What is a digital hearing aid?

Technology is a wonderful thing. With the advent of the microchip and growth of the computer business, computer technology was bound to make it into hearing aids. The latest trend in hearing aids has been toward the development of digital hearing aids. Digital, meaning the hearing aid has a digital microprocessor within it, is much like the processor in your computer. The processor takes an incoming signal (sounds) and converts it into ones and zeros. The ones and zeros are then manipulated by the processor to fit into certain frequency and loudness ranges. The information is then decoded and sent into the patient’s ears as sound. The microprocessor does this at such incredibly fast rates that the wearer only perceives sound. The loudness and frequency ranges of the sounds are determined by the Audiologist who enters your hearing test information into a computer. Programs within the Audiologist’s computer will set the hearing aid to fit your hearing range.  Digital hearing aids have the ability to automatically adjust the volume to fit within your range of comfort.  Some models come with a volume control, some come with a program change button, and some have both.  Some digital hearing aids come with multiple programs which can be modified for particular listening situations. In addition, digital hearing aids offer many advantages over conventional hearing aids:

  • The hearing aid has no moving parts, so there is hardly anything to adjust.
  • Digital hearing aids can help patients with hearing losses that were once extremely difficult or unable to be fit.
  • The availability of noise reduction features, such as directional microphones, speech sensitive processing programs, adaptive feedback reduction and noise squelch features.
  • The hearing aids can be programmed to adapt to differing listening environments and switch accordingly for those environments.

New technologies have recently become available that are very exciting. The first is the ability to control both hearing aids with just one touch. The hearing aids have connectivity between the instruments so that they are always balanced and coordinated. One touch to the program selection button or volume button results in a change not only in that hearing aid, but the other hearing aid as well. Another new technology is frequency compression. Frequency compression moves sounds and pitches around, allowing you to hear frequencies you weren’t able to hear before. An additional feature on some of the new hearing aids is the ability to listen to the telephone with bilateral hearing. This means that you can hear the phone with both ears, not just one. Most Audiologist’s offices should allow you to try the hearing aid for a certain period of time, usually 30 days.