It’s hard to argue that hearing aids have advanced at a rapid rate. Especially in recent years. Millions of people with hearing loss benefit from these revolutionary little devices every day, and hearing healthcare providers, researchers, and hearing aid manufacturers have raced to keep up with the demand for easier to use, more natural-sounding devices that offer the features consumers demand. Often in a discreet and comfortable package.
The future of hearing aids is bright, and recent developments could be just what those with hearing loss have been hoping for.
The history of the hearing aid
Hearing aids have a very long history but have changed most dramatically over recent decades. The precursors to hearing aids, various devices to amplify sound, have been around for hundreds of years. The first electrical hearing aid became available in the late nineteenth century.
Then in the mid-twentieth century, hearing aids made the dramatic shift from analog to digital. Since then, advancements in hearing aid technology have continued at an ever-faster pace, forever changing how we hear with hearing loss.
The newest findings now promise to make hearing with hearing aids more natural than ever thanks to a link directly with our brains.
Hearing aids and the brain
It’s no secret that hearing with a hearing aid is different than our natural hearing. Even with the latest advancements and features and the expert programming and adjustments of our hearing healthcare providers, users still find they have to get used to the new sound. Hearing aid users also often have a similar frustration with using hearing aids of any kind. It is difficult to hear, especially speech, with background noise.
This is where experts believe the latest developments in hearing aid technology may be game-changers.
It’s true that many hearing aids now offer some programming to minimize background noise; it can still prove challenging in noisy environments. For this reason, researchers are investigating how brainwaves could control hearing aids of the future.
Our natural hearing is a fascinating and complex system involving the ears which capture sound, the many structures of the middle and inner ear with help to funnel and translate sound waves and the brain which interprets those waves into sound. The brain is also able to focus our hearing to some extent, especially in noisy environments with many competing sounds. For example, in a crowded restaurant, we can concentrate on our dining companions and tune out much of the other noise. With hearing aids, we lose much of this ability to selectively target and tune out.
Using the measurement of brain activity and advanced algorithms, researchers believe that hearing aids could soon pick up where our natural hearing leaves off by making on-the-fly adjustments to how the hearing aid picks up and amplifies sound and tunes out background noise.