By Delain Wright - CEO of America Hears
Whether it's using online banking, buying a new car, or being involved in health issues such as choosing digital hearing aids, today's baby boomers are all about taking control and doing things themselves, at their own convenience. The members of this generation have the desire and the ability to use the Internet comfortably, allowing them to research hearing aid technology on their own. This is something that separates them from past generations who may have simply gone to their doctors and been handed answers. Baby boomers want to research their medical issues. They have confidence in their own judgment and want to ask questions and be involved in any decisions that need to be made.
Since the baby boomer generation is aging, many people in this category are finding that they suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss and may, for the first time, need a hearing aid to compensate for that loss. Today's digital hearing aids are much more user friendly and hearing aid technology has advanced to the point that users can take a more hands-on approach to the fitting and adjustment of their aids.
New Hearing Aid Technology Puts the User in Control
In the past, when patients needed adjustments to their digital hearing aids, they had to travel to an audiologist's or representative's office and discuss any issues regarding the hearing aid's performance. Adjustments would be made by the audiologist and the patient would leave the office, testing out the new settings in the real world. Each time additional adjustments were required, the patient would have to return to the audiologist's office — visits that could take up an extensive amount of time and possibly cost money if the vendor limited the number of free adjustments.
However, hearing aid technology has changed, and programming software is now available that can be used by either the audiologist or the consumer. Patients can choose to program the device themselves in their own homes using consumer-friendly software, or they can have the programming software send the results of queries via the Internet to the audiologist's office where the hearing aid can be adjusted for the patient. Plus, this latest hearing aid technology allows the software to be more intuitive and more user friendly than programs of the past. Instead of requesting complex, specific measurements (i.e., "Change the input from 500 Hz to 6000 Hz."), the new software allows the user to provide information in plain English, such as "I don't hear well in noisy restaurants," or "Classical music sounds tinny to me." The software can then make the adjustments to the user's digital hearing aids based on these comments, leading to fewer, more appropriate changes.
This newest option in hearing aid technology is of great benefit to many of today's tech savvy baby boomers. It enables them to be more actively involved with their digital hearing aids -- particularly those interested in being able to work with programming software that runs on their own personal computers. In addition, they won't have to take time off from work to visit an office for adjustments. If they do have questions about hearing aid technology or adjustments, they can simply pick up the phone and call the vendor for more information. The vendor may even be able to make the adjustments and send a file via the Internet to be downloaded to the hearing aid.
No More Need for Complicated Fittings
Another big change in hearing aid technology is that the latest hearing aid models do not require the same fitting process that past aids did. Older digital hearing aids as well as some that are still available today need to be fit with the creation of a silicon mold (a.k.a. a custom earmold) so that the aid matches the shape of the wearer's ear. This process is known as taking an impression. Today, baby boomers with mild to moderate hearing loss can take advantage of new digital hearing aid technology and purchase open-fit and speaker-in-the-ear hearing aids. These devices can be placed on anyone's ear without the need for a custom earmold. With very minor tweaks to the physical body of the hearing aid, an open fit can be customized for the individual. Open fit digital hearing aids also benefit the patient through advanced hearing aid technology that provides more natural hearing. By allowing sound to pass through to the ear canal unprocessed by the aid, and then combining it with amplified signals, open fit aids do not occlude or block the ear canal.
Services Over the Phone and Online
Unlike generations before them, baby boomers are more comfortable getting information about digital hearing aids online or over the phone, rather than in person. As a result, they may never have to enter the office of an audiologist at any point in the buying process. Instead, they can begin researching hearing aid technology by reading informative articles available on the Internet. They can also call various audiologists to ask questions — both general and specific — before making a purchase.
When it comes time to buy digital hearing aids, that too can be done over the Internet. Even if the buyer is not a candidate for an open-fit (something that would be determined through the early stages of research into hearing aid technology), they can request a fitting kit from many audiologists and create an earmold themselves -- again without needing to actually visit an office. They can get several prices before making a decision and then make the final purchase online or over the phone. Finally, as previously noted, today's buyers can adjust their digital hearing aids online, or get technical support over the phone.
As hearing aid technology matures, those in the baby boomer generation are finding that they can take matters into their own hands. From researching the right digital hearing aids to fitting and buying the aids to making adjustments, baby boomers no longer have to spend time and energy visiting a vendor store or office when they need hearing aids. Instead, they can take advantage of the Internet and telephone to cover all aspects of the process.
About the Author
Delain Wright has over twenty years of experience in the hearing aid industry. He currently serves as CEO of America Hears, a leading manufacturer and distributor of digital hearing aids. Prior to joining America Hears, Delain served as president of Rexton, vice president with Siemens Hearing, and managing director for A&M Hearing. Wright also recently spent two years researching the changing hearing aid market.