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Difference Between A Hearing Aid and A Personal Sound Amplifier

We published an article back in 2014 regarding the difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers. A few of the comments we received requested more info on this topic to include additional details regarding product differences. Let's dig in and discuss the difference between a hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier. With a billion people at risk for hearing loss, this market still has significant upside (for consumers and suppliers alike).

First – What are these devices, and what are they used for?

What Is A Hearing Aid?

Difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers
Receiver In Canal Hearing Aid | courtesy Starkey Hearing Technologies

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) defines a hearing aid as “a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.”

Hearing aids are FDA regulated devices and they typically consist of 3 distinct parts; a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker.

A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker. – NIDCD

RELATED: FDA PUSHES FOR INNOVATION WITH HEARING AIDS

What Is A Personal Sound Amplifier?

Difference between personal sound amplifiers and hearing aids
A Personal Sound Amplifier

Personal sound amplifiers come in all shapes and sizes and are considerably less expensive than traditional hearing aids. Personal Sound Amplifiers also known as (Personal Sound Amplification Products), increase environmental sounds  can help people hear better in certain situations, like hunting or birdwatching.  Interesting to note that these devices are not designed for hearing impaired people. That's right these devices are specifically designed for non-hearing-impaired-consumers!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make sure you know the difference between a hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier. Here's what the FDA says about personal sound amplifiers:

Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), or sound amplifiers, increase environmental sounds for non-hearing impaired consumers. Examples of situations when these products would be used include hunting (listening for prey), bird watching, listening to a lecture with a distant speaker, and listening to soft sounds that would be difficult for normal hearing individuals to hear (e.g., distant conversations, performances). PSAPs are not intended to be used as hearing aids to compensate for hearing impairment. – FDA 

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The FDA's Dr. Eric Mann, deputy director of FDA's Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, And Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices says that the personal sound amplifiers can actually cause further hearing loss if used improperly.”It can cause a delay in diagnosis of a potentially treatable condition. And that delay can allow the condition to get worse and lead to other complications,”

Difference Between Hearing Aid and Personal Sound Amplifier

Difference In Cost

Despite what the FDA says, the difference in cost between a traditional hearing aid and a personal sound amplifier will have consumers curious about personal sound amplifiers.  According to The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the cost of a single hearing aid is $2,300. If you need a pair, you'll be plunking down $4,600… That's a tremendous amount of money when you consider that a personal sound amplifier might cost you between $250 and $400.

There is some good news on the hearing aid front. If you shop around you can find deals out there (on quality products) that bring the cost of hearing aids down substantially. Doing some online research, finding innovative new companies (like Elevated Hearing), or simply visiting your local Costco store can arm you with information that can save you money.

If you think you're suffering with hearing loss, it's important to consult with a professional. Buying a personal sound amplifier might seem like a good idea because of cost concerns, but one shouldn't do so without carefully evaluating the potential risks that may accompany that decision.

Are You One of the 40 Million People Who’ve Suffered Hearing Loss?

Just under a quarter of adults — or 40 million people — in the US suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, according to recent data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Even more alarming? Approximately 20 percent of these people thought they could hear well, according to CDC findings. Here’s a closer look at the CDC’s report, along with a guide to what everyone needs to know about hearing.

Medical alert systems
Could better hearing — and a better life? — be just a screening away?

About the CDC Report “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Adults”

Not only did the CDC data — based on the hearing tests of more than 3,500 people — reveal that many people with hearing loss are unaware of the condition, it further concluded that the majority of noise-induced hearing loss happened not in the workplace, but in other settings where loud sounds occur. In other words, sirens, leaf blower, rock concerts and even headphones with the volume turned up may lead to hearing loss.

RELATED: WALKMAN GENERATION AND HEARING LOSS

The problem is magnified by slow diagnoses. As CDC acting director Anne Schuchat told The Washington Post, “Noise is damaging hearing before anyone notices or diagnoses it. Because of  that, the start of hearing loss is underrecognized.”

The Facts on Hearing Loss

According to the NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.”

Third on the list of common chronic physical conditions in the country and more prevalent than both cancer and diabetes, hearing isn’t just a health issue; it’s also critical to communication, the ability to function, and quality of life.

If left undiagnosed, hearing loss can lead to a number of related issues, including reduced function across social, psychological, and cognitive measures. It has also been linked with loneliness and depression. Continues the NIDCD, “Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor's advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.”

