Hearing aid technologies have changed a lot since the first electric hearing aid hit the market in 1898. Created by Miller Reese Hutchison, the Aukouphone used a carbon transmitter to amplify sound for the hard of hearing. Hutchison was able to develop the Aukouphone in part because of rapid new developments in telephone and microphone technologies which allowed for sound to be captured, of course, but also manipulated: sounds could be amplified or diminished, frequency could be adjusted, and our understandings of electromagnetics helped us learn how sounds could be distorted. By the early 1900s, personal hearing aids were commercially distributed—with Siemens being one of the first companies to manufacture an electronic hearing aid in 1913.
In the relatively short span of about 50 years, hearing aids went digital. New developments in the world of computers and of the microprocessor, in particular, allowed hearing aids to become smaller and more powerful. 1989 saw the introduction of the first portable, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, and an all-digital hearing aid went to market in 1996. A lot can change in a short amount of time, and in the day and age of ever-smarter smartphones it may seem only logical that hearing aid technologies are faster, smaller, and come with more abilities to connect across devices.
Own Voice Processing
Midway through 2018, we have seen a burst of new hearing aid technologies that draw on the long history of assisted hearing devices while looking forward to a bright, evermore integrated future. One of the most innovative technological advances of the year is surely Signia’s forays into “Own Voice Processing” technology, otherwise known as OVP. OVP uses a distinct computer processor to process the hearing aid user’s own voice, drastically increasing the acceptance of the user’s own voice. This means that Signia’s hearing aid users will experience next to know auditory occlusion that oftentimes results as hearing aids struggle to process the user’s voice as well as a distinctly other voice.
Somewhat related to the OVP technology are the advances being made by Widex with their Evoke model. The Evoke is significant in that it is capable of machine learning, meaning that the more the user uses the hearing aid the hearing aid device will learn and adapt to the user’s preferences. The Evoke will not only remember the user’s listening preferences and apply them when encountering similar environments, but it will more rapidly analyze any given soundscape and be able to prioritize certain sounds more accurately. As hearing aid devices become more streamlined in learning users’ real time listening experiences, users will experience more accurate sound.
Across the board, hearing aids are boasting better battery capabilities, rechargeable batteries, more wide-ranging WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. Many apps have been developed the transmit sound directly from cell phones, televisions, and other devices directly to the hearing aid, cutting the middle air, so to speak, and getting hearing aid users directly to the source of the sounds they want to be immersed in.
On a perhaps more superficial level, we are finally seeing trends in sleeker hearing aid designs. It has been a long time since the only hearing aid options were bulky “nude” or “neutral” tones, but that doesn’t mean that hearing aids have been especially fashionable. In 2018 and looking forward to 2019 there will surely be excellent designs from forward thinking hearing assistance companies.
There are many practical advances occurring with hearing aid technologies that promise to make the world safer for people who are hard of hearing. Notably, the Starkey company announced a hearing aid that would be able to detect if the hearing aid user has fallen, and would report the information to the relevant parties. The onboard internal sensors used to track falls will also track other activities heretofore unnamed, but which might be along the lines of the wide range of other devices that help people track their fitness, sleep, and other necessary activities.
Visit Us at Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center
If you are a hearing aid user, or if you are investigating hearing aids for a loved one, 2018 appears to be the perfect time to explore all of your options. With new developments in technology, mixed with greater awareness of the different stylistic needs that the market can fill, you are sure to find the perfect hearing aid to suit your needs. Contact us at Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center today to learn more.