How Do You Imagine The Hearing Aid Of The Future?

Hearing aid technology advances every day, but of course, those of us who wear hearing aids wish it would advance even faster. Today’s hearing aids range from simple analog devices to souped-up digital models with T-coils, multiple situational programs, rechargeable batteries and connectivity to smart phones. But the hearing aids of the future will likely offer even more features.

Here is my wish list. Please add your thoughts in the comments.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

Programmable By Sound Patterns In Addition To Frequency

Imagine training your hearing aids to recognize and augment certain sound patterns or voices to the exclusion of other noises in that frequency. You could program in your spouse’s voice, or your child’s, or even the voice of your boss at work. This would certainly help me since my husband’s voice is often one of the hardest for me to hear. Not only would this feature lower my listening effort, it would also make it easier on my husband, who must constantly remember to speak louder and clearer than is his norm.

Perhaps this function could be made to work in real-time so if you were at a lecture or meeting someone new, you could quickly program your hearing aids to highlight that person’s voice until you deactivated the feature.

Selective Sound Pattern Cancelling

Alternatively, what if you could select sound patterns to mute or noise-cancel. This would be a dream in a loud restaurant or noisy bar, or in a conference room with a loud air conditioner. Just point and click a wand or your phone microphone at the offending sound, and it would be temporarily muted. While some hearing aids do offer noise-cancelling capabilities, the effectiveness is up for debate. If you could truly mute or noise-cancel unwanted background sounds, imagine how much clearer the voices and sounds you wanted to hear would be.

Battery Alerts Please!

My fitness tracker sends me emails to alert me when my battery is getting low so I am never surprised. What if hearing aids did the same? This would help avoid the hassle of changing batteries on the fly or during an important conversation. Hopefully, batteries will be better in the future as well, or more likely than not, rechargeable.

Sleep Feature

I know many people who remove their hearing aids at various times during the day to get a break from the ever-present sounds of life. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn the sound off every once in a while without having to remove the aids? My hearing aids have a sleep function which turns off the amplification in an attempt to mimic what I would be hearing without my aids. This provides a break from much of the sound, but keeps me safe through continued access to ambient noise. This could be a welcome feature on all types of hearing aids.

Sports Ready

With more than 65% of people with hearing loss under the age of 65 (according to the Better Hearing Institute), a sports ready hearing aid would be very popular. Imagine being able to wear your hearing aids to the gym, at yoga or while running or playing sports without worrying they would be damaged by sweat or an inadvertent swing of a racket. Sport glasses are quite common, and while hearing aids are more delicate given the electronic equipment inside, perhaps the hearing aids of the future will be wrapped in a more durable package.

Wearable 24/7

Did you ever wish you could wear your hearing aids all the time? It sounds crazy, but I really like it. Mine help mask my tinnitus so I wear them as much as humanly possible, even to sleep. Plus, I feel more secure at night knowing that if my children call out to me, I have a better chance of hearing them. Most hearing aids are worn during the day and removed at night. I’m not sure why. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Trackable by GPS

If I can easily locate my misplaced phone through a tracking app, why not my hearing aids? This seems like a simple thing to implement and could help avoid significant financial losses.

Less Expensive

Hearing aids are costly, especially the ones with advanced features like cell phone connectivity. As new products enter the market supported by the recent OTC law, this will hopefully change. Innovation certainly will improve with increased competition and more varied approaches to product design and distribution. Audiologists will remain critically important as consumers navigate the wider variety of more affordable and technologically advanced options.

Readers, what features do you imagine for the future?

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30 thoughts on “How Do You Imagine The Hearing Aid Of The Future?

  1. Hearing Aid Wish List

    1. I wish that audiological devices were not proprietary, that devices worked across different manufacturers. I recently got new aids, the Oticon OPN which are terrific, far better for my severe loss than any previous aids. Furthermore, they worked well right out of the box. I am usually a pain-in-the-butt for audiologists, requiring frequent programming tweaks. In addition to working better than previous aids, they are much smaller and less visible, as well as less expensive. However, I do wish they were compatible with previous accessories. I had to get a new Oticon mic ($225) to replace my Resound mic. In addition, my Resound mic had a jack that enabled me to plug it in to other devices which could then stream to my aids. I especially liked being able to connect to movies/entertainment on airplanes, enabling me to access that content to my hearing aids. An additional accessory I cannot use is my Phonak Table Conference Mic. Although it was made by Phonak, I was able to use it with Resound equipment through a plug-in receiver. The Oticon aids are so much more powerful than my Resound, that I may be able to hear at meetings without a conference mic. It is too soon for me to know. Despite the compatibility issues, I am so much happier with the volume and clarity on my new aids that I would not even think about giving them up.
    2. Better connectivity. It is wonderful that I have made for iPhone aids, but they frequently lose their connection and must be re-paired. This is true for my Resound and Oticon aids. It seems to be an Apple problem.
    3. I sometimes take out my $6000 hearing aids and plug a $160 Shure MV88 microphone and earbuds into my iPhone in order to hear better in restaurants. The mic can be set to be very directional, with a short distance range, which means that it only amplifies sounds directly in front of it, and not ambient noise in a restaurant. It provides exceptionally clear output, making it very helpful in noisy restaurants, as long as the tables are not too large. For a quiet dinner with my wife, or with two additional people, it works very well. Why couldn’t such a microphone be built into my hearing aids?