While age is the most common cause of hearing loss due to a condition called presbycusis, the CDC’s recent findings suggest that chronic exposure to loud noises outside of the workplace also plays a more significant role than once thought. This distinction is vital because while you can’t prevent age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented through environmental modifications.

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Diagnosing Hearing Loss 

According to the CDC, “Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant, often unrecognized health problem among U.S. adults. Discussions between patients and personal health care providers about hearing loss symptoms, tests, and ways to protect hearing might help with early diagnosis of hearing loss and provide opportunities to prevent harmful noise exposures.”

However, research also shows that as few as 40 percent of primary care providers ask their patients about hearing loss, according to the CDC, a woefully inadequate figure given that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that people over the age of 50 be screened at least every three years.

Certainly, hearing screenings can play a vital role in helping to both lessen diagnosis delays and improve access to hearing-related resources for people with hearing loss. Unfortunately, less than half of adults who have difficulty hearing don’t seek the help of healthcare professionals. This means the condition can progress for years before hearing rehabilitation can begin. Meanwhile, the negative effects of hearing loss continue to accrue.

Preventing and Managing Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is not preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is through the use of personal hearing protection devices as well as limiting prolonged noise exposure.

And while hearing loss is largely irreversible,  several strategies can help mitigate its impact for those already living with the condition, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other types of clinical rehabilitation; lip reading and speech reading; and assistive listening devices, including everything from closed circuit systems to smartphone apps and other new technologies.

RELATED: HOW TO BUY A HEARING AID

However, it all starts with seeking professional help — particularly if you suspect that you or an aging loved one is having a hearing problem.

Medical alert systems
Better hearing means a better life.

An additional issue compounding the problem of hearing loss and seniors? The stigma attached to the condition. Encouraging people to share their hearing difficulties can help ensure that family, friends, and other members of the caregiving team are prepared and able to do their part to keep open the lines of communication. But hearing loss is just one of the many issues facing today's adult population.

For more useful content on everything from senior housing to senior discounts to medical alert systems sign up for our newsletter.

Senators Warren (D) and Grassley (R) Agree: Hearing Aids Should Be Sold Over-the-Counter

Nearly 50 million Americans, the majority of them older adults, suffer from hearing loss in at least one ear, but only a negligible fraction of them use hearing aids. To what can this discrepancy be attributed? Many experts place at least part of the blame on how hearing aids are regulated and sold.

best hearing aids

In an effort to reverse this trend and ensure that all seniors have access to life-changing hearing technology, Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, put their differences aside to call for reforming the hearing aid market in a joint article published in JAMA Internal Medicine in March.

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Here’s a closer look at the issue of seniors and hearing, along with the specifics of the two senators’ plea to Congress and the FDA.

Medical alert
Hearing aid technology is getting better. Access is not.

Hearing and Seniors

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions impacting older adults, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). In fact, roughly a third of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and this number skyrockets to half among those older than 75.

Hearing loss is more than an inconvenience. Says NIDCD, “Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor's advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.”

Related: Elevated Hearing: Order Hearing Aids Online, For Less

Hearing loss is such a problem that one Clinical Interventions in Aging article declared it to be a “severe social and health problem.” Meanwhile, a study from the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) reinforces the emotional and social consequences of hearing loss for seniors. Not only did the study determine that hearing impaired adults over the age of 50 were more likely to be depressed, anxious, or paranoid, but they were also less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to their hearing-aid-wearing peers.

Says Audiology.com of the study’s results, “Hearing aid users reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life and their sex life. In virtually every dimension measured, the families of hearing aid users also noted the improvements but were even more likely than the users to report improvements.”

The Hearing Aid Imperative

A number of different treatments exist aimed at improving hearing loss. At the top of the list? Hearing aids. In amplifying sound, these electronic devices worn in or behind the ear can vastly improve the quality of life of seniors. Which begs the question: Why do so few older adults utilize the technology available to them?

Medical alert
Hearing isn't a convenience. It's a quality of life imperative.

For starters, many aren’t aware that their hearing is that bad and think they can make do without, while others object to the stigma associated with wearing a hearing aid. Said James Firman, EdD, president and CEO of The National Council on the Aging, “It is very sad that millions of older people are letting denial or vanity get in the way of treatments that can significantly improve the quality of their lives. Doctors and family members should insist that hearing impaired seniors seek appropriate treatment.”

