Symposium Wrap-Up – Meeting the Needs of Aging Adults

Thank you to everyone who attended the first ReSound Online Symposium last week.  We had great attendance and feedback. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting summaries of each of the sessions that were presented, providing the key points and highlights.

Are Modern Technologies Meeting the Amplification Needs of Aging Adults?
Presented by Laurel Christensen, Chief Audiology Officer, ReSound

Approximately 35 million Americans suffer from hearing loss and 18 million of these people are elderly (65+).  The average age of a first time hearing aid user in the US is 71.

Presbycusis, age-related hearing loss, is the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older. With presbycusis, people lose audibility for soft sounds and loud sounds can be uncomfortable.  Hearing in noise poses the greatest difficulty.

In the past, presbycusis was a difficult type of hearing loss to fit.  These days, it’s much easier due to the following:

Wide Dynamic Range Compression
With WDRC, only the sounds that need amplification are amplified.  E.g. soft sounds get gain.  Loud sounds are allowed to pass transparently or get less gain depending on the hearing loss.  This means that the user is more comfortable with loud sounds and receives better sound quality.

Digital Signal Processing
Historically there was a trade-off between the amount of occlusion and feedback.  Analog fittings could be opened up by venting, IROS vents, SAVs, and even using tube only fittings, however, the more open the more feedback.  Only about 15 dB of gain the high frequencies could be achieved in a open fitting before DSP and feedback cancellation algorithms.

In terms of noise reduction, acceptable noise levels are 5-10 dB lower for presbycusic hearing aid wearers, which means there is a need to not only improve the SNR for speech understanding, but to lower the background noise for listening comfort in many noisy environments.

Wireless is the latest in hearing aids and has the potential to move forward with even more solutions for users. The biggest benefit for the elderly patient today is connectivity to TVs and telephones and personal microphones for use in many environments at low cost compared to traditional FM systems.

Factors that lead to consumer satisfaction:

  • Hearing in noise
  • Hearing instrument usage in large groups
  • Hearing instrument usage on telephones & cell phones
  • Hearing instrument usage at concerts and movies
  • Elimination of whistling, feedback and buzzing
  • Comfort with loud sounds

So, are we meeting the needs of the aging population?  When compared to ten years ago, we have improved in many areas that historically have been difficult.  For this population, thin tube open fittings have perhaps been the most impactful development, but the possibilities of wireless solutions have the potential to solve some of the problems such as hearing in noise that have plagued our patients since the first electronic hearing aids were developed.


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