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YOUR HEALTH: Boldly going where no aid has gone before

By Martin Jurek

Imagine having a computer inside your head, helping you interpret data every moment of the day. Sounds like something out of Star Trek, right? Well, that’s exactly what today’s hearing aids do.

From those external metal cones to the first electronic aids invented shortly after Graham Bell’s telephone, hearing aids have come a long way, baby. But their goal has always been the same – amplification to improve audibility.

Today, even the most basic aids are highly programmable for an individual’s specific hearing loss. All aids also have automatic gain control (AGC) circuits, meaning that the devices adjust volume automatically rather than manually. Generally speaking, the more sophisticated the hearing device, the more options for customization.

Almost all modern hearing aids also have directional microphones and some form of environmental noise reduction (ENR). These work in concert to automatically pick out the wanted sounds and eliminate background noise.

Another recent innovation is frequency lowering, or shifting – useful for people with a very profound loss in the high frequencies. By using a frequency-lowering feature, we can move the sound to a frequency with more usable hearing.

One more option is called binaural processing. Until recently, hearing aids worked independently of each other. Today, many hearing aids actually communicate with each other to capture sounds, preserve a more exact soundscape and give the brain more accurate signals.

The more advanced the technology, the more precise the amplification and the more aggressive the noise reduction. Of course, none of this matters if your provider isn’t able to fine-tune the aids to ensure you get the most from them.

All, as Spock might say, so that you can live well and prosper.

 

Martin Jurek is a Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioner and co-owner of Campbell River Hearing Clinic with his wife Jana. To learn more, visit www.tohear.ca or call 250-914-3200.

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