The many difficulties experienced by those living with a certain level of hearing loss continue to raise awareness in the UK. This is no longer a delicate condition that should be kept a secret. In recent years, it has driven the development of one of the fastest growing industries – the manufacture of hearing aids and other devices in assistance to the hard of hearing.
Hearing loss can affect people from different age groups. However, it is still mainly related to the elderly, it is one of the most common chronic conditions this group may suffer from, alongside arthritis and high blood pressure. It is estimated that nearly 9 million people in the UK are experiencing a certain type and level of hearing impairment. The actual numbers may be even greater, as there are still people reluctant to acknowledge their problem and look for help. The prognosis for 2013 is that those suffering from hearing loss will continue to increase in number, due to the aging UK population.
In order to meet the constantly growing demands and new requirements of the hearing aid users, the industry behind their manufacture will continue to focus on finding new ways and technologies to make them work and look better. The hearing aids of 2013 will be smaller, lighter, smarter and more precise. A substantial amount of attention will also be paid to their design and usability, as well as the options to include new features. Reduced background noise, automatic volume control adjustment and clarified sound will be some of the expected benefits of the newest models.
2013 will also be marked with the increased use of amplified phones and in particular mobile phones, especially designed to help hard of hearing. The features of future models and the technology used will be aimed mainly at achieving better usability and making the conversations as clear as possible, especially when the person is in a noisy environment.
It is expected that the active research concerning innovation and new solutions could possibly find a way to stop or reverse the process of hearing loss. Scientists will continue their work on the options to restore hearing using stem cells that are believed to be able to repair the auditory nerve. This will be a long and profound research, followed by many tests and experiments, but in 2012 scientists managed to restore the hearing of deaf gerbils with the help of human embryonic stem cells, which gives some hope for the future.
Another challenge for scientists that will continue to be a vigorous field of research in the upcoming year is the possible regeneration of the hair cells of the inner ear, as humans are not able to reproduce them independently. Possibilities to help those who were born deaf through gene therapy will also be of a significant importance, as in 2012 scientists managed to successfully cure mice suffering from an inherited hearing loss by treating the underlying genetic defects.