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What is a Light Driven Hearing Aid? (Reasons, Uses, and Benefits)

August 16th, 2017 | 4 min. read

By Mark Nichols, MD


light driven hearing aid lens


Hearing aids are an extraordinary advancement that has enhanced the lives of many people. Being able to hear sound and interpret it into meaning is a complex process that instantly occurs. You do it all day, both on purpose and without realizing it. However, you may take “hearing” for granted, until you realize you have a hearing problem through your own realization or through a hearing test.

But now, you have the option of a light driven hearing aid, such as the Earlens Light Driven Hearing Aid. The light driven hearing aid transmits sound through the use of light. It's an exciting alternative to traditional hearing aids for individuals looking for a more natural sound from their hearing aid. With this new technology, you're able to enjoy a richer, better and more complete sound.

In fact, the FDA has approved the marketing of the EarLens Light Driven Hearing Aid and acknowledges its effectiveness in adult patients with sensorineural hearing impairment (mild to severe).


Reasons to Use a Light Driven Hearing Aid

As your hearing deteriorates in different frequency ranges, you'll start missing information. For instance, if your hearing loss is more towards high-frequency sounds, you'll find it difficult to hear in environments that are noisy. High frequencies contain some speech sounds, help increase sound naturalness, and assist you to direct your listening effort on certain people or sounds. If your hearing loss is more towards low-frequency sounds, what you hear is not as rich or as full as it should be.

Experience and various studies reveal that hearing aids typically improve a person's quality of life. And the FDA reported that millions of Americans who have a hearing impairment are finding that a hearing aid is improving their daily communication significantly as well.


Other reasons to use a light driven hearing aid include:

  • Feeling better about yourself

  • Being able to communicate better

  • Establishing a better relationship with your family

  • Being able to concentrate better

  • Improving mental health

  • Increasing your social contacts

  • Feeling more secure and independent

  • Doing better in your job

With light driven hearing aids, you get a richer sound experience. These devices use light to transmit sound, unlike the small speakers that conventional hearing aids use. You're able to overcome many of your limitations you had with traditional hearing aids.

As you age, a few things begin to decline, including your:

  • Working memory

  • Cognitive skills

  • Ability to process information fast

  • Ability to stay focused on a person talking in a noisy environment

An assistant professor, Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., at The University of Texas at El Paso, in the speech-language pathology program found in a study that in people with hearing loss, hearing aids can actually improve their brain function.

Participants of Desjardins study were in their 50s and 60s. Each had a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and never wore hearing aids.

Before and after using hearing aids, they went through cognitive testing to measure their selective attention, working memory and processing speed abilities.

A couple weeks after using hearing aids, the tests showed their percent scores increased for recalling words in selective attention tests, working memory and processing speed.

Participants showed significant improvement by the end of the study in their cognitive function.


Uses of a Light Driven Hearing Aid

You'll find that when you use a light driven hearing aid you can:

1. Listen and Communicate Better.  People suffering from hearing loss can communicate, listen, and get involved more in daily activities. It can help you hear better in noisy and quiet environments. 

2. Improve your Hearing and Speech Comprehension. The light driven hearing aid improves hearing and speech comprehension when you're struggling with a sensorineural hearing loss which is a loss of hearing due to small sensory cell damage in your inner ear known as hair cells. Anything from aging, disease or an injury from certain medication or noise can cause damage. 

3. Create Audible Sound. With this type of hearing aid, infrared light stimulates it kicking it into action so it starts vibrating. When it vibrates, your eardrum vibrates as well simultaneously, creating audible sound.

With a light driven hearing aid such as such as the Earlens Light Driven Hearing Aid, the doctor fits the microphone inside your ear canal. He also fits a light emitting diode. This allows the microphone to pick sound up close to your eardrum from an extremely natural position.

The pinna (outer ear) amplifies the sound that comes from your front, therefore, when your ear canal picks up the sound, it's the best place for sound to be amplified. When you're having a conversation, you typically face the person you're talking to, so it's important that you pick up sound from your front.

Also, the light driven hearing aid leaves your ear canal totally open, alleviating any "blocked ears" sense which could accompany traditional hearing aids.


Benefits of a Light Driven Hearing Aid

Aside from the outstanding advancement in hearing aids, light driven hearing aid benefits include:

  • Fuller sound spectrum: You have a richer and more complete experience of hearing that surpasses the hearing you had before you used this hearing aid.

  • Improves Communication: Now you can actually hear what your family and friends are saying and be part of the conversation. You know what people are saying, instead of sitting on the sidelines struggling to make out their words. 

  • Automatic Environment Adjustment: Advanced light driven hearing aids changes when the noise level of your environment changes to suit your hearing needs at that particular time.

  • Customers are Satisfied: According to a clinical study, 95 percent of patients who used this type of hearing aid were completely satisfied with the sound quality.

  • Simple wireless recharging: You no longer have to fumble around with small batteries trying to change them. Batteries in this device last all day.

The lens is custom made and incredibly stable. It sits on your eardrum through surface tension (much like contact lens sit on your eyes). The ear, nose, throat (ENT) doctor puts a tiny drop of mineral oil inside your ear to produce this surface tension. Each week, you'll apply a tiny drop of this mineral oil so you can sustain this surface tension.

Most patients with impaired hearing know what it's like to feel tired after being around other people and trying to keep up with the conversation. Impaired hearing takes a lot of energy.

While the light driven hearing aid doesn't cure your hearing loss, it can help you live a normal life. It may even open a brand new world for you. Now you can hear what others are saying and truly be a part of the conversation.

To learn more about light driven hearing aids, contact us here at Houston ENT today.

Author: Mark Nichols, MD


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Mark Nichols, MD

Mark Lynn Nichols, M.D., received his Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in Pharmacy in 1983, prior to his entering the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, where he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine with Highest Honors. Following his Internship in General Surgery, and Residency in Otolaryngology at UTMB, Dr. Nichols did a Fellowship in Otology-Neurology at the Ear Research Foundation, in Sarasota, Florida. He is a member of several professional associations, and is a Diplomat of the American Board of Otolaryngology.