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School of Medicine
Hearing Aid Technology
Hearing aid technology has made significant changes over the past several years and continues to evolve. Almost 95% of new hearing aid fittings today at Hopkins Hearing use digital technology.
The hearing aid industry does not manufacture as many analog hearing aids as in the past and some manufacturers only make digital devices. There are some long-term hearing aid patients who favor analog technology and continue to wear this circuitry today. The best circuitry option for the patient is a combination of which technology will provide the most benefit and which sound the patient is most comfortable wearing.
Some patients with more severe hearing loss do not like the sound quality of digital hearing aids when compared with their analog devices. In the past there were analog hearing aids and then analog programmable hearing aids. When digital technology became widely available, many hearing loss patients switched to that technology. Most new hearing aids today are developed using digital technology and your audiologist will help you determine which circuitry is better for your specific hearing needs.
When you are fit with digital hearing aids, your hearing test is stored in the Hopkins Hearing database. Your audiologist then connects your hearing aid to the computer and programs the device so it can read the degree and pattern of hearing loss for the individual ear. This allows the hearing aids to be customized for your individual hearing loss. Digital hearing aids will have some ability to automatically change the volume for you.
There are many options in digital hearing aids today. The number one complaint of most individuals with hearing loss and most previous hearing aid wearers is performance in background noise. Digital hearing aids are equipped with more than one listening program. Settings include situations where there is a lot of background noise, as well as situations where there is little to no background noise. Hearing aids with multiple programs may automatically change between programs or can be manually changed by the individual. Some hearing aids may come with remote controls.
Directional microphone technology is also a strategy for better hearing in background noise. Hearing aids come with one microphone function in an omnidrectional mode (sound is picked up from all around). Hearing aids with directional microphones typically have 2 microphones and have the ability to focus (or direct) one microphone towards the sound source while the other attempts to decrease some of the background noise.
Some patients will want or need a hearing aid to function automatically while others will want the ability to manipulate and control sounds. These are decisions that will be made along with your audiologist.
There are different levels of digital technology – ranging from entry level circuitry to high-end technology. The hearing loss, listening demands and individual preference will be taken into consideration. Your audiologist will work closely with you in this decision process. They will explain things in detail so that you have clear understanding of the technology. Some people find this discussion overwhelming due to the degree of advanced technology on the market; however your Hopkins Hearing audiologist will work to make this a smooth process and transition in your life.