NEWSPAPER STORY Our client, Beltone Florida was featured in a story in the DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL about the new BELTONE FIRST HEARING AID
SMART PHONE APP ALLOWS HEARING AID USERS TO BE DISCREET
Hearing loss can be a normal part of aging, but people are often reluctant to get a hearing aid.
“It’s a cosmetic thing. Some people don’t want to be seen with a hearing aid,” said Dr. Shiva Mathura, a family medicine physician at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City.
“They try to find ways to get through their day without any assistance of a hearing aid,” Mathura said. “I see that a lot.”
Among adults 70 and older who could benefit from a hearing aid, fewer than one in three have ever used a hearing aid, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Even fewer adults ages 20 to 69 who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.
Consumers with smart phones, however, like to use their apps for health, such as monitoring their diet or calorie consumption. According to the Pew Research Internet Project, one in five smart phone users have a health app.
Beltone, the maker of hearing aids, is hoping to bridge the gap, with the Beltone HearPlus, an app that controls a hearing aid through a wireless receiver.
The hearing aid is still worn in the ear, but the technology allows users to be more discreet. The app eliminates the need for a remote control or having to wear an accessory such as a pendant.
When the user needs to adjust the hearing aid, other people don’t need to know.
“It looks like they’re doing something on their phone, like answering an email or a text or playing a game, but really they’re controlling the (hearing aid),” said Michelle LaRiviere, audiologist for Beltone lab in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The app also allows users to customize the hearing aids.
Collette Hoff , 73, of Port Orange, got the hearing aid and app on her iPhone 5 this summer. She gets direct streaming of stereo sound from the phone.
To make a recent appointment, Hoff appreciated getting GPS driving directions she could understand from her smart phone.
“It was so nice because it came right through my ears,” she said.
Hoff can also control volume, treble and bass with the click of her app. She can block out unwanted background noise, like the wind along State Road A1A when going for a Sunday drive.
She can save the acoustic settings for her favorite places.
Because Hoff and her husband, Gerry Hoff, like to go to Houligan’s to watch games, the smart phone app will beep as soon as they approach the sports bar to let her know that the pre-set acoustic adjustments are being made.
The app has GPS technology so it can make changes based on location.
The GPS also makes it easy to find her hearing aids if she should lose them. She will get a beep if she is close to them.
“I found my hearing aids in the laundry basket,” Hoff said.
Gary Price, a hearing instrument specialist for Beltone in Ormond Beach, said the app will not bust the data plan of a smart phone unless the user downloads a lot of music or videos because the user likes to listen by hearing aids.
The app itself is free, but the cost of the hearing aid will depend on what kinds of features the user wants, Price said.
So costs can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
It can be difficult to get health insurance to cover the costs of a hearing aid because hearing loss is so prevalent in seniors, Price acknowledged.
While 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss, the rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
They are slow to get help.
“You have to look at the psychology of the hearing impaired,” Price said. “Most people don’t want to admit they have a problem first and foremost.”
“Secondly, our hearing declines very gradually, a little bit at a time,” Price added. “Your brain gets adjusted. So most people don’t know they have a hearing loss. They find out through loved ones who are having to repeat themselves more and more.”
Not being able to understand her relatives at a family get-together this summer in Maine convinced Hoff that she needed to get her hearing checked.
“I couldn’t hear,” Hoff recalled. “I kept saying, ‘What, what.’ I felt so degraded inside.”
At her 55th high school reunion, “I didn’t have my hearing aid, either,” she added. “I probably missed a lot.”
A hearing aid has made all the difference.
Before ““when my great-grandchildren called me, I could never understand because they have the tiny voices,” she said. “Now it goes right into my ear. I can hear every word they say. That means so much to me.”