In the last thirty years, the world has witnessed a whirlwind of advancement in technologies that span all facets of life. Communications technology may be at the forefront of this technology on a social level, but behind all of the hubbub about the best and brightest smartphone and tablet devices, the gears are grinding away in other sectors that are having a huge impact on individual quality of life.
Robotics, prosthetics, food production… these are all examples of rapidly growing technologies impacting the welfare of humankind in a positive way. Hearing aid advancement is also a sector of health technology, in particular, witnessing leaps forward in capability thanks to advancements in technology.
While a collective international effort is helping to propel hearing tech forward, individual countries are investigating and creating some remarkable new devices and methodologies that contribute to the overall effort.
Designers Blamey Saunders have developed an award-winning modular hearing aid that is both sleek and technologically forward leaning. The modular hearing aid called “Facett” is composed of two primary components: a core, and a modular rechargeable battery. Together they form a seamless, futuristic jewel-like hearing aid that is equally masculine and feminine.
The modular battery can be removed with a simple click thanks to its magnetic click in design. And, the Facett comes with an extra module, so while one is charging the other can be used. All modules rest in a drying and charging pod that can be plugged in overnight to charge while sleeping.
The hearing aid core is connected to most smartphones and tablets to link with the “IHearYou” app, where users can adjust settings specific to their individual hearing needs. The core also features high-resolution sound, speech isolation, and background noise suppression.
Scientists from a joint Austrian-Serbian team have successfully tested a fully implantable hearing aid that’s based on contact-free fiber optic technology that senses nanometer-sized ossicle vibrations and then sends those vibrations to stimulate acoustic nerves.
As opposed to traditional microphone based hearing aid technology that features an external component, the fully implantable fiber optic hearing aid takes advantage of the natural sound capturing of the outer ear and eardrum and picks up the vibrations that are sent to the ossicles by the eardrum.
Although, these scientists are still fine-tuning this technology, the prospect of having completely hands-free implantable technology that has a long life expectancy is incredibly exciting to the hearing health community.
Instead of replacing hearing aids, NEO Sensory-based out of Palo Alto, California has come up with a way to augment hearing or perception through touch-based sensory technology. Their products use the sense of touch to send signals about sound to the brain to aid in perception.
Buzz is a wristband sensory aid that buzzes in different patterns depending on the sounds in the environment. This accessory may add value to quality of life and social engagement for those living with complete hearing loss. Signal patterns are perceived and remembered uniquely so that different sounds, such as the person’s own name, music playing, or a dog barking all have their own signatures. Now someone who is completely deaf can know if someone is calling their name from the other room simply by sensing it on their wrist.
Another wristband technology similar to Buzz, Clarify sends unique touch patterns to the brain that are associated with hard to detect differences in spoken sound. This serves as an augmentation to hearing aid technology to assist in distinguishing speech sounds that aren’t as easily discriminated between by a hearing aid.
Instead of using just the wrist, NEO Sensory has developed a vest that translates sounds in the environment into touch-based signals to sensors built into the vest. This provides a fluid perception environment that can aid in all sorts of sensory experiences, including speech and sound.