People with hearing loss are not alone. They are among 32 million Americans and 360 million individuals worldwide with hearing loss. Roughly 1/3 of individuals over age 65 have a significant hearing impairment, making hearing loss the third most common chronic condition among older Americans.On the average, those with hearing loss wait 5 to 7 years after they know there is a problem before they obtain assistance from hearing aids. The long wait for amplification may be due to financial situations, availability of hearing aids in a particular country, denial, stigma, or many other factors depending upon the situation. Most agree, however, that hearing loss directly impacts quality of life for the person as well as their family.
Having the ability to experience a world filled with sound, music, and conversations helps us connect to one another, find employment and, generally, find happiness. When they hear better, people are able to process information more effectively, communicate better with family and friends, and live an overall healthier life. Seeking treatment means hearing and better understanding one another – even rediscovering movie night with your loved ones. Taylor (2015) reminds patients and audiologists that only 10% of those with mild hearing losses are using hearing instruments and get by rather well most of the time but may have difficulty in home entertainment environments, such as watching television with spouse or friends. For example, if a person finds themselves increasing the volume on the TV in order to hear programs, sports or movies; family and friends with normal hearing will likely find the volume loud and uncomfortable. As a result, watching television may become a constant, frustrating battle. If you are struggling to hear the television and finding that you more frustrated, isolated or depressed as a result, you should get rid of the denial and consider obtaining a hearing evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional.
………But I Am Not Ready For Hearing Aids, What Can I Do?
There is also huge group of individuals that has very mild hearing loss and has not chosen to use hearing aids. These individuals have some significant difficulty in understanding certain people and in some environments, but mostly have issues with the television being too loud for others. This may be especially true if there is a lot of music covering the dialog in a movie or accents that make understanding more difficult. So rather than obtain hearing devices the TV is turned louder. For those not quite ready for hearing aids, a directed audio solution could be the answer.
What Is A Directed Audio Solution?
This directed audio technology is not from the hearing aid industry but a byproduct of aerospace physics. It is NOT a hearing aid, but a patent pending speaker system that beams ultrasonic high quality sound directly to listeners. Directed audio is now marketed under the brand name of Hypersound and beams sound only to the person that needs it while the others in the room simply have the television turned to a level that is comfortable for them.
How does it do that?
It is well known that traditional speakers diffuse sound much like how a bare light bulb diffuses light. As a result, sound from traditional speakers can be heard no matter where the listener is positioned within the room but to some listeners it is often not very high quality. Sound from traditional speakers bounces around the room, hitting multiple surfaces, until it finally makes it to the person’s ear. A combination of harmonics, reflection and competing ambient noise make listening to audio signals from traditional speakers challenging, especially for those with a mild hearing loss. The physical limitation of traditional loudspeakers leads to poor intelligibility of the sound. Direct audio emits sound in a highly controlled, narrow beam – much like how a flashlight or a spotlight beams light. Sound stays confined within that narrow beam, and as a result travels directly to the listener without bouncing around the room. Hypersound speakers use ultrasound to create sound in the air itself. Proprietary electronics, digital signal processing, and unique emitter design are combined to deliver crystal clear sound creating a highly-immersive listening
experience, similar to wearing headphones, but without the fuss and frustration of headphones. This revolutionary new method of sound delivery allows a person to hear better sound where they want it, understand movie dialog with accents, and in the presence of music without increasing the television volume that affects others in the room.
The benefits are especially noticed by those not ready for hearing aids:
- Improves sound clarity and speech intelligibility without the need to wear hearing aids or headphones.
- If there is a mild hearing loss the device can be programmed by audiologists for a particular hearing difficulty. It can also be used with hearing aids and without hearing aids.
- May be used with existing TV speakers, sound bars, or surround sound systems so that everyone can enjoy great sound at normal volumes.
How Do I know If I NEED Directed Audio?
If you are not sure if you have enough hearing difficulty to benefit from these new directed audio systems, consider the checklist:
- If you are turning up the TV or radio to volume levels others find too loud.
- Focusing on reading lips to understand dialog in movies or the evening news.
- Having trouble understanding TV when there are accents, musical backgrounds or other background noise.
- Relying on the captioning (subtitles) to understand what you are watching.
- Frustrated or depressed when watching TV.
- Difficulty hearing the TV unless facing the speaker or sound bar.
New hearing technologies are coming out all the time and it is not always invented by hearing instrument companies. While this technology has just been introduced in the United States for those with mild hearing loss, it will soon be seen in other parts of the world as well.
Taylor, B., (2015). Signal & Noise: Are we entering the “just good enough era? Hearing Health, Hearing Economics, March 3, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
Amazing Hearing Centres (2015). Degrees of Hearing Loss. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
Hunt, S. (2010). Robust voluntary products play a significant role in the overall benefits package. Voluntary Benefits Magazine. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
Wallhagen M. & Pettengill E. (2008). Hearing impairment: Significant but underassessed in primary care settings. J Gerontol Nurs. 2008; 34(36-42). Retrieved Noember 30, 2015.
Hypersound Hearing Solutions (2015). Hypersound Hearing Solutions Retrieved November 30, 2015.