Keeping Seniors with Hearing Loss “Connected”
Leading an active lifestyle with today’s technology has made it relatively easy to interface with a large range of communication systems like cellular phones, landline phones, televisions, MP3 players, stereos, computers and car navigation devices. For hearing impaired individuals who wear hearing aids, these simple communication and entertainment options have been a huge challenge. Now, there is a solution to allow hearing instrument wearers to enjoy the same fun aspects of modern living.
Hearing instrument manufacturers have recently taken steps to allow hearing impaired people to utilize Bluetooth technology. Many people who wear hearing aids find it difficult to communicate on the telephone or watch television even while wearing their hearing aids. Today’s digital hearing aids combine advanced amplification options with Bluetooth technology. This allows hearing aid wearers to receive the sound from any audio device (television, telephone or MP3 player) directly into their hearing aids wirelessly.
Advanced digital hearing aids are now utilizing this interface to wirelessly connect the hearing aids to a variety of audio devices. This interface that is worn around the neck or on the collar of a shirt depending on the manufacturer that distributes the device. An example of this technology is shown in Picture A.
The user of the interface simply touches the button on the device to activate the Bluetooth technology. A device specific for the television is shown in Picture B. The same interface can be used to connect you to the telephone and the television.
There are many advantages of this new technology for individuals with hearing loss. The first advantage is that the sound is streamed wirelessly to the hearing aids. This allows the hearing aid wearer to talk on the telephone in the car without holding a phone up to their ear. It allows the user to watch television through the prescription in their hearing aids and everyone else in the home to watch the volume at whatever level they wish. The volume on the television can even be turned completely off while the hearing aid wearer is watching at the volume they choose. The hearing aid wearer can even walk up to 30 feet away from the television and still hear the television directly routed through their hearing aids.
A second huge advantage is that the individual is able to hear binaurally, out of both ears. For an individual with hearing loss, the ability to hear out of both ears, especially while talking on the telephone, makes communication much easier. Sound through the telephone becomes much clearer and easier to understand.
Is this technology just for the younger generation, absolutely not. The Better Hearing Institute reported that more than 31 million Americans have hearing loss and 30% of people over age 65 have hearing loss. The senior population is the largest group of individuals who utilize hearing aids. Kathryn Zickuhr recently looked at seniors and the use of technology in, her February 3, 2001, Web Coordinator, Pew Internet & American Life Project. She found that many devices have become popular across generations, with a majority of adults now owning cell phones, laptops and desktop computers. The study went on to find 68% of adults aged 66 to 74 and 48% of adults aged 75 and older are using cellular telephones. Imagine using that cellular phone hands free through the prescription in your hearing aids while you are driving, cooking dinner or working out. It is especially beneficial to those who have physical limitations, with the push of a button; they can answer the telephone or watch television (or both) from their lazy boy chair in their living room.
Another technology that is useful when an individual has poor dexterity is a hearing aid remote control. A remote control enables a user to change the volume or switch between different listening programs that are designed by their Audiologist. An example of a remote control for hearing aids is shown in Picture C.
The best part about this technology is that it is often available to demonstrate in an Audiologists office. Depending on the Audiology office you choose, some will even let you take the technology home to try in your own environment.
Living with hearing loss can be isolating. Many people choose not to participate in daily activities because they can’t hear the conversations. Today, solutions are available to help you live an active lifestyle without your hearing loss getting in the way. For more information on the newest technology in hearing aids and Bluetooth technology, contact your local Audiologist.