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Understanding Hearing Aid Technology
Like most devices today, hearing aids are advancing in technology at an ever-rapid pace. In the early days, vacuum tubes and large, heavy batteries encumbered hearing aids. Today, however, microchips, computerization and digitized sound processing have made hearing aids sleek, near invisible and long lasting. With all this technology at our fingertips, how do you know what the best hearing aid is for you?
Analog hearing aids
Conventional analog technology is the oldest technology used in hearing aids. These devices are designed with a particular frequency response, which is established based off of the results of a patient’s audiogram. The settings are installed by the manufacturer, but can be tuned or adjusted by the audiologist during a hearing aid fitting. Because this is the oldest technology on the market, it is the least expensive and can be appropriate for all types of hearing loss.
However, analog hearing aids are becoming less and less common due to their feature restrictions and fewer personalization options for each individual. While digital hearing aids may seem costly compared to analog, they are much more advanced devices with a variety of features and intuitive technology.
Analog programming technology includes a microchip that allows the audiologist to program an analog hearing aid for different listening environments, mimicking the digital aid’s ability to self-regulate.
Digital hearing aids
Great strides have been made in the digital technology available in hearing aids. Digital technology provides all the same features as conventional analog, but relies on digitized sound processing to convert sound waves into digital signals. Those signals are then analyzed by the hearing aid’s computer then amplified into sound or speech. Unlike conventional analog aids, digital aids are self-adjusting, which allows for more flexibility in programming.
While digital programming technology is usually a larger investment, key advantages include:
- Improvement in programmability
- Greater precision or accuracy during hearing aid fittings
- Better management of loudness discomfort
- Better control of acoustic feedback sounds, such as whistling noises
- Overall better noise reduction
What’s right for me?
Choosing the right style of hearing aid technology will be determined by the type and degree of hearing loss you have. Other factors that will influence the decision will be lifestyle, cost and dexterity. The audiologist will help you figure out what hearing aid types you could benefit most from.