing tests, often overlooked at doctor’s visits for adults, should be more widespread. Hopefully, the results of these current studies will encourage more doctors to test for hearing loss in their diabetic patients.

Learn the Benefits of How Hearing Loops are Helping People Detect Clear Sound in Public

Although hearing aids are hands down the best invention the hearing impaired community has been a party of, attention needs to be paid to the many add-on devices designed to enhance the individual’s hearing experience in critical ways. Enter the hearing loop. This device helps people in group situations, such as in an important meeting, to cut through the background noise and hear what’s being said. Present in lecture halls and public transportation areas more and more, hearing loops are working in parallel with hearing aids to improve the overall experience, since hearing aids can only do so much to help the individual hear better. At some point, in public situations, background noise becomes a real problem. This is where hearing loops have become very helpful. They are able to pinpoint exact conversations for ease of use. Many people with hearing impairments don’t have to feel uncomfortable in social situations any longer, thanks to the emergence of the hearing loop.

What Are Hearing Loops?

This is a matter of fact technology involving cables that are laced through a room with signals that are detected and interpreted by individual hearing aids. Combining the technologies from hearing aids and that of cables, these loops are made possible by a cable running throughout a building or a room. They work in parallel with the hearing aids worn by hearing impaired participants, resulting in a crisper listening experience.

A Closer Look

T-switches in contemporary hearing aids and cochlear implants are an integral part of the remote telecoil technology incorporated in hearing loops. This switch, when activated, sends electromagnetic sounds to the user via the hearing loop. This results in crisp sound that you simply can’t get with a hearing aid on its own. It’s even possible to use this loop alongside a microphone when you need added amplification capabilities.
Made up of a two-part system thanks to the inspiration of telephone technology, technicians have found that if they place this loop around a room or area, sound can be transmitted through electromagnetic signals. This all came about through many years of trial and error as part of overall research. Telecoils – the very same parts of handset telephones that help them obtain better ranges and signals when off base – can then bring that sound directly to the hearing aid user.

Implementation

This elevated emphasis on the effectiveness of hearing loops has benefited the hearing impaired community tremendously. In fact, you may have seen the emergence of this capability in city halls, conference rooms and in public transportation areas like subways, airports and train stations. This next leap for technology will help people with hearing loss enjoy an easier way to focus on directed conversation.

Evolution of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are one of the most impressive technologies that have ever been produced. With them people are able to regain parts or the entirety of their hearing back with a simple device. Of course, they have come with limitations, but the future is looking even better than ever before. That is why we should take a look back and see all of the things that we have done to make this technology possible. This includes looking at some of the midpoints and designs that seem archaic, but were turning points in hearing history.

Ear Trumpets

One of the first hearing devices that were ever thought of in the past was the ear trumpet. This device was not very complex. Essentially, one end of the hearing device was pressed against the ear, and the other end was help towards the sound that you wanted to hear. This was done by having a larger end in the shape of a trumpet pointed towards the sound and the smaller end placed into the ear. The person could hear more specific sound, but would not have the sound amplified. These were used for hundreds of years at least, and showed the world that we needed to do more to promote proper hearing.

Carbon Hearing Aids

The carbon hearing aid was an incredibly complex piece of work that did not live up to its needs, but was still valuable. This piece had sound travel into a microphone and then sends carbon across a magnetic piece and into a diaphragm that would make the sound louder than it was at the start. This helped people to hear the sound because it was louder, but the sound quality was so poor that people often decided to dispense with the machine. It was expensive, could not be taken out of the house, and had to be kept in a very flat environment, but it was still considered an important stepping stone towards modern hearing aids.

Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids

Before the newest forms of electric hearing aids were made, the vacuum tube hearing aid made its debut. These devices were rather simple in the fact that they had many recycled parts from other machines, but also showed the need for specific hearing aids to be designed. They would have sound captured by a speaker piece, turned into an electric signal, amplify that sound, and then have it come out of the receiver. The end result was a seven pound device that could be taken anywhere, and had the best chance at amplification. However, the best function that this had was to convince researchers to look for new ways to help people with hearing loss.

 

Costco vs an Audiologist – Hearing Aid Quality and Service Comparison

Have you noticed all the big box stores such as Costco and Walmart are getting into the realm of patient services more and more? With ear care facilities right on site, many customers are tempted to go there for treatment and diagnosis, when they normally would have gone to a qualified professional in an office setting. Even ear care is available at the big box stores, where you can tackle your weekly shopping first and then hit the ear care department for whatever ails you. There are several things wrong with this situation, and we will examine those reasons below. Although on the surface it looks like a convenience to get ear care from those stores, you get a lot more out of your visit when you seek out a professional audiologist instead. Mimicking the fast food model of on-the-go lifestyles, you should stay away from the big box stores when it comes to your hearing health and find a pro instead.

Professionalism

First off, you’ll always get higher professionalism when you go to an audiologist who is trained in complete auditory health. A doctor brings many years of education and experience to the table so you get comprehensive ear care, thanks to their knowledge of ear canal anatomy. They also know which treatments, if any, are the best for your unique situation. Getting at the root of the problem is their goal, while many employees at big box stores go right to the solution — hearing aids – without thorough evaluation.