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But there’s also another reason just 14 percent of hearing impaired older adults have a hearing aid: poor access.

“The Path Forward” to improving hearing aid access.

Currently, not only are expensive hearing aids not covered by insurance, but the way they’re bundled into a package of services when sold makes it challenging for consumers to walk away with the best value. This is compounded by the fact that many sellers of hearing aids are incentivized by manufacturers to sell their products and therefore only a limited range of hearing aids are presented, oftentimes all from a single source. Sellers may also tune hearing aids using their own proprietary software thereby ensuring that consumers return to them for adjustments.

In their joint article, “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: The Path Forward,” Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley insist, “These problems in the hearing aid market stem from the way hearing aids are currently regulated, and they can and should be addressed through legislation as well as related changes to FDA rules.”

Medical alert
Are hearing aids coming soon to a pharmacy aisle near you?

Warren and Grassley also cite reports from both the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) recommending that certain types of hearing aids which address mild and moderate hearing loss could and should be made available over the counter. Not only will this move improve access, the article proposes, but it will also trim costs.

In response to concern from critics suggesting that allowing individuals to “self-diagnose” their hearing loss will compromise consumer safety, the article counters with an NAS study indicating no link between medical evaluations and “clinically meaningful benefit(s).”

The article’s ultimate conclusion? “In the current regulatory environment, however, people simply lack affordable solutions to help them treat their hearing loss. The FDA should regulate over-the-counter hearing aids to ensure that these devices are safe, high-quality products. That is why our bill requires the FDA to develop these safety and quality regulations when such a category of devices is created.”

RELATED: A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK FOR HEARING LOSS

The good news? There has been at least some progress on this front. Last December, the FDA took a significant step forward by doing away with a law requiring all individuals to sign a waiver or obtain medical documentation in order to purchase hearing aids. The FDA also announced plans to create a new category of OTC hearing aids.

This is not the first time Warren and Grassley have raised this issue. Nor will it be the last. While the bipartisan Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016 faltered last year, the legislation will be introduced again in an upcoming Congress — this time backed by heightened evidence pointing to a broken system as well as growing support for the legislation. Factor in the rapidly aging population, and a policy response to the rising public health crisis of hearing loss seems increasingly imperative.

For more useful content on critical issues impacting older adults, including senior caregiving, senior housing, and medical alert systems, and more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Elevated Hearing: Order Hearing Aids Online, For Less

Hearing aids are expensive, and since Medicare and many insurances do not cover hearing exams, hearing aids or fittings, most people are paying high out-of-pocket costs for these devices (or simply going without).

Enter a recent addition to the market for hearing aid services, one that might have traditional hearing aid companies shaking in their boots.  Today we take a look at a company who is providing hearing aids directly to consumers, at a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aid competitors.

eRite hearing aids cost much less than traditional hearing aids
Elevated Hearing offers hearing aids at a fraction of the price.

Direct to Consumer Amplification

Elevated Hearing provides cost effective hearing aids because they are cutting-out the (expensive) middleman – the audiologist.  Elevated Hearing says a simple self-assessment is all that's needed to get started with high quality hearing aids.

Dave Olson, founder of Elevated Hearing says that hearing aid technology has advanced to the point where customized fittings are no longer necessary.  He says hearing aids now come preprogrammed to help people hear speech more clearly, and they come with adjustable tips to ensure a perfect fit.  High quality digital signal processing allows these hearing devices to be sold right out of the box.

We help people hear better. Our eRITe Hearing Aids are premium devices that produce more than ample clean and clear sound, are easy to use and a great value.  They deliver the high-frequency amplification people need with a minimum of whistling or background noise.  They're high quality, high-definition products with technology comparable to hearing aids costing much much more.   -Founder, Dave Olson

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Elevated Hearing sells high quality eRITE hearing aids.  eRITE is a small and powerful receiver-in-the-canal style (RIC) hearing aid that is the most popular of all the behind the ear styles.  Each set comes with four ear tips for an adjustable fit.

Elevated Hearing aids come at a fraction of the cost
High-quality hearing aids delivered to your doorstep.

Elevated Hearing: A Disruptor in the Hearing Aid Market

Getting started with Elevated Hearing is easy.  A simple self assessment of a customer's hearing helps identify limited, moderate or significant hearing impairment.  No need for multiple appointments, or paying for features you don't need.  Ordering a pair of hearing aids can now be done simply over the phone and shipped to your door.

