Latest Hearing Aid Technology in South Africa

The Latest Hearing Aid Technology Is Available in South Africa

While our nation may not be competing in the race to be first on Mars, it is well known both as an innovator and an early adopter of technological advances. This is evidenced by accomplishments such as the world’s first heart transplant and the Sasol process for obtaining petroleum from gas. While it may be less spectacular and not homespun, the latest hearing aid technology now available in South Africa is destined to be a life-changer for many of those who are affected by auditory impairment.

While loss of audition is not new, it has become far more prevalent since the advent of industrialisation. Efforts to assist those affected have been ongoing and began with the development of simple acoustic devices, such as ear trumpets and speaking tubes, although, due to their size, they were far from convenient and essentially limited to use in the home, making it difficult for those whose hearing loss was fairly severe to find employment.

The major breakthrough in this field, and the fundamental transition that would lead eventually to the latest hearing aid technology in South Africa today, closely followed the invention of the telephone. Combining a microphone and a speaker, although primitive by comparison with their modern equivalents, the early electric amplification devices were a distinct improvement on their acoustic predecessors, but still far too large to be worn unnoticed. Other snags included distortion, interference, whistling due to feedback loops, and a limited battery life.

Only with the invention of the transistor, which then served to replace the bulky vacuum tubes of earlier models, did the new electric amplification devices become more portable. However, it was digital electronics and solid-state circuitry that would ultimately make the latest advances in hearing aid technology that are now benefitting patients in South Africa today possible.

While, until recently, much of the development in assisted hearing was focused on improving the shortfalls, such as sound quality, battery life, and more compact designs, little thought was given to how effectively the wearer might be able to interact with devices such as telephones, radios, and TV sets. Introduced in the ‘70s, the induction loops fitted in stores, schools, and places of worship were and still are a great help to those wearing aids when in such crowded locations, but of limited value in a predominately digital age. In practice, the latest hearing aid technology in South Africa provides the solution.

As anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet will be well aware, it is a simple matter to interconnect these digital devices and share files, photos, and applications between them. Since modern aids also employ digital electronics, the potential to extend their functionality in a similar fashion quickly became obvious to manufacturers. Naturally, they have lost no time in exploiting this type of interconnectivity to develop practical products that allow their users to access and enjoy the various benefits of the new digital lifestyle as readily as their hearing friends and colleagues.

Just one of the advantages of the latest hearing aid technology in South Africa is that it is no longer necessary for those with auditory impairment to own landlines with special amplified handsets. Instead, a simple accessory will allow the wearer to connect his or her aid wirelessly with a smartphone to make and answer calls. Similarly, these new aids are able to connect with a tablet or PC, an iPod, a DAB radio, or a flat-screen TV. With the right accessories and a remote control, it is even possible for the wearer to switch seamlessly between several such devices at will.

While this ability to interact with other digital devices is obviously a liberating development, it is not the only aspect of the latest hearing aid technology in South Africa that has been changing lives. Advanced speech processing algorithms and multiple microphones now make it a simple matter to determine who is speaking in the midst of a crowd or when travelling with companions in a car. The added ability to suppress background noise allows the wearer to focus solely on the person speaking.

In summary, digital electronics and an understanding of the needs of those with hearing loss has led to some invaluable and long-awaited developments with the potential to transform lives. Phonak has been a leader in developing the latest hearing aid technology in South Africa and its products are available from Ear Institute clinics nationwide.
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