Electric Cochlear Implants: Functions and Benefits

With several technologies available to hearing impaired people, electric cochlear implants go beyond the traditional hearing aid to offer something superior to those with profound hearing loss. It’s true that hearing aids are the most common and popular option for hearing loss, but they don’t readily address the worst of hearing problems suffered by many people. To address that need, cochlear implants are becoming even more popular in both adults and children, not just in the United States but all over the world. These devices, unlike traditional hearing aids, are actually anchored to the person’s skull to make a bypass which allows sound wave to be interpreted by the auditory nerve. However, just like hearing aids, they come with many advantageous benefits that we will check out in the following article.

What Makes A Cochlear Implant?

Most of the components of a cochlear implant are located on the outside of the ear, but some are situated under the skin and behind the ear. There are many diverse parts to a cochlear implant. The microphone, speech processor, and a transmitter comprise the external parts of the device, while the receiver and an electrode cluster comprise the parts implanted under the skin. They all work together to seamlessly sharpen sound for the wearer.

How Do Cochlear Implants Function?

The future looks bright for cochlear implants as more and more advances to the technology are emerging. The electric cochlear implant operates via the use of all four components in conjunction with one another. It has the ability to recreate sound waves to simulate hearing. The microphone on the outside of the ear detects sounds, then passes them on to the speech processor that sits near the microphone. This can also be worn elsewhere on the body. This is where the interpretation and digitization of sound occurs in order for it to be detected by the transmitter. The transmitter gives the signals to the receiver underneath the skin which sends along all of the signals to the cluster of electrodes already implanted into the cochlea. This sits behind the ear and under the skin, where electrodes activate special fibers on the auditory nerve. The wearer is then able to experience simulated sound waves.

Benefits of Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implant allow people to hear better with more clarity and consistency than ever before. Though these devices can cost a lot, the advantages they offer make electric cochlear implants one of the most integral hearing devices history has ever known. Ideal for people young and old who suffer from a high degree of hearing loss than cannot be addressed through a simple hearing aid, these devices can more clearly pick up on sounds such as speech and even differentiate crowd noise. This helps the user feel safe in his or her environment no matter what they encounter during their day.

Advancements in Digital Hearing Aids

When it comes to state-of-the-art hearing aids, digital ones take the cake. Today’s hearing aids can remove distracting background noise for a clearer listening experience, but this isn’t the only advancement that’s come along, though. While some are available with remote controls that allow the user to adjust various settings, others come with omni-directional microphones to detect sound from multiple directions. Most hearing aids manufactured today are digital and there are many reasons for that. These state of the art devices utilize the latest technology to provide filtration of background noise, connections to Bluetooth devices and provide automatic volume adjustment. Hearing aids have progressed a lot since the 1800s, which is when the first ear trumpets arrived on the scene. Since then, the advancements have come fast one after another, going from analog to digital in the present day. These devices make it easy for audiologists to program each device according to the user’s specific degree of hearing loss.

Self-Learning

It’s not just your phones that are “smart.” Digital hearing aids are great for adjusting settings like volume automatically after a period of time according to how the user prefers it. Control is put into the hands of the person wearing it, which is yet another advancement.

Self-learning hearing aids are integral to modern devices because they have self-learning or regulating tendencies.

Single Sided Deafness

Technologies like CROS devices and bone conduction devices allow the good ear to receive signals from the bad ear to improve on amplification. Prior to big advancements in digital technology, people who had single-sided deafness had to deal with the frustration of background noise and were relegated to using their “good ear” to hear conversation.

Noise Filtration

Many manufacturers are implementing brand new technology through the use of digital magnetic wireless communication via chips in the devices that control settings like switch position and microphone modes. One huge complaint users of hearing aids have historically made is that it’s difficult to hear clearly with all the background noise. Older hearing aids amplified all sound, which was great for hearing words but this also presented an added challenge of filtering out the background noise that was also amplified. Today’s hearing aids can easily filter out that noise so that the user can hear words but not all the other stuff. Improvements in wireless technology have allowed for improved speech recognition and SNR, which stands for signal-to-noise ratio. Recent advancements mean hearing aids can actually communicate with each other, especially when it comes to left and right ear instruments.

Better Connections

People wearing digital hearing aids benefit from digital noise reduction and better frequency transposition due to improvements in digital hearing aids. They can also enjoy increased range. Hooking up to Bluetooth and other wireless technological services is par for the course now.

DNR

Digital noise reduction technology utilizes even better technology that incorporates directional microphones. This is because there is a concentration on the physical characteristics of noise and speech instead of the separation of space, taking into account factors like speech modulation.