RELATED: Hearing Loss: Walkman Generation Pays the Ultimate Price

How much do hearing aids cost?

Consider that high-end hearing aids cost $6,000-$8,000 per pair and lower grade hearing aids go for $4,000-$5,000 (per pair).  Elevated Hearing eRITE hearing aids are priced at a significant savings from traditional hearing devices. Be sure to mention The Senior List and learn about how to save up to $240! Elevated Hearing offers a risk-free 45 day trial, excellent customer service, telephone and online support and a one year warranty.

Age-related hearing loss affects many people 65 and older, but not everyone can afford the high cost of traditional hearing aids, hearing screenings and audiology appointments.  Emerging companies like Elevated Hearing are changing the model for helping people get the best in hearing technology at the lowest price.

Hearing Loss: Walkman Generation Pays The Ultimate Price

Hearing Loss
via: Wikipedia

If you haven't heard (pun intended), there are over a billion people are at risk for hearing loss today. That's BILLION with a “B”. And while this may be music to the hearing (loss) industry's ears, it's a huge health issue headed our way at some point in our lives.

In the late 70's, Sony launched a music-game-changer that allowed people to listen to their favorite cassette tapes on-the-go.  The Sony Walkman led to a generational shift in the way we consumed music, and subsequently pioneered the mobility-based (consumer) society that we live in today.

RELATED: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEARING AIDS AND PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFIERS?

The Walkman Effect

The Walkman Effect refers to the way music listened to via headphones allows the user to gain more control over their environment. It was coined by International Research Center for Japanese Studies Professor Shuhei Hosokawa in an article of the same name published in Popular Music in 1984. While the term was named after the dominant portable music technology of the time, the Sony Walkman, it applies to all such devices and has been cited numerous times to refer to more current products such as the Apple iPod. – Wikipedia

Since the first Walkman was marketed in 1979, many iterations followed.  A few of those include; the CD Walkman (known as the Discman), the Video Walkman, the MiniDisc Walkman, the Video Walkman, and the (Walkman) MP3 Player.  Today of course, Apple is the dominant player in this space with their ubiquitous iPod and iPhone owning the market.

hearing loss

37 Years of Loud (and Localized) Music

If you're following the math here, we've been addicted to headphones for 37 years! (Ya I know that number threw me for a loop too.) The effect of loud and localized music over time has proven damaging to our health.

RELATED: A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK OF HEARING LOSS

StonyBrook School of Medicine notes that “Headphones and earphones appear to be the most damaging. Since noise-induced hearing loss is a result of intensity (loudness) and duration of exposure, these devices may be capable of inducing a permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss — especially if they are used at a volume setting of four or above for extended periods.”

Exposure to noise pollution, especially for younger people, has gone from huge boom boxes and car stereo speakers to sound delivered directly into the ear through headphones or earphones. – Stony Brook School of Medicine

hearing loss due to headphone use

Hearing Loss

The consequences are great.  As we noted back in March of last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes hearing loss as a major health epidemic and they're watching this issue closely.  In February of 2015 they issued a press release which voiced their concerns: “Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.”

One thing's for sure, if we don't do something to curb our appetite for loud/localized music soon… Apple's new blockbuster product might just be a hearing aid. I can see it now – The iHear, coming to a Mac Store near you!


FDA Pushes for Innovation with Hearing Aids

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 37.5 million Americans report some type of hearing loss. Among adults aged 70 and older, only 30 percent who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them. The FDA is considering what to do about that.

The FDA Stance on Hearing Aids

The agency recently announced that it is actively examining ways to balance patient safety issues with the need for more rapid advancements in hearing aid technology and better access to the devices across America.

Innovation with hearing aids
Only 30 percent of those who could benefit from using hearing aids actually do so.

RELATED: A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK FOR HEARING LOSS

William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., acting director of the Office of Device Evaluation in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, notes: “The FDA recognizes that hearing aids are an important and often underutilized medical device for those with hearing impairment. Additional insight from all stakeholders will help us to better understand how we can overcome the barriers to access and spur the development of devices that compensate for impaired hearing.”

The Reason for Re-evaluation

As it now stands, hearing aids are required to comply with general FDA regulatory controls put in place to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. However, there is some concern that the regulations currently in place are hampering the pace of innovation and unnecessarily raising the cost of hearing aids.

