Hearing aid technology has been progressed since the past years. Manufacturers have provided variety and modern technologies of hearing aids. Today the technology of hearing aids focuses on the type of hearing impairment you are going through. Though you can observe the variations and development in hearing aid technologies, it consists of the basic components such as:
- Microphone: Receives auditory signals and convert them to electric signals.
- Processor: Makes the electrical signal louder.
- Receiver: Converts the amplified signal back to the acoustic signal and sends it to the ear canal.
- Battery: Powers the device.
- Electronic Circuitry: Electric circuit inside hearing aid for its functioning.
In this article, we will make you aware of the different types and technologies available in the hearing aid industry. Then after we will help you learn the major differences between all technology level so that you can choose the right one for you.
Digital hearing aids technology
You may discover the bulk of hearing aid technology in the part called processor. Today they are more programmable than ever before. It allows the hearing care professional to precisely fine-tune the amplification characteristics and customize other special features based on your needs. The practitioner programs the hearing aids by connecting them to a computer and detecting them with special software provided by the hearing aid manufacturer.
Styles of digital hearing aids
Digital hearing aids are available in different styles and forms. Each style highly depends on your hearing needs and your wearing styles.
Behind the ear hearing aid (BTE hearing aid): It will sit comfortably behind your ear transmitting sound through a tube to either a dome that rests at your ear canal or an earmold that sits inside your ear.
In the ear hearing aid (ITE hearing aid): This hearing aid fits within the outer portion of the ear.
The receiver in the Ear hearing aid (RITE or RIC hearing aid): It is also called receiver in the canal hearing aid. It consists of a case that sits behind your ear. But unlike BTE devices, receiver piece goes inside the ear which makes it smaller than BTEs.
In the canal hearing aid (ITC hearing aid): This hearing aid fits in the ear canal and a smaller portion of it shows in the outer ear.
Invisible in the Canal (IIC hearing aid): These are the tiniest form of hearing aids that fit very deeply in the ear canal and is invisible.
Completely in the canal hearing aid (CIC hearing aid): As the name suggests, this hearing aid is completely in the canal. Only the small portion of it(tiny removal handle) shows outside the ear canal.
Contralateral Routing Of Signals hearing aids (CROS hearing aid): CROS hearing aid is useful when you have a hearing loss in one ear. It includes a microphone which is worn on the poorer hearing ear.
Bone conduction hearing aid: In this machine, the user wears a vibrating device on the bone behind the ear and sound is transferred to the ear through this device.
Today basic hearing aids are far more beneficial and popular than previous best hearing aids.
Technological features of digital hearing aids
Digital signal processing – It converts the incoming sound into digital values for processing, then converts them back into sound pressure waves that stimulate your auditory system.
Automatic Gain Control – It helps in making softer speech sounds audible while controlling how much unwanted loud sounds are amplified.
Noise reduction – It analyzes the incoming sound and separates speech from steady background noises. It will reduce the impulse sounds, soft sounds, and sounds of the shooting winds.
The adaptive feedback cancellation system – It reduces the feedback and background noise.
Omni microphone – It emphasizes sounds in all directions.
Directional microphones – Emphasizes sound coming from the front; de-emphasize sounds coming from the sides and behind.
Automatic and adaptive directional microphones – These features allow the hearing aids to switch from an Omni microphone setting to a directional microphone setting automatically and dynamically.
Listening Memory Program – They provide a setting designed for a particular listening situation.
Latest Hearing aids technology
As the technology level increases, it raises the functioning level of the components of hearing aids. As technological development demands the variations in the system as well as functions of the hearing aids.
The technology of hearing aids can be categorized either into basic or advanced. Let’s discuss both in the detail.
Basic Hearing Aid Technology
In Basic hearing aid technology, manual adjustment is needed like pushing a button on the aids to reduce noise coming from behind, volume control can be adjusted. This technology has limited adjustments. They are less automated than advanced technology.
The following features are usually included in basic hearing aid technology.
The Channel separates the sound signal into distinct sections for processing. It allows customization of hearing aid prescription all pitches. The number of channels in hearing aid implies greater ability to customize the frequency response. The more channels in a hearing aid, the greater the flexibility in programming.
Digital Noise Reduction
As the name suggests, it reduces the noise in the signal if any. It analyses the signal and determines if the signal contains unwanted noise. And finally, reduces it and makes it less annoying to the listener. This technology is effective and preferred by most of the hearing aid wearers.
Directional Microphone Systems
It is based on a direction and gives preference to the sounds which are coming from the front of the wearer and reduces the sound from all other directions. This hearing aid technology improves speech understanding in background noise. The hearing aids with directional microphone systems will provide you with the best satisfaction than the hearing aids without directional microphone systems.
Impulse Noise Reduction
It helps in improving listening comfort like digital noise reduction. It smoothes the quick impulsive noises like typing on the keyboard, dishes rattling, car keys rattling etc.
Telecoil also called an induction coil. It’s nothing more than a tiny coil of wire around a core that will induce an electric current in the coil in the presence of a changing magnetic field. It has wireless features that pick up the electromagnetic signal from older telephone or looped room, whose speaker was driven by powerful magnets. As a result, a user is able to hear the telephone better using a hearing aid. Telecoils are not available in a few smaller models due to space limitations.
