Here in 2019, hearing aids have come a long way from those your father or your grandmother wore. Both the field of medicine and that of consumer electronics have advanced and, to a certain extent, intersected, to provide new technologies and designs that are more effective and more aesthetically appealing. The newest hearing aids are 'smarter,' utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) in their design as well as 'smarter' to look at.

Recently The Wall Street Journal published an article which outlines some of the latest advancements in hearing aids (see: "Hearing Aids Are Getting Smarter," by: Suzanne Oliver, September 15, 2019 ). Following are some excerpts from this article.

The first point to consider is that, in the past, those suffering from varying degrees of hearing loss were basically forced to choose from two very different product categories. There were premium 'hearing aids,' approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which licensed hearing-care professionals sold for about $4,000 per pair. On the other end of the spectrum were 'personal sound amplification products' (PSAPs) sold at retailers like Best Buy and Walmart and ranging from about $30 to $400. These PSAPs had not undergone the FDA approval process.

Today, with the convergence of state-of-the-art micro-electronics, wireless technologies and 'ear-enabled' devices to facilitate Bluetooth connections, the line between 'hearing aids' and 'sound amplification devices' has become blurred. Further review by the FDA is surely needed as to what constitutes a 'hearing aid' as they were conventionally known.

Fortunately, for many people who are experiencing some form of hearing loss, FDA regulations are very much secondary. On the market today, and improving rapidly, are a wide array of 'over the counter' devices that are both affordable and, what one might say, even 'stylish.' On the latter point consider, compared to the time period of your father or grandmother, it is no longer a 'stigma' to have some device in or on your ear, it is instead very commonplace and even considered hip or cool!

Now, as to the micro-technologies available and improving here in 2019, this is where it gets really cool. Wireless technologies and the ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity standard have really revolutionized the whole 'hearing' industry and marketplace. Devices can now be set up to specifically enable a hearing-loss affected individual with a wireless/ Bluetooth enabled device to better hear the conversation at a dinner table with background noise minimized, or to hear a television show at a level comfortable to them without affecting the sound heard by others in the room. The applications and variations of these types of technologies are really endless.

Most encouraging to hearing-care professionals is that this combination of new technologies and a new 'aesthetic' associated with 'ear pieces' will get vastly more health impaired persons to use devices to assist them. Today, approximately 38 million Americans suffer from some form of 'clinically significant hearing loss,' yet only one in five have chosen to use some form of hearing device.