The technology in hearing aids continues to develop, enabling them to offer their wearers additional functions beyond sound amplification. Hearing aids maker Widex has upgraded its MOMENT family of hearing aids to offer streaming music, calls, and other content from Android smartphones (Android Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA). (This should not be mistaken for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.) In an unrelated development, Apple Inc. is exploring possibilities to add health-related functions such as enhancing hearing, reading body temperature, and monitoring posture to its AirPods. Unfortunately, ill-meaning people could use the technology for evil ends, including haunting the wearers. Unrelated to Android and Apple, we ourselves had a scary experience: We were wearing our hearing aids and they were working fine when they started saying “Check Partner”, but when we checked both of the hearing aids they were in place just fine. Then we started hearing a couple of voicemails loud enough for us to understand.
Many hearing aid manufacturers advertise that their products are so small that they cannot be seen. This is ill-advised for two reasons. First, many hearing aid users are older and have poorer coordination in their fingers so they have trouble inserting/removing and adjusting the hearing aids, as well as changing batteries. Second, people speaking to the users don’t realize that they have trouble hearing so they don’t speak louder and slower.
More likely you would lose it by NOT dancing, but by listening too much with the volume turned up on your iPod or iPhone, or other devices, because many of the earbuds in use aren’t very effective so people turn up the volume. Studies have found that users of these Apple devices can be listening at 100-105 decibels. This is well above the OSHA-recommended 85 decibels.
Remember, ears that get damaged stay damaged. They can’t be repaired. And when people talk about decibels (dBA), which is how loudness is measured, we need to remember that they are logarithmic, so that a small increase in the number means a big increase in the noise level (adding 10 dBA DOUBLES the noise level). In the case of dancers, OSHA’s estimate of 110 decibels for discotheques means that the well-advised dancer should limit their dancing in such establishments.
Fortunately, loudness meters—either standalone models or apps for smartphones—are not expensive, and the serious dancer shouldn’t worry about looking a bit geeky using them. More simply, he/she can always carry earplugs, and use them when things get too loud. It’s a lot better than suffering hearing loss for the rest of his/her life.
It is bad enough for one to have compromised hearing, but often one may also have compromised balance. Unfortunately, there are large numbers of both the symptoms and the causes. Well-trained audiologists can not only treat hearing loss but also balance problems.
Both hard of hearing patients and audiologists have been challenged to avoid COVID-19 these days. Fortunately, technology has met the challenge by enabling audiologists to communicate with their patients via telehealth.
If you are hard of hearing and wish you could hear fainter sounds, be careful what you wish for. Some people are afflicted with a condition that causes loud sounds to be even louder and causes them pain. Hearing loss professionals call this condition either “Hyperacusis” or “Recruitment”, and don’t seem to agree with each other.
And if you also wear glasses it is even worse. There are some tactics that will prevent or minimize the likelihood of loss. And if you have hearing aids that are fully into the ear, for example, the Eargo models, there is very little likelihood that you would lose them. But if you are wearing a style that doesn’t have ear loops, such as the Milwaukee Face Shield Gaiter 4223R, you only have to worry about your glasses. Alternatively, you could purchase a NeoSensory Buzz hearing aid, which is worn on your wrist.
A large number of people—especially in poorer countries–who are hard of hearing cannot afford to purchase big-brand hearing aids. Sound World Solutions was founded by two men who wanted to provide affordable hearing aids to those people. An earlier product was the basic Personal Sound Amplifier CS50, which—like all Personal Sound Amplifier Products (PSAPs)–could make sounds louder but could not address all of the user’s hearing difficulties. We purchased a pair (left and right) of CS50’s several years ago, and it did improve our hearing. But as our hearing worsened we needed a more sophisticated product, so when Sound World Solutions introduced its HD75 hearing aids pair we bought it. In the meantime, we had purchased a pair of hearing aids from one of the major brands that cost about five times the HD75’s. (The major brands are typically sold through networks of audiologists, who examine the buyers and fine-tune the hearing aids for those buyers.) We lost ONE of the major brand’s units and had to pay to replace it, at a price (after insurance) higher than the PAIR of HD75’s. More recently, we are using our HD75’s because the masks that we are required to wear to combat the coronavirus are concerned that the masks will knock them off our ears.
Sound World Solutions is one of many companies competing for the PSAP market; this market has minimal regulations. To protect consumers, finally, this week, Senators Warren (D-MA) and Grassley (R-IA) asked the FDA to look into regulating the OTC market for hearing aids, without delay.
If you are rich enough or lucky enough to have a top-rated brand of hearing aids such as Oticon, ReSound, Starkey, or Widex you can control them using a smartwatch. You can control them–as well as the Hearlink range of Philips and Zerena range of Bernafon—using a smartwatch. You can also control a range of other brands using Starkey’s TruLink Hearing Control using the iPhone and iPad, as well as some Pebble smartwatches, three Android Wear watches, the Samsung Gear S Moto 360, and Asus Zen Watch.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) are repetitive DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule) sounds like science fiction, but it has won its developers’ Nobel Prizes. Scientists are already using it to reduce the severity of genetic deafness in mice, and are hoping to use it for newborn human babies. However, like numerous other new technologies, there are lurking dangers that hopefully will not preclude its use.