Austin Community College professor Fred Baird shows his Beltone First behind-the-ear hearing aid, which communicates with an iPhone app, on April 21. Credit: Jay Janner / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This week’s Digital Savant column, in Tuesday’s print edition of the American-Statesman and on MyStatesman.com, is about hearing aids.

I had a chance to visit two Austin offices that are offering some of the latest innovations in hearing aids, which boil down to wireless connectivity and more flexibility for patients to live their lives the way they want.

We also discuss why those changes are happening (hint: Boomer generation) and how hearing aids were becoming more high-tech even before smart phones and Bluetooth.

Here’s an excerpt from the column:

Hearing aids must analyze sound around a user, filter out unwanted noise, adjust for bass and treble and focus on the right input before outputting sound back out. “They have to do all these functions, adapting in lots of different environments, and they have to do that automatically,” Soriya Estes, founder of Estes Audiology Hearing Centers, said.

The other big evolution in hearing aids — whether they’re worn inside or over the ear — is wireless connectivity. Bluetooth devices have gotten smaller and the technology now fits in the hearing aid itself instead of in an external streaming box that would in turn connect to someone’s phone.

“It’s something that in the last five years has turned them into more of a personal communication device versus just hearing aids,” said Estes.

You can read the full column here.