Many new hearing aids offer high-tech benefits like Bluetooth connections
Sure, better hearing is the main advantage of having a hearing aid, but some of the other hearing aid benefits might surprise you
Hearing loss can affect all aspects of one’s life, from tension with family and feeling socially awkward around friends to decreased performance at work and even in sports.
Loss of hearing can also become dangerous when you’re unable to detect nearby hazards, and can affect your sense of independence and security.
On the flipside, having a hearing aid, and therefore the ability to block out sounds (such as your mother-in-law’s voice) or amplify them (such as hushed water cooler gossip) has its benefits. And with today’s technology you can even wirelessly stream audio from all of your home entertainment equipment straight to your hearing aid. Sounds like buying a hearing aid just got groovy.
Hearing Aid Benefits
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1. Hear What’s Humming Around You
Okay, this is an obvious benefit of having a hearing aid, but the advantages of hearing better are widespread, and you might be surprised by you what you’ve been missing out on.
Damaged hearing results in a diminished auditory background, which is the incidental sounds in your environment like the hum of electrical equipment, the buzz of traffic, the chirping of birds, or the rustling of the wind. Without that background noise it’s easy to feel detached and disconnected.
Another missing element is biological sounds such as chewing, breathing and your own heartbeat. These sounds are generally perceived unconsciously but without them an eerie quiet can become noticeable.
2. Tune out What’s Annoying You
Irritated by your snoring partner, complaining children or nagging boss? Does your neighbour’s dog bark incessantly? Has a flock of squawking birds taken up residence in your tree? When you have a hearing aid you can choose to tune out by turning off.
3. Stay Safe
Not hearing properly can pose a safety risk when you’re unable to hear traffic noises while crossing the street, or detect impending danger such as an approaching pack of wild dogs or rioting hockey fans. Missing out on auditory cues like the fact that you left the faucet on can become a hazard when you’re hearing impaired.
4. Turn up the Volume
No need to ask friends to speak louder or increase the volume on the TV – just turn up your hearing aid to suit your fancy. Personal volume control also comes in handy when trying to listen in on other people’s conversations without detection.
5. Improve Psychological Well-being
The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association says a hearing disability “may result in low self esteem, social isolation and anxiety or depression.” Difficulty hearing can make you anxious that you’re missing crucial information and paranoid that people might be talking about you. It’s also physically and mentally exhausting when constantly straining to hear and interpret what’s going on around you.
6. Go High Tech
Hearing aid technology is always improving so if you’re a techno-junkie you’ll love what’s currently available. Some of today’s best hearing aids are able to act like wireless headphones, connecting your hearing aid to your TV, computer, radio and stereo? And most types of hearing aids today have noise filtering technology that reduces background sounds so you can hear what your tablemate is saying in a busy restaurant or have a conversation with the cute person sitting next to you on the noisy bus.
7. Hit the Town!
Former Mr. Universe Lou Ferrigno, who lost almost 80 percent of his hearing as an infant, shared with AudiologyOnline.com, “When I don’t wear hearing aids, people think I’m being rude or “standoffish”…they don’t understand that I can’t hear them.”
Hearing loss can cause misunderstandings and subsequent withdrawal from social situations, missing out on time spent with friends and family, and opportunities to meet new people, socialize, be entertained, and experience new things. Buying a hearing aid can remove or reduce barriers to communication.
Hearing technology company Phonak says that, “people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids experience more sadness, fear and anxiety than hearing aid users. They reduce their social activities, become emotionally unstable and have trouble concentrating.”
8. Treat Tinnitus
According to Dr. William Lippy of the Lippy Group Hearing Aid Center, one of the most surprising hearing aid advantages is the masking of tinnitus, which is ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be experienced intermittently or constantly. Dr Lippy says, “If we can introduce more sound into the ear and the patient can hear what’s going on around them it masks out their tinnitus. So the best treatment for tinnitus is a hearing aid.”
9. Improve Sports Performance
In the May 2011 Toronto Star Hearing Health Supplement (available on the Canadian Hearing Society website), it was revealed that, “Gordie Howe, the iconic NHL Hall of Famer, recently corrected his hearing, and declared that if he knew how much clearer everything would be, he’d have thought to tackle his hearing loss while he was still playing—he realized how much it had impacted his playing.”
Golf legend Arnold Palmer also struggled with hearing loss for years before finally deciding to get a hearing aid. He shared with Audible Difference how he couldn’t believe the difference his improved hearing made: “When I walked out on the golf course the first day I had a hearing aid, I heard things I hadn’t heard on the golf course, like the click of hitting a put or hitting a golf ball, or the air going through the club when I was swinging it. It made a tremendous difference.”
10. Perform Better at Work
"Persons with hearing loss may misunderstand what is being said,” says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and, "It may appear as if they are ignoring a supervisor's or customer's request and may result in poor work performance.”
Hearing Tech cites a study that found, “One in four [subjects who participated in the study] said hearing loss is affecting their earning potential. The areas of their work most affected are hearing and understanding phone calls and conversations with co-workers.” Even former U.S. president Bill Clinton had trouble on the job, trying to speak with people in crowds, before being fitted with a hearing aid.
Types of Hearing Aids
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Of the five senses, damage to hearing seems to have the most stigma – few people balk at the idea of getting glasses, and many even see it as an opportunity to display their personal style, but so many others suffer in silence (literally) when faced with hearing loss.
But gone are the days of cumbersome behind-the-ear hearing aids being the only option. There are five main types of hearing aids available today:
- Open fit hearing aids
- Behind the ear hearing aids
- In the ear hearing aids
- In the canal hearing aids
- Completely in the canal hearing aids
With so many different types of hearing aids – from funky covers for behind-the-ear models to ones so tiny they’re practically invisible hearing aids – and a wide range of price points, better hearing is accessible to nearly everyone.
The Latest Hearing Aid Technology
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Vancouver audiologist Dr. Mark Hansen, of Sound Hearing Clinic, says one of the most exciting developments in new hearing aids is connectivity. Sound Hearing Clinic offers a Bluetooth device, called ELI, which “offers wireless communication between hearing aid wearers and a growing assortment of modern Bluetooth signal sources.”
Dr. Hansen has also recently partnered with ReSound, a hearing solutions company, to offer its newest product, Alera – a hearing aid with wireless connectivity that provides “an exceptional surround sound experience along with strong and clear wireless connections to your TV, stereo, computer and mobile phone.”
Dr. Amir Soltani, Vancouver audiologist and clinical instructor at the University of British Columbia now offers a new extended-wear hearing aid (worn continuously for months at a time) called Lyric at Island Hearing Services, where he is clinical director. Dubbed “the contact lens for your ear," Lyric "covers a wide range of hearing losses, from mild to severe," says Dr. Soltani, and, "Because Lyric is a completely in the canal hearing aid, conversation on the phone is a major benefit of this product."
How to Buy a Hearing Aid
To be tested and fitted for a hearing aid, contact a local hearing specialist. To find an audiologist near you and for more information on hearing aids, hearing loss, and hearing aids reviews, check out the following resources:
- The BC Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
- BC Family Hearing Resource Society
- The Canadian Hearing Society
- The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association
- The Hearing Foundation of Canada
Learn about how you can prevent hearing loss.