By Mary Ann Allen, Au.D., CCC-A, of HearingLife Greensboro 

Hearing aids have come a long way over the last few decades. Even as they have grown smaller, the features inside them have grown bigger by leaps and bounds. 

Here are some important changes that may surprise you. 

1. These aren’t your grandfather’s hearing aids. There are more types of hearing aids than ever before, from tiny aids that fit completely in your ear to advanced behind-the-ear models. Your audiologist will help you make the best choice for you based on your hearing loss and your lifestyle. 

2. Yes, that’s a tiny computer in there. Almost all hearing aids today are digital, equipped with tiny computer chips that offer advanced features to make hearing smoother, helping to reduce background noise and whistling sounds (feedback), and improving in other ways on the analog hearing aids of the past.

 3. With today’s aids, it’s personal. Digital hearing aids don’t just amplify sounds, making everything louder. Instead, aids are calibrated to improve the users’ ability to hear on the frequencies where they have difficulty. Audiologists can do very specific programming to meet the individual hearing needs of each patient. 

4. Microphones work more like your ears. Most hearing aids today have directional microphones, allowing them to process sound from all directions. They can recognize and amplify the most important sounds, such as those in front of you, so your overall hearing is improved and you can hear what you want to hear.

 5. Your aids know where you are. You have different needs in different locations. In a noisy restaurant, it’s important to block out background noise while maximizing companions’ voices. Many hearing aids have special features that enable them to assess your environment – whether it’s that noisy restaurant or a quiet park atop a mountain – and adjust for that environment automatically.

 6. Enjoy better hearing while exercising. Moisture, whether from a rainstorm, a shower or perspiration, can damage hearing aids. If you participate in sweat-intensive activities – such as outdoor runs, sports, gardening or farming – you may find water-resistant hearing aids fit your lifestyle. There are a number of aids today that offer varying levels of protection against moisture damage (but you still can’t swim in your aids).

 7. Stream calls and television programs effortlessly. Most hearing aids have wireless Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to stream phone calls and television programs directly into your aids 

8. Hear speakers and the dialogue in plays. Programs, speakers and performances in public places have often been difficult for hearing aid users, but now there’s help. Many hearing aids are equipped with telecoils, which can be used to access an assistive listening system called a hearing loop. With a touch of their hearing aids, users can tap into the loop and stream the words of speakers directly into their aids. Hearing loops have been installed in a number of Triad churches, theatres and other public places in recent years. 

9. There’s an app for that. Many hearing aids have apps and/or remote controls that allow users to adjust the settings on their hearing aids without touching their aids.

 10. Recharge your hearing aids while you recharge. Some hearing aids today are available in a rechargeable format, so you don’t have to replace the batteries on a regular basis. You simply place the aids in a special case while you sleep, and the batteries inside them recharge (like you) overnight. 

Questions? If you would like more information on today’s advanced hearing aid options, give our office a call at 336-295-1553. 

Mary Ann Allen, Au.D., CCC-A, is an audiologist at HearingLife Greensboro. She is a doctor of audiology who also has earned national certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A practicing audiologist since 1998, Mary Ann has extensive experience in evaluating hearing loss and fitting patients with hearing aids and other technology to help them maximize their ability to hear