The First Digital Hearing Aids

The first digital hearing aids featured DSP, ideal for digital noise reduction. DSPs, which stand for digital signal processing, first emerged onto the scene in 1996. They were great for boosting processing speeds which improved the ability to hear as well as the range of amplification for individuals wearing the hearing aid.

The Outlook

The future is here! For more flexibility and better overall results, hearing impaired individuals can count on digital hearing aids to take advantage of innovative wireless technology and microelectronics. As such, the future for digital hearing aids looks positive, as the technology will only continue to expand through the decades.

10 Ways Good Hearing can Help Keep Seniors Young

Make sure you don’t fall victim to hearing loss and you can experience a healthier social life, cutting your chance of falls and boosting your self-confidence. While you probably realize already that maintaining top-notch physical fitness during your senior years is important to keeping a good level of health, reducing the chance of anything from stroke to diabetes to cancer, you may not be aware that good hearing health can boost your youth and vitality. Here are some ways in which good hearing can help you maintain your youth.

  1. Increased job performance and job prospects. If your hearing is lacking, you naturally can’t hear important instructions or safety precautions, or participate readily in colleague discussions or meetings. This can affect your job performance or edge you out of your profession.

  2. Higher level of alertness. When your hearing is excellent, so too is your immediate reactions to anything from fire alarms to sirens to car horn blasts. By hearing and responding quickly to these sounds when they happen, you can ward off potentially dangerous situations quickly.

  1. Better social and sex life. Hearing impaired seniors who don hearing aids have been known to experience an improved social life and sex life. In addition, they have better overall mental health and a sense of independence.

  2. Increased sense of confidence. Those with difficulties in hearing can have a lack of self confidence or self-esteem because they can’t interact easily with others in social situations like parties. The result? They may avoid going to parties, meetings and get-togethers because of this fear.

  3. Keep dementia away. Hearing loss and dementia are linked, according to the National Institute on Aging. As we age, our brains shrink, especially in those who have hearing loss. But along with that shrinkage comes an increased risk of dementia.

  1. Less likely to fall and get hurt. If you can hear, you don’t have as high a chance of falling: true fact. In fact, those with a 25-decibel hearing loss have three times more of a chance of falling than those who don’t suffer from hearing loss. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who can’t hear well don’t have as much of a stable awareness of their surroundings, and can trip and fall easier.

  2. Listen well in school. If you find yourself in the classroom again as a senior, it helps if you have a sharp sense of hearing. This allows you to understand the teacher’s instructions more clearly and thus have an overall easier classroom experience.

  3. Obtaining better blood flow and oxygen for the ear canal. When you exercise, such as walk briskly around the neighborhood, you experience increased blood flow to the ears. This protects the ear canal, which can then guard against hearing loss.

  4. Head to the hospital less often. Hearing impairments, which can increase your risk of going to the hospitals due to falls and other events, can actually lead to more frequent periods of inactivity. Depression and decreased levels of physical fitness can then result.

  5. Interact well with others. With a hearing impairment, it’s difficult to communicate with anyone from your boss to your friends. Hearing loss can alienate you from getting the information you need to lead a successful life. Instead, having better hearing means you feel more confident that you can easily talk with others, allowing you to be present and engaged.

The Multiple Functions Of Digital Earplugs

There have been many advances in the realm of hearing health over the last few decades. While hearing aids have gotten a great deal of attention, preventative methods have evolved alongside of them to help individuals save their hearing. One of the most beneficial forms of hearing devices that have been developed are digital ear plugs, devices that use technology to prevent and filter sound in a variety of job environments. In this article we will examine the ways that these devices function, specific tasks that they can perform, and the industries in which they have been tested and found successful.

How Do They Work?

Digital ear plugs have several primary functions and use technology to achieve these ends. Of course, the first level of protection that an ear plug can provide is the ability to prevent some sounds from entering the ear canal entirely. However, while the old foam ear plugs could do this, modern ear plugs use technology to completely prevent sounds from entering the ear canal. Also, they have technology built into them to prevent certain frequencies into the ear, and can also protect individuals against sustained amounts of loud noise by integrating periodic listening points.

Specific Tasks

Digital ear plugs come with an incredible amount of versatility so that they can be used in many different areas of life. For example, while they are able to protect your hearing at a concert by blocking sounds, they are also able to boost the hearing ability for certain types of sounds. This means that the ear plugs will filter certain sounds, and can amplify others. Many other ear plugs also come with a device that allows sound to occur in certain decibel levels, but once the limit is reached, blocks that sound completely. We will look at some of the ways that this technology can be used in daily life.

Who Benefits From Digital Ear Plugs?

