Hearing Aid Technology
Digital technology accounts for most of the hearing aids sold today. Most of the hearing aids available through Advanced Hearing Group are digital. The digital hearing aid contains a computer chip that amplifies sound digitally. This allows for very fast analyzing of the incoming signal to allow for a clean, clear representation of the speech signal as well as the management of anything other than speech, such as noise.
Digital hearing aids are flexible and can be re-programmed to reflect individual needs and preferences. Digital hearing aids have many different controls and features that can be adjusted during a programming session. Because digital hearing aids are so flexible, they can adjust soft sounds in one way and can adjust loud sounds in a completely different manner. They have a variety of bands, or equalizers that can adjust sounds differently depending on your hearing loss. Depending on the level of digital technology you choose, there may be as few as four bands or as many as twenty + bands. The more advanced the digital chip is, the more bands it will possess.
Hearing Aid Technology Levels and Features
With digital technology so flexible, there are many different options available to you! Each manufacturer has different levels of technology available (entry-level, basic, advanced, premium) that can meet your individual needs. Each level offers various digital options based on your hearing level, lifestyle and budget. Your audiologist at the Advanced Hearing Group will review all of these options available to you at your appointment.
Depending on the level of digital technology you choose, various features are available. These include:
Noise reduction: Dual microphones work together to not only allow you to hear speech better in noisy environments, but can identify the source of the noise and actually reduce it!
Feedback control: Feedback, or whistling, can be cancelled BEFORE it occurs.
Automatic controls: Your hearing aids can automatically adjust to the listening environment. The hearing aids detect the type of environment you are in (noisy, quiet, meeting, music, phone) and automatically adjust the microphones and settings for optimal listening. You don’t have to do a thing!
Open technology allows your ear to feel open, and not “plugged up”.
Wireless technology: This allows you to hear on your phone, listen to the TV, or listen to your Ipod directly through your hearing aids in stereo.
Why Are Two Ears Better Than One?
Hearing with both ears, as nature intended, is called binaural hearing. It allows us to hear sounds more accurately and naturally. The two ears work together to allow us to locate the source of the sound, which is important for safe and effective communication. Binaural hearing allows us to make use of higher level brain functions called: the binaural summation effect and the binaural squelch effect.
Binaural Summation Effect: When a sound is presented to both ears at the same time, there is a summation of the acoustic energy reaching the two ears. There is integration in the central auditory brainstem pathways of the sound input from both ears. This recognizes speech as “important” and enhances, or improves the signal, making speech easier (and louder) to hear, especially in background noise.
Binaural Squelch Effect: Input from both ears is analyzed throughout the auditory brainstem pathways. Background noise is recognized as being “unimportant”, and is therefore reduced, thereby improving speech understanding in noise.
f you have a hearing loss in each ear that could benefit from hearing aids, you should wear two hearing aids. We need two ears to localize to sound in the environment and to hear more clearly in the presence of background noise. Two ears allow the brain to function more effectively to minimize competing sounds (background noise) interfering with the communication process. Two ears working together are better in helping us focus on a particular sound or speaker than one ear alone.
The benefits of wearing two hearing aids are:
• Understand speech and conversation better, especially in noisy environments
• Better localization of sounds (where sounds are coming from)
• Improved sense of distance from sound
• Better sound quality
• Sounds are more balanced
• Makes use of higher level brain functions (binaural summation and squelch effects)
Analog vs. Digital
Most of the hearing aids available through the Advanced Hearing Group are digital. A digital hearing aid has a digital signal processor that takes the incoming signal (sound) from the microphone and converts it into a digital format. It then processes the signal using digital technology (improving the sound quality of speech based on your hearing loss and decreasing background noise) and then converts it back to a sound delivered to your ear. Digital processing allows for flexibility in programming a hearing aid for individual hearing needs.
Conventional, analog hearing aids are basically amplifiers that feature manual volume controls and manual fine-tuning. They amplify the sound wave simply by making it larger. They use transistors in a circuit to amplify and modify an incoming sound. Because all of the sounds are typically amplified the same way, these hearing aids have limited flexibility in meeting individual needs. They are primarily beneficial in limited listening situations, such as quiet environments for one-on-one conversations.