  2. Hi

    My hearing aid wish list is fairly short. Expense in the UK doesn’t have to be a consideration as hearing aids can be supplied free of cost on our health service.

    Technology wise, a hearing aid that can provide “normal hearing”, that can be adjusted exactly to the individual hearing loss.

    Or, wait for it, flash of inspiration now, hearing aids built into the frames of eye glasses/spectacles, that when speech sound is picked up by the hearing aids in a one on one conversation in background noise the hearing aids not only totally eliminate background noise, but a programmable chip in the aids then produces live subtitles in the bottom of the eye glass/spectacle lenses!!

  3. Great ideas…from Shari and others.

    I just found out that the new RESOUND hearing aids, have a built in, bluetooth streamer (the same device, for which I paid gobs of money, last year, when I got new PHONAK HA’s!?!?! )

    I love my bluetooth streamer and external microphone (don’t get me wrong), but, having them, means charging and keeping track of MORE EQUIPMENT. It’s hard enough, just making sure that i don’t lose my hearing aids!!

    So frustrating.

    New tech features have been firing off, at lightning speed…that goes for many other tech items (TV’s, iPads, phones, etc.)
    It’s impossible to keep up.

    OH, what I wouldn’t do, to have captions built-in to my glasses, which somehow connect to my hearing aids.

    People who are NOT HOH or deaf, just don’t understand why we hear some sounds (especially environmental sounds) and not speech sounds.

    It’s difficult to explain to them, without giving them a speech science lesson.

    Unless one is a professional (speech pathologist, audiologist), and/or HOH, it’s very difficult for others to grasp what it feels like, in our heads, to be HOH.

  4. You say “those of us who wear hearing aids wish it would advance even faster.” Well, change is good, but when it happens so rapidly, we find that the HAs that we bought last year are already so “last year.” There are so many great features that I wish I could have had, but I have to make do until I replace these in about 5 or so years.

    So…My dream is that someday our HAs will be able to receive updates just as our computers do. After all, our HAs are indeed mini computer processors, and our audiologist is able to reprogram them to an extent.

    We would be able to download and install updates and apps that make our HAs more versatile in this world of rapid change. I’d even be willing to pay for the particular upgrades I need, just as I do with computer programs.

    I think it’s possible!

  5. I would love to have water-proof hearing aids that are able to be fully immersed in water. I have always felt left out when going to the swimming pool or the beach.

  6. Hey Shari!

    Many of the features you wish for in this article are already here. There are many models that offer battery alerts, sleep mode, “sports ready”, 24/7 and trackable by GPS. Most of these features are all included in the iPhone hearing aids offered by many manufacturers in a single device. Many of today’s hearing aids are sweatproof and waterproof, and there are accessories to help make hearing aids more secure while playing sports for those that need extra security. I have several clients who do choose to wear the aids 24-7 because they are comfortable enough to, though most still prefer to take them out for a more peaceful night sleep. Depending if you want a different style or features, there may be some give and take on these various features based on what is important to the individual.

    There are also many less expensive prescription models as well though they will not include all the advanced features of the premium models, and may not include the full service. I know many hearing care practices have devices starting in the $500 apiece range for basic models with pay-as-you-go service, which rivals many online “hearing aid” options that completely lack personalization or service. This is one of those situations where you have to decide what you want – do you want the budget friendly option or do you want the option with all the latest advanced features and best performance? To use a car analogy, are you a Toyota Yaris person (cheapest available but still good transportation that gets the job done) or are you a Lexus person (premium model, best features, fanciest ride – price tag to match)? We can’t expect to pay for the Yaris and get the Lexus, which is what a lot of people seem to expect in hearing aids.

    Noise management research continues to advance. I am not sure about the specific type of noise management that you desire, though I think those are interesting and potentially very useful ideas. I do know hearing aid companies are currently analyzing brain waves to help determine when someone hears something, did they understand it. They are hoping to utilize this information to make better hearing aids that may even have electrodes on the device to measure the brainwaves of the individual so it can adjust for your own understanding in real time. This is technology that is coming, but it is not here yet, and I would expect these type of advanced features to be available in the “Lexus” models of hearing aids long before it is available in the “Yaris” models of hearing aids.

