Our ears might get “bigger” as we age, but they usually don’t get stronger. This is because as we get older, we lose the tiny hair cells inside them that transform sound waves into nerve signals that help us hear.
About 10 million Americans are hard of hearing, and while most are older than 65, hearing loss is something that can affect people of all ages.
While hearing aids can certainly be useful for turning up the volume, they’re not helpful in every situation, and they don’t really do anything for clarity. Fortunately, some amazing, new innovations could make the lives of the hearing impaired a lot easier!
What’s available now
Doorbells with visual alerts
Most of us take it for granted when somebody rings our doorbell and we hear a chime play throughout the house. But, if you’re hard of hearing, you might never know somebody is there.
Thankfully, Honeywell has solved this problem. The company makes a doorbell that will set off an ultra-bright LED strobe light when someone pushes the doorbell button and a 90-decibel chime, which has a muting option.
Smartphones can be super beneficial for aiding hearing loss as they offer several apps to help you navigate the world. These include:
- Sound Amplifier – In addition to enhancing and amplifying all sound, this Android app also augments the audio quality of the device when using headphones.
- Ava – In a group setting, it can be very difficult for the hard of hearing to follow along. This app uses a device’s microphone to transcribe the conversation.
- TapSOS – People who don’t hear well – or at all – can have real difficulty interacting with emergency personnel. This app allows them to do it in a nonverbal manner.
Exciting innovations are on the way
Glasses that allow you to read what people are saying
Several companies – including Google – are working on creating eyeglasses that will make it seem like you are in your own subtitled movie. The concept is this: An app on your phone will listen to a conversation you’re having and transcribe the speech. The text will then immediately go to your glasses, which you’ll be able to read thanks to augmented reality.
An added benefit (for anyone) is that these glasses could potentially be used with real-time translation apps, so people speaking different languages could communicate with one another.
Clear hearing in a crowd
If you have trouble hearing, you know how hard it can be to hear just one person when you are in a crowded or noisy environment. This is what scientists refer to as the “cocktail party problem,” and it’s the “number one complaint by hearing aid users or people with hearing loss in general,” says Fan-Gang Zeng, a professor of otolaryngology (head and neck specialty) at the University of California.
With a de-noising program, AI will be utilized to separate sounds. It would then isolate what you want to hear based on which way you’re facing, and lower the volume of everything else. You would get this sound through a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or earbuds.
Well, not exactly new ears, but new hair cells. While our ear hair cells don’t regenerate, researchers have discovered that birds’ can. Reptiles, fish, and amphibians can repair their hair cells, too. It’s because of this phenomenon that researchers are trying to create a drug that would enable us to regrow those valuable hair cells.
For anyone experiencing hearing loss due to missing or damaged hair cells, this development would be monumental. While this innovation probably won’t be available anytime soon – several companies are working on clinical trials – it’s exciting nonetheless.
Do you or someone you know suffer from hearing loss?
Going through life not being able to hear well can be frustrating, which is why it’s good to know that this problem is being addressed. If you have hearing issues, would you use any of these innovations? Let us know in the comments and share this article with those who would appreciate it.
I have difficulty hearing in crowded places so this is wonderful news! I’m only 63 but my 91 year old mother lost her hearing a long time ago and has dementia (which I believe can be partially attributed to hearing loss). Hearing aids are just so expensive and do not last very long in comparison to how much you pay for them. As she ages she has more caregivers come to her home and it would be wonderful if she could hear them without them having to talk so loud. It would be great to have new hair cells!
This is wonderful and exciting, I have loss in my right ear, and a little in my left ear. I have
some very expensive hearing aid’s (6000 $) I live by myself so hardly ever wear them,
be great to have the hairs replaced. I like to go outside, when I first got them I heard the
wind blowing and the tree leaves Russel!!! I will be 80 this month, I bought these aids in a
fit of panic, as my Mother went deaf in both ears in her early 70’s. So far I am holding steady. So good luck to you people who are trying to help us, I have empathy for all those who have written in. We will support you and thank you for what you are doing…
I could greatly benefit from some new hair cells and a set of Glasses,to relay text messages ,
May, 15, 2022 I have hearing loss on both ears due to nerve damaged and I do wear hearing aids. I am missing letters in a word, as a result I completely misunderstand the word when having a conversation or listening to a lecture. Very frustrating to say the least. I would gladly volunteer to be included in any ongoing research. My doctor tells me I am not a candidate for cochlear implants. HELP sooner would be most appreciated.
May 15, 22
Thank you for opening my eyes to what is happening for the hearing impaired. I have been deaf in my right ear since birth, I can’t tell where sound is coming from which is very frustrating to say the least. When walking I can’t hear people walking behind me which is terrifying at night. Hopefully there will be some research for those areas. But the apps would be something I’d like to know more about , if I could isolate the sound of one person’s voice in a crowd that would be amazing. Anyway like I said before it’s nice to know we are not just being written off and there is research being done.
Hello Hilary. I too am in your category but will soon have hearing aids. I’m very much looking forward to wearing them and hear what I’ve been missing out on for the last couple of decades or so.
In 2009, I began working at Gallaudet University in DC. It is a University dedicated to the deaf and hard of hearing. Visiting the University is much like visiting foreign countries. Besides communicating through American Sign Language (ASL), it is built with many distinctive features that enable the deaf to live a fuller life. It has many of the statistics about deaf life, including those on economic impact. Visit the website to see if any on it.
Hearing impaired people are not just the elderly. New innovations seem to be a long time in coming.
I completely agree with Hilary. Deafness is not just the territory of the retired. I am 75 years young and began wearing hearing aids about 15 years ago while working in a Corporate Medical Center. During that time, I counseled many executives who were also “too young for hearing aids” but needed them to survive in their positions.
The glasses that allow you to read what people are saying would be fantastic particularly if you have the ability to pair with a translation app. Al would solve many issues for the hearing impaired….social gatherings, restaurants, classes, etc. My top pick though is regrowing hair cells! There is absolutely no innovation that can compare with your own hearing!
I would like to know the cost of those spectacles using the App. Can this App be used with any Mobile phone or specific ones? Is it a complicated process?
As a 78 year-old I don’t expect much to change in my lifetime, but the last two innovations – AI and regrowth of ear-hairs – sound extremely encouraging. The fact is that deafness does not appear in any statistics as diseases do, and thus there is no record of the economic impact, which must actually be quite considerable since deafness is not just the territory of the retired!
Yes, a directional hearing device would be of great value to me. I have hearing aids which only amplify the noise. I will try the i-phone aps that might help.