Thursday, May 19, 2011

Six Predictions on the Future of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are becoming very science-fictiony devices, like something you might see on Star Trek. Many new models have Bluetooth capability, as I wrote about in a January guest post here. Below are some predictions I have for hearing aids as we continue into the 21st century.

Hearing Aids Will Be Embraced By Younger Generations
Possibly out of necessity, and possibly due to lowering stigma about hearing aids, I think more and more younger people will be willing to wear hearing aids. Since hearing aids are no longer obvious to wear or clunky to use, it will become a non-issue for younger people. Some hearing aids could even come to be seen as cool - fashion accessories that could be blinged out, with graceful designs and trendy colors, that have cool tech to back them up.

Image from Flickr user BitBoy
Image of a neon sign displaying the words "Hearing Aids"

(Hearing Health Will Be, Too!)
At the same time that hearing aids are becoming more popular, I think hearing health messages will be easier to get across. Initiatives like Phonak's Hear the World, using celebrities, and Marlee Matlin's recent work with Starkey for Celebrity Apprentice, will make the public more aware of hearing loss and health.

Hearing Aids Will Be Even More Integrated with Daily Tech

While many hearing aids today have Bluetooth technology, it often requires the purchase of a secondary device, and has to be paired by an audiologist. I think that hearing aid technology will increase to the point that they will one day be able to interface directly with the other device.

Hearing Aids May Become Daily Tech
Not only may they soon be able to integrate directly with devices, hearing aids may soon actually become those devices. Imagine going to an audiologist, buying a pair of hearing aids and then stopping off at a cellphone provider to add a voice plan. Add a simple keyboard and screen device for texting or video calls and you have a fully integrated system.

Cellphone Apps Will Become More Advanced

There are already apps out there to test your hearing, add captions to what you're watching and other cool options. I can easily see a company releasing an app as a "remote control" for their hearing aids. There are a lot of cool apps still to be developed, but I think the neatest ones work with augmented reality tools to enhance daily life, which for users of hearing aids, would be really easy to do.

Hearing Aids Will Be Covered Under More Insurance Plans
At least for children, I think we will soon see more coverage for hearing aids under insurance plans. Massachusetts currently has a bill in the works for hearing aid coverage and I predict more states to follow. 

What do you think? What's coming up in hearing aid tech?

12 comments:

  1. I really hope hearing aids will be covered by insurance plans. I work with the elderly on occasion and most need hearing aids, but only 1/5th have them and/or wear them. It makes such a huge difference in the quality of their lives, but too few have access to them.

    And I really hope hearing aids will be cool some day. Queen Teen still refuses to wear them, and I can't exactly hold her down and duct-tape them to her head (can I? lol)

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  2. I see hearing aids as becoming obsolete so not an wise investment, with genetic treatment we will mostly all be hearing.... It is why I questioned the ethics of deaf charities supporting and investing in HA technology, do they want it to continue or what ? Where is the bottom line ?

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    1. Oh! I so wish that would be the case - & it will be one day...but I doubt it will be any time soon. Perhaps in another 30+ years (bit late for me then!) But I could be wrong.

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  3. Terena - I hope so too, for both of those. :)

    MM - That's an interesting idea. I am in disagreement with you there simply because I doubt genetic treatment for hearing loss will become commonplace anytime soon. I also doubt that everyone will be able to afford or even undergo genetic treatment. I think hearing devices will always fulfill a need. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. That should read: "even be able to or want to undergo genetic treatment."

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  5. Economics, the support costs and maintenance/education costs would make genetics financially viable, if and when they arrive. They will balance one intervention policy against an lifetime's support. They say an CI implantation saves thousands every year. I feel an bottom line is often forgotten in that nobody chooses an hearing aid, or chooses to have hearing loss. I'm not amused HA manufacturers STILL play on our fears by offering 'hidden' or 'invisible' aid options. we shouldn't feel ashamed to wear them.

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  6. Thanks MM. I agree no one should feel ashamed to wear them, so I do hope people embrace them in the future. As far as genetic treatment, I think we will have to agree to disagree. I think there are too many variables at play to make a prediction about it yet, even how expensive it might be.

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  7. Check out the percentage of profoundly deaf children being outfitted with CI before the age of 3 or so these days. I think HA will be nudged out by CI's which is a pity because I do think HA are more versatile in the ways you mention. But the sheer numbers of CI make me think that they will be the predominant method used, and HA will increasingly be used mostly by the "Grateful Dead" set -- that is, hearing people who lost their hearing later on in life (particularly with lots of loud music).

    I already see a big difference in the types of hearing aids offered. It didn't used to be difficult to find HA for my level of deafness. Nearly all of them amplified many times over. Now, especially with digital hearing aids (and mini hearing aids that are practically invisible) it's difficult for me to find hearing aids that are powerful enough for me. They're all oriented toward very precise, very finicky, minimal hearing loss due to age & noise exposure, for people who used to hear and are very demanding about the appearance and function of the aids. And they are far more numerous now than plain old deaf folks like me.

    --browneyedgirl65@twitter

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  8. Now a days hearing aids are becoming more popular for hearing diseases device.you can't avoid it,if you are suffering from hearing loss.Thanks for the great post, keep up the good work, good luck!!

    Regards,
    Digital Hearing Aids

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  9. I got to thinking about the problems I have with my hearing aides and I was wondering if we could water proof them, or make rechargeable batteries so we can save money and I would love for my hearing aides to sink in with an I-pod to act as a headphone.

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    1. Hearing aids help many enjoy a better quality of life, helping them to participate in activities around them more effectively. Many good people live their lives without realizing these benefits by not using such devices. Only a small percentage of people can be treated medically for hearing loss, and the remaining majority still needs hearing aids to live a better life.

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  10. Healthyhearing.com has a lot of information on the future of hearing health as well.

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