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Information about technology and your hearing health - What are the benefits? How can it help your hearing?

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Written By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert & Founder

Updated: 18th July 2023
Technology and Your Hearing Health

 Technology and Your Hearing Health

How can hearing technology improve our hearing health?

 

Audiology technology has come a long way

Technology has revolutionised the way we live our lives, and our hearing health is no exception. While many people associate hearing technology with hearing aids alone, the reality is that there are many other ways that it can positively impact our hearing health. From smartphone apps that can test your hearing to noise monitoring devices that help protect your ears, technology has opened up new possibilities for hearing health and wellness.

In this article, we will explore some of the latest advances and how they can help you maintain and improve your hearing health. Whether you have hearing loss or are simply looking to protect your ears from noise-induced damage, technology has something to offer everyone when it comes to hearing health and hearing loss.

 

Digital hearing aids are now better equipped

One of the easiest steps to take toward protecting declining hearing health is to use hearing aids. But modern hearing aids no longer simply help the wearer to hear better, they now come with a host of other features to improve life and accessibility.  

For example, many modern digital hearing aids can connect to smartphones via Bluetooth, allowing users to control settings, adjust volume, and even stream audio directly to their hearing aids.

Manufacturers provide companion apps that can allow for this, as well as provide other features such as battery status, health statistics and location tracking. It is also possible to have special settings saved in programmes for certain situations you know you may regularly face, such as filtering background noise or listening to music. These companion apps are available for both iPhone and Android so there is no need to buy new devices to access the app technology.

 

Screener apps

There are many hearing screening apps available for smartphones that can test your hearing. These apps can be useful tools to detect hearing loss early and encourage people to seek treatment. Tests may involve listening to different tones or words and responding to them accordingly, and the results are typically displayed at the end. It is important to note these apps will give an idea if there is a problem, that is quick and easy, but the results are not as in-depth as a formal diagnosis.

If you would like to put your hearing to the test, we have our own free online screening test you can try, here, (scroll down to the 'think your hearing has worsened?' section to start) all you need is some earphones and three minutes, and you will have your results emailed directly to you.

 

How can I use my phone to protect my hearing health?

Some smartphones have built-in noise monitoring features that can measure the volume of the environment and provide alerts when the noise level exceeds safe levels. There are also many third-party noise monitoring apps available that can help people protect their hearing and avoid noise-induced hearing loss.

These apps utilise the smartphone's built-in microphone to monitor ambient noise levels in real-time sending a notification when noise exceeds safe levels, reminding users to take necessary precautions such as using ear protection or moving to a quieter environment.

Similarly, if listening to music too loud on your device a recent feature brought out by iPhone is the Headphone Safety feature which notifies users if there’s a need to turn the volume of the phone down.  If the phone does detect high volume for prolonged periods, users will receive a notification and be prompted to turn down the volume.

After receiving the notification, the next time the headphones are plugged in or connected via Bluetooth, the volume will be automatically set to a lower level. Listening to audio on your headphones for too long or too loud can damage hearing health so don’t be tempted to turn the feature off.

 

 Audiology technology and your hearing loss

What are the benefits of audiology technology?

 

Captioning apps

Captioning apps can be used to provide real-time captions allowing people with hearing loss to follow along with conversations more easily. These innovative applications utilise advanced speech recognition technology to generate real-time captions that accurately transcribe spoken words into written text.

By providing a synchronised visual representation of the spoken content, live caption apps can enable people with hearing difficulties to follow conversations in meetings, conferences, educational settings, social gatherings and any audio-visual content more effectively.

The availability of live caption apps on smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices ensures that users can access captioning services conveniently and discreetly, promoting inclusivity and independence, breaking down barriers and fostering equal opportunities for the hard of hearing.

 

 

Tinnitus relief apps

Tinnitus is a common condition that causes a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Some smartphone apps can provide relief from tinnitus symptoms by playing soothing sounds, such as white noise or nature sounds across a broad spectrum of sound frequencies. By introducing a consistent and predictable sound, such as the sound of rushing air or gentle rainfall, white noise can reduce the contrast between the tinnitus sounds and the surrounding silence.

This neutral and steady background sound helps to mask the ringing or buzzing, proving especially helpful with problems sleeping, distracting the brain from focusing on the tinnitus and alleviating the perception of its intensity.

 

Telecoils / T coils

One of the most common technologies that you may not be aware of, which has been available for many years, is the hearing induction loop. A hearing loop is an assistive listening system that can transmit sound directly to hearing aids or cochlear implants, effectively cutting out background noise. It works by using electromagnetic fields to wirelessly transmit audio signals to the telecoil (T-coil) receiver in the hearing device.  

This allows the user to hear the desired sound, such as a speaker's voice, more clearly and without interference. Those with hearing loss can usually take advantage of the convenience of an induction loop in various public spaces, as they are generally widely available, such as in theatres, churches, lecture halls and airports promoting greater accessibility.

 

 Technology and hearing health

What are the benefits of hearing aid technology?

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the rapid advancements in technology have created new and exciting possibilities to improve and safeguard our hearing health. From the convenience of apps on your smartphone to the vast array of features now available in digital hearing aids, embracing these technological innovations can have a positive impact on your hearing health and overall well-being.

As we continue to witness the ongoing progress in this field, it is crucial to stay informed, and here at Hearing Aid UK, our audiologists are always available to provide the latest information and guidance to ensure you make informed decisions about your hearing health.

By embracing the connection between technology and hearing health, we can empower ourselves to enjoy life with clearer and more vibrant sound connecting us to the world around us.

 

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This article was written by audiology expert Paul Harrison

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert & Founder

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

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