High-tech hearing aids gaining popularity

Morris Bonde, of Middletown, knew his hearing aids were working when he could clearly hear the sopranos in his church choir.

“Some voices I didn’t hear very well, sometimes,” Bonde said, sitting in the Frederick office of Dr. Darryl Feaga, a hearing instrument specialist.

Bonde’s wife, Nancy Keller-Bonde, encouraged her husband to go to Feaga a few months ago to get fitted with hearing aids. Both Bonde and Keller-Bonde sing in the choir at Middletown United Methodist Church.

“It makes it easier for me,” Bonde said.

Of adults age 70 and older with hearing loss, fewer than 30 percent use hearing aids.

“I envisioned that they would be uncomfortable, but I don’t even notice them,” Bonde said.

Feaga works at a Beltone Hearing Aid Center in Frederick and fits his patients with Beltone hearing aids. The company has started producing “Beltone Legend” hearing aids that can be controlled via iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet.

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“I haven’t sold a lot of them, but it’s gaining a lot of popularity,” Feaga said.

In the past, hearing aids generally allowed the user to turn the volume up and down.

As the devices became more advanced, companies created hearing aids with two channels: one for high frequency-sounds and one for low frequency-sounds. Users could then make high or low frequencies louder, depending on their hearing loss.

Usually, patients lose their ability to hear higher frequencies — like the sopranos in the church choir — before lower frequency sounds, Feaga said.

Keller-Bonde and Bonde’s hearing aids have 16 or more channels, enabling Feaga to further customize the devices for their needs.

Today, Feaga said he considers a six-channel hearing aid an entry-level device.

Patients take a hearing test at the Beltone office before Feaga can program their hearing aid for their needs.

“You have to fit the instrument to the loss that the person has,” Feaga said.

In Keller-Bonde and Bonde’s particular Beltone models, Feaga can also design programs for different environments, such as airplane cabins or telephone calls.

“It’s constantly giving you the correction you need, in any environment,” Feaga said.

Patients can switch between programs by pushing the button on the back of their hearing aid or using the Beltone app on their smartphone or tablet.

“All the techies want everything,” Feaga said. That can mean answering calls through your hearing aids, among other features.

Feaga himself wears Beltone hearing aids.

High-tech hearing aids gaining popularity

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