Feedback Management System
It reduces the occurrence of a whistling sound. To improve the feedback mechanism, Basic feedback management systems may reduce overall amplification whereas Advanced feedback management systems do not affect overall amplification. It improves the signal to noise ratio by bypassing the microphone and directly entering the processor. It is commonly available in public places, the theatres, and public places.
Using FM Compatibility, you can connect your hearing aids wirelessly with FM systems. Sometimes, this connection is made via a special attachment called boot. It improves the signal to noise ratio. It is commonly used with children in educational settings.
Advanced Hearing aid technology
In this level, the features of hearing aids became more advanced and automatic than in basic technology. Advanced technology provides more benefits to the user. For example, instead of using two channels to separate sound for processing, a hearing aid with advanced technology may have eight or more channels. This splits the signal into even smaller frequency bands and therefore offers a higher resolution of signal processing.
Features included in Basic hearing aid technologies are as follows :
Using Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to mobile phones, mp3, and other Bluetooth devices. It eliminates feedback or interference and improves the signal to noise ratios like telecoil and FM Compatibility as the signal bypasses the microphone and directly enters the hearing aid’s processor. Hence making it comfortable for the wearer to hear sounds.
It stores data about listening environments and user preferences like the volume control. Hearing healthcare professional analyze this data to improve the fitting. Your audiologist may use this valuable information to further customize your hearing aid fitting.
Wind noise reduction
It is helpful for people who spend their time outside. Its work is to reduce the noise of wind passing through the hearing aid microphone. It is an advanced hearing aid technology that detects the impact of the wind blowing across the hearing aid microphones and avoids or reduces the amplification of it.
As we said that advanced technology has automated features so here wearer can set log settings for the certain environment and then these changes begin automatically according to the sound environment. These technologies provide the preference for learning.
This can be used for the synchronous operation of hearing aid or to pass auditory signals from one aid to the other. Basically, two hearing aids communicate with each other. In binaural processing, 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. It enhances your experience of binaural hearing.
Audio Processing technology
The electronic circuitry of various hearing aids like analog and digital differs even their type and style is the same.
Comparative chart showing components of Digital and Analog hearing aids :
|Components||Analog hearing aids||Digital hearing aids|
|Microphone||Yes present||Yes present|
|pre-amplifier||Yes present||Yes present|
|Means processor||Yes present||Not present|
|Analog to digital converter||Absent||Present|
|Digital signal processor||Absent||Present|
|Digital to Analog converter||Absent||Present|
Under processing technology comes audio processing. Audio processing is of two types- analog and digital. Hearing aids can be analog or digital. Let’s see what are their advantages.
Analog Hearing Aids
An analog hearing aid amplifies all sounds whether it is sound or noise. Some are programmable. Microchip stores these program settings information. You can set it according to various listening environments. This makes it user-friendly and comfortable.
- Sometimes they are more powerful than a digital hearing aid.
- Generally, cost less than a digital hearing aid.
- Sometimes people who want to use their hearing aid for a long time prefer analog hearing aid.
Digital Hearing Aids
The latest hearing aid technology involves Digital Hearing Aids. They have all the features that an analog hearing aid has. The difference is that they convert sound waves to digital signals and produces the exact duplicate of the sound rather than just amplifying it.
- Most adjustable and flexible.
- Highly programmable for different listening environments.
- ‘Noise reduction algorithm’ helps for reducing background noise.
Choosing a right level of Hearing aid technology for you
There are mainly six differences in hearing aids that you need to look out before choosing a right level of technology for you.
Customizability refers to the range of amplification (or frequency) that a hearing aid device can perform. If your hearing aid has a low number of channels, you would get less precision in hearing. Unlikely in advanced technology, there can be 20+ channels and a high number of channels helps in a fine precision of hearing and this also allows your hearing aid to be well programmed up to your prescription.
The ability of a device to perform well in the noisy background
Most of the hearing aids have the ability of binaural synchronization i.e. they communicate back & forth between themselves. This helps in hearing background noise and improving hearing conditions as it has four microphones instead of two microphones on both ears which are communicating with each other and hence helps in finding the better listening landscape in a noisy background. Premium level of technology can do this more precisely than basic one which may not perform well in a noisy background.
Ease of use
The basic level of technology may have less number of programs and may not help you in better listening in the noisy background. But advanced technology has a large number of programs which can help you to listen better. Moreover, you have to adjust settings for hearing in different environments but advanced technology does it automatically for you. It automatically turns the settings according to the environment you are in.
Comfort in sound
When you find yourself in a kind of environment where a harsh sound is present, a hearing aid with advanced technology helps you to get rid of those sounds by blocking them as they have advanced digital features. In contrast, a basic technology may not have such features and as a result, you’ll find it difficult to hear in a harsh sound background.
If you want connectivity with devices like telephone and Bluetooth devices and also wants a potential rechargeability, you must go with the upper level of technology. Most of the brands do not allow connectivity at a basic level.
If you want an advanced level of technology rather than a basic level, you have to spend more money. You have to spend almost $1000 more for a premium level technology than for basic level. But it’s worth it if you want advanced features in your hearing aid and wants a better hearing. But if you are someone who stays at home all the time and watches TV and has less conversation with people then you will be ok with the basic level of technology.
We hope that, once you finish reading this article, you will have enough knowledge of various technology available in the industry. Also, you will be able to decide which style & type is right for you. If you need any advice or help related to any hearing problem, visit our clinic or dial our toll-free number 1800-121-4408.