Digital Hearing Aids – How Are They Different

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What does it actually mean to have a digital hearing aid? You're probably thinking that all it can do now is connect to a smart-phone or your laptop through some digital wizardry called bluetooth, but it can do so much more than that.

If you're familiar with the swiss army knife then you know exactly what a digital hearing aid has in store for you. An overwhelming amount of useful functions, but all hidden away. Luckily, a trip to the audiologist or a look through the hearing aid's handbook should give you all the answers you need.

Each of these functions are useful in a different way and applicable to different people's preferences. However, not all types of hearing aids will have the capacity to support every feature. So the best way to have your hearing aids personalised is by visiting an audiologist for a consultation. But let's take a look at what the main adjustments available to you are.

Direct Audio Input

We've all seen the blue “hearing loop” signs usually placed around buildings, but what do they mean? These indicate the presence of a special microphone system designed just for hearing aid users.

The first and probably most “digital” function of digital hearing aids, providing the option to directly pick up sound from the loop system. This is particularly useful in public areas as the sound will go directly into your hearing aid, cutting out all the unwanted background noise.

This can be extended to wireless compatibility with other devices as well such as TV and radio. The function gives hearing aid users more flexibility according to the environment that they're in.

Frequency Channel and Volume Processing

Hearing aids have long been able to increase and decrease sound automatically depending on the level of input. This function has traditionally worked in much the same way as a radio or TV, affecting the overall level of sound. Amplifying or reducing sound as a whole however, does not always help with understanding speech.

Fortunately, hearing aids are now able to separate sounds into different frequency regions. The regions are referred to as channels and can each be adjusted independently which allows for some sounds to be amplified and others to be reduced, helping to more accurately cater to specific cases of hearing loss.

Directional Microphones

Understanding speech in noisy environments is made even easier with directional microphones. All hearing aids are set with omni-directional microphones which pick up sound from all directions. Directional microphones are designed to be more sensitive to sound from a narrow range.

Similarly to frequency channels, directional microphones help to reduce the level of noise coming from other directions allowing users to focus more on relevant sounds and enhance their overall hearing experience.

Sound Generators

All of the previous digital hearing aid functions have been focused on reducing sound in some way. It's a scary fact knowing that digital hearing aids can now reduce and cancel sound, but don't worry, they can generate sound too.

The most common example is tinnitus masking. Tinnitus is commonly experienced by those with hearing loss and can become quite irritating for some. By generating sounds, hearing aids can help to reduce the attention paid to tinnitus, obscuring and potentially tuning it out.

From the introduction of wireless compatibility and increasing the clarity sound to alleviating tinnitus, there are many useful functions that digital hearing aids have the ability to implement. And to top it all off they are also able to remember multiple programs. You'll be able to add in a combination of the programs you find most useful and switch through them accordingly with ease. But with all these options available, it is wise to seek advice from an audiologist who can help you find a more personalised solution.

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