Hearing aids have come a long way, baby! From ear trumpets 200 years ago to the analog ones of the 80s to the digital models of today, wireless technology and microelectronics have produced the capacity to control things like distracting background noise and much more. Hearing aids have been offered to the hearing impaired community for fewer than two decades, with the extra ability to be programmed according to user preference and individual degrees of hearing loss. It used to be that analog hearing aids were where it was at. With today’s models, though, you get access to remote controls that allow the user to adjust various settings, and some have omnidirectional microphones to detect sound from multiple directions. There are other benefits to digital, too, like background noise filtration and Bluetooth connections. As such, each device can be programmed according to user preference and hearing loss degrees.
Today’s hearing aids are equipped with self-learning or regulating tendencies. These are truly “smart” hearing aids that adjust settings like volume automatically after a period of time according to how the user likes it. Control is put into the hands of the person wearing it, which is yet another advancement.
People who incorporate digital hearing aids benefit from increased range, digital noise reduction and higher frequency transposition. Users can even make a connection to Bluetooth and other wireless technological services to expand their ease of use.
The First Digital Hearing Aids
The first digital hearing aids were introduced into the medical community back in 1996. They used DSP, which stands for digital signal processing. Ideal for digital noise reduction, DSPs provided a boost in processing speeds which improved the ability to hear as well as the range of amplification for those wearing the hearing aid.
Older hearing aids amplified all sound, which was great for hearing words but this also presented an added challenge of filtering out the background noise that was also amplified. Today’s hearing aids can easily filter out that noise so that the user can hear words but not all the other stuff. Improvements in wireless technology have allowed for improved speech recognition and SNR, which stands for signal-to-noise ratio. Recent advancements mean hearing aids can actually communicate with each other as in the case of left and right ear instruments. Many manufacturers are breaking down technology walls with the use of digital magnetic wireless communication via chips in the devices that control settings like switch position and microphone modes. One huge complaint users of hearing aids have historically made is that it’s difficult to hear clearly with all the background noise.
Digital noise reduction technology goes well beyond that of directional microphones because it is based on the physical characteristics of noise and speech rather than the separation of space, taking into account speech modulation.
As we look ahead, the prognosis for digital hearing aids is extremely positive, as the technology will only continue to grow and improve. For improved ease of use and flexibility, hearing impaired individuals can count on digital hearing aids to take advantage of innovative wireless technology and microelectronics to propel to more sophisticated abilities.