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Page 20 Healthy Cells Magazine Peoria May 2014

feature story
more automatic, and more sophisticated in many ways. Todays aids
can be very discreet, effective, and incorporated into day-to-day life.
The demographic for using new technology has also widened.
There are now capabilities aimed at integrating technology for pediatric
through geriatric populations. Many people incorrectly assume that
those over a certain age are incapable of using new technology; that it
will be too confusing and complicated. Our experiences have found this
assumption to not only be false, but unfortunately it can also limit an
individuals exposure to technology that could be exceedingly helpful.
Cell Phones and Hearing Aids
Cell phones have become a part of everyday life for many people.
Unfortunately, individuals who wear hearing aids sometimes struggle
T
echnology is king. It has become the driving force in nearly all
markets and is advancing exponentially. There is now an app
for everything when just a few short years ago, no one even
knew what an app was. We can now utilize cell phones and other
wireless devices for so many purposes, and those are expanding
daily. Medical devices are no different. In the world of audiology, these
advances in wireless technology allow hearing aids to be more effective
in a variety of environments and allow each user to integrate them into
different aspects of life.
In the past, hearing aids have carried the unfortunate stigma of
being considered a symbol of aging, something that does not work
right, and something that is bulky, obvious, and undesirable. Hearing
aids have come a long way in recent years: theyve become smaller,
Wireless Capabilities
Can Hearing Aids Become Cool?
Submitted by the Midwest Hearing Centers
From L to R: Carrie Morris, Au.D., CCC-A, Sharon Benivegna, M.A., CCC-A,
Jennifer Ragusa, Au.D., CCC-A, Amanda Hillebrand, M.S., CCC-A, Sarah Hyde, Au.D., CCC-A
Associated with Midwest Ear, Nose & Throat Associates, S.C.
May 2014 Peoria Healthy Cells Magazine Page 21
with using a cellphone and feel as though they are unable to take advantage
of features such as hands-free conversation. New wireless and Bluetooth
technology and accessories allow for the phone conversation to be streamed
directly though the persons hearing aids with much better signal processing
and transmission. Not only does this improve the sound quality and volume for
the listener, it provides a sense of security and safety, particularly when driving.
Among the wireless advances in hearing aids are cellphone apps developed
by many of the hearing aid manufacturers and aimed at varying purposes.
Some require an intermediary device to allow hearing aids to connect with
the cellphone, but not all. One company has developed a method of allowing
smart phones to be utilized in new, exciting ways. This new hearing aid can
connect directly with some Apple devices and through an intermediary device
to other companies (i.e., Android). This allows for all audio to be transmitted
directly into ones hearing aids, including phone calls, music, videos, podcasts,
audio books, GPS directions, and text-to-voice capabilities (such as reading
text messages and emails aloud).
Because of the processing power now available in a cellphone, there are so
many more utilizations of hearing aids! One can check the hearing aid battery
level, find a lost hearing aid (that is turned on), find the last GPS location your
phone connected to the hearing aids, and use the microphone in the smart-
phone as a remote microphone. Using the cellphone in this way also allows for
a sophisticated remote control that would allow for volume control, program
changes, as well as treble/bass control.
A different company also has a tinnitus management app. This app has
a library of sounds aimed at helping reduce the stress of tinnitus. You can also
add music files from your own library into this app. Sounds are capable of being
categorized and saved based on the type of sound and the situation that you
report is most useful.
One does not need to take advantage of all of these options to use hearing
aids. They function independently as they always have, are still programmed
to individual hearing losses, and are adjusted by an audiologist. These are just
Dr. Ragusa tests a patients hearing in the sound booth
Dr. Morris examines a patients ears
Page 22 Healthy Cells Magazine Peoria May 2014
feature story continued
options open to allow for customization of ones hearing aids out of the office
and the ability to use them in revolutionary ways. The new technology available
merely adds to what hearing aids can do, and possibly makes them more desir-
able and cool.
Other Accessories
There is also an ever-growing range of hearing aid accessories that can
make even basic devices perform better than ever and help to keep patients
connected to the world.
Remote controls: The smaller hearing aids become, the more difficult it is
for the manufacturers to fit controls onto them. While cell phones can now be
used as remote controls for many hearing aids, there are also devices available
that allow for this function without needing a cellphone. A separate remote can
maintain a discrete, small-sized, hearing aid but still allow a volume control and
control of personalized programs. Some can even inform you of battery status.
TV streaming: With the new wireless function of hearing aids, many are now
able to connect wirelessly to the TV audio. This allows other listeners in the
room to keep the TV at a comfortable level while the hearing aid wearer can
adjust the level to accommodate their needs. The signal is also processed to
accommodate specific hearing loss needs. This technology also eliminates
distance as a factor for intelligibility of TV programs, as it is streamed directly.
Rechargability: Some hearing aid wearers with manual dexterity issues have
difficulty manipulating the hearing aids themselves let alone changing their bat-
teries. Using rechargeable batteries can significantly decrease the frequency
of these changes and lessen possible dependence on others to complete
this task. Reduce/reuse/recycle is a mantra that is heard frequently as we all
strive to protect our Earth. Rechargeable batteries also reduce the amount of
batteries thrown away to help protect our environment.
Improved understanding in noisy environments: Situations and environ-
ments with high levels of noise or distractions can be extremely difficult for
hearing aid users. FM systems have been available for many years, and as
hearing aid circuitry improves, so does the ease with which hearing aid users
can take advantage of this valuable technology. These systems have been
used mostly for children in schools; however, there has also recently been
a large leap forward in utilizing this technology for adults. When using an FM
system, a microphone is held or worn by the desired speaker and that signal
is sent directly to the hearing aids without the interference of any ambient
noise. There are microphones available that are small, sleek, and discrete.
Unlike past microphones which were intrusive, distracting, and bulky. Many
individuals choose to take advantage of them to improve the quality of their
daily lives at home, in noise, and in the workplace. In addition to FM, there
are also simpler, external, wireless, microphones that can transmit their signal
directly to hearing aids. This microphone is typically clipped to a single person
of interest, or set in front of an audio signal. Then this signal is heard above
all others, providing much better sound quality in the presence of noise or
distractions.
Technology has greatly improved in recent years allowing more people to
benefit from hearing aids, and allowing current users to improve their perfor-
mance with their aids. Contact an audiologist to see if your current hearing aids
have any of these capabilities, discuss getting new hearing aids, or test your
hearing to see if hearing aids would be appropriate for you.
For more information on Midwest Hearing Centers visit us
online at mw-ent.com or contact their Peoria or Morton offices.
The Peoria office is at the OSF Center for Health. Email hearingcenter@mw-ent.com or
call 309-691-6616. Hours are MondayFriday from 84:30 p.m. with walk-in hours for routine
hearing aid cleaning and minor repairs from 13 p.m. on Thursdays.
The Morton office is at 1600 S. Fourth Ave. Email mortonhearing@mw-ent.com or call
309-284-0164. Hours are MondayFriday from 8:304:30 p.m. with walk-in hours for routine
hearing aid cleaning and minor repairs from 911 a.m. on Tuesdays.
Dr. Hyde assists a patient in connecting her
hearing aids with her smart phone
Todays hearing aids can communicate wirelessly
with cell phones and other electronic devices
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