Some of the loudest environments occur in the lives of soldiers and first responders. Emergencies generate an incredible amount of noise, and first responders need to protect their hearing while minimizing the amount of distractions. That is why the stop gate technology in these ear plugs is perfect for them- only exposing them to certain amounts and types of sound. After all, constant noise is not only distracting, but dangerous.
For soldiers, digital ear plugs can also provide protection when they are firing their weapon or trying to hear a conversation. After all, these devices can prevent high decibel noise from permeating into the ear, but can also boost the sound level of conversational tones, allowing communication to occur in the most dire situations. Industrial work, police, and construction sites also benefit from this sort of technology, allowing for communication and protection to occur simultaneously.

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Did you know that says diabetes and hearing loss are two of the highest health concerns in America? It’s true, according to the American Diabetes Association. While it’s unlikely you connect diabetes and hearing loss, the fact is that these two conditions are closely intertwined. When you consider that 30 million people have diabetes and 34.5 million people have hearing loss, you’ll see this more clearly. Take a look at a few recent studies showing you’re twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you also have diabetes than others who don’t have this disease. 20,000 people from various continents around the world took part in the study from the United States, Asia, Brazil and Australia.

Correlation Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Although many scientists believe the correlation is related to high blood glucose levels that come with diabetes, harming the small blood vessels in the inner ear, there is still much more work to be done on this front. While studies conclusively link diabetes and hearing loss, they “why” is still unknown. Just like the glucose levels in diabetics can adversely affect your eyes, kidneys and feet, your ears are also vulnerable to attack. More research is underway to further examine the link between the two conditions; however, they seem to have ruled out old age. It’s no secret that our hearing deteriorates as we enter our older years, but this is not apparently the case with diabetics. Some think if diabetics were to better control their blood sugar levels, they could reduce their risk of hearing impairment. In regards to noisy workplaces, this too has been ruled out. That said, diabetics take medications and diuretics that essentially lower their blood pressure, so these could be to blame as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

If you’re always on the lookout for tell-tale signs and symptoms of hearing loss, you’re already ahead of the game. If you have trouble keeping track of conversations with two or more people, hear mumbling from others, can’t pick out the voices of small children or women, and must crank the volume on the TV or radio up, you could have hearing loss of some degree. Do you have trouble distinguishing words against background noise or a crowd of people? Do you pick up on muffling of sounds every day instead of clear words? Do you have to ask others to repeat themselves? Unfortunately, these are all signs of hearing loss. You wouldn’t want to have to start avoiding certain social situations so you don’t get embarrassed, do you? This is why you should visit an audiologist for diagnosis and treatment so you don’t put yourself or others at risk. If your spouse or friend says you have a hearing problem, heed that warning and go see your doctor.

Testing for Diabetes

Having your hearing tested as a diabetic is imperative because this can aid researchers in determining what the correlation is between diabetes and hearing impairment. During your routine exam, be sure to ask to be referred to a specialist – usually called an audiologist – for further testing and evaluation. Yes, diabetes brings on many other health concerns, all of which are tested for regularly, but hearing tests should never be overlooked at your regular visit.

Hearing Loops: What They Are And How They Work

Hearing loops are one of the fastest growing technologies when it comes to hearing impairment. Now, with the simple installation of one of these hearing loops, people with hearing loss can make new use of their hearing device to have much better sound quality delivered directly to them. Although this is a burgeoning technology, many people are still unsure of the basic capabilities of this device. Here we will clarify what a hearing loop is, how they work, and where they are seen in the world right now.

What Is A Hearing Loop?

A hearing loop is a two part mechanism that can help a person hear sounds in a specific area. One of the parts of this hearing loop is the individual’s hearing aid, which must be worn in order to pick up the sounds that are being put out by the hearing loop. The actual “loop” refers to a physical cable that is run throughout a room. This cable can pick up sound via a microphone and then transmit the sounds to a hearing aid that, giving the individual access to more specific sounds.

How Does This Work?

The first part of the hearing loop, the cable, was actually developed as a way to help increase the range of a telephone handset almost thirty years ago. The hearing wire typically picks up sound that is in a room through a microphone that is connected to the system. This microphone feeds the sound into the wire in the form of an electromagnetic signal. From there, the sound is fed into the room on a certain frequency that must be picked up via a telecoil, which can interpret the signal into sound.
Fortunately, most hearing aids and cochlear implants of the modern age are already made with the telecoil, and can be activated by manually turning on the t-switch. After this is completed, the hearing aid will take the information and translate it to sound that the user can hear. This also helps eliminate background noise and unwanted frequencies.

Where Are They Being Used Now?

