(Last updated Oct 3, 2018)

Digital Hearing Aid Functions and Benefits

The following guest post was written by the folks at HEARINGLife Australia, one of the world’s leading networks of hearing care professionals. HEARINGLife has provided hearing services to Australians for over 70 years. HEARINGLife aims to provide sufficient information about hearing loss by providing independent advice and to provide customers with options in a way that is easily understandable.

Hearing aid technology has evolved significantly over the past several years and is continually improving. Manufacturers first launched hearing aids with Digital Signal Processing (DSP) onto the market in the 80s. While these hearing aids were advanced technologically for their time, they were not publicly successful due to their clunky size and high hearing aid battery drain.

Almost a decade later, digital hearing aids were once again re-introduced onto the market. By then, advancements in technology meant that the functionality of digital hearing aids had been improved significantly, and were able to be produced in a range of models, from behind the ear (BTE) to in the ear (ITE). While digital hearing aids came with a higher cost comparative to analog hearing aids, they were proven to be successful with clinicians and consumers.

Analog hearing aids essentially receive sounds and make them louder, with relatively basic features. Digital hearing aids, however, contain a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip, which allows them to take in sound waves and convert it into a digital format. These digital bits can then be processed to deliver sound that is personalized to the wearers’ needs.

The digital hearing aids available today come with several different types of circuitry, providing consumers with a variety of options. Wearers can take into consideration their individual hearing loss and listening demands when choosing which hearing device is right for them.

With improvements in technology, hearing aids are becoming increasingly more automatic, and include more advanced features that are able to handle dynamic sound environments. Examples of these sophisticated functions and how they may benefit the wearer are listed below:

Automatic Sound Processing
This function means that incoming sounds are constantly processed to best amplify speech, while reducing unwanted background noise. Softer sounds are amplified more, while very loud noises are given little to no amplification.

Multiple Listening Programs
This allows wearers to have custom programs for specific listening scenarios, adapted to the users’ particular lifestyle and needs. For instance, programs could be set for hearing in a noisy environment, work meetings or listening to music.

Directional Microphones
This function emphasizes noises coming from the front, while reducing sounds from the sides and behind the hearing aid user. This allows users to focus on the people they are conversing with who are directly in front of them.

Directional Focus
This advanced technology is able to even further narrow down the range of focus on sounds coming from in front of the wearer. This can be particularly helpful for wearers in noisy environments, such as at busy restaurants or large parties.

Wind Noise Reduction 
This lowers the uncomfortable noise of wind blowing across the hearing aid microphone. This can greatly improve the listening experience for hearing aid wearers who enjoy spending time outdoors.

Dynamic Feedback Cancellation
Feedback reduction is one of the great benefits to digital hearings aids. This function will continually monitor signals and adjust to minimize or eliminate acoustic feedback, which can occur as a high-pitched whistle. Advanced feedback systems can eliminate feedback electronically with little to no effect upon hearing aid amplification.

Data Logging 
This function allows for the storage of data in hearing aids about the experienced sound environments and adjustments made while worn. The collected data can then be analysed by hearing aid clinicians, and used to implement modifications to improve the hearing aid settings for the wearers’ individual requirements.

Voice Alerts
Advanced models can “talk” to the wearer, providing important information about the program selected, battery life, and other settings. On more basic models these may be represented through beeps.

These digital hearing aid features reveal how advancing technology has radically enhanced the listening experience for wearers. Digital hearing aids today have improved the quality of life for many people with hearing impairments. Through consulting a clinician and taking a hearing test, wearers can assess which digital hearing aid functions are suitable for their needs, and choose a model that will most appropriately support their everyday life.

If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.

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