Audiologist Joanne Rosenberg in her office at Family Hearing Center. (Staff photo by Lexie Yearly.)

By Scott Morgan

Hearing aids get a bad rap. People who wear them are loathe to adjust them when they need to hear better, and other people avoid them entirely because they don’t want to look like they’re at the age when someone needs a hearing aid.

Well, suppose you could adjust your hearing aid levels while the people around you think you’re just checking your phone? Because you can do that now. The folks at Family Hearing Center in Lawrence will see to it.

If you have a smartphone, you can now adjust the volume of your hearing aid wirelessly. What’s more, you can use the phone to enable different hearing programs that allow you to adjust your hearing aid to different situations, said Joanne Rosenberg, audiologist and owner of Family Hearing Center. Separate programs let you shut off and adjust microphone levels in your hearing aid so that you can hear better in, say, a restaurant, where people are murmuring from everywhere. Or at a show. Or when you’re home watching TV.

Speaking of TV, this step forward in wireless tech lets you adjust treble and bass wirelessly and can even work with your television so that you get wireless sound directly to the hearing aid. You can actually watch the TV with the sound turned all the way down and still hear at a comfortable level. Just try to remember to turn it up when someone joins you in the room.

One other thing about the cutting edge — today’s smartphone-compatible hearing aids have GPS locators, so if you lose them, you can track them with your phone. And yes, it happens all the time.

“We get a call at least once a week from someone who says ‘I lost my hearing aid,’” Rosenberg said.

But while the technology is a wow, the perception of hearing aids is still a problem. Beyond the feel-old hangups a lot of people have, the fact is, a lot of people just don’t see a hearing aid for what it actually is—a medically prescribed device, not a consumer device.

The perception of them as consumer gadgets isn’t helped when you can buy cheap hearing devices in big box stores where you can also find a 12-pack of socks and something for the car, Rosenberg said. People pick up some device with outdated technology and poor performance and find out it’s junk.

“Then hearing aids get a bad name,” Rosenberg said.

What’s worse, people tell their friends that hearing devices are junk, and it just makes it harder to convince people they need something to enable them to hear again.

By the way, the idea of the grumpy old man who’s hard of hearing? It’s a caricature, and it’s not funny. But it is rooted in a basic fact. People who are hard of hearing tend to become isolated, Rosenberg said. They lose the ability to discern voices and have to say “huh?” a lot, and soon enough everyone gets frustrated because no one can have a real conversation with a person anymore. So the should-be patient withdraws and becomes surly and lonely, and it makes for a dreary life.

And, really, there’s no good reason to not get help. Sure, the latest wireless aids that work with your phone aren’t free — expect to pay anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 — but insurance can help.

Hearing loss isn’t just something grumpy old people get, and, let’s face it, there might be fewer of those if they had simply gotten some help when their hearing first started to go.

Family Hearing Center is located at 123 Franklin Corner Road, Suite 205, in Lawrence. Phone: (609) 895-1666. On the Web: