Hearing Devices, Technology and Protection
Hearing aids are used by those with a hearing loss to aid their communication and reduce the burden of communication breakdowns. Hearing aids come in varying styles, shapes, and technologies. There are two main styles of hearing aids: those with the device inside the ear canal area and those with part of the hearing aid sitting on top of the pinna.
Behind the ear and receiver in the canal devices have the housing sitting on top of the outer ear (pinna) coupled to an earpiece in the ear.
Custom devices are manufactured to the exact shape and size of each person’s ear canal and have all of the electronics in the ear. They are available in several sizes to suit the hearing levels, ear dimensions and management ability of the individual.
Lyric is a unique type of custom device. Unlike daily wear hearing aids which are removed and inserted each day, Lyric is the only extended wear hearing device of its kind. It is placed in the ear canal close to the ear drum by a trained Lyric audiologist. The placement of the devices means it is invisible and cannot be seen. The device remains in the canal for up to 3 months and there is no need to change fiddly batteries. Lyric is replaced with a new device by a Lyric audiologist as required.
Your audiologist will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each hearing aid style with you before you decide together which device(s) are most suitable. Things to consider during this decision-making process include:
- The degree of hearing loss
- The unique hearing and communication needs of the individual
- Fine motor skills and the ability to use/manage hearing devices
- Ear canal shape, size and length
- The need for one vs two hearing aids.
- Bluetooth compatibility requirements
Rechargeable hearing aids: hearing aid users report that hearing aid batteries can need replacing at the most inconvenient of times and the key benefit to rechargeable hearing aids is that they remove the need for fiddly battery changes and the inconvenience of purchasing, carrying, changing and even losing disposable batteries. Lithium-ion rechargeable battery technology is the most common form of rechargeable hearing aid. Whilst charging times differ between manufacturers, rechargeable hearing aids generally provide 18-24 hours of full time use from one full charge.
Wireless Communication Devices
The most difficult listening conditions reported are noisy environments. Places like restaurants, pubs, places of worship, family gatherings and meetings can be very difficult listening situations, especially for those with a hearing loss. Wireless communication devices are effective for listening in noise for individuals without hearing aids as well as for those who wish to use them in conjunction with hearing aids to further optimise their listening experience.
Wireless communication devices work by raising the volume of the speech above the background noise. They also help with listening over distances. There are many applications for these devices and many different types available. The unique needs and environment of each listener are considered when selecting the most appropriate wireless communication device.
Television devices: headphones and streamers
The television presents three major difficulties for the hard of hearing: the clarity of the program, the speed of the dialogue and sound effects and/or background music which may be a part of the program itself. As the sound quality of the television program is compromised listeners often increase the volume (and in some cases add subtitles) to make it easier to follow the dialogue. However, increasing the overall volume does not make things clearer and often leads to frustration for the person with the hearing loss and other family members who prefer a reduced volume level. Wireless television devices can often improve the listening experience for all
TV headphones can work in conjunction with hearing aids or as standalone devices. The user wears the headphones and can adjust the volume and balance to suit while leaving the settings of the television at a level that can be enjoyed by other household members.
Television streamers are used in conjunction with hearing aids. They connect to the television and work by taking the television signal and sending it directly to the user’s compatible hearing aids.
Hearing aids are designed to improve the ability to hear and understand speech, however there are additional devices available that help improve awareness of sounds around the home and workplace. These are known as alerting devices. Thanks to modern technology these systems have helped those with hearing loss live more independently and feel safer in their homes.
There are a vast range of alerting devices which signal when the following are activated:
- Alarm clocks
- Baby monitors
- Smoke alarms
- Door bells
- Phone calls
Musician’s earplugs offer protection from the most challenging sound environments by reducing the overall sound level without compromising music quality. These earplugs are fitted with specific noise filters to ensure the integrity of music remains unchanged however allowing the musician to protect their ears from the damages of noise exposure. This is how they differ from standard plugs you can purchase from a pharmacy. Whilst these will reduce noise, it is not equal across the different frequencies and in turn changes the way music should sound. Musician earplugs come with differing filter strengths. The type of filter needed is matched to musician’s instrument/noise exposure
Water protection- Swim earplugs
There are certain ear conditions which require water to stay out of their ears. These include:
- exostosis ( bony ear canal growth)
- those with recent ear surgery
- perforated ear drum
- ventilation tubes (grommets) in the ears
- and/or ears sensitive to infections
Swim plugs are specifically designed with hydrophobic material to keep water out of the ear canals but are also engineered to allow sound through to ensure communication remains unchanged.
Have a snoring partner? Construction work around your home? Traffic noise leaking into the bedroom? A noisy pet? Customised sleep plugs are specifically designed to reduce these sounds while optimising comfort when sleeping. Customised to each ear size and shape, these devices are made from soft medical grade silicone and are available in different colours. Sleep plugs are easy to use and clean and are safe for nightly use.