An active vent receiver automatically adapts the size of the vent depending on the situation. The hearing aid does this by listenening and adapting to the environment it is in.
World's first ActiveVent Receiver: What does this mean for Online Hearing Care?
What is an Active Vent Receiver?
This month Phonak announced the launch of the world’s first Active Vent Receiver. Many audiologists are claiming this is groundbreaking technology. To understand what an active vent receiver is, we first need to understand why we use venting in a hearing aid.
When you wear a hearing aid you have to insert something in to the ear canal to deliver the amplified sound. This is usually either a custom ear piece, or a dome attached to a tube/cable.
Either way, to some extent, you are blocking your ear. When you block your ear, you get a feeling of being occluded.
Occlusion feels like you are in your own head, and you may hear your internal sounds louder than external sounds. You can replicate this by poking your fingers in your ears and talking. Your voice will sound deeper and more resonant than normal; this is occlusion.
To overcome this feeling of being blocked we use what is called a vent. A vent is essentially a hole or channel in the ear piece that allows the ear to breath. This reduces the feeling of occlusion and helps to improve comfort and acceptance of the hearing aids.
The Problem With Venting
You may be inclined to think that everyone should have a vent to stop this blocked feeling. This is certainly true, as audiologists we always try to vent wherever possible. Unfortunately though, when we add a vent we are at an increased risk of getting feedback.
Feedback is the unwanted screeching noise that hearing aids can make. It occurs when amplified sound escapes the ear and is picked up by the microphones of the hearing aid. The microphones then amplify the already amplified sound and it creates what is called a, ‘feedback cycle’. The only way to stop this feedback cycle is to prevent the leakage of amplified sound from the ear. To do this, we have to close the ear off.
This then leave us audiologists in a bit of a pickle. We have to find the perfect balance of reducing occlusion and preventing feedback. The two are in a constant battle with each other and we often have to experiment with various solutions.
Music and Directionality
The other unfortunate side effect of venting is the loss of directionality. Hearing aid directionality is the ability to focus in one particular direction (usually the front). It helps the wearer to block out unwanted background noise and hear the person talking a little easier. Unfortunately, the larger the vent, the more directionality we lose. This is because of the loss of amplification of the low frequencies and this also has a significant effect on our enjoyment of music, which is predominantly lower pitched than voices.
Up until now, hearing aid wearers have had to choose either comfort and acceptance with less performance, or performance and directionality with less comfort. However, Phonak may have a solution that offers the best of both worlds.
Active Vent Receiver
An active vent receiver automatically adapts the size of the vent depending on the situation. The hearing aid does this by listenening and adapting to the environment it is in. In calm situations or during one-to-one conversations the hearing aid will leave the vent nice and open for optimised comfort and acceptance. However, when the noise level increases or if music is playing, the vent will close off optimising performance
What does this mean for Online Hearing Care?
This active vent technology has huge potential for the future of online hearing care. Hearing aids are becoming increasingly autonomous and within the next decade it is likely that you will be able to buy hearing aids online without them being prescribed by an audiologist in the UK. This Active Vent feature will simplify the self-fit process of hearing aids and will prevent you from rejecting the hearing aids. This is ideal for our online model which is designed to give you the tools to be as autonomous as possible.
For now though, this active vent receiver will be available exclusively on the high street as it requires custom made ear pieces, which can only be manufactured by an audiologist / hearing aid dispenser. We will of course be more than happy to provide advice and guidance on any hearing related topic so please feel free to book in for a free 15 minute consultation today.
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