How many hearing devices are available to us?
How many can be made to work?
The answers to those questions have become increasingly important in recent years, with the demand for hearing devices soaring.
But the technology itself has not always been so reliable, as recent studies have found.
A new report from the Institute for Sensors and Acoustics at the University of Washington suggests that many hearing implant manufacturers may have been misled by industry estimates about the level of noise they could withstand.
For example, the institute found that in some cases, hearing implant makers have used a “worst-case” scenario that assumed hearing implants were not capable of handling the noise they were supposed to be capable of.
The worst-case scenario is a scenario in which a hearing implant is only able to “enrich” noise, meaning that the implant can only amplify it further.
This is often called “noise cancellation.”
In other words, the implant doesn’t cancel out the noise that is still there, but instead it simply cancels it out.
In the worst-cases scenario, the Institute’s researchers found that even a hearing device with a “good” noise-cancelling technology would still have a noise level higher than that of a hearing aid.
In the worst case scenario, a hearing impairment would cause hearing loss and possibly death.
The report found that a hearing amp can be built to have a “low noise floor” of just 0.5 decibels.
That’s roughly the noise level of a human ear.
“The high noise floor of an implant can have a detrimental effect on hearing,” said the report, “and this can have adverse consequences for people who need hearing aids or implants.”
According to the report’s authors, the industry’s failure to keep up with this change is making hearing implants less reliable, less affordable and more expensive.
The Institute found that for many implant manufacturers, the hearing-loss-related costs were not reflected in the cost of the product.
“Many manufacturers appear to have assumed that a high noise level would be acceptable for implant users, but the results of these studies suggest otherwise,” said lead author Eric Gartner.
“In reality, the noise floor is lower than a hearing-aid user can tolerate.”
The Institute’s findings have not only been widely reported in the scientific literature, but also in mainstream media, where hearing-related news stories have been focused on hearing-accommodation concerns.
For instance, last week, The Washington Post published an article detailing how the hearing implant industry is facing pressure from regulators to cut back on its noise levels.
In response, the Hearing Institute, the American Academy of Audiology, and other industry groups have released a statement that called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the hearing devices industry.
“As the industry adjusts to the new technologies that are being offered for hearing use, we urge manufacturers to ensure their products are built with noise-reduction technology,” the statement read.
The hearing implants industry is not the only one grappling with the issue.
Last year, a lawsuit filed against the implant industry by a woman in Texas was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The American Academy for Audiology has also released a report saying that hearing implant devices are not safe, and that hearing implants can cause hearing damage.
“Although most people with hearing loss do not experience hearing loss, the effects of hearing loss can be severe,” said Dr. Mark Pappas, an assistant professor at the Institute of Sensors, Acoustices and Electronics.
“It can cause significant loss of hearing, impair speech and hearing loss in others.”
As more technology becomes available to help people with deafness and hearing impairment, it is expected that hearing-restoring implants will become more common.
For those people, hearing aids are another option that has come under increasing scrutiny, as well.
While hearing aids can be designed to prevent hearing loss or reduce hearing loss-related hearing loss (HRHLR), hearing aids that have been tested for HRHLR have not been shown to reduce HRHLRs.
According to a report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about 90% of hearing-damaging implants are either hearing aids and/or hearing-absorbing devices.
But as the number of implant-related HRHLRD cases continues to rise, the cost for hearing aids has risen to $3,000 per hearing implant, or roughly $500 per hearing aid user.
As we age, the ability to tolerate and cope with hearing-damage can become increasingly difficult.
“It is not clear if the implant manufacturers were making this up, or if the hearing aids they were using were actually more effective,” Gartners said.
“We know the implant makers were making assumptions, and the hearing aid manufacturers were also making assumptions.”
The hearing implant market has grown over the last several years, but it is still dominated by implant makers.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank, there are about 3.4 billion hearing-implant implants