Digital hearing aids are the most advanced and effective amplification devices that enhance hearing in hearing impaired persons. Although both analog and digital hearing aids have a microphone, an amplifier and a receiver, but the latter, after receiving the sound waves, convert them into digital signals. This technology makes an exact replication of each and every sound and also delivers the sound according to the customized needs of the person suffering from hearing loss. This is not possible in the analog hearing aids, where every single sound is amplified, which is often annoying for the user. There is a computer chip, that is, a microprocessor fitted in digital hearing aids that analyses the sound signal to determine whether it is a speech or a noise. It then makes several modifications to provide a clear, amplified and distortion-free or noise-free signal. Finally, the mini loudspeaker converts this filtered digital signal back to recognizable sound waves which is then delivered into the ear canal for the person to hear.
Digital hearing aids are usually self-adjusting. The digital processing allows for more flexibility in programming the device. This makes way for the sound it transmits to match the specific pattern of hearing loss of the concerned person. To summarise, these advanced hearing devices are programmable, that is, they can be fine-tuned and adjusted according to the specific needs of the hearing impaired person.
Digital hearing aids are more expensive than the conventional analog hearing aids, because of their expensive digital technology that is being used. But it is worth the price as they offer many advantages and provide better hearing in any listening environments. Their key benefits include, improvement in programmability, greater precision in fitting it into the ear, management of discomfort in loudness, anticipation and reduction of acoustic feedback, like whistling sounds, noise reduction, customized programs for the specific needs of the patient, smaller and sleeker design and a much longer lifespan than the analog ones.
Some digital hearing aids can store several programs that can be controlled or readjusted. As the listening environment of the hearing impaired person changes, he/she can change the hearing aid settings as per requirements. This is usually done by pushing a button on the device or by using a remote control to switch channels. Better programming means better sound processing in diverse sound environments, starting from a quiet library to a noisy factory environment. The aid can also be reprogrammed by the audiologist if the patient’s hearing threshold or his/her hearing needs change. In addition to such extensive programming options, digital hearing aids have the capacity for extra features, such as Bluetooth compatibility, FM compatibility, telecoil technology which reduces background noise, wind-noise reduction, data logging and learning features that store data about the hearing environments of the patient and his/her preferences like volume levels, and even binaural processing in which the two hearing aids interact with each other for a more synchronous operation.
The digital technology within hearing aids separates different sounds into different frequency regions, or bands, and amplify each of those regions selectively, depending on the hearing loss of the user. Additionally, this advanced digital processing enables different amounts of amplification for different degrees of sounds like, soft, moderate, and loud, so that soft sounds are audible, while at the same time loud sounds does not become uncomfortable or over amplified. Amplification in digital hearing aids occur with minimal distortion, which results in a more natural and soothing sound quality.
Digital hearing aids are known for their excellent multitasking abilities. These tiny devices can simultaneously perform a great variety of sound processing tasks. One important function of this type of hearing aid is to quickly distinguish between speech-sounds and noise. This means that it amplifies speech by reducing background noise and by completely cancelling out any detected feedback, so that one can avoid cumbersome sounds. Digital hearing aids do not compromise with the hearing experience of the hearing impaired person.