From advanced Bluetooth connectivity to speech enhancement and feedback suppression, the hearing aids of today look very different from several years ago.  And even now, they continue to evolve.

We spoke to several hearing experts for their thoughts on the matter.

Jody Pogue, Audiologist
A professional audiologist based out of Austin, Texas, Dr. Jody Pogue is a board-certified Doctor of Audiology. She has been with Connect Hearing since 2014. Dr. Pogue also teaches undergraduate and doctoral audiology courses at the University of North Texas.

For the past several years, Dr. Pogue has passionately provided hearing healthcare with a focus on hearing aids and tinnitus management. She has served on missions to Haiti and other underserved populations.

John Cummins, Hearing Instrument Specialist
Focused, compassionate, and with an excellent eye for detail, John Cummins left a career in information technology to transition into audiology. He has worked as a hearing instrument specialist at Connect Hearing for more than five years. He is also a registered member of the Maryland State Board of Examiners for Audiologists, Hearing Aid Dispensers, and Speech-Language Pathologists.

Rachel Allen, Hearing Instrument Specialist
Rachel has practiced as a Hearing Care Provider for more than 9 years. Since 2014 she has worked for Connect Hearing in the Austin, TX area. She's passionate about helping people with their hearing, and takes great pride in the many people she's been able to care for. 

What's changed the most about hearing aids in the past several years?

Judy Pogue
Rigorous research and development efforts have helped hearing aids evolve from large, unwieldy accessories to sleek, nearly invisible designs with a multitude of features. These transformations have made differences in the lives of millions. Thirty years ago, people wouldn't wear hearing aids because every time someone would come close, their hearing aids would start squealing.

It was embarrassing, and they couldn't hear anything anyway. Detailed engineering efforts have paved the way for instruments that fit the needs of the many while providing the flexibility to accommodate each user's unique patterns of hearing loss.

Digital hearing aids changed everything. All of a sudden, instead of making everything louder, we were able to fit those people who had those high-frequency hearing losses.

John Cummins
Competition has improved market offerings, and technology has vastly-improved in both receiver-in-canal (RIC) and custom hearing aids. Since the input of practitioners is essential in finding the right devices, consumers probably won't be in a rush to navigate the purchase and adjustment process without the help of licensed professionals. However, the increased awareness of hearing aids, thanks to attention from major retailers and the new hearing aid bill, will help relieve stigma around the devices.

This will both make them more accessible and also open the door to even better offerings.

Rachel Allen
Customization is becoming ubiquitous for hearing aids. Most companies allow the user to make changes based on their environment so they can fine-tune the sound to their preference. Most hearing aid companies allow the user to make changes based on their environment so they can fine-tune the sounds to their preference.

I believe this convenience will likely morph into even more connectivity in hearing aids through advanced cell phone apps that allow users to manually tweak their programs with a few taps on their screen. 

What exciting new developments are on the horizon for hearing aids?

John Cummins
Bluetooth connectivity and reduction in hearing aid size coupled with longer battery life will help connect those with hearing loss to more devices. 

Jody Pogue
Hearing aid users have a lot to look forward to, especially with continually-evolving Bluetooth features. With Bluetooth, we had the ability to connect hearing aids via a streamer to other Bluetooth devices like cell phones and televisions. Modern hearing aids are now direct-to-Bluetooth, and that's a big change.

I anticipate we'll also see more universality, such as hearing aids that connect directly to any device via plug-and-play. New hearing aids like the Phonak Audéo B Direct, they are truly hands-free. To answer the phone, all a user needs to do is press a button on the hearing aid and say ‘hello’.

Rachel Allen
Realistically, the sky's the limit. We know that whatever direction the research goes, it will inevitably make improvements that help those with hearing loss better connect to the people around them.

What will hearing technology look like in five years?

Rachel Allen
The future of more hearing aid-friendly technology integrations isn't far off. Big names like Bose®, Samsung®, and Apple® are going to begin to integrate into the market with smart hearables. These are easily connected to things like Alexa, Siri, or Google. This technology has an endless amount of uses from directions to reminders. 

Think Google’s smart glasses, but for your ears. They may even be able to monitor your health stats to alert patients or their doctors about things like falls or blood sugar.

John Cummins
Artificial intelligence will be integrated into hearing testing and fittings. This will improve the overall product offerings and reduce costs as more of the global population accepts and purchases them. Users will also be able to seamlessly connect with the most cutting-edge fitness products.

The integration of wearables—like Fitbit® and Dash by Bragi®—into hearing aids will happen in the next five years as consumer electronics giants and hearing aid manufacturers find a convergence of needs for readier adaption, voice recognition technology improvements, and faster response times to the varying listening environments of the industrial world.

Jody Pogue
I want hearing aids to be as plug-and-play as possible. I want my patients to be able to put them in their ear, forget about them, and live their lives. My hope is that hearing aid technology transforms in such a way that it becomes almost completely unnoticeable, even to the people using it. 

A bright road ahead

From on-demand everything to social media to self-driving cars, tectonic technological shifts are transforming the way we live our everyday lives—and hearing care is no different. With all these projected developments, there's certainly a lot to be excited about. Rigorous research and development efforts have helped hearing aids evolve from large, unwieldy accessories to sleek, nearly invisible designs with a multitude of features
And these changes are just the beginning.