People with significant hearing loss tend to put off seeking hearing health care for years. “There’s stigma attached,” says Laurel Christensen, chief audiologist with smart hearing aid developer Beltone. “The old devices were bulky, and many times you still couldn’t hear that well. It’s just not like that anymore.”

Hearing aids have changed dramatically since 2010 when wireless versions started to hit the market. “They’ve become more sophisticated, smaller, more cosmetically appealing and you have Bluetooth connection,” says Christensen.

This Bluetooth connection allows your hearing device to connect to your phone, computer or television in a move that signals a transformation from hearing aids that mostly amplify sounds to an entire hearing system, and it’s what is helping people hear more environments more deeply than ever before.

Cheryle Melendez, respiratory therapist

“Before hearing aids, I was unable to hear the mechanical ventilator alerts and alarms,” says Melendez. “I was constantly asking ‘What? Could you repeat that?’ At some point, I realized I could be putting patients’ lives at risk. Now with my hearing aid, I can hear all the alerts, the doctors’ orders and the overhead trauma and code announcements correctly. Most of all, I’m able to hear my patients and meet their needs.”

“I’m reconnected. I’m able to smile back at the world.”

Hearing aid wearers don’t only see hearing improvement in professional career settings; Melendez notes that with her smart hearing aid, she’s able to make sound changes based on different situations. “If I’m at work or out with friends, I’m able to adjust via my smartphone with a couple of swipes very discreetly. I can make a list of my favorite places and the smart hearing aid will automatically adjust itself [as soon as I arrive.]”

David Connor, firefighter

“I thought it would be a hindrance, but they’re actually convenient,” says Connor about his hesitancy to get a hearing aid. “They’re not this big block where I can’t put on sunglasses. I’ve been wearing my hearing aid for four years now. It streams to my phone so I can take phone calls hands free. I can also stream TV directly into my hearing aid, so if my kids are sleeping, I don’t have to crank the sound all the way up and wake them.”

Connor remarks that fire engines are much noisier now than when he started, and that hearing loss is a risk that comes along with the territory. “We’re operating in very noisy places. There’s the fire, the sirens, the radio. Most engines don’t have air conditioning, so we always have to ride with the windows down. [But through the technology on my hearing aid], I have filters that take out the wind noise, I don’t have to guess about cars coming up behind us.”

Dan Carione, police officer

“These are not your grandfather’s hearing aids,” says Carione. “They are power tools designed to reconnect you with what’s been lost. Beltone’s remote fine-tuning gives me real time access to hearing care professionals. I diagnose hearing issues I’m having through my phone and send them feedback. Within a day or two, the team has reviewed my documentation, conducted a diagnostic on my hearing aid and helps find a solution. And I never had to make an appointment.”

Whether he’s leading men and women into challenging circumstances or spending time with his family around the house, Carione relies on the detailed person-to-person communication he worried he had lost before receiving his hearing aid.

“I’m reconnected. I’m able to smile back at the world.”