Lionel and I recently visited Starkey Hearing Technology headquarters to learn how hearing aids are made and about their ongoing research and development. Since joining the hearing industry more than a decade ago, I’ve seen tremendous technology gains that are more than just whistles and bells, but provide a true benefit for our patients. What’s being developed is an even greater leap forward.
Wearables is a technology category of advanced electronic devices that are also worn, much like a fashion accessory. Fitness activity trackers and the Apple Watch are common examples. Hearing aids today fit that definition too. Not just a medical device to amplify sounds, but a device that can be paired with a smart phone to stream calls directly to your hearing aids. Advancements on the horizon include sensors that can detect blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and sleep apnea. As electronics improve greatly so do the possibilities.
Starkey is developing technology to sense which direction your optic nerve is facing in order to determine what sounds are important to the listener and make adjustments to the hearing aids automatically. Think about how that development can impact your listening experience at a crowded party or a large, boisterous family gathering.
All of these advancements aren’t off in some distant tomorrow land of the future, but put to use today. We witnessed hearing aid shells being built utilizing 3d printers. The computer chips that are components of hearing aids are now thin as paper and flexible. These micro-processors contain more computing power than the first personal computers we had just 25 years ago. These small chips allow manufacturers like Starkey to develop hearing aids that are smaller, lighter, and more comfortable but yet produce crystal clear sound quality.
If you’ve been delaying treatment for hearing loss because you remember your grandfather’s bulky hearing aids that squealed with feedback, take a closer look at technology. Just like the gigantic cell phone brick and rabbit ear TV antennas, those days are long gone. We invite you to try out today’s modern technology. Feel how it fits, listen to the sound quality, see how it can connect to your cell phone. Technology is bringing in a whole new world for people with hearing difficulties, and it only keeps getting better.