Over one million Canadians have a hearing-related disability, though the number with hearing loss may actually be three times higher, according to Statistics Canada. Next to arthritis, hearing loss is the most common complaint among older adults, and 90 percent of cases can be treated with solutions like hearing aids.

New fits and styles

Hearing aids have changed from the large, cumbersome designs that covered the ear, to smaller “non-occluding” units that don’t carry quite the same footprint. Some newer types have reduced the size to the point where they’re inserted so deeply into the ear canal they’re not visible to others.  

“Another style on the rise in popularity is the ‘open-fit’, a hearing aid that offers the wearer a very discreet, lightweight, and comfortable wearing experience by leaving the ear canal free of any tight-fitting earmold,” explains Jillian Price, Chief Audiologist at ListenUP! Canada. “Multi-directional microphones are another example of a sophisticated feature built into the hearing aid that can help reduce unwanted background noise, leaving more of the desired sounds to be heard.”

“Modern hearing aids situated behind the ear no longer have bulky earhooks and thick tubing directing the sound to the ear.”

Bluetooth also helps, she says, as certain hearing aids utilize the technology to connect to a TV, stereo system, home telephone, cellular phone, and computer, among other devices. The sound can be tailored to a user’s hearing loss and preferences, and it’s expected more development will further improve how that all works, including the battery life.

Better designs and technologies

Marshall Chasin, Director of Auditory Research at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada, sees hearing aid devices that are coming in all shapes and sizes now. The very smallest available goes completely in the ear and can be controlled with a wireless remote control. He has also noticed a recent return to hearing aid styles of 20 years ago.

“In their most recent reincarnation, these behind-the-ear hearing aids have kept all of the good things and done away with the problematic things of the past,” says Chasin. “Modern hearing aids situated behind the ear no longer have bulky earhooks and thick tubing directing the sound to the ear. They have wire thin tubes that direct the sound to the ear, without blocking the ear canal.”

He cautions that hearing loss can be so gradual that it’s not obvious any damage has been done until years have passed. Tinnitus, or random ringing in the ears, is a common sign of hearing loss, and repeated exposure to loud music can trigger the condition. 

“When it comes to portable music, like a smartphone, the rule of thumb should be no more than 80 percent volume for 90 minutes a day. Beyond that, consider turning down the volume,” he says.