Nearly fifty million people in America suffer from some sort of hearing impairment, and most of these are from exposure to loud noise that has damaged the little hairs, or cilia, that conduct sound. You cannot restore hearing in such cases, but you can help conduct sound to the remaining, healthy cilia to maximize the ability to hear. If you or a loved one is shopping for an assistive device to enhance hearing, here are five features you will want to know about as you compare options:
- Telecoil: is a tiny copper wire that can pick up sound directly from electronic devices such as phones or public address systems. Many concert halls send out magnetic waves which conduct the music or sound directly to these receivers.
- Directional Microphone: This “smart” receiver actually finds where the sound is emanating and focuses on it. You will hear terms like directional versus omnidirectional which means simply that the device focuses on the speaker in front of a person versus listens to all sources. It can be very helpful in crowded areas with lots of noise.
- Feedback Suppression: We all have been in auditoriums where the sound system gave that loud squawking feedback. It can happen with hearing aids as well if a phone receiver is too close to the ear, and this feature eliminates the squawk.
- Digital Noise Reduction: Again, in noisy settings there can be a lot of other sounds that intrude on a conversation or hearing the music, etc. This feature simply improves the quality of sound by eliminating these unwanted background noises.
- Everything Else: New features are popping up all the time. Bluetooth technology streams sounds directly from an electronic source like a TV, computer or smartphone. Some devices give a low pitch indicator noise when batteries are running low while still others limit wax build-up on a device while it is in the ear canal. The list goes on.
If you or a loved one with a hearing need is shopping, make a list and look at the value that each feature can bring, because there are cost differences across options. Be a smart consumer. And remember – you heard it here first!
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.