Evolving Our Thinking About Wireless Hearing Aids

Tammara Stender, Au.D., GN ReSoundBy TammJennifer Grothara Stender and Jennifer Groth

A new trend is affecting the hearing aid market. This trend builds on the application of wireless connectivity between hearing aids and external sound sources, such as televisions, PCs, MP3 players and phones. Wireless connectivity itself is not new to the hearing aid market – but the ways it can be used are expanding our visions of how this technology can improve and enrich the lives of people who wear hearing aids.

Telecoils & Loop Systems

The excitement surrounding telecoils and loop systems coincides with the emerging area of digital wireless hearing instrument technology. As the name indicates, digital wireless is distinguished from analog wireless transmission by the digital encoding and decoding of the transmitted signal. The modes of transmission are similar to known analog wireless in that current digital wireless hearing aids use either magnetic induction or radio frequencies to send and receive the signals. However, the fact that the information that is transmitted is in a digital format is attractive in that it opens up new possibilities for reducing interference, ensuring privacy of transmission, and enhancing audio quality, such as with stereo transmission.

Transmitting Audio & Data

Hearing aid sound processing can be dramatically enhanced by the wireless exchange of information between hearing aids. Use of this technology allows each hearing aid to independently analyze the sound environment, and then together collaborate on the most optimal hearing aid settings, such as microphone response or noise reduction settings. This is in contrast to traditional hearing aids, which make individual decisions on microphone response and other settings, regardless of what the other hearing aid in a binaural fitting is deciding.

Digital wireless technology is also changing the way hearing aid users and clinicians can interact and control the hearing aids. Conventionally, changes to the hearing aid program or volume setting could be made through manual controls on the device itself, or through a remote control. Possibilities with digital wireless will allow new ways for the user to control the devices, for example through a smart phone. Digital apps will be able to help the user better understand the settings of the hearing aid, as well as to determine whether the hearing aid is functioning adequately. In addition, new ways for clinicians to interface with patients’ hearing aids through digital technology may facilitate hearing aid related services, even outside of the clinic.

Read the full article over at ADVANCE for Hearing Practice Management.

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