Hearing aids have improved a lot

They’re not your grandpa’s hearing aids. Today’s newest models range from the completely invisible — it sits deep in the ear canal for months at a time — to Bluetooth-enabled gadgets that open cellphones and iPods for hearing-aid users.

WASHINGTON — They’re not your grandpa’s hearing aids.

Today’s newest models range from the completely invisible — it sits deep in the ear canal for months at a time — to Bluetooth-enabled gadgets that open cellphones and iPods for hearing-aid users.

Now the maker of that invisible hearing aid is going a step further — attempting a swim-proof version. About 60 swimmers begin testing a next-generation Lyric next month, to see if stronger coatings can withstand at least three swims a week, allowing the device to repel the water that short-circuits regular hearing aids.

If so, expect to see it marketed to active seniors who increasingly find the pool a gentler form of exercise than pounding the pavement.

“It’s my preferred exercise,” says Kathy Burkhard, 62, of San Jose, Calif., who is anxiously awaiting the results. She already swims with her Lyrics, her ears bundled against the water with special earplugs, a water-resistant headband and a racer’s cap. “I do it well and I enjoy it and I wasn’t ready to give it up.”

It’s part of a quiet revolution in hearing technology, to increase the usefulness and comfort of devices that too many people still shun.

“Stigma is one of the biggest obstacles we face,” says Dr. John P. Weigand, audiology director at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center.

More than 30 million adults in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss. The National Institutes of Health says most could be treated with hearing aids yet only about one in five people who could benefit uses them.

Why? Many people simply don’t know, or accept, that they need one. Hearing loss can come at any age, from disease or genetics or not protecting your ears from loud noise. But it becomes more common with aging; federal statistics show one in three people older than 60 have hearing loss. And it can creep up, as often people first lose the ability to hear higher pitch before they notice wider problems.

Then there’s reluctance to try hearing aids because of the appearance — or because of longtime problems with sound quality, particularly the ability to hear well in noisy environments.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

École Secondaire Notre Dame High School Grade 12 students Lily Forsyth (left) and Allyne Simonot helped design the “Big Smile” burger. Throughout May, for every Big Smile burger sold $2 will be donated to the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation. (Photo contributed)
Red Deer students design burger to raise funds for mental health awareness

Cilantro and Chive donating $2 from every Big Smile burger to Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation

Red Deer Regional Airport CEO Graham Ingham has ambitious plans for the airport. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer Regional Airport revenues climb in 2020

Bringing in more business is the 2021 goal, says director

City council will have to wait longer to hear back from administration on possible alternative sites — if the homeless shelter is moved from Red Deer downtown. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alternative sites for homeless shelter will be explored by the City of Red Deer

Council gave administration more time to return with a report

Quentin Lee Strawberry was found not guilty of second-degree murder in connection with stabbing death of Joseph Gallant in March 2019. (Photo from RCMP)
Updated: O’Chiese man found not guilty of 2019 stabbing death of Red Deer man

Quentin Strawberry found guilty of assaulting murdered man’s common-law partner

Vancouver Canucks’ Nils Hoglander (36) scores on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during first-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Monday May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Hoglander scores twice as Vancouver Canucks dump slumping Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Hoglander scores twice as Vancouver Canucks dump slumping Winnipeg Jets 3-1

Edmonton Oilers' Dominik Kahun (21) celebrates with teammate Connor McDavid (97) after scoring the third goal against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen (34) during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadiens clinch playoff spot with single point, fall to McDavid and Oilers in OT

Canadiens clinch playoff spot with single point, fall to McDavid and Oilers in OT

Rory McIlroy tees off on the fourth hole during the fourth round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow on Sunday, May 9, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
McIlroy ends 18 months without winning at Quail Hollow

McIlroy ends 18 months without winning at Quail Hollow

Canada , left to right, lead Briane Meilleur, third Val Sweeting, skip Kerri Einarson, and second Shannon Birchard discuss strategy against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. Both of Canada's teams were shut out of the medals, marking the first time ever that Canada did not reach the podium at either the men's or women's worlds in the same season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Bubble Wrap: Fresh questions for Canada after medal shutout at curling worlds

Bubble Wrap: Fresh questions for Canada after medal shutout at curling worlds

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilers plan to keep playing McDavid, Draisaitl as NHL regular season winds down

Oilers plan to keep playing McDavid, Draisaitl as NHL regular season winds down

Canada's Tyler Ardron, right, tries to block the kick by Italy's Callum Braley during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match in Fukuoka, western Japan, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kyodo News via AP
Canadian men to face Wales and England in July rugby test matches

Canadian men to face Wales and England in July rugby test matches

John Velazquez, right, rides Medina Spirit ahead of Florent Geroux aboard Mandaloun to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Darron Cummings
Casse believes colleague Baffert deserves “due process” folowing positive test

Casse believes colleague Baffert deserves “due process” folowing positive test

Canada forward Liam Millar (23) moves the ball past Bermuda defender Eusebio Blankendal (2) during the second half of a World Cup 2022 Group B qualifying soccer match Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-John Raoux
Canadian men to play next two World Cup qualifying matches in the U.S.

Canadian men to play next two World Cup qualifying matches in the U.S.

Most Read