    There are certain size and battery drain limitations on what we can do in hearing aids with technology that exists today. Smartphones, for example, are exceptionally great, but they aren’t expected to be under a half inch in size and run on 1.4-1.7 milliamps of energy for many days at a time. The “invisibility” requirement and the power limitations are a lot of the difficulty in manufacturing hearing aids with the abilities people desire. We can do a lot of those noise management things (see noise cancelling headphones), but it currently requires a lot more power and a lot more space than is available in current hearing aids. That is not to say it can’t be done, only that we haven’t figured it out just yet. Also, true noise cancellation requires blocking all outside noise so we can allow just what we want in, and most people don’t want their ears plugged all the time or to wear large bulky headphones, so that’s another hitch in the noise management puzzle. Open fit hearing aids feel better physically and sound more natural, but on the flip side allow noise in. Rest assured, the industry is working on it!

    Hearing technology takes a lot of research, but I’m sure with time we’ll get there! Maybe even someday have a cure 🙂 Thank you for all of your advocacy and your suggestions!

    A hearing specialist fan,

  7. Without reading other’s comments, my first thought was the issue of proprietary devices. As a bimodal user of both a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, I was excited a few years ago when Cochlear Corporation announced their next processor model would be compatible with cell phones and hearing aids; that they would sync and work together. However, because I was successfully using a Widex hearing aid and had an Android cell phone, it was disappointing to learn that neither would sync with the upgraded processor. I have since switched cell phones because it was time for an upgrade. Then learned that to be fully wireless, I would need the next CI upgrade. At least I’m prepared for when I qualify for the CI upgrade! Replacing a hearing aid that’s in its prime became another matter. You don’t just dump a $3500 hearing aid when it’s working well for you. I love the wireless devices that are available with the Cochlear processor I use (N6), but know I would hear far better in noisy settings if I could have bimodal hearing. As it is now, I turn the hearing aid off and use only the CI. Obviously, this is far better than what I used even 5 years ago, but it’s disappointing that hearing aid and CI manufacturers cannot collaborate on devices that all work together. These external devices are the key to managing severe hearing loss in social settings for many hard of hearing people. It really matters. However, the high cost of managing hearing loss this way is prohibitive for way too many people. Cost is a huge barrier. I’m thankful for all the improvements in technology. It’s far better than it was when I was fitted with my first hearing aids. Like everyone else, I want more! 🙂 At least I’m willing to advocate for it….thanks to The Hearing Loss Association of America. HLAA Rocks!

  8. A lot of the features in your wish list are here in different aids. My Oticon Opn can send battery alerts via a recipe set up using the Internet of Things. They also have gps tracking via the iPhone app should they get lost. For me, if some of the noise cancellation that my Bose Hearphones have can be implemented into small hearing aids alongside user customization for phone calls ala SonicCloud, I’d be a happy camper…

  9. Hi Shari,
    I wish for a device enabling clear hearing of live music at concerts. Current hearing aids amplify the background noise so much that I struggle to identify the melodies.

    • That would be lovely! Sometimes if the venue is looped you can get great sound through your t-coil setting if you have one. Thanks for your comment.

  10. The hearing aid of the future will be small, powerful, cheap and will be considered as necessary and as fashionable as eyeglasses. Yeah, I know: the entire business model must change for that to happen. But we’re just imagining – right?

  11. So many great ideas here! As others have pointed out, some of these features can be found on one hearing aid or another — but rarely do you find all the features you want on the same hearing aid. And it does always seem that the day after the trial period for a new hearing aid elapses, something new comes along that sounds even better than the one you just paid $3000 for.

    On the issue of hearing aid/cochlear implant compatibility, Sonova (Advanced Bionics/Phonak) came out with a hearing aid called the Link that works with the AB c.i. processor. It’s improved the performance of the c.i. for me, and it’s also a good hearing aid. But I’m tempted to move on, probably to the Oticon Opn. I want better connectivity to my smart phone, which is also my lifeline.

    My Sonova products have Bluetooth capability but the Bluetooth streamer can’t always make the connection. The Bluetooth in my car, by comparison, always works — and also overrides the Bluetooth from the streamer. The trouble is that the sound is then coming from the radio speakers and is impossible to hear.
    Shari, maybe you should put all these great ideas together — and we’d have the perfect hearing aid.

  12. Just my thought.

    I wished every sound have subtitle appears on my glasses lens. I wears glasses, I thought if they could develop special glasses for hearing loss people so the glasses will capture the sound and make it appear on the lens.

    You got my idea, its like watc movie wih soundtrack on.

  13. I will wish aids that can turn voice into text and show it maybe in my glasses. So it is like watching subtitles in movies!

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