Oct 2020 Science Times

hearing aidsHearing loss and hearing impairment has become an integral part of human technological advancement. The focus, development, and research that has been adapted in modern hearing aids have meant that several critical factors such as severe hearing loss, persons suffering from tinnitus, and access to better and more advanced hearing aids - both analog and digital can be solved. Modern technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have allowed the industry to cater to higher customer demand, resolve light to severe hearing aid problems, and play an active role in the treatment of hearing impairment.

Research conducted by the SIPP national surveys estimated that around 1 in 20 American adults are either deaf or carry hearing problems. The survey conducted in the US has shown the severity of the issue, but this has also given traction to other psychological and mental problems, as hearing loss can impact emotional wellbeing and other neuro health issues. We review some critical issues, revealing the latest research on hearing aids that can teach us and how the industry can adapt to future undertakings.

Hearing Aids: Analog and Digital

In the past, most hearing aids were developed based on a traditional model and template, but better access to technology, captured data, and analysis has made it possible for digital hearing aids to set foot onto the market. Although digital hearing aids are more expensive, as it carries better and faster hearing equipment, analog aids are still used by millions of people.

Analog aids work on a basic model, where sound waves are captured, converted into electrical signals, and are then amplified by a speaker into the ear. Volume and noise reduction can be adjusted manually on the earpiece. Digital aids work on the same premises, but instead of converting sound waves into electrical signals, it converts it into numerical codes, which are then amplified. Sound, volume, and noise reduction can be adjusted manually and automatically according to the surrounding environment.

Access

A growing concern in recent studies has shown that both adults and children can have limited access to hearing aid specialists, and the aids themselves. Factors of price, national health care systems, and medical aid insurance can hinder access. A study by JAMA , the Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery Institute concluded that geographic and socioeconomic variations can pose immense problems on various cultures, genders, levels of education, race, and those in affluent positions. 18% of hearing aid wearers did not have a high school diploma, compared to a higher 30% who did. Additionally, those who are fluent in English (97%), have a college degree (25%), and a higher level of income (40%) can have easier access to hearing aids.

Availability and Cost

Some hearing aid companies are breaking the norm and offering better, more affordable hearing aid pieces. NANO hearing aid reviews are quite astonishing. In the US this has been a company on the fast track in recent years, offering digital hearing aids at half the price of leading market competitors without risking quality and efficiency. A bulletin published by the World Health Organisation in 2019 showed that in some of the most developed and developing nations, the availability and cost of hearing aids has a large impact on the overall usage thereof. Countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the USA - all over universal access to hearing aids, but in some countries like Brazil and China, the availability thereof is limited. Additionally, high costs make it more difficult to access, with the United Kingdom offering full coverage of costs from public health insurance. Other nations only offer partial coverage, wherein some instances most citizens pay out of pocket.

Technology and AI development

Science Robotics (2018) in the US has managed to capture the prevalence and usage of AI and improved technology in modern hearing aids. New aids have become more adaptable to the wearer's environment and can be controlled via Bluetooth and their smartphones. The team that contributed to the research, designed a self-powered tribo-electric auditory sensor or TAS that can construct an electronic auditory system and assist with external hearing aids in robotic application. 

This has meant that researchers can not only adapt hearing aids for the use in robotic development but that this technology can be applied to human function and the modernization of hearing aid pieces. Additional findings published in 2019 by The Hearing Journal highlighted the importance AI can offer the development for hearing aid pieces, and how it can benefit the livelihoods and hearing of those wearing it. More so, the research has managed to highlight the evolving progress of digital hearing aids. 

Best Hearing Aid Options in the US

NANO Digital Hearing Aids

Nano aids are manufactured and distributed in the US. The company has managed to cut out the middleman, offering more affordable aids, deliver better sound quality and additional enhancements such as Bluetooth connectivity, app connection, smartphone optimization, and automatic noise, sound, and volume adjustment. These aids are priced between $390 - $1400 per pair and are rechargeable or use normal A13 batteries.NANO Digital                                                                                                                                                         

MD Hearing Aids

Low price is not everything: a hearing aid has to be efficient too. Based in the Midwest, MD has a selection of four types of hearing aids, catering to those suffering from light to severe hearing loss. Their selection is made up of fully digital hearing aids, equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and the MD hearing aids app.

Wearers can either purchase them per pair or individually, and are priced between $400 and $1600. Do not expect them to work as well as the other market leaders - and do not expect fast refunds. 

ReSound Hearing Aids

Operated by GN Hearing, Denmark, their presence in the United States has given them a reputable reputation, and although many customers have found success in using analog hearing aids, ReSound offers some of the best digital hearing aids on the market. Additionally, the company offers great insurance policies for their aids, has an extensive offering of modern aids and the ReSound App has given them a larger playing field. Their aids cost between $1100,00 to $4000,00, which can hinder those looking for high quality and low-cost option.

Although many companies, based both in the United States and across the world have been racing to developed and offer the latest in hearing aid technology  - there are still a handful of issues many big developers and hearing aid specialists have not yet been able to answer. The latest research findings have proven that certain areas of hearing aid progression has only been highlighted in research, and not yet in practice.

 

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