Much has changed in the decades since hearing aids entered the lives of those with hearing loss. Gone are the days of clunky, analog hearing aids. Today’s market not only offers sleek, digital options but also has a multitude of options for everyone’s taste and style. Let’s start by looking at the technology, what exactly is the benefit of digital hearing aids? Then we can look more into the varying styles and features that are available.
Digital versus Analog
Analog hearing aids work by turning up all sounds. Most analog devices have a button or roller on them that allows the user to manually increase and decrease the volume of the sound they are hearing.
This may sound like a good option however it doesn’t actually address most types of hearing loss. Why is this? A common misconception about hearing loss is that it is simply an overall reduction in sound, as if someone took a television remote and turned down the volume of the world.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, hearing loss affects different frequencies of sound at different rates. Because of this, analog hearing aids that amplify all sound are ineffective. By magnifying sound that a person already hears normally, it can be counterproductive as well as extremely uncomfortable.
On the other hand, digital hearing aids can be programmed to meet the exact needs of its user. When you get a hearing test, the results are printed onto a graph depicting the frequency and volumes at which you can hear. This graph allows digital hearing aids to be set to only amplify specific sounds that are needed, leaving frequencies that are already heard within normal limits untouched.
Style of Hearing Aids
Now that we understand the benefits of digital hearing aids, let’s look at some of the personalized looks and options that are available.
The fit of hearing aids is a personal choice. The two primary types of devices are the behind the ear (BTE) and in the ear (ITE) options. Each offers pros and cons. It will be important to decide what factors are important to you, such as size or ease of care, before deciding which is right for you.
BTE hearing aids are designed to have the majority of the technology resting behind the ear. A small tube or wire is then used to connect the behind the ear piece to a mold or dome that sits in the ear canal. This design varies in size and has the benefit of being easy to put on and take off. They are also easier to keep clean than ITE style hearing aids.
ITE hearing aids sit entirely inside the ear. This type of hearing aid is broken down further into the canal (ITC) and completely in the canal (CIC) styles based on their size. This style of hearing device, particularly the CIC style, is preferred by those who want a smaller and less visible option.
A benefit of digital hearing aids is the many available additional features. These not only enhance your hearing but also can help to make certain lifestyles easier. Below are just some of the added features, make sure to speak with your audiologist about these and others when discussing your new hearing aids.
- Remote controls– Digital hearing aids most often have either a small handheld remote control option or connect to an app on your smartphone. These control options allow the user to change settings and volume as desired without having to go back to the audiologist for every adjustment.
- Background noise reduction- Another pro for digital hearing aids is the ability to monitor and reduce background noises. This is particularly useful in noisy settings such as restaurants.
- Directional microphones– In addition to background noise reduction, they also have directional microphones. In the example above of a restaurant setting, this means not only will background noise be reduced but the person you are speaking to will be amplified.
- Bluetooth technology- Bluetooth technology allows the user to connect to any Bluetooth compatible device such as your smartphone or television. Phone calls, music, and movies can now be streamed directly into your digital hearing with Bluetooth technology.
There is a lot to learn about digital hearing aids, make an appointment with your audiologist today to discuss your options.