(BPT) - Approximately 20 percent of Americans live with hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. If you’re among them, you may think all you need to do in order to hear better is to turn up the volume. But many factors make up hearing, including sound quality, clarity, the ability to identify where sounds are coming from and how your brain processes these sounds. To get the best hearing experience, you need to address all of them.
A recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll illustrates the challenges people with hearing loss experience listening to conversations and processing information. The poll of more than 2,000 adults found 67 percent struggle to hear in noisy places like a restaurant, and 73 percent have trouble hearing sounds coming from different directions. Eighty-five percent have to listen harder to understand what's being said around them, and more than half actually have to strain to understand, follow and participate in conversations.
Hearing aids can help many of the 48 million Americans who experience hearing loss, but it's important your hearing aids address more than just volume. Depending on the type of hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing clearly in a crowded room, identifying the direction a sound is coming from, or hearing high-pitched sounds like a doorbell or the voice of a grandchild. The ability to hear low-volume sounds is only one component of good hearing; quality, clarity and directionality are also important. Your hearing aid needs to address all of those factors, and not just increase the volume of noises around you.
Attorney Chris Mammel of Florida found distinguishing sounds coming from different directions to be one of the most significant challenges of his hearing loss.
"Courtrooms are naturally noisy places," Mammel says. "If I was sitting in the audience, waiting for my turn before a judge, I couldn't differentiate conversations or where sounds were coming from. It made it difficult to determine what kind of mood a judge was in before I had to stand in front of her."
Like many people with hearing loss, Mammel found the effort of listening to be tiring. While your ears handle the mechanics of hearing, it’s your brain’s job to interpret the sound messages the ears send it. People with hearing loss often have to put more effort into listening and interpreting what they hear.
If your hearing aid fails to address sound clarity and quality, your brain will have to work harder to interpret the information coming from the device. That extra work can actually lead you to feel fatigued, and even forget what you heard. In fact, 43 percent of respondents in the survey said they have trouble remembering what was said.
For Mammel, the solution was a new advance in hearing aid technology. The Oticon Opn hearing aid with BrainHearing technology allows users to hear well from all directions. BrainHearing technology makes listening easier on the brain. Super-fast processors within the device filter out distracting noises, allowing you to more easily follow conversations, even in loud environments like a busy restaurant. You enjoy a more balanced, natural sound experience.
In a comparison study against currently available premium hearing aids, Opn demonstrated a 30 percent improvement in speech understanding and a 20 percent reduction in listening effort, as well as up to a 20 percent better recall of conversations.
The device improved Mammel's ability to discern directionality and follow conversations in the courtroom and the board room, shifting focus easily to the speakers he wanted to hear.
"Before, I would have to pick someone right next to me in the room and that would basically be the only person I could speak with," he says. "Now I can participate around the table in conversation. I can look down the line three or four people and still follow or actually participate in a conversation with them. It's really been a remarkable change."
Many people also want aids that can interact with other important devices in their lives, such as mobile phones or home sound systems. Opn connects directly to mobile phones and other external devices with the tap of your fingers, allowing you to stream audio signals directly to the hearing aids. Wireless communications technology allows two hearing aids to communicate with each other for improved spatial and directional awareness.
As you grow older, your likelihood of experiencing hearing loss increases, and nearly half of all people older than 75 will have trouble hearing, the Hearing Loss Association reports. In fact, hearing loss is the third most-common physical condition, after arthritis and heart disease, and it can affect every aspect of your life, including your physical and mental health, relationships and self-esteem. To learn more about hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org or www.hearingloss.org. For more information about Opn, visit www.oticon.com.