New tech makes hearing aids natural

These aren’t your grandfather’s hearing aids. More

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Focus: TECHNOLOGY

New tech makes hearing aids natural

PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL PERSSON
HEAR AND NOW: Beltone hearing-instrument specialist Mark Zarrella installs a new hearing device for patient Blanche King. The new hearing aid allows for integration with iPods, TVs, computers and other electronics.
Posted 11/21/11

These aren’t your grandfather’s hearing aids.

Thanks to giant advances in technology, wearing hearing aids today is not emotionally or physically traumatizing.

Beltone New England’s newest product line, Beltone True, uses new technology patterned after the ear’s natural ability to hear in multiple environments. The product won recognition in the Health and Wellness category of the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show’s Design and Engineering Innovation Awards program.

“It’s the first time a hearing aid has ever won in that category,” said Perry Ebel, vice president of business development for Beltone New England. “And it’s primarily because the product is very sophisticated. The computer chip that is in it is incredibly fast, much faster than anything else that’s been in the industry for a while, and its approach to solving some of the problems in hearing loss is unique and significant.”

For example, a hearing-impaired person who is watching and listening to television may leave the room, and under normal circumstances that might require an adjustment to an aid. But the Beltone True automatically senses the change in environment and adjusts itself comfortably for the wearer.

And while digital hearing aids have been around for many years, it’s just been over the last six years that something called “open technology” has been available, Ebel said.

“In its simplest terms, there was a physics problem,” he said. “About six years ago, hearing aids had to be made so that they blocked all the sound coming into the ear. And the reason that had to happen was because the digital technology involved couldn’t sample the sound it needed to sample for your hearing loss.”

Therefore, the sound could not be delivered to the eardrum at the same time as natural sound. Then advancing computer technology allowed sounds to go into the eardrum along with processed sound at the same time so it didn’t sound mumbled.

For Blanche King, 89, of Smithfield, being high-tech was not the motivation behind her getting the Beltone True. She had never worn hearing aids before but noticed that her hearing was getting increasingly worse and wanted to be able to hear her grandchildren and her church service as well as on the telephone.

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