Digital Hearing Aids
What is a digital Hearing Aid?
Hearing aids can be described as either analogue or digital, depending on
the technology they use to process sound. Digital hearing aids are the newest kind of hearing aid. In fact,
analogue technology is gradually being phased out.
Digital hearing aids work in a different way from analogue aids. They take
the signal from the microphone and convert it into ‘bits’ of data – numbers that can be manipulated by a tiny
computer in each hearing aid. Digital hearing aids receive sounds and digitize it. Digital hearing aids break
sound waves into very small units prior to amplification. This makes it possible for the digital hearing aids
to process sounds in ways that are impossible with analogue aids. Analogue hearing aids simply makes the
sound wave larger to amplify sounds.
means that the person fitting your digital hearing aids can tailor the sound very precisely to suit you. Digital
hearing aids can be very finely adjusted to suit your individual needs. You may also be able to switch between
different digital hearing aid settings suitable for different listening conditions. Many digital hearing aids
even adjust themselves automatically to suit different sound environments. Digital hearing aids can be
programmed to adjust to the current environment millions of times each second. Digital hearing aids can amplify
certain sounds and neutralise others and therefore can perform exceptionally well in a variety of different
Can digital hearing aids
help cut out background noise?
People who use traditional analogue hearing aids
often complain that they find it difficult or impossible to follow conversations in noisy
places. Many digital aids are designed to reduce steady kinds of background noise, such as the
rumble of traffic or the whirr of a fan. Digital hearing aids can make listening more comfortable. But it does
not necessarily help you to pick out a single voice from everything else going on, especially when several
people are talking at once.
Two things have been shown to improve hearing in noisy situations more than
anything else –wearing hearing aids in both ears, and using hearing aids that have directional
microphones. Directional microphone systems amplify sounds that come from in front of you more
than sounds to the side or behind you. This makes it easier for you to focus on what you want to listen to in
a noisy place. Most digital hearing aids have microphones that can be set to operate like this. This means
you can switch between directional and all-round sound, depending on what you need to hear at the time. Some
digital hearing aids will detect where the noise is coming from and automatically adjust to reduce the noise
selectively. However, digital hearing aids cannot know what you want to listen to and so the reduction of
unwanted sound can never be perfect.
What other features do
digital hearing aids offer?
Digital Hearing Aids
offer more comfortable listening
Most digital hearing aids have some form of loudness compression system.
This means the digital hearing aids can manage sounds of different volumes and only amplify them as much as
you need. It means the digital hearing aids can be programmed to suit your particular hearing loss and
ensures that you always hear different sounds at levels that are comfortable for you. These types of digital
hearing aids are often completely self adjusting. It will only work well for you if the person who fits it
also adjusts the settings carefully to suit you, when you first have it. You may need to have your digital
hearing aids fine-tuned again, when you get used to it.
Digital hearing aids
have different listening programmes
Digital hearing aids can be set with different programmes for use in a
variety of situations. For example, one digital hearing aid programme can be used in quiet situations,
another in noisy environments, another for listening to music or for outdoor activities, and another for the
telecoil (‘T’) or loop setting. Your audiologist will discuss with you how your digital hearing aids are set
and what programmes you would like and make sure you know when to use them. However, if you would prefer,
your digital hearing aids can be set with just one listening programme, so you do not need to change between
programmes. Digital hearing aids can be programmed to suit your individual needs and
Digital hearing aid
The cost of digital hearing aids is pretty similar to the analogue hearing
aid prices with the one difference that there are more accessories with digital hearing aids and therefore
you may spend more money that way.
In many professionals view, digital hearing aids should cost more as the
amount of features and configurations are 200% higher than that of analogue hearing aids and therefore more
time and effort is required to learn the ins and outs of digital hearing aids.
Digital hearing aids themselves are an expensive piece of equipment but
there is also a cost towards the aftercare (rehabilitation) of the clients hearing.
What is the ‘T’ or loop
It is usually possible to change to the ‘T’ (telecoil) or loop setting with
digital hearing aids, as it is with analogue hearing aids. The telecoil is a small component in the aid that
picks up signals from a loop system or hearing aid compatible telephone. But your audiologist will need to
programme the ‘T’ (loop) setting and show you how to switch over. This is usually done by pressing a button
or moving a switch on the back of your digital hearing aids. The smallest style of digital hearing aids that
fit into your ear canal, might not have room for a telecoil, so you won’t have the ‘T’
Can digital hearing aids help reduce
Yes. Most digital hearing aids have feedback management systems. This means
that they can automatically detect any feedback and try to reduce the whistling that bothers many people who
use hearing aids.
How big are digital hearing aids?
not necessarily smaller than analogue hearing aids. Digital hearing aids just like analogue ones come in BTE,
ITE, ITC or CIC styles.
As technology improves,
the size of digital hearing aids are getting smaller and smaller. Digital hearing aids are becoming faster
and more efficient. Unfortunately, battery life of digital hearing aids is less than that of the
old analogue hearing aids but the trade off for better technology in digital hearing aids for battery life
in analogue hearing aids is a no brainer. The sound quality, features, wireless conenctivity that come
with digital hearing aids is so fantastic that the comparison is like that of black and white tv and high
definition LCD tv's.
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