Hearing Aid Learning – New Technology Improving Hearing Aid Satisfaction

hearing aid technology brisbane

 

 

The  New Technology Improving Hearing Aid Satisfaction

 

Fitting of hearing aids in brisbane

Imagine having an audiologist by your side constantly adjusting your hearing aid settings to best match your hearing needs in different situations.  This is what hearing aid learning technology is all about except you can leave the audiologist back in the clinic

Hearing aid learning is a relatively new technology available in some hearing aids. This technology allows hearing aid wearers to “teach” the hearing aids their volume preferences for sounds in their everyday environment.

Every individual has different needs, preferences, lifestyles and of course hearing loss.   The audiologist has a challenging role in fitting hearing aids, ensuring that the hearing aids are optimally programmed to satisfy these unique hearing needs and preferences. The audiologist may begin with case history to understand lifestyle needs and preferences, measure and quantify the hearing loss, then attempt to program the hearing aids accordingly.  A follow up appointment is usually scheduled some weeks after the fitting once the wearer  has experienced the hearing aids in their everyday environments.  Based on the wearer’s feedback, if the hearing aids were too loud or too soft in certain situations, the audiologist would fine tune the hearing aids to optimise the hearing aid performance for the wearer.

There are some challenges in this process. Firstly, the audiologist not having the first hand experience in the wearer’s hearing situations, may not be able to comprehend the factors contributing to their hearing difficulties.  Neither is it easy for wearers to accurately communicate their sound preferences for a host of hearing situations. Finally, the hearing clinics are usually soundproofed for the purpose of conducting hearing tests, bearing little resemblance to real world listening situations. A hearing aid that is optimally fitted in a quiet soundproof room may not always perform adequately in real life noise-filled environments.

“Learning” technology attempts to ameliorate the hearing aid fitting process by closing the gap between the initial first fit by the audiologist and the ultimate hearing needs of the wearer.

What is hearing aid learning?

Hearing aids aim to optimise speech understanding for the wearer.  To do so, the hearing aids’ loudness must be adjustable across a range of frequencies (low to high) to match the hearing profile of the individual’s hearing loss. At the same time, hearing aids need to be adjustable for different sound levels: soft, moderate and loud sounds.  Soft sounds should be audible; moderate sounds comfortable and loud sounds bearable.

Most hearing aids have multiple programs to cater to different listening situations.  Each listening program can be set differently to provide an optimal hearing experience. For example, a noise program may provide a directional microphone, more aggressive noise cancellation and a softer volume level to provide for listening comfort.  Many digital hearing aids can automatically switch between hearing programs depending on the acoustic situation the user is in.

“Learning” technology enables wearers to “teach” the hearing aids their volume preferences in their personal listening environments.  The initial settings provided by the audiologist, after careful testing and consultation, forms the basis for the hearing aid to optimally learn the wearer’s hearing needs and preferences in the real-world.

The hearing aids learn the user’s volume preferences as the wearer makes changes to the volume control in their day-to-day activities. Presently there are various levels of “learning” across hearing aids. At the basic level, hearing aids can learn an wearer’s overall preferred volume through the adjustments made to the volume control.    As the wearer adjusts the volume control on the hearing aid on a day to day basis, the hearing aid over time averages out the changes made. The hearing aid increases or decreases the volume level accordingly. After some weeks, the hearing aid gets closer to the preferred volume level of the wearer.

More sophisticated hearing aids are able to learn the wearer’s preferred loudness differently across the frequency range (ie the timbre and base preference) and loudness preferences for soft, moderate and loud sounds in different acoustic situations (such as quiet, speech in quiet, noise, speech in noise, car and music).

This is again done automatically through the adjustments made to the physical volume control of the hearing aid.  Each time the wearer makes an adjustment to the volume control, the hearing instrument remembers the volume in that particular environment at that exact point in time and stores the sound setting (level of soft, medium or loud sound) and the situation (e.g. car, music) when the change was made. The device then keeps a tally of these changes and adjusts the sound levels accordingly.

‘Learning” technology is an asset to both hearing aid wearers and audiologists.  The technology offer hearing aid wearer’s a sense of control as they are not just a passive observer but active in the fine tuning process.  The technology can reduce the number of follow-up appointments needed which is especially beneficial for individuals living in remote locations with limited access to hearing clinics, and to those in poor health who find it difficult to attend appointments.

 

Hearing Aids: Is There An App For That?

hearing aid apps

 

 

Hearing Aids: Is There An App For That?

 
apps for hearing aids

The smartphone is an essential tool in many people’s lives.  Smartphones have replaced many personal devices including MP3 players, cameras, GPS devices and even books.  In addition, the hundreds of thousands of smartphone applications (or apps for short) have made it a device with almost limitless applications.  This is set to continue due to the portability, programmability and increasing capabilities of smartphones.

Smartphone applications now also extend to hearing aids.  More and more manufacturers are seeing the range of benefits that apps provide hearing aid wearers.   Most manufacturers now offer hearing aid apps for both Android and iOS (Apple) devices e.g. iPhone.  In most cases these apps are available free-of-charge.  However, the apps are generally only compatible with later generation hearing aids.

