How Can a Hearing Aid Help a Deaf Person?

Perhaps only those who have lost the ability to hear can truly appreciate the extent to which we depend upon this ability to cope with everyday life. While this has always been the case to some degree, the many advances in technology that have taken place over the past few decades have seen that dependence upon our sense of audition increase in direct proportion. On the upside, some of that technology has led to ways in which to improve the effectiveness of assisted hearing technology and shown manufacturers how to design a hearing aid that can help a deaf person cope more effectively with the challenges posed by life in the 21st century.

How Can a Hearing Aid Help a Deaf PersonThe efforts to assist those with reduced auditory efficiency date back many centuries, but they were seriously hindered by a lack of knowledge regarding the physical and biological mechanisms that enable us to hear and the precise nature of deafness. The assumption that those who had difficulty in discerning sounds would benefit from an instrument with which to amplify them was certainly partly correct, and led to a variety of devices, such as the ear trumpet, metal ear, and speaking tube. However, just how much did these early hearing aids help a deaf person?

In practice, they offered some value, providing an acoustic boost that was equivalent to shouting into the user’s ear, but eliminating the need for the speaker to raise his or her voice and attract undue attention. Acoustic amplification, however, ignores the fact that hearing loss affects different frequencies to differing degrees. Size was a further limitation, as these simple devices were mostly rather bulky and not designed for ease of portability. Their size was also a drawback for more personal reasons, as users were unable to conceal their deafness, causing some to live with their impairment to avoid possible embarrassment.

The advent of the telephone and electricity led to a fundamental change in how future hearing aids would operate which, in turn, would enhance the help they offer a deaf person, to an extent previously only dreamed of. Nevertheless, following the first devices to employ electrical amplification rather than purely acoustic means, it would be several decades before developers overcame the first major problem – that of size. The digital age and solid-state circuitry provided the solution with units becoming more and more discreet and downsizing to the point where, with the aid of RF technology, the receiver could be connected wirelessly and concealed sufficiently deep within the ear canal to render it virtually invisible.

While miniaturisation has made the hearing aid more acceptable, perhaps the quality and extent of the help it can offer a deaf person is how its success should be best assessed. In simple terms, for those affected by hearing loss today, it is no longer sufficient to be able to converse more easily with friends and family, or to enjoy a radio broadcast without the need to turn up the volume to the point where it becomes uncomfortable for others. This is the age of the digital device. Today, the number of cellphones in circulation exceeds the world’s population of more than 7 billion. Computers have replaced typewriters and are integral to services such as video calling for social and business purposes.

How can a hearing aid be of any real help to a deaf person if it is unable to interact with these digital devices in a manner that others take for granted and which has become increasingly important both to our home and working lives? Computer literacy and cellular communications, in particular, have grown to become essential prerequisites in many sectors of the workplace. Due to the foresight of developers, parallel advances in assisted hearing technology have served to prevent many of those with auditory impairment from being denied entry into those sectors and limited to the pursuit of more menial occupations.

Today, a combination of newly-created accessories and compatible technology built into new models is enabling wearers to interact with all manner of digital devices and is changing how a hearing aid can help the average deaf person. Of course, people’s needs differ. For the young and ambitious, these devices offer the prospects of a social life and work opportunities equal to that of their hearing peers. For those in retirement, these digital aids may enrich their lives in other ways, such as enabling them to enjoy a Skype call with children or grandchildren overseas.

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