One of the most recent developments in Hearing aid technology has been the vast range of wireless functionality now available to the hearing impaired; from a basic loop system to Bluetooth, there are now no real excuses why a hearing aid cannot fit anyone’s lifestyle.
Wireless systems offer both an improvement in audibility and in usability. One way in which audibility has been improved is through CROSS hearing where control can transmit from one ear to the other; so that pressing one aid's program button simultaneously changes the other aid, so that both aids change background settings simultaneously. CROSS hearing is particularly useful for clients with no hearing on one side, offering the opportunity to transmit that ears sound over to the other ear.
FM listening systems with wireless receivers are also available. A separate wireless microphone can be given to a partner to wear in a restaurant, in the car, during leisure time etc. which in essence places the client’s ear directly below the speakers chin; offering unmatched speech audibility by eliminating the effects of distance and background noise. FM systems can also be hooked up to a TV, Radio and other input devices.
Very similar to FM; Loop is now used in many public places as a convenient and inexpensive form of assistive listening. Very simply an audio input, be it a microphone, music etc., can be transmitted to any hearing aid user within a chosen area (as long as they have their loop program switched on) this allows everything from general announcements to individual conversations to be achieved comfortably.
Bluetooth connectivity is the most recent innovation in wireless interfacing for hearing instruments to audio sources such as TV streamers or Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. Current hearing aids generally do not stream directly via Bluetooth but rather do so through a secondary streaming device (usually worn around the neck or in a pocket), this Bluetooth enabled secondary device then streams wirelessly to the hearing aid but can only do so over a short distance.
FM systems are considered a cornerstone in the treatment of hearing loss in children as the need for the teacher to be heard is tackled simply by placing a mic transmitter round their neck. Bluetooth has bridged the gap of convenience for hearing aid users, offering all their gadgets tailored to their own hearing prescription.
Many theatres and schools are now equipped with assistive listening systems that transmit the sound directly from the stage; audience members can borrow suitable receivers and hear the program without background noise.
In a world where life itself is requiring more and more gadgets, it's good to see that the hearing impaired have a vast choice of ways to continue hearing comfortably and conveniently.