Throughout Better Hearing and Speech Month, we have provided content on a variety of topics related to hearing and speech professionals. In this article, we will take a brief look at some of the technologies that are impacting the field of Audiology and the patients that are being served.
Ontenna – This is an interesting product that uses a patient’s hair to provide haptic feedback (providing information through the sense of touch) to sounds. Going into production this year, this wearable device does not allow a patient to hear but provides enough stimulus to allow the user to interact with the audial world around them. Ontenna converts sound to very specific vibrations that match the sound pattern allowing a user to identify them. For example, a doorbell sound or music will have specific vibration patterns that are learned and can be identified by the user.
Telehealth and Do-It-Yourself – As consumerism grows throughout the healthcare industry, hearing healthcare is finally following the trend. Studies have shown that half of all hearing aid visits are service-related with the majority of those being for fine-tuning and other adjustments. Technology now allows consumers to choose their preferred method of interaction with their hearing care provider. Instead of having minor adjustments done in a clinical setting through an office visit, they are choosing to access web-based telehealth sessions where they can be guided through the adjustment process. Other developments in line with this approach are the new “Made for iPhone” hearing aids. These contain corresponding smartphone applications providing consumers with fine tuning and adjustment guidance for easy do-it-yourself resolution. Audiologists and other hearing health professionals are adjusting their practices accordingly to meet their patients’ needs and preferences.
Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) – Advancements in Bluetooth technology has driven growth in alternatives to traditional hearing aid devices. Called Personal Sound Amplification Devices, earpieces that are linked to a smartphone are providing improved hearing experiences for many consumers. One such solution allows the user to turn their smartphone into a directional microphone allowing them to focus in on a specific speaker within crowds or other noisy environments. General amplification in many different settings and the digital linkage to a wearable device is another way technology is driving change in the hearing industry.
As in every other area of healthcare, technology is impacting patient care and the available options for treatment plans. Hearing aid technology and the batteries that are used to power them continue to improve, get smaller in size, and provide better quality. Cochlear implant technology will continue developing, and soon robots will be performing the implant surgeries. And, smartphone applications will continue connecting users to hearing devices and technology in ways that were previously never considered. All of this serves as a reminder that Audiology professionals are challenged to keep pace with the developments and evolve their practices as technology, and consumer preferences dictate. Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comment section below or join us on our Facebook page.