There are a number of benefits apps can provide the hearing aid wearer.  These benefits can be classified into three areas:  (1) Manageability (2) Advanced personalisation and (3) Enhanced functionality.

This article will look at these different applications:

 

(1)   Manageability

The touchscreen is well recognised as an intuitive and an easy to use interface.  Apps can be used to adjust basic functions of hearing aids (e.g. volume, programs, mute function).  This provides users with an easy to use interface for adjusting their hearing aids without having to fiddle with the actual hearing aids themselves.  The other advantage of such apps is that changes can be done discreetly.  What looks like sending an SMS or reading an email is in fact the wearer adjusting their hearing aids.

(2) Advanced Personalisation

Most hearing aids these days just have one physical control (such as a rocker switch) that will normally be programmed by the audiologist to have a specific personalisation function (e.g. volume).  With smartphone apps the wearer can access a whole range of personalisation features so they can make very precise adjustments to a wide range of hearing aid parameters/settings.  This can include volume, treble, as well as advanced features such as noise reduction.   For example in noisy situations instead of just being able to turn down the volume, wearers can make adjustments to features such as noise reduction to match their preferences for that specific acoustic situation.

(3) Enhanced functionality

Apps can offer additional complementary functionality for hearing aids.  Currently there are apps that offer the following functionality:

  • Remote microphone – The smartphone turns into remote microphone. It can be given to the speaker in noisy situation and their voice will be wirelessly streamed to the hearing aids of the wearer.
  • Hearing aid finder – The app can be used to locate lost hearing aids by providing GPS co-ordinates of the last time the hearing aids were near the smartphone. The smartphone can also detect the hearing aids when nearby.

 

About Sounds of Life

Sounds of Life Audiology is a leading, independent hearing aid specialist.  We offer affordable hearing aid pricing on quality hearing aids (including virtually invisible hearing aid technology) from the world’s leading brands including Siemens, Signia, Phonak, Starkey, Unitron, Resound, Bernafon, Oticon and Sonic Innovations.

Contact Us today on 1300 744 432

 

 

Wireless Hearing Aids: Connect To The World Of Sound

 

 

Wireless Hearing Aids: Connect To The World Of Sound

 

To enhance sound quality and listening enjoyment, many hearing aid models now feature the ability to wirelessly connect to different audio devices including:

  • TVs and MP3 players – high quality stereo sound (e.g. music) can be wirelessly streamed from these devices through the wearer’s hearing aids.
  • Mobile phones –wearers are able to converse in a hands-free manner (without even removing the phone from their bag or pocket) with the hearing aids becoming a virtual phone headset.

Hearing aids support wireless audio-streaming in two major ways:

(1) Direct Audio-streaming – a relatively new technology this enables hearing aid wearers to wirelessly stream stereo audio from an audio source (e.g. mobile phone) to their hearing aids without an intermediary or secondary device.  Wearers can stream audio at a distance of up to ten metres.

RS_Smart_App_Apple_Watch_wRIE62 (1)

Until recently, this technology was only available with hearing aids labelled “Made for iPhone™” (e.g. Signia Nx, Resound Linx, Starkey Halo).  “Made for iPhone” hearing aids are designed to share a low energy 2.4 gigahertz bluetooth link between the hearing aids and an Apple device (e.g. iPads/iPhones).  This technology has grown in popularity over the last 5 years and now all major manufacturers offer “Made for iPhone” hearing aid models within their range .

Unfortunately most hearing aid manufacturers do not offer direct audio-streaming to Android or other non-Apple Bluetooth devices.  Phonak (a leading hearing aid manufacturer) however recently brought out a hearing aid model called “Audio B Direct” that uses technology they call “Made for All”.  This hearing aid does offer direct wireless audio-streaming from any bluetooth device (using “Classic” Bluetooth), however it should be noted that the audio-streaming is only possible for phone audio (not music or video) and streaming is to one hearing aid only (the wearer does not get a stereo input).

(2) Indirect Audio-streaming – The majority of hearing aids support indirect wireless stereo audio streaming using a secondary device.  This secondary device is usually worn around the neck or in a pocket.  Wearers wirelessly connect this device to the audio source (e.g. mobile phone, television) and using Bluetooth, audio is then wirelessly streamed to this device (at a distance of up to ten metres) which then relays the audio stream to the wearer’s hearing aids.  The reason this secondary device needs to be around the neck, is that the device uses digital magnetic field induction (MFI) to transmit the audio into the hearing aids (MFI can only work over a short distance – normally less than 50 cm).

Compared to direct audio-streaming this method of audio-streaming is much more energy efficient.  It is not uncommon for wearers using indirect audio-streaming, to find their hearing aid batteries last twice as long as uses of direct audio-streaming.

 

To stay connected to your network of friends and family, talk to Sounds of Life today about our wireless hearing aid range.

 

About Sounds of Life

Sounds of Life Audiology is a leading, independent hearing aid specialist.  We offer affordable hearing aid pricing on quality hearing aids (including virtually invisible hearing aid technology) from the world’s leading brands including Siemens, Signia, Phonak, Starkey, Unitron, Resound, Bernafon, Oticon and Sonic Innovations.

Contact Us today on 1300 744 432