You’ve probably heard that today’s hearing aids are “not your grandfather’s hearing aids,” or that hearing aid technology is light-years ahead of where it used to be, even as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. But what makes modern technology so much better? And what exactly can modern day hearing aids accomplish that couldn’t be accomplished in the past?
The simple answer is, like nearly all electronics, hearing aids have benefited greatly from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have transform into miniaturized computers, with all of the programming adaptability you would expect from a modern computer.
But before hearing aids became digital, they were analog. Let’s see if we can understand why the move from analog to digital was such an upgrade.
Digital vs analog hearing aids
At the simplest level, all hearing aids do the job the same way. Each hearing aid includes a microphone, amplifier, speaker, and battery. The microphone picks up sound in the environment, the amplifier strengthens the signal, and the speaker supplies the louder sound to your ear.
Fundamentally, it’s not very sophisticated. Where is does get complex, though, is in the specifics of how the hearing aids process sound, which digital hearing aids accomplish much differently than their analog alternatives.
Analog hearing aids process sound in a very straightforward way. In three basic steps, sound is picked up by the microphone, amplified, and presented to the ear through the speaker. That is… ALL sound is made to be louder, including background noise and the sound frequencies you can already hear properly. In other words, analog hearing aids amplify even the sounds you don’t want to hear — think of the scratching sound you hear from an analog recording on a vinyl record.
Digital hearing aids, conversely, apply a fourth step to the processing of sound: conversion of sound waves to digital information. Sound by itself is an analog signal, but instead of only making this analog signal louder, digital hearing aids first transform the sound into digital format (stored as 0s and 1s) that can then be altered. Digital hearing aids, therefore, can CHANGE the sound before amplification by altering the information stored as a series of 0s and 1s.
If this seems like we’re talking about a computer, we are. Digital hearing aids are in essence miniature computers that run one specialized application that manipulates and improves the quality of sound.
Advantages of digital hearing aids
A good number of modern hearing aids are digital, and for good reason. Seeing as analog hearing aids can only amplify incoming sound, and cannot modify it, analog hearing aids tend to amplify disruptive background noise, making it stressful to hear in noisy environments and nearly impossible to talk on the phone.
Digital hearing aids, however, have the versatility to amplify select sound frequencies. When sound is converted into a digital signal, the computer chip can recognize, mark, and store specific frequencies. As an example, the higher frequency speech sounds can be marked and stored separately from the lower frequency background noise. A hearing specialist can then program the computer chip to amplify only the high frequency speech sounds while suppressing the background noise — making it easy to follow conversations even in noisy environments.
Here are some of the other advantages of digital hearing aids:
- Miniaturized computer technology means smaller sized, more discreet hearing aids, with some models that fit entirely in the ear canal, making them virtually invisible.
- Digital hearing aids tend to have more stylish designs and colors.
- Digital hearing aids can be programmed by a hearing specialist to process sound differently depending on the environment. By changing settings, users can attain ideal hearing for a number of scenarios, from a silent room to a noisy restaurant to talking on the phone.
- Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned for every patient. Each person hears different sound frequencies at different decibel levels. Digital hearing aids permit the hearing specialist to adjust amplification for each sound frequency based on the characteristics of each person’s unique hearing loss.
Try digital hearing aids out for yourself
Reading about digital hearing aids is one thing, trying them out is another. But bear in mind, to get the most out of any set of hearing aids, you require both the technology and the programming mastery from an experienced, licensed hearing specialist.
And that’s where we come in. We’ve programmed and fine-tuned countless hearing aids for people with all varieties of hearing loss, and are more than happy to do the same for you. Give us a call and experience the digital advantage for yourself!