In May 2023, the FDA made it easier for 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss to report problems with hearing aids. The problems could include injuries, malfunctions, or other adverse events related to medical devices, including OTC hearing aids, through the online MedWatch, The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088
Frequency Therapeutics experimented with using regenerative medicine to reverse hearing loss. They use small molecules to program progenitor cells, a descendant of stem cells in the inner ear, to create the tiny hair cells that allow us to hear. Frequency’s drug is designed to be injected into the ear to regenerate these damaged hair cells within the cochlea. In February 2023, Frequency reported that the results of its Phase 2 clinical trials for this drug were disappointing and that it will cease the development of FX-322. However, the company did not say that it will cease the research, and hopefully, in the near future, they might be able to improve the drug and get better results.
The new Apple iPhone 14 can “caption” (i.e., display text). This is a very important capability for people who are hard of hearing or reluctant to let other people see their hearing aids.
Technology is rescuing people from a music-less life, as hearables can monitor their brain and body. Not Impossible Labs, the award-winning technology incubator and the content studio has created Music: Not Impossible, a Vibro-textile wearable that creates an immersive experience of music for both deaf and hearing people. Actually, the development team abandoned the idea of a vest, turning its attention to different vibrations on different parts of the body. And some people not only listen to music but also play an instrument. In our case, it is the trumpet, for which there is a whole website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a growing volume of OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids. These OTC products are virtually always considerably cheaper than the prescription (non-OTC) ones (that always involve an audiologist). Before the emergence of these new models, many deaf or hard-of-hearing people refrained from purchasing hearing aids because they were too expensive. However, in 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced important changes in the law that made these OTC permissible to sell, and at considerably lower prices.
Size matters. As people age, they not only may become hard of hearing but also may have less nimble fingers, so tiny (especially in-the-ear) hearing aids may not be advisable (unless it uses Bluetooth so can be adjusted from their cellphone). Actually, it would be better for them to ignore their vanity and buy larger hearing aids so that others know that they are hard of hearing and speak louder. And it is generally easier and cheaper to make larger hearing aids.
A bunch of “big hat no cattle” low-priced hearing aids and PSAPs (personal sound amplification products) brands have full-page splashy advertisements in magazines and newspapers (sometimes only once or twice, then gone). We personally had an experience with the now-defunct Soundhawk, which suffered from poor customer service, lack of Bluetooth (which, combined with microscopic buttons, made adjustment impossible). Here are some (there are others whose absence from the list does not imply they are inferior) that have been around long enough that buyers can expect to receive satisfactory after-sale support: