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Gareth Smith,
MSc, AuD,
Consultant Clinical Scientist (Audiology), 
Southend University Hospital, UK.

E: Gareth.Smith@southend.nhs.uk

In previous areas of the Audiology Features Section, this theme would have been called ‘Hearing Aids’. With the increased interest in ‘over-the-counter’ or ‘direct-to-consumer’ devices, we are using the phrase ‘amplification’ for July/August. With modern hearing aid devices, I wonder if ‘amplification’ and even ‘hearing aids’ under-sell the technological capacity of modern devices – so, in the digital age, I’ve taken to Twitter to poke the hearing care community to consider should we rebrand our hearing technology? Do join in the debate!

Perhaps the biggest change effected by the OTC debate has been the rise of ‘high-end’ devices available direct to consumers. Let’s face it, amplification devices direct to the public have been available for years and are often seen as full page advertisements in the UK tabloid Sunday papers or in targeted mail-shots. Consisting of low-level technology, with little aesthetic consideration, and sadly used as stock images by the BBC, these devices can be the public’s first impression of hearing aids. Ibrahim Almufarrij et al present their evidence regarding the current offers of direct to consumer devices. It will be really interesting to see how some of the well-known names in audio-devices fit into this market and compare to modern hearing aids.

As the OTC devices improve, so too does the ‘traditional’ hearing aid technology. Catherine Palmer provides a review of Hearing Aids 2019, with Mark Laureyns looking specifically at the effectiveness of directional microphone technology options.

On the theme of advancing hearing aid technology, in this edition we have an interview with Achin Bhowmik. With such international hype around the Livio AI as a ‘game-changer’ in traditional amplification devices, we were keen to discuss the drivers behind the launch of the device by Starkey.

One of the drivers behind the OTC discussion was the cost of accessing hearing technology and, in this issue, Lidia Best explores the situation of access in Europe and what drivers can be levied at a governmental level to improve the awareness and access to hearing care.

This is an exciting time to be involved in hearing care and especially around hearing aid technology and rehabilitation. As technology drives enable improvements, what will the ‘hearables’ of tomorrow be capable of?

 

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Gareth Smith

MSc, AuD, Southend University Hospital, Essex, UK.

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