Hearing aids have come a long way in the past few hundred years. In the olden days, if you had hearing problems, you had two options; suffer through it, or put a long horn into your ear and point the wide end in the direction of the person talking. Needless to say, it was not the most subtle or convenient hearing devices.
Fast forward to 1898 when Miller Hutchinson used telephone technology to engineer the first pair of electronic hearing aids. They functioned as a small speaker that you would wear around your ear, and would amplify nearby sounds. While they were functional, however, they were bulky, heavy, and not very easy to carry around.
Over the next 50 years, various advancements were made in electronic hearing aids. When Bell Laboratories developed the first transistor in 1948, hearing aids really made a major step forward. They became smaller, more portable, and often didn't require the clunky battery pack and cords.
Shortly thereafter, computer technology began to develop and along with it, digital processors. These early processors were shrunk into small microprocessors that could record and amplify sounds. These were the first digital hearing aids, and their design was solidified in the mid-1990's. They offered enhanced clarity and had longer battery lives.
Over the next 20 years, these digital hearing aids got smaller, their battery lives, got longer, and the sound quality got better. However, they were still missing one key feature; the ability to last a long time without having to be removed.
Up until recently, if you or a loved one owned a pair of hearing aids, they would have to be taken out each night before bed and turned off to preserve battery life. Their batteries would have to be replaced at least once a month, if not every few weeks.
Whenever you removed them, you would have to listen to awful screeching noises as they picked up on all of the electrical interference in whatever room you were sitting in.
At best it was an inconvenience, and at worst, it was a very annoying process. Enter the latest hearing aid breakthrough. If you wear hearing aids, you’re going to love the latest innovation.
An extended wear hearing aid is designed to last for up to four months without having to be removed, turned off, or having the batteries changed. Since the need to constantly remove and turn off the hearing aid was eliminated, the engineers could also design the unit to be a lot smaller.
This means that the small extended wear hearing aids can be placed deep within your ear canal, and are completely invisible to the outside world. You don’t have to worry about them falling out, misplacing them, or your gossipping neighbors putting in their two cents.
They’re even designed to be water-resistant, which means you can take a shower, visit the beach, or take out the boat without having to worry about them getting messed up. The battery will need to be replaced every three or four months (depending on power usage), which is a quick and easy process performed by your local audiologist.
Many people have some reservations about extended wear hearing aids, so let’s look at the anatomy of the hearing aid, how it works, and what it means for you.
Since they don’t need to conform to the mold of your outer ear, an extended wear hearing aid doesn’t need all of the extra plastic casing material that you’re used to seeing in traditional hearing aids.
There is a small digital microprocessor, a tiny long-life battery, and a small speaker aimed towards the inner-ear. These components are encased in a small plastic, foam, and rubber outer which is designed to fit perfectly inside of your ear canal without falling out or going too deep.
Although they are implanted into your inner-ear, most patients will be glad to hear that they don’t require a surgical procedure. Extended wear hearing aids can be easily inserted and removed with a pair of tweezers, and it takes no more than a few seconds, making it a quick and easy process.
Whenever the time comes for the battery to be replaced, you will usually get a small chime a couple of times throughout the day to let you know that the battery is getting low.
Simply schedule an appointment with your audiologist, and they will remove the hearing aids, insert new batteries, and re-insert them into your ear. The whole appointment shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes.
Now, let’s take a brief minute to go over some of the differences between traditional and extended wear hearing aids, and some of the pros and cons of both.
If you're getting tired of traditional hearing aids, you should definitely ask your audiologist about extended wear hearing aids. Although they are a good deal more expensive than traditional hearing aids, they are far more convenient and offer the same if not better sound quality.