SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Can you hear me now? More and more people can't. At least 30 million Americans are having trouble hearing. Now, a new type of hearing aid is making it easier for people to get help without everyone knowing it.
This is the first time Patrick Mulvey has jumped in a swimming pool in 10 years. He gave it up when his hearing started to go.
"I cranked the music up a little bit too loud, and I started feeling the effects of it," Mulvey told Ivanhoe.
Both ears suffered moderate hearing loss -- so much so, that without help, life is practically impossible to hear.
"It's difficult to understand people on the whole," Mulvey explained.
Now, the next generation of hearing aids can help Mulvey hear in and out of the water.
"That's the hearing aid," Robert Sweetow, Ph.D., director of audiology and professor of otolaryngology at UCSF, showed Ivanhoe.
This Lyric hearing aid is the first of its kind to be studied in swimmers. And it's virtually invisible.
"This is the only hearing aid that's immersed this deeply down the ear canal," Dr. Sweetow explained.
It sits one-sixth of an inch from the eardrum. The sound can be turned up and down with the use of a magnet outside the ear.
"It doesn't fall out because the ear canal goes in and curves, so there are two flanges on this device that grip the bone of the ear canal," Dr. Sweetow said.
The Lyric cannot help people with very small ear canals, bone protrusions or severe hearing loss. But for those with less or moderate loss, this gives them a new option.
Traditional hearing aids may have feedback, over amplify background noises, the batteries die frequently and have to be removed while showering or swimming.
Now, Mulvey is back in the pool and says he'll dive in more often.
"If I can do this, I'll probably end up doing it a couple a times a week," Mulvey said.
Patients pay an annual subscription fee of up to $3,600 per pair and get an entirely new hearing aid when the battery dies. Dr. Sweetow says insurance plans usually don't cover hearing aids, but that is gradually changing.
HEARING AIDS: Hearing aids are little electronic devices that are worn behind the ear to assist in the hearing process. The device makes some sounds louder for people who have hearing loss, so they can listen, communicate and participate fully in daily activities. Hearing aids can help people hear better in both quiet and noisy situations. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, only 20 percent of people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually use one.
There are three parts to a hearing aid: a microphone, amplifier and a speaker. The device receives sound through the microphone; the sound is then converted to sound waves and then converted to electrical signals that are then sent to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the sound signals and then sends them through the ear to a speaker. There are four types of hearing aids: behind-the-ear (BTE), "Mini" BTE, In-the-Ear (ITE) and completely-in-canal (CIC). All of these consist of a hard plastic case that is connected to a plastic ear mold that either fits in the ear, behind the ear, or in the canal. (Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders)
LYRIC, THE INVISIBLE HEARING DEVICE: Lyric hearing aid is the first extended-wearing hearing device that is completely invisible. The device is considered invisible because the placement of the Lyric in the ear canal is deep and is invisible to the eye. The device can be worn 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months at a time. The device is placed within the ear canal, millimeters from the ear drum, by a trained hearing professional and does not involve any surgery or anesthesia.
Lyric can stay in the ear canal for months at time. The positioning of the Lyric allows the outer ear to direct sound directly into the ear canal naturally. By having this direct connection, the hearing aid is able to improve directionality and localization (the ability to determine where the sounds are coming from), reduces feedback, minimizes background noise and improves the ability to hear high frequency sounds. The device also is able to be used during daily exercising, showering and sleeping. (Source: Lyric Hearing Aids: www.lyrichearing.com)
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