Hearing Vibes: The Wonderful New World of Hearing Aids

Walt Shields

Imagine for a moment what it would be like for someone with hearing loss to hear a telephone conversation perfectly; enjoy music again; clearly understand the spoken word on television, or in an auditorium, or across a table in a crowded restaurant; or even hear the telephone ring from another room. Sound far-fetched? Not so; that technology is here now with the new generation of vastly improved hearing aids combined with Bluetooth connectivity. No longer simply listening devices, today’s hearing aids go far beyond that to increase the understanding and appreciation of sound. Let me explain.

When I began my journey living with hearing loss approximately 16 years ago, my first pair of hearing aids did little more than amplify sound. But even with increased volume, my hearing was still “out of tune.” I have a form of hearing loss that is especially common in men, where I can hear low-frequency sounds quite well, even without aids, but I have severe loss in the higher frequency ranges. Translated, I can hear the refrigerator humming but not a bird singing. For me, if hearing aids only amplify sound, it is analogous to listening to a radio that is slightly out of tune with the volume up. It is still out of tune, just louder.

I have accepted that no aids will return me to the full hearing ability of my younger ears. But I am now onto my fourth generation of hearing aids and, wow, what a difference in the new technology. My current aids are programmed by my audiologist to not only amp up but, more importantly, clarify the high-frequency sounds that I need for my hearing loss. Also embedded in my hearing aids is a coil that lets me hear clearly anything that is coming through a microphone, provided the auditorium or meeting room is equipped with a transmitter called a loop. Many SaddleBrooke facilities now have that capability.

Bluetooth technology lets me further customize my hearing ability. Using an app on my smartphone, I have programs that allow me to listen to a phone conversation directly through my aids and reduce the ambient noise in a crowded restaurant, as well as other settings, such as my car to remove pesky road noise. Struggles with telephone voices, hearing my phone ringing in a remote site, and those dreaded calls with a tech who has a foreign accent are all now things of the past. No more crushing the phone against my ear to try and understand. There is even an external device available now for purchase that has revolutionized my ability to hear my TV clearly. Music used to be a big part of my life, but gradually I could no longer understand the words in songs, let alone the melody. I felt like that part of my life was gone forever. Yes, enjoying live music will never be the same again, but now I can listen to the recorded music I used to love directly from my phone’s music library or Pandora into my hearing aids. The quality is remarkable, and all of these enhancements are available using Bluetooth. Truly a miracle.

Hearing aids today are so much more than just assisted listening devices. They truly begin to bring a world of hearing appreciation back to the wearer and return a lost quality of life.