The Evolution of Hearing Aids: From The 19th Century To Now

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By Nathan Gomez

humanearAdvancements in hearing aid technology have made it possible for many people with hearing impairments to significantly improve their ability to hear. While hearing aids have been in existence since the 19th century, they’ve changed so rapidly over this time that today’s devices are almost unrecognizable to the ones available in the past. This article takes a look at the evolution of the hearing aid from the 19th century right through to 2016.

The Early Model

The first hearing aids came out in the 19th century and were essentially ear trumpets that projected sound through a funnel. Once Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, however, hearing aid technology was vastly improved. Bell’s revolutionary invention allowed hearing aid manufacturers to further regulate the frequency, loudness and distortion of sounds that would come through the hearing aid.

The Turn of the 20th Century

1913 was the year that the Siemens Company began production on the first hearing aids to be electronically amplified. As is probably expected of machinery at that time, these hearing aids were bulky and not easy to carry around. They were similar in size to a cigar box, with a speaker that fitted into the ear.

The next major advancement in hearing aid technology came just seven years later, with the development of the vacuum tube in 1920. Invented by naval engineer Earl Hanson, the vacuum tube used a telephone transmitter to convert speech into electrical signals.

Post World War 2

In 1948, Bell Laboratories released the transistor. This was the next big turning point in the technological evolution of hearing aids and would continue to remain a defining component for decades to come.

The 1970s saw the creation of the first microprocessor, which enabled technology to start getting more compact while still maintaining the hearing aids’ ever-improving clarity. In 1975, Daniel Graupe produced a six-channel hearing aid which offered digital control of the frequency across all channels.

The Digital Age

1987 saw the launch of the first commercial digital hearing aid. Bell Laboratories created a hybrid digital/analog hearing aid that fitted around and into the ear. Other companies followed suit by designing their own hybrid hearing aids with analog amplifiers and filters that were able to be controlled digitally. In 1996, the first digital hearing aid to be commercially successful was launched by Widex.

The Present Day

Hearing aids have come a long way from the ear trumpets of the late 19th century. In 2016, they are considerably smaller and come with a wealth of added features. One of the most noted advancements of modern-day hearing aids is the invention of invisible Lyric hearing aids, which sit deep in the ear canal, making them virtually invisible to other people. For hearing aid wearers that might have been self-conscious about having their mechanism on display for all to see, this is a big move forward. We can only wonder how hearing aids will continue to evolve in the future!

Hearing Loss In Seniors Should Be Taken Seriously – Part 2

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By Mardy Chizek, RN, FNP, BSN, MBA, AAS

Continued from part 1 of this article…..

humanearSudden deafness is a medical emergency that may be either totally or partially reversible if treated in time. See an otolaryngologist, audiologist or your family physician right away.

The most common way to address hearing loss is use of a hearing aid. Hearing aids are electronic, battery-run devices that make sounds louder. There are many “hearing aid stores”, so it is best to see an audiologist, a professional who has expertise in hearing, hearing loss and hearing aids. The quality of hearing aid devises vary by manufacturer, so consult with an audiologist to help select a hearing aid that addresses the hearing loss and enhances acceptance of the device.

A hearing aid is not a panacea for hearing loss. Many hearing aids are lying in drawers rather than sitting in ears to assist with hearing. A hearing aid takes time to get used to. The hearing aid amplifies all sounds and the loudness and sounds may be overwhelming to the senior who has had gradual hearing loss. The ear mold may not fit properly and may need to be modified. The hearing aid is an electronic device and may need to be readjusted. Do not give up. Often a gradual process of getting accustomed to the new tool improves the success.

Worsening hearing can often be attributed to a hearing aid malfunction. The malfunction may be as simple as deterioration of the plastic tube leading from the ear mold to the hearing aid. Hearing aid batteries need to be replaced and a dead battery can be the culprit. Disengaging the battery from the hearing aid device when not in use will prolong the life of the battery.

Hearing loss is more than an inconvenience. There are many reasons for the senior and their family to work on options to improve hearing.

There also are assistive devices, which are products that can help you hear better, such as telephone amplifying devices, or TV and radio listening systems that can let you hear the TV or radio without being bothered by background noise or needing to turn up the volume. An Internet search can help you find a distributor in your area. Other handy devices that can help make the senior’s life easier and safer are vibrating alarm clocks and door bells that light as well as sound.

