Making Hearing Aids for the Tech-Savvy Set

Today’s hearing aids sync up with bluetooth and adjust their filters based on GPS.

By Brenda SalinasMay 7, 2015 7:45 am

If you talk to someone with a hearing aid, most of the time they’ll say that they don’t like it very much. It’s tinny, it doesn’t eliminate ambient noise very well and some designs are still bulky and obvious. But there’s new Bluetooth-enabled tech, driven to market by the aging Baby Boomer population, that’s making hearing aids better than ever.

The Texas Standard spoke with technology guru Omar Gallaga with the Austin-American Statesman to get the skinny on innovations in equipment for people who are hearing-impaired.

“Over the last 20 years they’ve moved a lot more toward digital signal processing, which is… a computer inside the hearing aid that is processing the sound around you,” Gallaga says. “And cleaning it up filtering it, honing it in on what you want to be hearing and then spitting back out quality audio.”

But he says that’s more on the high-end and could cost you up to $6,000 for a pair of hearing aids. Although not everyone needs something that precise, a pair of app-enabled hearing aids could still cost you upward of $3,000.

The latest generation of hearing aids include built-in Bluetooth so users can better control their hearing through smartphone apps. Gallaga says people can change settings like volume, bass, treble, or individual ears. The app tracks where your hearings aids are, in case of loss, and saves settings for certain environments. It also connect the hearing aids directly to phone calls and music apps directly from their phone to their ears. In fact, these hearing aids can connect to almost anything with Bluetooth sound capabilities: a car stereo system, hands-free calls and more.

“People’s lifestyles are moving toward mobile apps these devices they have every day with them they expect that in their car stereos in their tvs they expect that kind of connectivity,” Gallaga says. “It’s being driven by the boomer generation, but younger people are also finding a need for these devices.”