The Management of Hearing Loss with Advanced Digital Hearing AidsIt is probably true that few people appreciate their ability to hear until they are no longer able to do so. That said, we are living in an age when more people than ever before are now experiencing a level of hearing loss that is sufficiently marked to require the use of electronic amplification aids. While the body’s auditory function does have a tendency to become less efficient as we grow older, the process is normally a very gradual one and its effects will generally not become a problem until one’s retirement years. Unfortunately, many aspects of modern living have led to an acceleration of this normally slow deterioration, with the result that people of all ages, including young children, teenagers and young adults, are now becoming affected in ever-increasing numbers.
Currently, the biggest single threat, especially among the young, is the condition known as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL. Our ears, in fact, are far more delicate than most of us would believe. A typical conversation will generally be conducted at a volume of around 60dB, and this is certainly not loud enough to cause any damage. However, volumes of 85dB or higher, when sustained for a sufficient period, can result in permanent damage to the tiny hair cells that line the inner wall of the cochlea, a component of the middle ear.
It is these hair cells that are responsible for converting acoustic vibrations into the nervous impulses that can then be interpreted as specific words or sounds by the appropriate region of the brain. Since the body is unable to repair or replace hair cells, hearing aids will normally be essential in order to manage the resulting loss of acuity. Where the damage is particularly severe, however, it may not be sufficient to amplify ambient sounds. In such cases, the only solution will often be a cochlear implant. These devices are designed to bypass the normal conductive and nervous pathways involved, and instead, stimulate the auditory nerve directly, creating a new type of signal which the brain can be trained to understand.
Another possible cause of deafness is a simple ear infection, probably one of the most frequent reasons for a doctor’s visit during a child’s early years. However, when it is treated promptly and effectively, its effect is almost always temporary. Ironically though, certain of the antibiotics used to treat aural and other bacterial infections, as well as a number of other commonly prescribed medications, can actually induce deafness in susceptible subjects. In addition, many of the toxic chemicals to which workers are often exposed can have the same effect over time.
Where once the role of hearing aids was simply to amplify sound sufficiently to eliminate the need for others to raise their voices when trying to communicate, advances in technology have led to some dramatic changes in our modern lifestyles. In the wake of such advances, it has been necessary to leverage new technologies in order to adapt these amplification devices accordingly.
In addition to the successful drive to miniaturise them and to produce the tiny units that can now be worn within the ear canal to make them all but invisible, other developments have resulted in a range of new functions that have gradually become essential to life in the digital age. Without access to such functionality, many of those relying on these devices would be unable to pursue their jobs or to enjoy the many pleasures and conveniences of the 21st-century world in which digital entertainment and communications have now become the norm.
In response, many manufacturers of modern hearing aids, such as Phonak, have gone to great lengths to develop models with RF capabilities, for instance. This allows them to connect wirelessly with other compatible devices, such as mobile phones, and digital radio receivers such as iPods and TV sets. With the help of a compact remote control device, the wearer is able to switch seamlessly between devices, and to interact with them as required. It is certainly not hard to understand just how liberating such technology can be, and how much easier it has become for the wearer to engage with others.
Advanced speech processing has eliminated distortions, interference and background noise, allowing wearers to discern direction more accurately, and participate confidently in group conversations.
As a leading provider of professional audiology services and supplier of hi-tech hearing aids, we can provide any further information required.