Higher Quality Accessories

One of the most significant reasons you should go with an audiologist over an employee at a big box store is that the hearing aids and related products they sell and fit you with are manufactured with the best quality materials. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a hearing aid at a store and then find out it doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. This can happen in the form of poor sound quality and interference. When buying from a certified audiologist, you know the quality is the best and that the doctor will make sure you get the best possible fit when it comes to hearing aids.

Cost-Effective Measures

You may not realize it, but you’re often overpaying at the big box stores because of all the extras the employees are selling you on top of the original device. That’s their job – to sell you products. The job of an audiologist is to evaluate your complete hearing health and fit you with a quality device that works as intended. Yes, it’s true you may find there’s a higher cost initially when buying products from a doctor, but that’s what health insurance is for. Plus, you get peace of mind knowing the product is of high quality.

3D Printing Revolutionizes the Hearing Aid Market

You may recognize 3D printing and its related processes by its more technical term, additive manufacturing. This essentially means layer upon layer is added to a prototype rather than taken away with tools such as lathes. This is a boon  to the $2 billion a year hearing aid industry that is touted to grow three percent by 2016. Years ago, this would have been impossible without the use of 3D printing and laser scanning, which all synchronize to automate the process, as well as reduce time of manufacture and create a customized product. Several more benefits can be had for the growing technology called 3D printing. It has been around for a decade now, especially in the use of making hearing aids, but also in electronics, jewelry and art.

Digitized Processes

 

The digitized processes inherent in 3D printing lead to fewer mistakes, reduced manufacture times and increased precision for each product. Back when traditional manufacturing processes were used, the hearing aid wearer may have been uncomfortable wearing the device because it didn’t fit snug in the ear. Maybe it wiggled, or maybe it was too tight. Whatever the case, hearing aids weren’t designed as an exact match to fit the individual as they are today with 3D printing. This has led to a big boost in comfort and precision with little to no margin for error. Combining computers and laser scanners offers a crucial combination, so that what used to be a time-consuming nine-step process now takes just a day thanks to the scientific application of 3D printing. Before, this was a highly involved method that took many technicians and artisans a week to complete. Now, there are just three steps involved with 3D printing: scan, model and print. This decreases time to manufacture, but it still takes some intense precision to get the process exactly right. This growing technology is certainly making the medical and hearing impaired communities stand up and take notice.

 

Lasers Make an Impression

Special lasers using up to 150,000 points of reference can create an impression of the ear, allowing 3D printing and laser scanning to work seamlessly together to automate the process. This also cuts down on the time of manufacture and develops a customized unit. Digital cameras aid in the process to send the images to the technician, who can apply the scan to various geometric shapes and templates and form a mold. Several combinations and geometric patterns are chosen to ensure the best fit. The result? A resin shell that is printed and fitted with all the proper acoustic vents, electronics and other circuitry that can amplify sound. Within 90 minutes, nearly 70 shells or 50 molds can be created by the printers. This offers such a great increase in speed and efficiency that accuracy is not compromised. Each device is thus personalized for a more precise prototype and manufactured product.

Foods that can Prevent Hearing Loss – and Hearing Aids

We all know eating healthy foods are good for your body. What many of us don’t realize is the effect certain foods have on our hearing health. Everything’s interconnected, so by treating your body right, you can actually help to prevent hearing loss. Many people suffer from this, particularly the aging population. You may know enough not to expose yourself to loud noises to protect your ears but you may not understand how important it is to eat right when it comes to your ears. More and more evidence is coming out that shows the foods you choose to eat have a direct impact on your levels of hearing loss. Check out these foods you should incorporate in your diet for optimal hearing health.

Citrus Snacks

Citrus is well known for its healing properties as a way to stave off the common cold. However, those same abilities to keep sickness at bay can also keep harmful ear infections at bay. Thanks to all the vitamin C and E present in oranges and lemons, you can use that to your advantage when it comes to fighting off infection. You never want to leave an ear infection untreated, as this can lead to chronic hearing impairments.

Sweet Snacks

By snacking on dark chocolate, you’re helping to improve your ears thanks to the loads of zinc found in this treat. You can also get your zinc – which helps guard against hearing damage – in supplements, but eating dark chocolate is so much more fun!  Of course, you can’t overindulge or your hips will show the effects, but a little bit now and then can actually help your hearing health thanks to the antioxidants present that improve your whole body’s health.

Fish like Salmon

Salmon and other types of fish are notorious for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in the improvement of your blood flow. Getting your blood pumping at healthy levels is imperative to a healthy lifestyle, not to mention the effect improved blood flow has on your ears. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep fatty acids, such as those in salmon, an integral part of your diet.

Banana Bonanza

If you love bananas for their great taste and healthful properties, here’s another reason to love them: they work to curb hearing damage. This is due to the large amounts of magnesium, which can reverse the damaging effects of hearing damage brought on by external environmental influences like loud noises. Bananas are great alone or on your favorite breakfast cereal, so it’s easy to keep this food in your diet.

Beneficial Broccoli

This super veggie, as well as with other similar cruciferous veggies, improves your hearing health because it’s so chock full of vitamin and minerals. These vitamins and minerals work to stave off the damage to ear tissue brought on by free radicals. Preventing hearing loss is easy when you regularly eat veggies like broccoli. Bonus: your skin and hair will glow with radiance.