Based in part on recommendations in a report from the President's Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST), the FDA plans to host a public workshop to further explore its role in making hearing aids more accessible and spurring new development in the field of auditory assistive devices.

How Older Adults May Benefit

While the outcome of this evaluation by the FDA is unknown, it seems likely that FDA changes will be good news for older adults suffering from hearing loss. The three most cited obstacles to hearing aid adoption are cost, appearance, and dissatisfaction with current technologies. If FDA changes impact all these areas, it is likely that more with hearing impairment will turn to hearing aids for a solution.

Addressing Cost Issues

In most cases, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids or the exams needed to properly fit them. This presents a major challenge for many older Americans. According to a recent AARP article, the average cost of a mid-level pair of hearing aids is $4,400-$4,500 across the country, making hearing aids prohibitively expensive for many.

RELATED: HEARING AIDS VS. PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFIERS

The Appearance Issue

There is also a psychological barrier for some who are reluctant to use hearing aids. Many people feel that wearing a hearing aid would detract from their appearance. Advances in hearing aid technology might alleviate this concern to some degree, as manufacturers work to make their devices as unobtrusive as possible.

Eliminating Technological Shortcomings

If the FDA's exploration results in spurring research and innovation in the industry, it seems probable that technologies will emerge that address pain points for many hearing aid wearers. Advances both in the shape and function of hearing aids could present a persuasive proposition for those on the fence about trying the devices.

What the FDA Now Recommends

For now, the FDA provides some helpful hints and words of caution for those considering hearing aid use. Their checklist for those with hearing impairment includes this advice:

  • Before purchasing hearing aids, get an exam from a licensed physician to rule out any medical issues that would require medical or surgical treatment.
  • Consider getting advice from an audiologist, who specializes in hearing loss issues and can make recommendations concerning non-medical treatment options for hearing impairment.
  • Select your hearing aid according to the manner in which you intend to use it.
  • Get help in understanding how to clean and maintain your hearing aids appropriately.
  • Look for a manufacturer that offers a trial period or adjustment period.
  • Check out the manufacturer warranty.
Innovation with hearing aids
Appropriate use of hearing aids can help in conversation and enhance quality of life.

The FDA's renewed focus on hearing aids is likely to result in advances in technology that will spur hearing aid use among older Americans and thereby enhance their quality of life. For more information, check out our blog for hearing loss news and other senior home care matters.

Ellen Takes Care Of Hearing Impaired Mom

Hearing Impaired Mom appears on The Ellen ShowBack in 2012 we profiled a hearing impaired mom named Sarah Churman. After receiving a hearing implant from Envoy Medical, Ms. Churman became somewhat of a YouTube sensation when a video of her hearing for the very first time touched millions of hearts (like ours).  Here is that incredible video once again:

Hearing Impaired Mom Hears For The First Time

What most folks didn't know at the time was that Sarah could only afford to get one of her ears fixed. In fact her mother-in-law cashed in one of her retirement accounts just to help pay for the first hearing implant. That cost… A whopping $30,000.

Flash forward a week and Sarah Churman is invited to the Ellen Show, where she tells Ellen all about what it's like to hear her children for the first time. What an amazing story!  Sarah playfully acknowledged that there was a down side to hearing… She realized for the first time that her husband snored, a habit she quickly took care of (with his help of course). 🙂

RELATED: A Billion People At Risk For Hearing Loss

There are some things we just take for granted, like hearing certain things…  When Ellen asks her what sounds she thought about hearing for the first time, Sarah thoughtfully articulated “hearing music clearly, rain, thunder, birds…”

Hearing Impaired Mom Gets Big Surprise

The ever so talented Ellen DeGeneres arranges to have Sarah's second ear taken care of by Envoy Medical, AND reimburses the family for the initial $30,000 investment. Such a touching tribute to a very touching story.

New Hearing Aid Technology Pairs With iPhone

New Hearing Aid Technology

New hearing aid technology has come a long way, and much needed changes to the growing hearing aid market is upon us. We're on the precipice of a market shift in the otherwise stale hearing aid environment we've come to know and love. Changes include new players in the hardware arena, new apps that control the hearing aid environment, and new connectivity options via smartphone apps!

