Dr. Wright's Blog

What is inside a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are becoming smaller and yet more powerful with every advancement in technology. You might be wondering, how can they fit all of that technology in such a tiny space? What exactly goes inside a hearing aid?  

In all hearing aids you will find these 5 basic components: a microphone, an amplifier, a battery, a loudspeaker and a computer chip that is programmed by the audiologist. The microphone picks up the acoustic signal in the environment and converts it to an electrical signal. Most hearing aids have more than one microphone to pick up sound in a more directional manner, which prioritizes sound coming from the front of the listener. The sound becomes analyzed by the computer chip. The processed sound is then sent to the amplifier. The amplifier sends the signal to the loudspeaker which emits the sound into the ear canal towards the tympanic membrane where it can then be processed by the inner ear. In most new hearing aids there is the addition of a 6th component – the wireless antenna for connecting to other wireless devices (e.g. cell phones).

Today’s hearing aids are digital devices which means the “natural” sound waves are converted into digital bits (0,1) that will be processed by the hearing aid. This digital signal processing allows audiologists to have much more control over the settings in the hearing aids. Instead of having devices that “amplify all sounds,” we can selectively amplify only the frequencies where the hearing loss occurs to protect your ears from further damage. We can selectively enhance soft speech while leaving loud speech alone, which makes for a more comfortable sound environment. We can adjust how quickly or effectively the hearing aid deals with background noise. In addition, the hearing aid can better distinguish between different types of “noise.” It will adapt differently based on whether the background noise is a continuous sound, such as a car engine, or whether it’s a more variable sound such as music or other speech.

This is a fascinating time to be entering the world of hearing aids because with every new advancement in computer technology, hearing aids will continue to benefit. According to Starkey “the processing power of the printed circuit board inside a Halo hearing aid is magnitudes greater than the computers aboard the Apollo 11 space shuttle that landed on the moon.”


The Top 3 Newest Hearing Aids

Technology in the industry of hearing aids in changing rapidly.  After returning from two conferences this month, (World Congress of Audiology and The future of Audiology) I can see that the competitive nature of the hearing aid industry is producing some great new technology to meet this increasing need.  This list goes over the newest hearing aid technology and why it might be a good choice for your hearing needs

1.  Phonak Belong Platform:  Released September 12, 2016.

Phonak has long been a leader in the hearing aid industry.  The new Belong hearing aid platform has a few interesting additions most notably being that there is the option to have a rechargeable battery.  This is unlike any rechargeable battery seen in the past because it is integrated into the device itself.  This means it has no battery door at all.  They claim the battery will last for 5 years before it needs to be changed, however this is untested in the hearing aid market, so actual results will remain to be seen.  The charger is sleek, small and has a 24 hour charge.  

2. Oticon Opn: Platform released June 2016.

This paradigm shift for Oticon has proved successful in the hearing aid fittings we have seen to date in our clinic.  Their move away from traditional directionality, (like we see in the Phonak Belong platform), is an industry first.  Their philosophy is to keep the sound scape open and by using sophisticated processing algorithms, reduce ambient noise when trying to focus on a speech signal.  As well, this is one of only three hearing aids that also connect to an iPhone which makes it appealing to those who want better direct hearing on the phone as well as to control their hearing aids using their phones.  It currently is only available in the premium price point class, however they are expanding the class of products to entry level later this fall.  

3. Widex Unique: November 2015 release

Widex has had their Unique platform available for nearly a year at this point, but I am including it on this list because of the feature set that it has in the entry level category.  For those who are interested in great, new technology but are not in the market for top of the line product, then this choice is for you.  The Widex Unique 110 hearing aid has a lot of great features and sound quality for the price point.  

At Broadmead and Oak Bay hearing clinics you can have access to any hearing aid that is made world wide.  We don't stock hearing aids, but rather order the one that is the exact match for your needs.  

If you are interested in a trial of these or any other hearing aid, please contact us at 250-479-2969.  


Is My Hearing Normal For My Age?

One question that I hear often in the clinic is “But my hearing is normal for my age, right?” When we test your hearing, we test frequencies from 250 Hz up to 8000 Hz.

The human ear can hear actually from 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz which is a much wider range than the frequencies we test.  We test the frequencies that are important to hear speech sounds.

Each phoneme, or speech sound, can be plotted on an audiogram somewhere within the frequency range that we test. We call it a speech banana.

