Despite their past clunky image, modern hearing aids have become impressively tiny and high-tech, with the latest buzz being around smartphone compatibility.
The number of hearing aids being used by people of working age, combined with an increase of the average age of the smartphone user, means integration of the two technologies was inevitable. Previous models would need cumbersome extra accessories like a wireless pendant to speak to the smartphone, where now the latest private hearing aids are ‘made for iPhone/Android’. Every sound from the smartphone can be streamed to the hearing aids, from phone and video calls, music and movies to map directions. The direct connection provides pure, clear sound without interference or feedback.
Users can also get tailored programs to improve their ability to hear in different environments. For instance, listening to someone in a quiet room and noisy restaurant needs different levels of noise suppression, which could have previously required fiddling with the units behind the ear or using a dedicated remote control. Now it's as simple as a tap on the screen, meaning users don't even have to admit to having a hearing impairment. Instead, it can be put down to today's acceptance of antisocial phone fiddling!
The smartphone also brings other benefits. It's packed with sensors that can benefit hearing aid users: Using GPS, they can geotag an area with a certain set of settings and be prompted to activate them when re-entering the same place. There is also a ‘Find my hearing aid’ feature to reunite you with your lost aids.
With an app recently released for those with cochlear implants, it’s not hard to believe that in a few years the smartphone could be the portal for improving quality of life for many other health impairments, with projects like this being just the beginning ....