Starkey Hearing Technologies has recently introduced a line of hearing aids that connect quite seamlessly to your iPhone. The iPhone app helps control your hearing aid's amplification intake and output, but that's not all. It also helps you locate your hearing aids, and provides controls should you wish to stream music from an iPhone. The new hearing aid technology from Starkey Hearing is based on their Halo hearing aid platform, and controlled by the TruLink iPhone app.

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Here's what Starkey Hearing Technologies has to say about their new hearing aid technology:

Hear life to its fullest with Halo, our breakthrough Made for iPhone® Hearing Aids and our easy-to-use TruLink™ Hearing Control app which are engineered to work specifically with your iPhone, iPad® and iPod touch®. Together, Halo and TruLink are designed to stream phone calls, music and more, directly from your iPhone to your hearing aids. Now available in two styles to fit individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. – Starkey Hearing Technologies

We wrote about the growth driving hearing loss in the USA in a recent post entitled “A Billion People At Risk For Hearing Loss“. In that post we quoted the World Health Organization who states that “Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, according to WHO. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”

Here is a great video that discusses the new Starkey Hearing Aid Technology and how it all works:

New Hearing Aid Technology

A Billion People At Risk For Hearing Loss

hearing loss comes at a priceThis may be music to the hearing aid industry‘s ears.  CNN is reporting that up to a billion people are at risk for hearing loss, and we're not talking about boomers and seniors today.  The iPod generation has officially been put on notice, that continued exposure to loud noises (without protection) can and will damage your long-term hearing prospects.

iPod Generation and Hearing Loss

In February the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a press release that included these details (and more):  “Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, according to WHO. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”

Teenagers and young people can better protect their hearing by keeping the volume down on personal audio devices, wearing earplugs when visiting noisy venues, and using carefully fitted, and, if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones. They can also limit the time spent engaged in noisy activities by taking short listening breaks and restricting the daily use of personal audio devices to less than one hour. – World Health Org.

RELATED: Hearing Aid Technology Pairs With iPhone

Younger folks don't realize yet that once you lose your hearing, it's gone for good.  The solutions are tiny devices that cost big money (yes more than your fancy new iPod nano). These devices come in the form of hearing aids or personal sound amplifiers, and this is big business for some! Did you know that the top 6 hearing aid manufacturers control 98% of the hearing aid market? Sanford C. Bernstein is a leading Wall Street research firm and in 2013 they provide key data points on the hearing aid market for industry guidance. Bernstein estimated the following market share in terms of “unit sales”:

RELATED: FDA PUSHES INNOVATION WITH HEARING AIDS

Hearing Aid Market LeadersiPod Generation at risk for Hearing Loss

1) Sonova (owner of Phonak et al.): 24%
2) William Demant (owner of Oticon et al.): 23%
3) Siemens: 17%
4) GN Store Nord (owner of GN ReSound, et al.): 16%
5) Starkey Technologies: 9%
6) Widex: 9%

Disrupting such a well controlled market is difficult but not impossible.  Innovative companies like Apple, Samsung and a host of start-ups eyeing this market have the means, aptitude and capacity to pivot this market right on its ear!  Until then, let's turn down the volume a bit eh? (Oh yea… and stay off my lawn!) 🙂

Photo credit: Apple

Hearing Aids vs. Personal Sound Amplifiers: Which One Should You Be Using?

Coping with hearing loss as you get older can be trying. It's difficult to even face up to the reality of your hearing loss, and once you've accepted it, it can be hard to understand. You suddenly have to take in a lot of information and make a decision about how to best compensate for your hearing loss.

Hearing Aids vs Personal Sound Amplifiers
An In-Canal Hearing Aid | courtesy wikipedia

Once you have had your hearing tested, you can talk to your doctor or audiologist for advice about devices that will help you to hear. You will have heard of hearing aids, but you might also have heard of personal sound amplifiers. But what are they, and should you buy one?

UPDATED DETAILS: HEARING AIDS VS. PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFIERS

What is a Personal Sound Amplifier?

A personal sound amplifier is not the same thing as a hearing aid. People wear a personal sound amplifier in or on the ear. It amplifies sound so that you can watch TV quietly or perhaps hear children sleeping in the next room. They work by picking up noises with a microphone and amplifying the sound into your ear. They can be quite convenient for hearing noises no one would ordinarily be able to hear. Their intention is to give someone without hearing loss a kind of superpower of hearing, rather than make up for hearing loss.