Currently, hearing loops are being implemented in cities around the world, with many nations considering them necessary for the health and well-being of their hearing impaired population. For the most part, hearing loops can be found in meeting rooms, conference areas, convention centers, and areas where there is a large audience. Since these hearing loops are cheap and rather inexpensive to install, they are being considered in more areas than ever before. There is a large push right now to have them installed in mass transit vehicles such as busses and taxis for the benefit of hearing impaired individuals. It appears as though hearing loop technology will only continue to grow in the future.

The Evolution Of Hearing Aids

One of the most important inventions of the last century has been the digital hearing aid. These devices have revolutionized the world for people who suffer from hearing loss. That is why it is crucial that we continue along the endeavor towards making more functional and technologically driven devices in the future. Before we look to the horizon, though, it may be a good idea to take a step back and see where we have come from in terms of hearing aids.

The Ear Trumpet

The earliest for of hearing aids were called ear trumpets. They came in a variety of forms, but they all had a very basic concept. The individual would put the small, hollow end of a horn or metal trumpet device into their inner and then direct the flared end towards the sound that is being made. This helps the sound travel through the trumpet and to be heard by the user. While it was a valuable concept and was the source of many novel creations, it was still horribly limited by the fact that it was not mobile and could not truly amplify sound.

Carbon Form Hearing Aids

One of the developments that were made in hearing aids came about in the late 19th and early 20th century. This was called the Carbon Hearing Aid, and used a magnetic receiver, carbon microphone, and a battery in order to bolster hearing in individuals across the nation. To understand this concept simply, the user would place their ear against the diaphragm. As sound hit the carbon microphone, it would send pieces of carbon across the diaphragm, simulating that noise but also amplifying it through the microphone. The result was that louder sounds were made and the person was better able to hear them.
Of course, this early design came with plenty of flaws such as only providing low quality sound and a grainy sound at that due to the carbon movement. Also, since the battery needed was so heavy and the person had to be on a level ground to use it, this hearing aid was not mobile.

Vacuum Tube Hearing Aids

The last stop before we get to the electrical and digital ages of hearing aids comes with the vacuum tube hearing aid. This tool was used during the 1920’s and integrated many parts of the telephone at that time to become a very successful hearing aid. The device weighed seven pounds, but it was also able to amplify sound. The vacuum tube was used with a transistor to turn sound into electrical impulses, and then back into amplified sound. This allowed people to hear sounds at a much higher volume than before, and they could take it just about anywhere. The major drawback was that the batteries never lasted long enough for the device to be used all the time.

Costco vs an Audiologist – Hearing Aid Quality and Service Comparison

Have you noticed all the big box stores such as Costco and Walmart are getting into the realm of patient services more and more? With ear care facilities right on site, many customers are tempted to go there for treatment and diagnosis, when they normally would have gone to a qualified professional in an office setting. Even ear care is available at the big box stores, where you can tackle your weekly shopping first and then hit the ear care department for whatever ails you. There are several things wrong with this situation, and we will examine those reasons below. Although on the surface it looks like a convenience to get ear care from those stores, you get a lot more out of your visit when you seek out a professional audiologist instead. Mimicking the fast food model of on-the-go lifestyles, you should stay away from the big box stores when it comes to your hearing health and find a pro instead.

Professionalism

First off, you’ll always get higher professionalism when you go to an audiologist who is trained in complete auditory health. A doctor brings many years of education and experience to the table so you get comprehensive ear care, thanks to their knowledge of ear canal anatomy. They also know which treatments, if any, are the best for your unique situation. Getting at the root of the problem is their goal, while many employees at big box stores go right to the solution — hearing aids – without thorough evaluation.

Higher Quality Accessories

One of the most significant reasons you should go with an audiologist over an employee at a big box store is that the hearing aids and related products they sell and fit you with are manufactured with the best quality materials. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a hearing aid at a store and then find out it doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. This can happen in the form of poor sound quality and interference. When buying from a certified audiologist, you know the quality is the best and that the doctor will make sure you get the best possible fit when it comes to hearing aids.

Cost-Effective Measures

You may not realize it, but you’re often overpaying at the big box stores because of all the extras the employees are selling you on top of the original device. That’s their job – to sell you products. The job of an audiologist is to evaluate your complete hearing health and fit you with a quality device that works as intended. Yes, it’s true you may find there’s a higher cost initially when buying products from a doctor, but that’s what health insurance is for. Plus, you get peace of mind knowing the product is of high quality.

