At Connect Hearing, we’re always looking to provide you with valuable information from highly-trained experts. We are excited to introduce our new expert series, Sound Advice.
We’ll be talking with experts about a variety of hearing health topics, giving you access to important information straight from our qualified practitioners. In this post, we’ll be discussing the future of hearing aids with three of our panelists.
What has changed the most in hearing technology over the past several years?
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 according to Connect Hearing audiologist Jody Pogue, 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,” says Pogue. “It was embarrassing, and they couldn’t hear anything anyway.”
However, Pogue explains that 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,” says Pogue.
John Cummins, a Hearing Instrument Specialist with Connect Hearing, sees similar opportunities from these staggering technological advancements.
“Competition has improved the market offerings, and technology has vastly improved in both receiver-in-canal (RIC) and custom hearing aids,” Cummins says.
Cummins adds that since the input of practitioners is essential in finding the right devices, consumers probably won’t be in a rush to try to navigate the buying and adjustment process without the help of licensed professionals. But the increased awareness around hearing aids, thanks to attention from major retailers and the new hearing aid bill, will help relieve stigma around the devices, making them more accessible and opening the door to even better offerings.
Indeed, the fluidity of today’s technology is better than it ever has been. According to Rachel Allen, another Hearing Instrument Specialist with Connect Hearing, customization is becoming ubiquitous for hearing aids.
“Most [hearing aid] companies allow the user to make changes based on their environment so they can fine tune the sound to their preference,” she says.
This convenience, Allen believes, will likely morph into even more connectivity to hearing aids through advanced cell phone apps that allow users to manually tweak their hearing aid programs with a tap of their screens.
What exciting new developments are on the horizon for hearing aids?
The major changes in hearing technology over the last few years are just the beginning. Pogue points out that hearing aid users have a lot to look forward to, especially with advancing Bluetooth® features.
“With Bluetooth, we have had the ability to connect the hearing device with another device like a streamer, to other Bluetooth devices like cellphones and televisions. Now they are direct to Bluetooth, and that has been a big change.”
She also anticipates we will see more universality, i.e. hearing aids that can connect directly to any device without a streamer—similar to recent developments with some of the market’s newer devices. “With the new hearing aids like the Phonak Audéo B Direct, they are truly hands-free. To answer the phone, all they need to do is press a button on the hearing aid and say ‘hello’.”
Cummins sees similar things on the horizon for hearing aids. “Bluetooth® connectivity and reduction of size in hearing aids, as well as longer battery life (for rechargeables) will help connect those with hearing loss to more devices,” he says.
Allen also acknowledges that when it comes to the distant future of hearing technology, the sky is the limit. “We know that whatever direction the research is going, it is to make improvements that help those with a hearing loss to better connect with the people around them.”
What will hearing technology look like in five years?
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 their capacity to so vastly improve the lives of users, our panelists have high hopes for the future of hearing technology.
“I want [hearing aids] to be as plug-and-play as possible,” says Pogue. “I want my patients to be able to put them in their ear and forget about them and live their lives.”
As for Cummins, he sees a future of highly intuitive technology on the horizon.
“Artificial intelligence will be integrated into hearing testing and fittings . . . and will improve the overall product offerings and reduce costs as more of the global population accepts hearing aids and purchases them.”
Plus, Cummins says, users will 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.”
Allen, too, believes a 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,” Allen says. “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.”
With all of these projected developments, there’s certainly a lot to get excited about!
Learn more about hearing aids
We’d like to give a big thank you to all of our hearing care experts who contributed to this post! If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to us. And if you liked this post, be sure to share it with your friends using the social media buttons below.
And of course, don’t forget to look for another round-up in the coming weeks!