What is a Hearing Aid?

A hearing aid is a medical device fitted in or on the ear that is designed to compensate for hearing loss. The technology in a hearing aid is much more advanced than in a personal sound amplifier, which is why they are more expensive. But the cost is worth it because they are specifically for hearing loss. On the other hand, compensating for hearing loss isn't the primary purpose of a sound amplifier. When you go to an audiologist to have your hearing tested they will talk to you about your options for using a hearing aid, if you need one.

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Which One Should I Use?

With the rising cost of hearing aids, many people turn to personal sound amplifiers because they are a cheap alternative. But the truth is that the FDA released guidance in 2009 stating that personal sound amplifiers are not intended for use by people with hearing loss. However, people with mild hearing loss do sometimes choose to use them. If you have more serious hearing loss, you should definitely buy a hearing aid. Talk to your audiologist about your options.

How Can I Get the Best Hearing Aids?

The reason personal sound amplifiers attract many people is that they can be bought so readily for low prices. But this won't get you a device tailored to your needs. If you want to make sure that you get a good deal on your hearing aid, make sure you buy your hearing aid from a professional clinician, so you get the best product for the price. They will have a range of hearing aids to suit different budgets and will also take care of cleaning and maintenance free of charge.

What You Need to Know About Personal Sound Amplifiers

personal sound amplifiersCoping with hearing loss can be difficult. As we get older, losing our hearing sadly becomes inevitable. However, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are a multitude of personal sound amplifiers available to you when it comes to your hearing. While you may not be able to fully restore your hearing, there are some great medical gadgets on the market that can help.

Personal Sound Amplifiers

Everyone is in the know when it comes to personal sound amplifiers. Personal sound amplifiers have proven to be an effective tool for those that are suffering from hearing loss. Selecting the appropriate amplifier that is suitable for you can be difficult.

Let’s take a look at hearing amplifiers in more depth:

As the name suggests, personal sound amplifiers can amplify the sound that you hear. For those that are suffering from minor hearing loss, this can prove to be a useful tool. What is more, it can assist people with their hearing problems. The sound is amplified where it was once not heard at all.

How Do Personal Sound Amplifiers Work?

The amplifier is fitted with what is akin to a microphone. This means that the sound is picked up through the microphone-like device and is fed through a speaker. They have a superb range. This means that they can pick up noises from a considerable distance. For those who are suffering at the helm of hearing loss, this can provide a fantastic opportunity to hear once again. What is more, you will also be able to hear background noise once again. For some, this provides an excellent comfort.

Maintenance

Hearing amplifiers are subtle. In fact, they are discreet and fit neatly into the ear. They can be removed and inserted with ease. This means that they can be cleaned and properly cared for with minimum fuss. This often makes them an attractive device for many who are ready to tackle their hearing loss.

Who Can Use a Personal Sound Amplifier?

In the midst of losing your hearing, you may want to try a wide range of medical devices in order to restore your hearing. However, if you are suffering from chronic hearing loss, this device will not be able to assist you with your quest for full hearing. If you are suffering from minor hearing loss, the hearing amplifier may be able to help you. Take a look at the personal hearing amplifiers buyers guide to see if there is a suitable device for you.

Mild Hearing Disorders

For those that are suffering from mild hearing disorders, this device can help you as well, but it can also prove to be a burden. Due to the powerful amplifying nature of the hearing device, all background noise can be picked up. This means that when you are outside, wind and traffic noise can be heard distinctly. For some this is positive news, for others this can prove to be troublesome, depending on the setting you are in. If you have a mild hearing disorder and you want to be able to be able to hear in a social environment, this could be the right device for you.

Image is via Travis Isaacs

How Do They Make Custom Fitted Hearing Aids?

If you've ever shopped for custom fitted hearing aids, you know there are many hearing aid options to choose from.  Depending on you or your family member's needs, you may need an in-the-canal fit, or an in-ear fit, a behind-the-ear hearing aid, and so on… and so on… and so on!  Now that you know what configurations are out there, it's interesting to see how these custom fitted hearing aids are made.  Many of you know how expensive hearing aids can be, but did you know what goes into making the custom fitted hearing aids?  The guys at How Its Made (a very popular YouTube channel) put together a video to answer the question; How do they make custom hearing aids?  Enjoy!

How Custom Fitted Hearing Aids Are Made