digital hearing aid

What does “Digital” mean in hearing aids?

In today’s world, the word “digital” is an all-encompassing term to describe almost anything in our lives. Telephones are smart, news and books can be read digitally, even cars have been automatised and enhanced. So it comes as no little surprise that an everyday item such as hearing aids would also undergo this change. Today, analog hearing aids have become all but extinct, so what does a “digital hearing aid” even mean?

The history

No matter which brand or type of hearing aid you wear, all devices share some common features. Microphones to pick up sound, electronics to amplify it, and a speaker gives you the final sound you hear. Besides getting smaller in size, basic hearing aids remained virtually unchanged from the 1940’s to early 1990’s. They would simply amplify the sounds all around and allow anyone with hearing loss to hear. 

The technical process

Since then, however, digitalisation has kicked in and allowed hearing aids to not just amplify but enhance sounds. Much like computer music, aids now take sound waves, convert into sound bytes and store as mathematical equations. With these equations, they can add or subtract values before sending them out. The result is a modified sound able to give a much clearer understanding of speech and noise. This is where features such as noise cancellation, or directional microphones come into play for example. 

Today, almost 30 years later, the impact of digitalisation technology on hearing aids is remarkable. Microphones can pick up specific speech location, boost words but not background noise. Some can enhance the speech patterns to improve the clarity of speech. Many aids are also able to identify the environment you are in and automatically adapt to it. 

Bluetooth and wireless

Moreover, the majority of modern hearing aids now come with Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. This means being able to control volume or set up special programs from your phone at any time. With the right phone connection, you can even stream calls or music directly into your hearing aids. And of course, this is only the start. Who knows what hearing technology will be like in another 30 years! 

What your Audiologist can do

For those with more profound hearing losses, the analog aids may have been the go-to solution previously. Today, your audiologist will be able to program a digital hearing aid to match the enhancement you would typically get. And of course, new features are added all the time to existing hearing aid models. So if you feel it’s time to trial new hearing aids, contact your Falls of Sound clinic and book in!