Hearing Aid Technology
Advances in hearing aid technology mean that we now have many more functions in hearing aids than ever before. This allows for individual lifestyle and needs to be taken into account when selecting which hearing aid is right for you. The cost of the hearing aid generally depends on the technology and the features that the hearing includes and not necessarily how the hearing aid looks.
Basic digital hearing aids generally require the wearer to make some manual adjustments in certain listening situations – such as turning a volume control up or down, or pushing a button on the aids in order to reduce noise coming from behind. The processor may separate incoming signals into two or more channels and process each channel separately. For example, a basic two-channel instrument may give more amplification for high frequency versus low frequency sounds if required based on the hearing test results. By contrast, premium technology hearing aids may have lot more channels, and therefore offer a higher resolution of signal processing. Basic hearing aids may be computer programmable, but may have fewer or more limited adjustments available for fine tuning and customization as compared to advanced technology. Today’s basic digital hearing aids offer the benefits of better hearing to many people with hearing loss.
Digital Signal Processing (DSP) – Fully digital hearing instruments use the newest and most advanced type of technology. These instruments actually convert analogue sounds to a digital form and use computer technology to process the sound signal which allows much more precise control of the signal. The hearing care professional uses a computer to program and adjust these instruments.
In addition to basic digital hearing aid technology, each major hearing aid manufacturer offers several levels of advanced technology. As the level of technology increases, hearing instruments become more automatic, and are equipped with more sophisticated features for people who regularly encounter dynamic listening situations. Examples of some of these advanced features, what they do and how they can benefit are shown below.
Automatic sound processing – Incoming sound is continually analysed and processed to best amplify speech while reducing unwanted noise. Soft sounds are given more amplification, while very loud sounds are given little or no amplification. Created as a hands-free operation with no need for external controls such as volume control wheels which makes hearing instruments simple to use and comfortable for the wearer.
Multiple Listening programs – This makes is possible to have different (customised) programs for specific listening situations including hearing in noisy situations listening on the telephone, or to music.
Automatic MultiBand Adaptive Directionality – Directional Microphone gives preference to sounds coming from the front of the wearer, and reduces sound coming from other directions. Proven to improve speech understanding in noisy environment, when the wearer can position himself/herself to face the person speaking, with his/her back to the noise, such as parties, restaurants, etc. Basic directional systems provide fixed directionality and may require the wearer to push a button to activate. Advanced type of directional systems work automatically and reduce the interference from multiple noise sources simultaneously, even if they are moving. This can significantly reduce the background noise to improve speech understanding.
MultiBand Adaptive Noise management – Determines if signal contains unwanted noise and reduces level of noise if present. Adaptive Noise Management Systems selectively reduces the volume in frequency regions where there is background noise to increase the speech clarity and listening comfort.Advanced Multiband Adaptive Noise management is more precise and selective to preserve the incoming speech while reducing the background noise. This works together with the directionality system to reduce sudden, dominant noise without affecting speech, if it is present.
Wind Noise Reduction – Reduces the whooshing noise of wind blowing across the hearing aid microphone(s). Designed to improve listening comfort for people who spend time outdoors – golfers, boaters, walkers, etc.
Dynamic Feedback Cancellation (DFC) – Continually analyses incoming signals and adjusts seamlessly and instantaneously to minimize or eliminate feedback (whistling) that can sometimes occur. Designed to improve comfort from annoying whistling. Basic feedback systems may reduce the amplification in order to get rid of whistling. Advanced systems, On the other hand, reduce or eliminate the feedback electronically, with no or little effect on the overall hearing aid amplification.
Environment Detection – Some digital hearing instruments today have the ability to scan the sound environment and detect the presence of different types of sounds such as speech, background noise and wind noise. This information may be used to change settings in the hearing instrument such as the Adaptive Noise Reduction and the Adaptive Directionality.
Data Logging – Stores data in the hearing aids about the listening environments and adjustments made while worn. Data can be viewed by hearing care professional and used for more precise and objective fine tuning to optimize the hearing aids settings for clients’ personal needs.
RITE – Receiver-in-the-ear technology avoids the tube resonance associated with traditional BTE solutions, and an open solution retains vital localisation cues intact for a more natural hearing.
VC Learning – Hearing aids learn based on changes made by the wearer, such as to the volume, and then automatically make these changes. More precise personalization of the instruments enables a more accurate, individual fitting.
Wireless Bluetooth technology – Highly advanced instruments use this technology to literally communicate with each other when wearing two hearing instruments. This can provide the following features:
Binaural Synchronisation – Wireless technology intelligently synchronises sound processing, the compression, automatics, noise reduction and directionality in the hearing aids on both sides to preserve speech intelligibility in all situations.
Binaural Coordination – with wireless technology wearers can use the control only on one side to operate both devices simultaneously for ease of use and a more balanced sound picture.
Wireless connectivity +Bluetooth Interface – Enables hearing aids to wirelessly connect to mobile phone or other Bluetooth devices. Designed for better use with mobile phones without distortion or interference; enables audio streaming from other devices such as MP3 players, computers, etc. Bluetooth adaptors can be added to other devices such as landline phones or TVs for audio streaming from such audio devices.
Binaural DFC – Binaural Dynamic Feedback Cancellation The Hearing aids in both ears work together to manage the feedback, eliminating false activation of the feedback system when listening to music like the piano or other pure tones, provides more gain with less feedback risk.