Big advances coming in hearing technologies

“There are a lot of new hearing technologies and in the next 18 months [we are going to see a] huge change,” Bowden said.
“There are a lot of new hearing technologies and in the next 18 months [we are going to see a] huge change,” Bowden said.

On average, it takes someone seven years to do something about their hearing loss, according to Audiologist Nicole Bowden.

“Often people are in denial that they have a hearing loss and blame others for mumbling,” Bowden, based at Victorian Hearing said.

Cosmetics and cost are other common deterrents, she said.

“But hearing solutions [today] are much more discrete, some invisible, and vary in price according to the level of technology, which should be matched to [an individual’s] needs.

“Anyone with private health insurance with extras will most likely get a hearing aid rebate.”

Early treatment is key

Over 14 per cent of Australians have at least one long-term hearing disorder, and 49 per cent of Australians over 75 have a hearing disorder, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014-15.

“The earlier you can get [hearing loss] treated the better,” Bowden said.

“There is a link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. Hearing aids stimulate the auditory nerves, keeping them active and healthy.

“People with hearing loss also tend to start avoiding social situations. If you have a hearing loss it’s an effort to hear, so you’re more tired at the end of day than you should be.

“Hearing aids do the work for you; they make the speech come in nice and loud and clear, and so encourage you to keep in touch with family and friends, and to be active in the community…Being able to hear keeps people employed.”

Smart hearing technology

“There are a lot of new hearing technologies and in the next 18 months [we are going to see a] huge change,” Bowden said.

Most hearing aids connect to a smartphone, “where the iPhone [and more recently the Android] becomes the remote control for the hearing aid, and helps overcome background noise if you’re somewhere like a noisy restaurant.

“Rechargeable hearing aids have been around for years, but the more reliable, fully integrated lithium ion rechargeable hearing aids only recently became available. These are daily-wear aids that you take out just for showering and bed.”

Automatically turning on when inserted, and off when removed, rechargeable hearing aids make “a great choice for those with dexterity issues.”

Victorian Hearing offers the fitting of the Lyric by Phonak, “a revolutionary hearing aid that’s only been in Australia since 2012,” Bowden said.

“Lyric is 100 per cent invisible and sits deep in the ear canal to provide a natural sound quality. Worn 24/7, it is hassle-free with no batteries to change and no regular maintenance. Since it is worn through the night, Lyric is also effective for relieving tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears), hearing one’s children throughout the night, and [the] alarm clock!”

The Marvel by Phonak, a multifunctional, rechargeable hearing aid that connects to smart devices, will be released in Australia this month.

“Translators are built into the [Phonak], so when you are travelling [it converts a foreign] language into English or a text message,” Bowden said.

The Marvel automatically adjusts volume according to the individual’s listening environment. It is the first hearing aid to classify streamed signals, and offers customised listening experiences, connecting to a hearing professional in real time.

Livio AI smart hearing aids are set to be released by Starkey in Australia in early 2019. “These have sensors to measure gait, heart rate and breathing, plus a built-in language translator,” Bowden said.

Where to seek treatment

Individuals should consult an independent practice of university-trained audiologists for personalised hearing care, Bowden said.

“These clinics are not commission-based nor aligned with any manufacturer, so can focus on your needs and offer a range of hearing solutions.”

  • For more information visit Healthshare, a joint venture with Fairfax to improve the health of regional Australians. Or you can find a specialist near you using the health tool below.