Hearing aid technology is rapidly improving, which helps users hear better. Though the hearing aid is still made up of four core parts—the power source, the receiver, the processor, and the microphone—the digital age has transformed these parts into sophisticated components. With more features to choose from than ever before, wearers have a wide range of options to suit their particular needs, lifestyles, and hearing requirements.
Though all slightly different and unique, hearing aids are typically separated between two groups based on the sophistication of their processors and their capabilities: basic and advanced.
Here are the differences between the two.
Basic Hearing Aid Technology
Today’s hearing aids are far more impressive and useful than even the most advanced hearing aid on the market just five years ago. Though they still have many useful features, basic hearing aids are more manual in nature than their advanced counterparts. You may need to manually turn the volume up or down to adjust your hearing to certain environments or push a button to reduce noise coming from behind you. And although they are still computer programmable, these basic devices are limited in their ability to be customized to unusual hearing loss patterns and have less advanced features for controlling feedback/whistling and background noise.
Basic hearing aids typically only have two channels, which are used to process different parts of incoming sound signals. Generally, the greater the number of channels, the better customization across different frequencies.
These basic devices may beequipped with directional microphones, which help increase sound coming from in front of the user and soften sounds coming from other directions to improve speech recognition. However, they do not usually utilize advanced speech processing or noise reduction algorithms.
Another wireless feature included in most basic models is FM compatibility, which enables the hearing aid to connect to FM systems with a special attachment called a boot. FM compatibility is especially important in hearing aids for children, as these systems are typically used in educational settings to improve speech recognition in the classroom. However, FM system technology is rather expensive and it may be more beneficial to invest in more sophisticated, better performing hearing aid technology.
Advanced Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing technology is constantly improving, which has brought about more technologically advanced hearing aids that are more automatic and have more features to improve listening comfort and speech recognition in a wide variety of listening situations. However, these advanced features can result in a higher price point.
Advanced models often have eight or more channels to separate sound to offer a higher signal processing resolution.
They’re often equipped with Bluetooth wireless compatibility to enable the devices to connect to other devices, such as mobile phones , eliminate feedback, and improve the signal to noise ratio. Some come with wind noise reduction to improve listening abilities in windy environments—ideal for those who spend a lot of time outdoors.
Some models are equipped with data logging, which stores information, like volume levels, about different listening environments to further customize fit. Others have self-learning features—they “learn” your preferences and then automatically adjust settings in similar listening environments. Some advanced models also have binaural processing, which allows a pair of hearing aids to communicate with each other wirelessly. What’s more, some advanced models can now be connected with a smartphone app as well. The overall patient satisfaction is higher with more advanced hearing technologies because they have the best processing capabilities for speech, as well as accessibility options for working with other technologies within your daily life.
To learn more about the technological features that might fit your specific hearing needs and lifestyle, request an appointment to discuss your options with a doctoral-level audiologist at Associated Audiologists.