Finally, with a diagnosis from a healthcare or audio professional, a cochlear implant may be prescribed. A part of these electronic devices are surgically implanted under the skin. Most senior hearing loss cannot be improved with cochlear transplants, but a professional can tell you whether you are a candidate for the procedure.

Take hearing loss seriously

Hearing loss is more than an inconvenience. There are many reasons for the senior and their family to work on options to improve hearing. The social isolation caused by hearing loss should not be minimized. The hearing aids available today are smaller and more powerful and the stigma of wearing a hearing assistive device is less profound.

If you suspect a loved one’s hearing is compromised, get it checked out as soon as possible.

Mardy Chizek, RN, FNP, BSN, MBA, AAS is the president of Westmont’s Charism Elder Care Services. For more information on depression and dementia visit Charism Eldercare Services at www.charism.net.

Hearing Loss In Seniors Should Be Taken Seriously – Part 1

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By Mardy Chizek, RN, FNP, BSN, MBA, AAS

seniorcoupleexercisesmallAlthough it can be frustrating for seniors and for their families when conversations are impaired by hearing loss, hearing loss can signal more serious problems. According to a study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing-impaired seniors were also 36 percent more likely to have prolonged stretches (more than 10 days) of illness or injury and 57 percent more likely to have extended episodes (more than 10 days) of stress, depression or mood disorders.

Hearing loss affects as many as 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older. It can contribute to falls, traffic accidents, social isolation, being taken advantage of, and depression.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,100 American men and women aged 70 and older with hearing loss, and found that over a four-year period they were 32 percent more likely to have been admitted to the hospital than more than 500 adults with normal hearing.

Caregivers and families should recognize that hearing loss should not be considered an inconvenient part of the aging process, but rather a health issue that deserves intervention. Hearing loss in itself may not lead to serious health conditions, but it can be associated with other unrelated problems as noted above.

Presbycusis (loss of hearing due to aging) is the most common type of hearing loss in seniors. It comes on gradually as a person ages and often the senior does not recognize the loss. High pitched sounds are the most prevalent loss. It occurs in both ears, but not necessarily at the same rate or significance. The hearing difficulty is often noted when a senior is in a group setting or in noisy settings.

Work life environmental exposures contribute to presbycusis. Exposures from guns, power tools, loud music and industrial machinery have a major impact on loss of hearing in later life. There is a family connection in about half of the cases. About one third of people between 65 and 75 and half of those over 75 have hearing loss related to aging.

Presbycusis (loss of hearing due to aging) is the most common type of hearing loss in seniors.

Another ear-related condition seen in young and old is tinnitus. It is commonly called “ringing in the ears.” While it is called ringing, it may manifest as a hissing sound, a motor running, roaring, pulsing, clicking or buzzing. It may be consistent or vary in intensity.

While tinnitus is bothersome, it is treatable and not life threatening. It may or may not be connected to hearing loss. It can be a symptom of other medical conditions or medication. New onset should be reported to your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

Ear wax in the external ear canal or fluid build-up in the inner ear may also block sounds causing hearing loss. Do not put anything into your ear until you know what the problem is. After assessment, if ear wax is the problem, the healthcare practitioner may recommend products that soften the wax for easier removal. Hearing aids may actually worsen an ear wax problem so have the ear checked routinely.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article shortly…..

Mardy Chizek, RN, FNP, BSN, MBA, AAS is the president of Westmont’s Charism Elder Care Services. For more information on depression and dementia visit Charism Eldercare Services at www.charism.net.

Early Rehabilitation For Hearing Loss Has Better Outcome

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By Christopher R. Watson

humanearHearing loss can affect individuals as early as infancy, and as late as their senior years. Regardless of when the hearing loss occurs, it is important for anyone experiencing a hearing issue to visit a hearing specialist as soon as possible. With infants and toddlers, hearing issues are sometimes hard to detect at first, but early signs may include the child not responding when their name is called out or not responding to snapping or clapping sounds when the person making these sounds is out of view. For adults, hearing loss can be gradual, and many people simply chalk it up to the natural process of aging. The problem with this theory is that without treatment, the hearing can rapidly decrease due to the fact that the brain will eventually lose the ability to completely process audible sound and recognize common speech patterns.

Are You Experiencing Hearing Loss?

If you are starting to notice subtle differences in the way that you hear, these small factors could point to the early signs of hearing loss. Early signs in adults may include the need to ask people to repeat themselves when speaking, difficulty following conversations with more than one speaker, difficulty in registering what is being said by someone else unless directly facing them, the impression that people are mumbling or slurring, a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears, and the need to turn the television or radio up even when it is at an acceptable level for others in the room.

