The wheel, the combustion engine, the internet – all of these represent huge steps forward in humanity’s progression. But these cheap devices all pale in comparison to hearing technology.
Hearing technology is a pretty broad umbrella, covering a wide variety of products. We’ve got more comprehensive pages on each kind, but this page will serve as a central hub – a broader look at each type of hearing technology.
If you’d like to talk to an expert, then you do have that option. By filling out this form, you can book a free hearing test with a hearing specialist near you.
Probably the most well-known piece of hearing technology, almost anyone over the age of ten could recognize a hearing aid. They’re the most common form of treatment for hearing loss, and despite how easy they are to envision, they actually come in a lot of different forms. The most well-known kinds of hearing aids are:
Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC): The most discreet form of hearing aid, these are designed to fully enter the ear canal, therefore becoming invisible to the human eye. These are made using a silicone cast of the user’s ear canal.
In-the-canal (ITC): Similar to IIC models and also being cast from the user’s ear, ITC models are inserted into the ear canal, but have a visible part sticking out of the ear. This can be used to fit more battery power, or to add digital components for more power.
In-the-ear (ITE): Made to fit snugly in the user’s outer ear, ITE hearing aids are visible, and look like a secret service earpiece.
Behind-the-ear (BTE): What you probably picture when you think of a hearing aid, BTE hearing aids resemble a plastic shell that sits behind the ear. Their bigger size allows for more power and battery life than smaller hearing aids.
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE): Very similar to the BTE models, RITE hearing aids have a chord and a receiver that feeds into the ear canal. Just like BTE, these are stronger than the smaller models.
Sometimes a hearing aid just isn’t enough. For the most severe cases of hearing loss, you may need a cochlear implant. This is a device that the user doesn’t just wear – rather, it’s surgically implanted into their skull, feeding an array of electrodes into the cochlea (the part of the ear responsible for turning sound into sensation).
Like we said, these are typically only used when hearing aids just aren’t enough. As you can imagine with a surgery related to the ear, cochlear implants are quite expensive, potentially costing tens of thousands for a single one. They’re not an option to be considered lightly.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs)
Assistive listening devices are for people who might not have a bad case of hearing loss, but might need a helpful leg-up in certain situations. They typically come in three forms:
Personal amplifiers: A pretty simple device, consisting mostly of a mic, amplifier, and listening cord. The listening cord goes into the listener’s ear, while the individual being spoken to attaches the mic to their clothing. A very cheap option, and useful for dinner parties.
FM systems: Effectively a personal amplifier with more range. FM systems use radio signals instead of a chord, meaning you can be far away from the person speaking and still pick up what they’re saying. Very useful for lectures or similar events, but a bit pricier.
Infrared systems: Sound being sent over radio waves is one thing, but with an infrared system, it can actually be sent over light! This means it can’t be intercepted, making it very handy for any confidential meetings, like court hearings.
Bone conduction headphones
How many times have you wondered: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use headphones without having to plug our ears, and surrender the awareness of our surroundings?” Well, you’re in luck! With the genesis of bone conduction headphones, you can hear your music or podcasts, while also being aware of any noise going on around you!
If you’re wondering how this could be, allow us to explain. While the sound we hear every day is conducted through the air around us, sound is actually conducted far more effectively by solid matter.
Bone conduction headphones take full advantage of this property, and instead rest on the bones around the ear rather than sitting inside the canal. They project sound through the skull straight to the inner ear, without sacrificing any sound quality. They accomplish this while allowing the user to hear the sound around them – in a way, they’re better than regular headphones!
This is also very helpful for anyone with conductive hearing loss – a hearing loss related to the ear canal or ear drum. This essentially inhibits sound from reaching the inner ear, so a pair of headphones that can bypass the ear canal are a big plus for those suffering from conductive hearing loss.
Finally, and in the same vein, we have implantable bone conduction devices. These are the conductive counterpart to to cochlear implants – they replace important parts of the ear with 3D printed alternatives, and do a great job of it!
There’s a lot of smart tech that can help someone suffering from hearing loss. If your hearing aid has Bluetooth compatibility, then you will be able to connect it to any number of useful gadgets.
These could include things like a smart TV – beaming the sound from the television right to your hearing aid. This allows you to control the volume personally, while also stopping any background noise from interfering with your listening experience.
Other than that, there are smart doorbells, ovens, alarms, and all sorts of things that can send a signal to your hearing aid when they need to. And, of course, we have smartphone apps that can be paired with your hearing aid.
A lot of hearing aids are now coupled with manufacturer-branded apps. Depending on the manufacturer, these apps can serve any number of useful functions – this includes remotely tuning your hearing aid on the fly, changing your hearing aid’s mode, or even contacting live customer support.
Newer ReSound and Signia hearing aids have great app functionality – so if you’re a person who heavily integrates yourself with your smartphone, it’s worth asking your hearing specialist if you could get a hearing aid with app support.
To wrap up, we’ll briefly touch on batteries. Since you can’t exactly plug them into the wall when you’re wearing them, hearing aids operate on battery power. These batteries come in four kinds, all discussed in this article on batteries.
However, as time marches on, technology advances. More and more hearing aids these days are coming out with rechargeable models. Some hearing aids are even exclusively rechargeable, making hearing aid batteries a potential thing of the past.
The technological advancements that we’ve made as a species over the past century have been a large part of humanity’s fastest leap forward. When used appropriately, technology can vastly improve a person’s life – audiologically or otherwise.
If you’re at all interested in trying out some of this amazing technology for yourself, your first step would be to arrange a hearing test. This will assess your necessity for a hearing aid, or other hearing technology. Happy hearing!