Technology helps patients amplify, personalize hearing

Modern tools more sophisticated, smaller than older hearing aides

These aren’t your grandparents hearing aids.

Hearing devices have come a long way. Thanks to new technology, they function better and are less obtrusive when worn.

“When people think about hearing aids they think about what their grandparents had,” said Penny Barron, an audiologist with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic. “Hearing instruments are really quite different today.”

Barron says the technology has changed so much, that audiologists don’t really even use the term “hearing aid.” The devices are hearing amplification systems.

“Hearing instruments are quite hidden. They are less likely to feedback,” said Barron. “They are much less likely to cause the problems that you heard your parents or grandparents complain about.”

Choosing a hearing device

hearing aid in ear

Many modern hearing devices are hard to detect when worn.

If an audiologist believes you will benefit from a hearing amplification system, he or she will explore your options with you. Barron says ADC audiologists work with patients to find out their needs and then make recommendations.

Hearing devices pick up sound waves with a tiny microphone, then amplify or modify the sound before transmitting it into the ear through a tiny speaker.

There are several hearing device styles:

  • Behind the ear (BTE)
  • In the ear (ITE
  • In the canal (ITC)
  • Completely in the canal (CIC)

These styles vary in how they are worn, their size, and features. Some will be more cosmetically appealing, but they may not be right for patients with severe hearing loss. The style you choose will depend on your hearing evaluation and the situations where you need to hear.

While styles may vary, most modern hearing systems share similar features. Barron says they are tiny and hard to see when worn. The most sophisticated ones can be adjusted to the way you want to hear in different conditions.

Extending your hearing options

Today, many amplification systems are more than just the instruments in your ears. They also harness Bluetooth technology.

Many modern systems use a device called a streamer. It hangs around your neck and can control both the volume in your ears as well as different programs.

“You can answer your cell phone up to 35 feet away without ever touching it,” Barron said. “All you have to do is touch a button on your streamer and you can hear your cell phone in both ears.”

You can also use the streamer to plug into other Bluetooth-ready devices, like your TV and computer.

“There is also a microphone for lectures,” Barron said. “You can have the lecturer put the microphone on their lapel. When the lecturer puts it on, you can sit anywhere in the room and it is like they are very close to your ear.”

How much do they cost?

“It’s really hard to price shop for hearing aids.” Barron said.

She says some stores may offer a similar hearing device for the same price that others sell higher end devices. That’s why it is important to take quality and service into account as well as price.

“The most important part is that you are comfortable with where you are going, that they have a lot of experience and expertise, and that they do have the high end products if that is what you are looking for,” Barron said.

To make a fair price comparison, make sure you know the full specifications of the recommended hearing instrument model.

Barron says amplification systems can go a long way in helping people with hearing loss manage situations where they have difficulty.

But she points out that no amplification system can restore normal hearing.

“That is just something that we have to accept,” she said. “It is just so much better than without it.”



  1. Annette Dunne says:

    this is much easier to navigate and get “in”. Thanks.