3D Printing Revolutionizes the Hearing Aid Market

You may not have thought hearing aids could be made from the process of 3D printing, but it’s true. In fact, it’s not even a very new concept and has been in deployment for years in making custom fit hearing aids. Perhaps you know it by its alternative name: additive manufacturing. 3D printing has been garnering more and more attention thanks to the increased precision of the process whereby products like hearing aids are built up instead of cut away with tools. Its reach extends to all sorts of technologies, from manufacturing to jewelry to electronics, but it’s especially helpful in the development of custom hearing aids. This revolutionary way of manufacturing devices like these is of paramount importance because it helps so many people to hear better. And with 35 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, this is certainly a goal of the industry as a whole: to produce more efficient hearing aids that utilize the best technology has to offer.

 

How it Happens

 

Hearing aids have been created via 3D printing for years because it’s a customized way of making hearing aids fit to an individual. Everyone’s ears are unique, and this has presented a problem in the past for cookie-cutter hearing aids. With 3D printing, your hearing aid fits you and only you. When additive manufacturing is used, the end result is an improved fit and a higher comfort level for the user. Used in parallel with 3D laser scanning, it only takes a day to make a hearing aid in this way, as opposed to days and weeks prior to this technology breaking through. While there are certainly variations on the technology utilized by different companies, the basic premise is the same. The process is performed by an audiologist whose job it is to make a digital image of the ear with the help of a laser scanner. This makes what’s known as a pointcloud. When finished scanning, a quality check must be done before the actual model can be made. Out of the printer comes a shell or mold of the hearing aid in a flexible material called resin, paving the way for the addition of the proper acoustic vents, electronics and other components. Digital cameras facilitate the use of a whopping 150,000 points of reference that put the template to the mold, while many geometric patterns and combinations undergo testing before printing the final shell. The superior product that is created is so efficient and high in quality that the individual will benefit from this in the long haul. Once printed, the hearing aid benefits from the addition of the circuitry to the shell. This is basically the hearing aid’s road map to project the actual sound. Today, more than 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are in circulation, helping hearing impaired individuals to hear crystal clear. Although some may say science has taken over what was once considered an art form of sorts, you can’t second guess the speed and efficiency with which this technology has delivered.

 

Benefits of Creating 3D Printed Hearing Aids

Customization is the top benefit to this technology – an extremely important component because no two ear canals are the same. Traditional manufacturing processes never could guarantee a perfect unique fit for each user; therefore, many imperfections were present that detracted from the comfort level. The advent of 3D printing has had a big effect on the industry as a whole, propelling it to new and varied heights.

Foods that can Prevent Hearing Loss – and Hearing Aids

We all know eating healthy foods are good for your body. What many of us don’t realize is the effect certain foods have on our hearing health. Everything’s interconnected, so by treating your body right, you can actually help to prevent hearing loss. Many people suffer from this, particularly the aging population. You may know enough not to expose yourself to loud noises to protect your ears but you may not understand how important it is to eat right when it comes to your ears. More and more evidence is coming out that shows the foods you choose to eat have a direct impact on your levels of hearing loss. Check out these foods you should incorporate in your diet for optimal hearing health.

Citrus Snacks

Citrus is well known for its healing properties as a way to stave off the common cold. However, those same abilities to keep sickness at bay can also keep harmful ear infections at bay. Thanks to all the vitamin C and E present in oranges and lemons, you can use that to your advantage when it comes to fighting off infection. You never want to leave an ear infection untreated, as this can lead to chronic hearing impairments.

Sweet Snacks

By snacking on dark chocolate, you’re helping to improve your ears thanks to the loads of zinc found in this treat. You can also get your zinc – which helps guard against hearing damage – in supplements, but eating dark chocolate is so much more fun!  Of course, you can’t overindulge or your hips will show the effects, but a little bit now and then can actually help your hearing health thanks to the antioxidants present that improve your whole body’s health.

Fish like Salmon

Salmon and other types of fish are notorious for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in the improvement of your blood flow. Getting your blood pumping at healthy levels is imperative to a healthy lifestyle, not to mention the effect improved blood flow has on your ears. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep fatty acids, such as those in salmon, an integral part of your diet.

Banana Bonanza

If you love bananas for their great taste and healthful properties, here’s another reason to love them: they work to curb hearing damage. This is due to the large amounts of magnesium, which can reverse the damaging effects of hearing damage brought on by external environmental influences like loud noises. Bananas are great alone or on your favorite breakfast cereal, so it’s easy to keep this food in your diet.

Beneficial Broccoli

This super veggie, as well as with other similar cruciferous veggies, improves your hearing health because it’s so chock full of vitamin and minerals. These vitamins and minerals work to stave off the damage to ear tissue brought on by free radicals. Preventing hearing loss is easy when you regularly eat veggies like broccoli. Bonus: your skin and hair will glow with radiance.

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