Advancements in Hearing Aids

In situations where the hearing loss is extremely low, complete hearing can often be restored with the implementation of a hearing aid. For individuals with advanced hearing loss, a hearing aid can greatly improve their overall hearing ability, allowing for even the softest sounds to be heard. Today’s hearing aids are small and compact, so wearers do not have to worry about carrying around a bulky box, and they can keep their hearing loss to themselves if they are concerned about other’s reactions.

Today’s digital hearing aids are also specifically designed to completely eliminate strong feedback, which in turn allows for easy listening in virtually any environment, no matter how crowded it may be. Many digital hearing aids also have additional Bluetooth capabilities, allowing wearers to connect their cell phones and audio devices directly to the unit.

Take a Hearing Test

If you are ready to make a positive change in your hearing ability, you can start by contacting a hearing specialist for a consultation. They will conduct a series of hearing tests in order to properly diagnose your level of hearing loss, and will advise on the best type of hearing device to suit your specific hearing needs. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you are experiencing hearing loss, and today’s hearing aid technology makes it easy and convenient to wear your hearing aid in a discreet and comfortable fashion. By taking the first step in treating your hearing condition, the world will sound a lot sweeter for you in the days to come.

– Christopher R. Watson is an audiologist. His passion is helping people, and he enjoys sharing his insights on the importance of hearing health by blogging on a variety of websites. Click for more information about Healthy Hearing.

What Advantages Does An Invisible Hearing Aid Give You?

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By Emily Steves

humanearThere are many advantages associated with using invisible hearing aids, which can help you to enjoy improved comfort alongside the best quality digital programming. Invisible hearing aids can be fitted inside the ear canal, and cannot be seen by observers. As well as this discreet advantage, invisible hearing aids make use of high tech hearing technology, and are available in several specialist brands; it’s also worth remembering, though, that some wearers may not be suitable for invisible hearing aids due to the size of their ear canal.

An invisible hearing aid is designed to fit within the ear canal, and is fitted to your particular hearing needs; as with other digital hearing aids, invisible hearing aids can be programmed to filter out different kinds of sounds, and can be set up to deliver the best sound for phone conversations and crowds.

Invisible hearing aids are typically fitted much closer to your ear drum than other hearing aids that clip around your ear. At the same time, invisible hearing aids are built to resist water and wax, but not intensive activities like swimming or being underwater in the bath.

One of the main advantages, then, of wearing invisible hearing aids is that you can reduce any anxiety about wearing a visible hearing aid in public; while now common, many younger people and children are still uncomfortable about wearing a hearing aid. Invisible hearing aids consequently provide a solution that allows people to enjoy enhanced hearing without having to worry about being judged – again, hearing aids have advanced to the point where designs and visibility mean that they be comfortably worn without being self conscious.

There are many different invisible hearing aid brands that can be tailored to your hearing loss. Among these brands, Phonak hearing aids use cutting edge technology to enhance your hearing, and feature advanced settings such as sound-flow and whistle-block. While standard hearing aids can achieve much of the same effects, Phonic’s invisible hearing aids are designed to be small and easy to wear without noticing them.

One of the main advantages, then, of wearing invisible hearing aids is that you can reduce any anxiety about wearing a visible hearing aid in public…..

Other popular invisible hearing aid brands include those made by Starkey SoundLens – these invisible hearing aids can be worn within your ear canal, and can be set up to cut out whistling and any other forms of interference. In the same way, brands like the Siemens iMini include features like feedback stopping, directional hearing, speech enhancement, and noise reduction when you’re out in public or in busy restaurants and bars.

When looking for an invisible hearing aid, it’s crucial to get a consultation with a trained audiologist, who can assess your type of hearing loss, and whether an invisible hearing aid is right for you. Unfortunately, some people do not have wide enough ear canals to have invisible hearing aids fitted, so make sure that you get a full consultation before making a decision.

It’s also important to ensure that your service includes aftercare, whereby an audiologist can deal with everything from discomfort when the hearing aid is being worn, through to reprogramming it to adjust to your hearing.

– Blogger Emily Steves suffers from hearing loss. She likes sharing her experiences and thoughts about many different invisible hearing aid brands. She firmly believes that these can help you understand the issues of hearing loss more efficiently.