Going Digital with Your Hearing Aids

Going Digital with Your Hearing Aids

Bary E. Williams, Au.D.

Born with hearing loss, Dr. Bary struggled in his early life to be completely engaged in the world around him. He obtain his masters and eventually his doctorate in audiology while working on the front lines as a hearing aid specialist during the day. Dr. Bary has been in practice for over 30 years and has worked for several of the largest hearing aid manufacturers.
Bary E. Williams, Au.D.

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Hearing aid performance continues to evolve as technology advances.  The original “analog” hearing aids made sound waves larger to amplify them.  Hearing aids were visible, big, and adjusted by pressing a button on the hearing aid itself, to accommodate different listening environments, such as a noisy restaurant or quiet bookstore. Now with digital hearing aids things are becoming more convenient.

Hearing aid basics

Hearing aid technology has improved a lot over the past few decades, but at their core, hearing aids have always been made of four basic parts: a microphone, a processor, a receiver and a power source. The microphone picks up the sounds in your environment and passes it to the processor. The processor enhances the signal and delivers it to the receiver, which delivers the amplified signal to the ear canal. The power source, or battery, drives the system. Hearing aid technology can be considered either advanced or basic, based on the sophistication of the processor. Even today’s basic digital hearing aids offer far more benefit than the best hearing aids of previous generations.

The digital age

Simply put, modern digital hearing aids can help almost every individual with mild to severe hearing loss achieve better hearing. The rapid development of ever more sophisticated digital signal processing technologies and algorithms make digital hearing aids the best choice to achieve better hearing. Digital hearing aids are uniquely able to process and separate out troublesome background noise while simultaneously enhancing critical speech signals necessary for understanding.

Because a more precise prescription is possible, our team at Exceptional Hearing Care will be able to bring you closer to normal hearing than is possible with traditional analog instruments. Now tiny digital hearing aids “digitize” or break up sound waves into small digital units, to produce an exact duplicate of sounds, which are amplified.  The sounds can be separated, so background and other noises can be differentiated from other sounds for optimum hearing.

New and advanced hearing aid technology

As the level of technology increases, digital hearing aids become more automatic and have more features to help you communicate in difficult listening situations.  The following features are now available for digital hearing aids that analog hearing technology only dreamed about;

Sound processing and frequency response

All hearing aids process sound, which means that when sound arrives into the hearing aid, it has to be sectioned into chunks of sound (sometimes referred to as “channels”) and digitized before it can be amplified. The better the hearing aid, the more flexibility it has to “chunk” sounds customized to your unique hearing loss prescription.

Bluetooth compatibility

Bluetooth compatibility is a wireless feature that enables hearing aids to connect to mobile phones and other devices that use Bluetooth.

Artificial intelligence

Some hearing aids have a feature that allows them to “learn” your preferences, a type of AI or artificial intelligence. The hearing aids can begin to make these changes automatically when the environment is detected. Over time, this reduces your need to make manual adjustments.

Apps

Many of today’s advanced hearing aids come with Smartphone apps, allowing the user to make adjustments, contact their hearing care provider, and monitor battery life.

Rechargeable batteries

Increasingly, hearing aids come with rechargeable batteries, allowing a person to stop swapping out tiny button batteries every few days or weeks.

Tinnitus masking features

The most sophisticated hearing aids come with tinnitus masking features. An audiologist or other hearing care provider can program them to emit sounds that mask the tinnitus or ringing in your ears.

Binaural processing

Binaural processing means a pair of hearing aids communicates wirelessly with each other. This technology mimics the brain’s ability to process information coming from both ears and helps reduce manual adjustments.

Exceptional Hearing Care

If you aren’t sure which features on digital hearing aids are best for your hearing needs, we at Exceptional Hearing Care can help. We can help you decide on a model that fits your needs and your budget.

Whether you’re searching for an upgrade to your current hearing aids or you’re thinking about getting some for the first time, visit us at Exceptional Hearing Care. Our experts will help you understand more about your own hearing and work with you to find a solution.

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