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Happy New Hear!

The title of my blog this week looks like it has typo in it, right? You’re thinking it should say Happy New Year instead of Happy New Hear. If you look at the computer keyboard, you’ll see the y is right above the h. So, it makes perfect sense that I could have hit the wrong key. I didn’t. I do wish everyone a Happy New Year—filled with good fortune and good health—however for me, 2022 started off with new hearing. I wanted to share my experience, thus the title of this week’s blog. Bear with me, I’ll explain.

I’ve been wearing hearing aids for many years now, and it’s been my habit to get my hearing checked every January. (I also make annual trips to the dentist and the eye doctor.) I’m happy to report that at this year’s visit to the audiologist, I was told my hearing loss stayed the same. Thank goodness! However, my hearing aids were four years old. I know that’s very young in human years and not even that old in dog years, but in “hearing-aid years,” it’s time for replacements. My audiologist suggested I trade my Oticon Opn S1 aids for the new Oticon More instruments. Of course, I expected a bit of a change, but I was amazed at the difference in sound quality. Everything sounded so much crisper and cleaner. I felt as if I had gone back in time when my ears worked on their own. It truly was “a new hear” in the new year.

My audiologist explained that since we hear with our brain and not our ears, this new technology gives the noggin more of what it needs to make better sense of sound. It is the first hearing aid with what is known as a Deep Neural Network, or DNN, embedded in the chip. The DNN is trained on 12 million real-life sounds, so it recognizes virtually all types of sounds to support your brain. Plus, like your brain, it learns through experience. The instruments deliver 30 percent more sound to the brain and increase speech understanding by 15 percent. The Mores also enhances the wearer’s ability to remember what’s been said. And that’s just for starters.

Before leaving the office, my new hearing instruments were synched to my iPhone through bluetooth. I can now do hands-free cell phone calls, and I can stream music. (The streaming came in handy during my trip to the dentist. The music replaces the sound of the drill. YAY!) There is also a setting that enhances the sound of live music. As a die-hard concert goer, I was thrilled to be able to clearly hear every sound from every instrument on stage. The More hearing aids provide the richest music experience ever. The true test of course is going out to dinner. I set my instruments to the “speech in noise” setting and had no trouble hearing my friend talking to me from across the table. The background noise was similar to a little flutter behind me. Yet when the waiter came to take our order, I heard every word he said. It seemed to be too good to be true!

I could go on and on about my “new hear.” For those with tinnitus, there is a masking program that gives wearers the option of choosing different relief sounds, for example ocean waves, which can be customized to each person’s needs. Wearers have the ability to stream the television and the car radio, all with a true-to-life listening experience. And the battery charging system is designed for travel. It can provide three full charges without a power source, should you get stuck in the woods, and it can complete a six-hour charge in only 30 minutes.

The future of hearing instruments is truly phenomenal. Manufacturers are looking to include a fall alert system in their hearing aids. Once activated, the system will notify a loved one if the wearer falls and does not get up in a specified amount of time. Someday soon there will be an interpreting program that will enable the wearer to hear in English what is being said in, say, German, for instance. There is no end to what technology may one day offer those of us with hearing loss.

But like a horse being led to water, the only one who can protect your hearing is you. Why not add a note to your to-do list to see an audiologist or ENT in 2022? Quick, painless testing will determine if you have hearing loss. Not only is poor hearing detrimental to your overall health—it’s linked to depression, dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure and other chronic condition—it’s difficult to live with. If you find you have hearing loss, there are good-quality hearing instruments that cost as little as $1,000 and can be paid for with interest-free installments. They can even be leased, just like a car.

There’s still time to start the new year off right. Go see your audiologist, and you too may be wishing others a Happy New Hear!