Last April, NPR featured an article about listening up with smarter technology, discovering the new world of digital hearing aids, and how the technology has helped one man be a part of his world again.
In the article they speak with composer Richard Einhorn about the way speech sounds to people who are deaf or who have a hearing loss. Enihorn reports that “Speech sounds like the worst science-fiction robot screaming in your ear,” he says. “It’s a shrieking, horrible, hideous metallic sound.”
In order to help others understand what hearing loss sounds like, he has created his own audio demos.
First, listen to Einhorn reading an early 19th-century quote from Ludwig van Beethoven, bemoaning his own increasing deafness.
Next, listen to the way Einhorn’s hyperacusis distorts the same quote.
In order to help the significant loss the Einhorn developed in his left ear he bought a top-of-the-line digital hearing aid. His biggest fear was that he wasn’t going to be able to continue to work and to continue with his passion of music. Einhorn also purchased devices that help him hear what he’s composing, talk on the phone, listen to live music, and carry on conversations in noisy restaurants. The solutions aren’t perfect, Einhorn says. But they’re pretty good. “I compose every day. I see my friends. I go to movies. I go to concerts. I do everything,” he says.
All that would have been a lot harder if Einhorn had lost his hearing just a couple of decades ago. Back then, most hearing aids were still analog devices with severe limitations. But in the digital age, hearing aids and so-called assistive listening devices have become smaller, smarter and much more powerful.
Not anymore. Digital sound processing also has cut down on the annoying squawks caused by feedback. And modern hearing aids are programmed to amplify only those sound frequencies a person has trouble hearing.
Read the entire article to learn more about the history of digital hearing aids here.