Hearing loss is often a natural part of senior life. But not everyone needs or, indeed, is willing to use a traditional hearing aid. Some object for aesthetic reasons— most medically approved earpieces aren't exactly stylish— and for those experiencing mild hearing loss, a full-fledged hearing aid seems like an unnecessary expense.
Until recently, there weren't a lot of options for people with minor hearing loss who preferred to avoid wearing a medical device. But that state of affairs is changing. According to a recent article from the New York Times, non-medical, wireless amplification devices are gaining in popularity.
As with any newer technology, there are lots of questions to answer. Let's take a closer look at these devices to see if they're right for you.
Hearing Aids That Don't Look Like Hearing Aids
Deciding to use a classic hearing aid is no small decision for most of us. It's an acknowledgement that we've crossed a physiological barrier and firm evidence that the aging process is accelerating. Along with the psychological aspects, medical hearing aids are often just plain unattractive. Many bring the words "clinical" or "industrial" to mind.
Newer, non-medical sound amplifiers take a different approach. Many of them are sleek, attractively designed and unobtrusive. They don't draw the same sort of attention to the wearer, and when they do, it tends to be attention of a different kind.
These new devices are designed to resemble Bluetooth ear attachments, so in many cases, it might appear the user is simply wearing the device as a phone extension. For those who wish to avoid the social implications of wearing a traditional hearing aid, this fresh, modern design is mightily attractive.
Ease of Use and Cost
Because these new ear amplification devices aren't regulated or subject to FDA approval, someone experiencing hearing loss can buy one of the devices over the counter. There is no physician consultation or oversight– it's just another purchase, like a smartphone or a computer. And devices like Soundhawk can be used in concert with a smartphone to amplify and filter noise in certain day-to-day situations. The sound of films or lectures can be discreetly amplified, as it appears the user of these devices is wearing nothing more than a Bluetooth headset.
Best of all, these devices are also often thousands of dollars cheaper than hearing aids.
If these ear amplification devices are reasonably priced, attractive and effective, why shouldn't they be a fundamental part of senior life? As the technology continues to improve, they may one day reach that status.
Presently, however, some hearing professionals have expressed concern that these devices could mask serious underlying health issues.
They may give hearing aid holdouts a reason to forego much needed testing, which could delay important medical treatment. Continuing to use these devices as a replacement for traditional medical care could lead to irreversible damage.
That means it's important the devices are used to augment traditional hearing care, rather than replace it altogether.
The Future of Hearing Aids
As the Baby Boom generation ages, the demand for hearing aids and hearing amplifiers will only continue to grow. But as the popularity of these new, non-medical devices shows, there's a strong desire for less obtrusive, more aesthetically appealing solutions. Given that scenario, it's likely that traditional hearing aids and their new counterparts will begin to share some of the same qualities.
In fact, hearing aid makers are already rolling out new products that offer modern styling and technology. As non-medical hearing aids become more powerful, expect the two products to share more and more of the same characteristics.
Hearing loss may be a part of senior life, but you shouldn't have to use products that make you feel unattractive or unproductive. Thanks to technological advances, there are more options than ever for those of with mild or moderate hearing loss.