If your hearing loss falls below the normal hearing range it means that you are not hearing some or all of the speech sounds.

An age-related hearing loss is common and a survey from the United States suggested more than half of baby boomers are reporting difficulties hearing.

An age-related hearing loss happens gradually over time and usually begins to affect the high frequencies first. This type of hearing loss is expected to cause difficulty hearing in crowds,

soft-spoken people and can make speech sound muffled.

So, there is no such thing as normal hearing for your age; your hearing is either within the normal range or you are missing some speech sounds.


Oticon Opn Demo Days

In early June Oticon released their newest hearing aid called Opn.  We have been testing it out on some of our clients and even our receptionist Cassie.  So far, our clients have been very happy with this technology as it has a new way of processing speech in a noisy environment.  Because it has passed our pre-test phase, and because Dr. Wright’s own mom has chosen this technology, we want to be able to offer it to all of our Victoria customers at the promotional price.  When it was released, Oticon released it at a discounted price of $600 off a set of hearing aids so we are glad to pass that along to those people in Victoria looking to try the latest technology.

We are hosting two days of demo hearing aid fittings: September 8 and 9th.  If you book an appointment for those days you can take advantage of the promotional pricing from Oticon.  And, this pricing is a full $1400 less than our competitor!  During this event, you will have your hearing tested and be fitted with a set of Oticon Opn hearing aids to try for a month.   During that month, you will be seen for an adjustment appointment so we can make sure everything is running smoothly. 

The demos are happening in our Broadmead location, but if the Oak Bay location is more convenient for you, then we can arrange by appointment in the Oak Bay office.  As well, if you are out of town on the 8th and 9th, we can arrange an alternate day by appointment.

This hearing aid is not suitable for all hearing loss.  They are set to release the power version of the Opn in October, so currently it is not powerful enough for those who have severe hearing loss.  If you fall into the severe category, wait until October when we see the power version become available. 

If you have any questions about pricing or how the event runs, please email me at drwright@broadmeadhearing.com


Disability Tax Credit for Hearing Loss

Take a look at the letter below that Member of Parliament Peter Julian sent to the Minister of National Revenue.  What he is supporting is Bill C-263 which failed to gain any traction with the previous conservative government. 

The bill will be up for debate again, but not until the Fall of 2017.

Currently the disability tax credit for hearing loss applies to people who cannot understand a familiar voice in quiet with the use of hearing aids.  This is extremely restrictive and assumes that all people with hearing loss even use hearing aids.  The amendment to the bill is to allow eligibility for the tax credit to those with hearing loss who can’t understand in noise without the use of any hearing devices. 

This amendment is far more inclusive and would open this tax credit up to the majority of people who have hearing loss. 

So kudos to NDP house leader Peter Julian for advocating for the hard of hearing.   

I am hopeful that the new government will give this bill the attention that it deserves.



Dear Dr. Wright,


Thank you for your support and interest in Bill C-263, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (hearing impairment).

Bill C-263 is a Private Member’s Bill and, like any legislative proposal by individual MPs, it is subject to a random process of selection. In the case of C-263, this bill will not be debated before the fall of 2017.

While the presence of a majority government also makes it more difficult to gain traction in Parliament, this does not diminish the importance of continuing our push for the changes proposed by C-263.

As you may know, I had previously introduced this bill in the last Parliament but the Conservative government failed to act on this matter. The delay, however, provided an opportunity to continue the grassroots

tax fairness campaign for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and to work with the community to build a stronger base of support for C-263. Hundreds of Canadians signed petitions in support of Bill C-263.

It is equally important to maintain pressure on the current Liberal government and continue our work to broaden outreach. With growing support both outside and inside Parliament, I believe that Bill C-263

will finally be recognized as a blueprint for the positive changes in regulation that are necessary to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing Canadians are treated fairly by our tax system.

I have written a letter to the Minister of National Revenue (attached), asking her to give this matter the priority it deserves, and I have assured her of the full cooperation of my NDP colleagues.

As for your question regarding who qualifies, the bill would remove the requirement that the person must be wearing an “assisted listening device” when they are being assessed.

Let us continue our good work together to fix the flaws in the tax treatment of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community.

Thank you again for writing to me.

Best regards,

Peter Julian, MP

New Westminster-Burnaby

NDP House Leader

New Democratic Party | Nouveau Parti démocratique