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Not Your Grandpa’s Hearing Aids: Smart Technology for Your Ears


Saturday, May 31st, 2014

According to the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) more than 36 million Americans have hearing loss, and of those, more than half are younger than 65. Still, many people are hesitant to get help. In fact, on average, it takes a person 10 years to get hearing aids after a doctor recommends them.

“When you wait to get help for hearing loss, your hearing and your overall health can suffer,” says Dr. Phil Pollice, an ear, nose, and throat doctor with Metro ENT Associates–UPMC.

ENTs and audiologists hope new breakthroughs in technology will encourage more people to get the devices sooner. Many hearing aids now have “smart” technology built in. The newest high-tech options can do more than improve hearing. They can:

  • Double as in-ear headphones, syncing with a smart phone or tablet for phone conversations or listening to music.
  • Bring your favorite shows to life by connecting to your TV speakers.
  • Give you turn-by-turn driving directions through your car’s GPS system.

Hearing Aids Train Your Brain

Hearing aids should be a good fit for your lifestyle, since when it comes to hearing, it’s “use it or lose it,” Dr. Pollice explains. “The sooner you start wearing hearing aids following a hearing loss diagnosis, the easier it is for your brain to adjust. Without them, research shows you may find it harder to understand speech over time.”

In addition, untreated hearing loss can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Dementia

Getting Used to Hearing Aids

Once you get hearing aids, it’s important to give them a chance. “It takes time for your brain to adjust to wearing hearing aids,” says Dr. Pollice. “An audiologist can help you work through the challenges you face when first using them, so you get the most benefit.”

Hearing aids with smart technology can help as well. With GPS tracking, you can customize settings for different locations using your phone. The sound will automatically adjust when you revisit a favorite restaurant, movie theater, or coffee shop.

Dr. Pollice says, “Here’s the way I put it: If you couldn’t see well, would you wait years and years to get glasses? Your hearing should be treated the same way.”

Signs of Hearing Loss

  • Difficulty hearing in noisy places
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • People sound like they are mumbling
  • Turning up the volume on TV or radio
  • Ears feel clogged
  • Ringing, buzzing, or hissing in your ears

Hearing Health Tips

  • Visit an ENT or audiologist to have an exam of your ears and a baseline hearing test.
  • If you have hearing loss, have your hearing checked every one to two years to look for any changes.
  • Protect yourself with ear plugs or heavy-duty earmuffs when mowing the lawn, using power tools, hunting, going to concerts, and other noisy activities.
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